Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Our Mutual Friend (not about the book) (09/15/11)
TITLE: Finding My Joy
By Margaret McKinney
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He nearly had me in tears. It was all I could do to stand upright while my boss, Charles Wright, finished his tirade while waving my latest article around wildly in the air.
“Write me something that I can print, Kate. NOW!!” I beat a hasty retreat, barely making it to the bathroom before the tears that had been accumulating found their release.
I laid my forehead against the cool marble wall, so steeped in my own misery I barely registered my phone’s resounding DING. It was a text from my mother, who I daily wished I had not taught the nuances of texting.
Coming to lunch, Kate?
Don’t be late. I want you to meet somebody.
See you at 12. Don’t be late.
Pondering the ill luck that I was both lambasted by my boss and nagged by my mother in the space of five short but regretful minutes, I slogged my way back to my desk to re-write the article that Charles had critiqued with such venom. I had been off my game for these two years at least, since my father had passed away. We had been close, and although I had many reasons to be thankful, I found it increasingly difficult to find my joy. My life was filled with blessings, yet I was missing out on the Abundant Life that Jesus so faithfully promised. The hole left by my father could not be filled by my mother, who tended to worry me and nag me and generally make me miserable. Furthermore, in the past year she had been seeing men – dating, at her age! – from her church and community, and I could not forgive her easy dismissal of the happy years with Dad. I knew that my mother’s lovelife - oh, how I shuddered to call it that! – was none of my business, but I would wear my disapproval like a fancy coat, and my stubbornness affected our relationship.
And in a scant hour I would be subjected to yet another lunch with one of her new beaux, and after my wretched morning, I was not looking forward to it.
One hour later, my article was on its way to taking a more comely shape when I left the office and walked to the elevator. Mother and I always had lunch in Henry’s Deli, located in the lobby of my office building. It was my favorite place to eat; if I had to endure my mother’s girlish giggles, the least I could do was enjoy a good Reuben while I was at it. I left the elevator and crossed the lobby in abject gloom. Charles was at the door; I immediately attempted to squelch the hot flush that crept over my face. “Sir.”
He opened the door for me. “Hello, Kate.”
We walked awkwardly through the restaurant together in that strange dance, each of us looking for our separate parties. It was only when we reached my mother in tandem that I stumbled upon the realization that Mother was our party. Charles sat next to her as I sputtered over the myriad of words I was dying to say. All I managed was, “No! Oh! No! Never!”
Mother grabbed my hand before I could flee. “Kate, Charles and I wanted to tell you together that we were dating. We’re hoping you will understand.”
I pointed out the obvious. “But he’s my boss.”
“And he’s mean!”
Charles defended himself. “I try to pull your talent to the surface, Kate. It’s my job. The brashness and temper is just my way.”
I crossed my arms like a toddler and eyed him warily. “My talent?”
He nodded. “It’s in there. But you’ve been sluggish the past two years.”
It was true, what he said. The fact that he saw it made me feel naked. “Since Dad died,” I whispered.
They glanced at each other, but said nothing. Charles was holding my mom’s hand, and she looked happy and relaxed. I was torn between jealousy and conviction. There was a welling in my stomach, pressure that needed to be released. I sorely needed the joy and peace I could see in her face, and maybe an act of selflessness would get me there.
“Kate?” Mother prodded. “Will you be okay with this?”
I sat down, and exhaled, feeling a wash of contentment steal over me. “Yes, Mother, I
believe I will.”
My mother beamed; I felt an inch closer to Life.
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