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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: birthday (05/23/05)

TITLE: Reflection in the Dark
By Lisa Smith


Will tapped a few more numbers into the spreadsheet, then pushed his chair away from his desk with a sigh. He massaged the back of his neck briefly. It had gotten dark as he worked. Shadows pooled in the corners of office, throwing the richly appointed furnishings into shades of black and grey. He knew it was getting late. Just one more thing he had to double check, and Stan hadn’t called back yet. He dialed his home number in order to check his messages, in case Stan had called that number instead of his work line.

The answering service informed him he had one message. He sat up in his chair, ready to write down the important numbers.

“Hi honey!” Will slumped back in his chair again as he recognized his mother’s voice. “Just wanted to wish you happy birthday! Hope you’re having a good day! Sorry I missed you - I’ll call back later.”

Will pushed his chair away from his desk and walked over to the huge window that dominated the far wall of his office. Hands in the pockets of his Armani suit, he leaned against the glass and looked down at the city stretched out below him, headlights moving purposely through the streets, office buildings lit up from within.

His birthday. He wished he had not heard that message. He had almost forgotten.

Every year at this time he cursed his younger self. Whatever had prompted him to agree to have his wedding on his birthday? Linda had thought it a great idea.

“That way you’ll never forget our anniversary!” He remembered her impish smile. And he had agreed - anything to please her.

Oh, he was so in love back then, so eager to win her, so impetuous and foolish in his desire to make her his forever.

He recalled his wedding day. September 10th, 1986. 15 years ago. The fall sun shining brightly through the church windows, making Linda’s blonde hair shimmer and her white dress glow . How beautiful she had looked. His clumsy and shaking fingers as he slipped the ring over her finger, amazed at how the familiar ritual seemed altogether new and solemn as he pledged his life to his bride.

He raked his hand through his hair. It had all gone wrong, somehow. Her needs, his work, her commitment to her job, his desire for a family. A tangle of conflicts and mutually opposing directions that had slowly but inevitably tore them apart.

He had been divorced for 3 years now. And each year, on his birthday, he was forced to remember the promise that had been broken, the pledge unfulfilled.

He was not normally a reflective man. But the silence of this melancholy night was making him restless, stripping down his carefully built defenses. He was suddenly seized with a pure longing so strong his throat constricted with tears.

What he wouldn’t give for a real birthday once again,one free of recriminations and regret. A birthday full of joy. To have something to celebrate again, to find the center that had come undone as his marriage unraveled. To start again, the slate wiped clean.

He recognized the same longing in his co-workers. They even joked about it sometimes, at the office parties. They all made fun of their spouses, or ex-spouses. Complained about the work, and the boss. But underneath it all he knew they were all frantically searching for something that really mattered, something they could cling to when the storms of life got rough.

He caught a glimpse of his reflection then, in the window. Haunted eyes stared back at himself. Here he was, the world almost literally at his feet, a job that brought him a more than adequate wage, and yet it wasn’t enough. What was he missing? How had it all gone so wrong?

He shoved away from the window, swallowing heavily. He had better get home before he got even more maudlin. He went back to the desk and checked the calendar reflectively. He needed the proposal done for tomorrow. But he couldn’t force himself to work on it any longer. Better to go home and have a beer, watch a movie. He’d have to come in early tomorrow to finish up.

Slinging his suit jacket over his shoulder, he locked the office door and headed for home.

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This article has been read 699 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Amy Michelle Wiley 05/30/05
Wow. Powerful story on how little time we may have to find the answer to the longing within us. But I would have liked to be given a little more hope that that evening he found the answer and finally had a "real birthday". Well written!
Lynda Lee Schab 05/31/05
This was a very believable scenario and held my attention throughout. Well written. Great title for the piece. Good job!
Blessings, Lynda
Judy Anderson05/31/05
How many people have just such through-provoking questions lurking just under the surface? Your writing is so real and descriptive. You could envision both the scene and the inner man so clearly. Great job!
dub W05/31/05
Almost too real, a well written story. Thank you for thinking outside of the box.
Val Clark06/02/05
Well rounded character with believable thoughts and emotions. There is a glimmer of hope given, he knows something's missing. In my imagination I see him sinking a lot lower or flying a lot higher before he recognises who will fill the emptiness in his life.
Nancy Hardy06/06/05
A neat and well constructed story. While it was sad that the void was not filled, this piece spoke realistically about how many without Christ would feel... EMPTY! I very much enjoyed the genuineness of this piece! It would make a great opening for a home group discussion or a lead-in for a Bible study! Hats off on a job exceptionally done!!