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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “A Stitch in Time Saves Nine” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/03/08)

TITLE: A Hefty Price
By Marita Vandertogt


Black curtains hang from the window, looped over a broomstick and held in place with pins. The black only hangs so far, the rest of the window is bare. Empty pop cans sit on the ledge, stacked in a silver pyramid. Dirty laundry lays around the floor, some piled up like thick mummies of black t-shirts and jeans, rolled and tossed in a corner of the room. The door is closed, with a sign hanging from the knob “No Entry”.

Paul stands in front of the door. He can hear his daughter sing with the lyrics, her young voice high pitched, raspy. The music is loud, the bass pumping a beat that shakes in the walls. He pounds a fist on the door, and holds a letter in the other hand.

“Open the door Raven.” He feels his neck getting hotter, redder, under his shirt collar. “There’s something here you need to see.”
“Leave it outside my door dad,” she stretches the words into a long whiney sentence. Reluctantly, he slides the letter under the door and walks away. He knows she won’t read it. And she doesn’t. Raven pulls the paper from under the door. Without looking at the contents, she rolls it up tight, and tosses it in the garbage can. The letters come about once a month now. Sometimes she holds on to them for a minute, catching a slight scent of perfume.

Paul continues to walk away from the door, the sound of the music pushing at his thoughts. He should have started with the word “no” as soon as Raven’s mother walked out the door seven years ago. But it was easier to say yes to her every time she wanted something. And now, at sixteen, yes was the only word between them that she would listen to. And the only word that pulled them further and further apart at the same time.
He keeps walking away from the door, his heart pounding hard against his chest. His own anger growing, at Raven, at his ex-wife, at himself.

With a kiss on her forehead, and a “be good” her mother had walked out the front door away from Raven, away from her father. She spent the next year running to the mailbox, listening for the phone, but nothing ever came. “How can she do that dad, just leave us behind?” Her little girl voice threw the questions at him, over and over. Until he finally told her he didn’t know anything either. What happened just happened. He didn’t want to talk about it. Then the first letter finally came, addressed to her, four years later.

Raven had read it, crumpled it into a small white ball and tossed it into the kitchen sink. She let the water run over it, until it dissolved like a slow melting snowball. Paul watched. “You sure you’re being fair?” he’d asked, and for the first time saw the raw pain in his daughter’s eyes.

“Why did she wait till now dad? She could have written a whole lot sooner. She could have called. And now, she expects me to just jump up and down that she wants to talk to me, to see me.” Raven had walked from the kitchen, pushing at her eyes with angry clenched fists. “It’s too late. I don’t need a mother anymore.” Paul had let her go.

Raven lives behind the black curtained window. Sometimes staring out into the dark night, as if in the looking, something would appear. He could see her sometimes from the upstairs window. His footsteps move with the beat of the music now, away from her door. He doesn’t know how to help her. He lost that opportunity years ago when he didn’t let her in. And now he’s afraid he’s pushed her too far away. If only he had talked to her, he thinks, as he continues to walk down the hall. Tried to explain, recognized that though her mind was young, her heart was just as vulnerable as his. Maybe tomorrow he would have the courage to break through that door, break through the wall he’d built, and tell her what he couldn’t all these years.

His footsteps stop for a moment , the music still booming in the background. Then again, there’s no time like the present, he thinks as he turns around and walks back toward the closed door.

“Raven” he yells through the music. “Open the door sweetheart. We need to talk. Now!”

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This article has been read 844 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sheri Gordon01/10/08
This is a good take on the topic. A great illustration of how something as simple as telling our kids 'yes' rather than confronting the issues, can multiply and multiply until our kids seem unreachable. I really like the creativity in this. Good job.
Lynda Schultz 01/10/08
Sometimes it gets to be too late to patch things up. This reminded me of the terrible experience of a friend for whom that was true. Valuable truth and well-written.
Temple Miller01/10/08
This story is so sad, and the tragedy of this family is replicated in countless other families. Great compelling piece.
James Clem 01/11/08
Great title - powerful piece of writing. Excellent descriptive text. Your ending leaves the reader with a glimmer of hope.
Joanne Sher 01/11/08
Great descriptions of the angst in the man's heart. Love the hope at the end.

As I read, I felt like you were switching verb tenses, but it was probably just you switching time periods. It threw me a bit - just FYI.

Enjoyed this.
LaNaye Perkins01/11/08
Great topic for the challenge this week. I really liked your story. It was sad, but I love the glimmer of hope in the end.
Catrina Bradley 01/13/08
Great story. One of my favorites so far.
Jan Ackerson 01/16/08
You had one sentence in here that just broke my heart--where sometimes she holds on to the letters for just a bit, catching the scent of perfume. That one sentence captured the poignancy of the whole piece. Well done!
Dee Yoder 01/16/08
I can't imagine anyone doing this to a child, but I know it happens. Very sad and yet, a bit of hope that maybe dad will be able to mend some fences with his teen. A well-told story.
Hanne Moon 01/16/08
A sad but very realistic story. It captured me right off. I do love the poignancy of the third paragraph where Raven stops to smell the perfume just for a moment, but you have skipped from your 1st person viewpoint of Paul to Raven. I like the hope you give the reader at the end.
Sara Harricharan 01/16/08
A hefty price indeed to pay for saying yes all those years to keep from digging up the pain between them. This is great, I'm so glad he finally turned around and decided to talk to her then and there. I LOVE the choice of Raven as a name. It puts the whole character in perspective. Great job! ^_^
Betty Castleberry01/16/08
Touching, and too often, true. This was well written, and a creative take on the topic.
LauraLee Shaw01/16/08
Your entire opening paragraph was masterful. Your sense of place, outstanding. I could put myself outside that door, knocking, the feeling of uncertainty and anger at the same time. You imprinted this topic in my mind in a tangible way.
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/16/08
A gripping story
Loren T. Lowery01/16/08
Hope springs eternal...this piece gave me hope that all is not lost and can be redeemed now. But only, how much easier would it have been had he started sooner. I liked the way you were able to get into the minds of the two characters and both left to wonder why their mother/wife walked out on them.
Marita Thelander 01/16/08
Near the end of the story you started a paragraph with "Raven" and in the middle switched to "He". That threw me a bit. I did enjoy the development of this story as well as the sign of hope at the end.
Tim Pickl01/16/08
Oh, I can relate to the father figure in this one...that moment of indecision...and finally by-the-grace-of-God, breaking through with courage and confidence from Him. Powerful writing....almost like a movie....
Beth LaBuff 01/17/08
So sad! But, ... your ending gives hope! Thanks!