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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Fame (05/10/12)

TITLE: The Reluctant Sweetheart
By Denene Humphrey


Flee. That was the dominating thought running through Julia’s mind as she stood waiting backstage in the auditorium of Patrick Elementary School. Soon, the curtains would part and she would be leaving the cocoon of the warm, nurturing safety of her mom and her kind 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Fletcher, and be thrust forth into the glaring spotlight for her moment of glorious fame. The captive crowd contained a mixed bag of friendly, hostile and nonchalant students. She was filled with anxiety and dread at the thought of facing the annoyed, outraged leers of those who despised her. She’d always had a driving desire for everyone to like her. It was her Achilles’ heel.

As she listened to the musical prelude and the animated drone of the teacher assigned to warm the crowd, Julia struggled to stop the roller coaster ride her stomach was reveling in and silence the thunderous, wild beat of her racing heart. There she stood, gracefully arrayed, in the beautiful white gown that her mother had painstakingly made by hand for her to wear for just this occasion. As she stood waiting, Mrs. Fletcher came and gently placed her very own string of genuine pearls around Julia’s neck as if she were her daughter on her wedding day. Her moment in the sun had arrived; she would soon be crowned the school’s new reigning Sweetheart.

Before she stepped into the spotlight, Julia’s mind retreated into thoughts of the months before this triumphant moment. From the day the fundraising event was broadcast, Mrs. Fletcher and her mother had co-conspired and agreed that Julia would be the perfect choice to win the pageant. Julia, on the other hand, was extremely reluctant to participate. As a new student at Patrick, she had quickly learned that she was not well received. Most of the 10 year old girls in her class simply could not stand her, and they had no problem in making it known – especially to her. All of the open animosity often caused Julia to cry and withdraw into a self-imposed prison of shame.

To the other girls, Julia was a troublemaker who seemed to have it all. She was a beautiful, sweet, quiet and intelligent girl who came from an upper middle class family. These things, however, were only the tip of the iceberg. The real issue was that, through no maneuvering on her part, Julia was a teacher’s pet and had even been held up as the epitome of how a young lady should behave. Many of the girls hated her for that. So when news of the upcoming competition was made known, she’d already decided that she wanted no part of the drama and didn’t even mention it to her mom. Mrs. Fletcher, though, had different plans for her and contacted her mother to persuade her to enter Julia into the fray.

Finally the contest deadline arrived. All the money had been counted to last penny by several trusted faculty members to ensure the final total was accurate. A tangible, deafening hush was heard in each classroom as the winner’s name was announced. To everyone’s shock, and to the dismay of some, Julia was named the victor and had won by the sum total of a meager $.25! As Julia sat in her desk in stunned silence, she began to hear the comments of many of her female classmates. “Your mom cheated!” they hissed. “Katie should have won. We don’t like you.” Again, Julia went home and cried. As hot tears flowed down her face, her mother came and wrapped her arms around her distraught child and comforted her with some sobering words. She whispered to her child that if she ignored those girls they would leave her alone and their power over her would come to an end. Those words changed her life.

Suddenly jolted back to the present, Julia took a deep, steadying breath, placed a winning smile on her face and began the long walk down the runway. Instead, though, of focusing on the crowd, she chose to hear only the wisdom of her mother, and with each determined step she could feel the control the haters had over her melt away. She then realized that she was walking into her destiny. She was the school’s Sweetheart and she didn’t care who liked it.

“For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NLT)

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Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 05/18/12
Perfect ending to this well written story. School is a difficult time for a lot of children, and being shunned makes it excruitiating. This story cleary outlined that, and "showed" the stress the MC was feeling.

Great job. Thanks.

God bless~
Yvonne Blake 05/20/12
Well written! My heart was pounding along with Julie's. I could feel all the emotions throughout this.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/20/12
I really enjoyed this story. Young girls can be so mean and vicious. It's important that we continue to strive to stop bullying.

I really like the idea of your story but you need to do more showing and less telling. Show the retarder what it was like for Julia with something like Julia walked to the classroom when Sally stuck out her foot and Julia sprawled to the ground. Something like that will help paint a picture for the reader.

I really liked the ending and how even though she was nervous she still got her moment. I also like how you left it open-ended. Nice job.
Helen Curtis05/20/12
This is really well written. I like your descriptive sentences; I do agree with Shann, some slight changes would help the reader get the picture of what was going on a bit easier.

I have to say, I felt so cross with the mum; how careful we need to be that our actions for our kids don't become the very thing that cause them to struggle socially in life, whatever age they are. I thought Julia was going to renounce her crown and call Katie up to take what was 'rightfully hers' given the deception of her mum and the teacher, and might have helped repair some of the damage done. These days, though, that's a fairly cliche ending!). Great job, well done.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/24/12
Congratulations for ranking 6th in level two!