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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Actions Speak Louder than Words" (without using the actual phrase). (02/21/08)

TITLE: The Family Secret
By Jacquelyn Horne


“You’re not to see this young man again, Megan! I forbid it!”

“But mom, I love him. And he loves me. He said so.”

“Love doesn’t treat a person like this,” and I pointed to the bruises on Megan’s arm where the young man’s grip had been more-than-loving in his anger. “Why would this young man, whom you’ve just met, Megan, treat you so rough?”

“But I made him really mad at me. It was my own fault.”

“Megan. Let me tell you about your Aunt Martha. She was in love too.” And I began to relate the family secret.

“Martha, your father’s youngest sister, grew up next door to Clarence. They played together from toddlers up. Clarence was the one who walked hand in hand with her to her first Sunday School class and stayed beside her because she was afraid.

“Clarence was always there for Martha. He fixed her swing when the rope broke, pumped up her bicycle tires when they went flat, pulled her in her little red wagon and read to her when she was confined to the house with a cold. He even stooped to playing the ‘father’ at her tea parties. When they reached high school, he carried her books.

“At seventeen, Clarence realized that what he felt for Martha was love, but by that time she had met Josh, so he kept his feelings to himself.

“But Clarence was still there for Martha even after that. He was the one who fixed her tire when she was taking Josh to football practice and it blew. (Josh had to flag down a ride so he wouldn’t be late for practice.) Clarence was the one who came to get Martha from the party when Josh was too drunk to drive home.

“In all this time, Clarence never said ‘I love you’ to Martha, but Josh proclaimed his love constantly. In the end Martha and Josh married and moved into a little house at the edge of town. She saw very little of Clarence after that.

“One day, not long after they were married, Josh laid his head in Martha’s lap as she sat in the recliner. ‘I’m sorry,’ he sobbed. ‘I didn’t mean to hurt you. But it’s your fault. You made me angry.’ He looked up into Martha’s battered face for sympathy.

“‘It’s okay.’ She tried to smile, but it hurt too much.

“Then months later, after many broken bones and a miscarriage due to a violent shaking, Josh bent over Martha one last time. ‘I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have made me so angry. Now look what you’ve done!’ he screamed, as two policemen took his arms and literally dragged him away from the casket and up the aisle of the church – right past a praying, grieving Clarence who whispered ‘I can’t fix this one, Martha.’”

I looked at my stricken daughter. “Now, tell me Honey, which of these two men really loved Martha?”

Megan dropped her head and ran to her room in tears. I didn’t know what to do and turned to the only one I knew who could handle this situation. “Jesus, she’s only eighteen. She just graduated from high school and is beginning to feel her independence. I need you to comfort her, guide her.”

As soon as the prayer was “stamped” with a few praises and on its way to heaven, I saw Billy’s car pull up in the back driveway. Oh no! I thought. Megan needs to be alone right now.

But Billy had been Megan’s friend since the beginning of middle school, and I wasn’t about to make him feel unwelcome. So I put on my best smile as he knocked lightly at the kitchen door and came in without being asked, as usual.

“Hi, Megan’s mom,” he grinned. “I thought maybe Megan would like to go to the county fair this afternoon. We’ll have time to see a few of the exhibits before the rides start up.”

“I don’t know,” I stalled. “Megan’s not feeling real great right now and…”

“I’m alright, mom,” Megan smiled as she rushed from her room. “Just give me a minute to put on a jean skirt and some tennies, and I’ll be ready to go.” Megan threw the words down the hall as she raced back to her room.

As I heard the car door slam, I turned to Jesus and said, “I can always depend on you to know what’s right, Lord.”

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Beth LaBuff 03/02/08
Wow…every parents nightmare! Your story is heartbreaking…but I think Megan learned from it …. I was so glad your story ended the way it did. I could feel the mother’s relief. Great title -- which I didn’t appreciate until I’d finished reading your story. Very nice work on this.
LauraLee Shaw03/02/08
What a terrific ending to this sad tale. It's amazing to think how this scenario is a reality to so many women out there. YOu did a great job with the message and the topic.
Jan Ackerson 03/02/08
Great story for teens to read--if your church has a youth group, give this to their leader. It's amazing how many girls get trapped in this situation.
c clemons03/03/08
You slipped out of tenses several times but overall a good read.
Helen Dowd03/09/08
Great story, kind of like a parable. It sure put the point across. You told the story well, and brought out the theme of actions speaking louder than words. I hope it gets into the hearts of many young people who take infatuation for love and don't make the same fatal mistake that Martha made. Good for you....Helen