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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: In-Law(s) (05/08/08)

TITLE: Snapshots
By Betty Castleberry


The funeral had left Claire drained. Her eyes were sunken and her face sallow, as if she had been ill. The veins stood out on the back of her hand as she reached for the aspirin bottle.

Her mother-in-law caught her hand in mid air and squeezed it gently. “I’m worried about you. You’ve been taking too many of those.”

Claire’s bottom lip trembled as she struggled to maintain her composure. “Nona, my headache just won’t go away.”

“Sit down and I’ll fix you some tea.”

“Thank you.”

Claire admired Nona’s strength. She had lost a son, but still managed to take care of her daughter-in-law. In the week that had passed since Jared’s funeral, she had spent a part of every day with her, bringing her food and keeping her company. Claire had been married to Jared for ten years, and from the first, Nona had treated her like a daughter. They spent hours shopping and chatting on the phone. Claire cherished her friendship.

She stole a glance at Nona, noticing her moist eyes. “Are you okay?”

The older woman sat two steaming mugs on the table. “I’m heartbroken, just as you are.
I know what it’s like to lose your husband. John’s been gone eight years, and it still hurts. Losing a son is harder, I think.”

Sipping her tea, Claire looked up. “Why did he have to die? Thirty-two year old men don’t just drop dead of heart attacks.”

“Only God can answer that.”

“I wish I could’ve had children. At least I would have part of Jared here.”

Nona looked away.

“I’m ready to start going through some of his things, but I don’t want to throw anything out yet. Will you help?”

“Of course I will.”

“I can’t bring myself to do anything with his clothes. Can you?”

“If that’s what you want me to do, I will.”

“Please. I’m going to his office.”

Nona stood. “I’ll go to your room and take a few things out of his closet.”

Claire nodded. The office had been Jared’s domain. It was where he had finished projects before leaving on his frequent business trips. She rarely entered, except to vacuum.

The clean scent of his after shave still hung in the room, and his glasses were perched on the desk. For a moment she was almost giddy, expecting him to pop up from under the desk in one of his playful attempts to scare her. She knew the thought was absurd, but she played it over and over in her head as she approached the foreign territory of his desk.

Pushing Jared’s brown leather chair out of the way, she opened a drawer. Inside was an assortment of ink pens and paper clips, along with several small notebooks. She pulled them out and opened one. Notations of business meetings and deadlines were scrawled across the pages.

Claire scooped the miscellaneous items out, revealing a sealed envelope at the bottom of the drawer. Curious, she opened it and removed three photographs. One was a little boy’s school photo. His resemblance to Jared was uncanny. He had Jared’s deep set blue eyes and square jaw. Written on the back of the photo in a child’s handwriting were the words, “To Dad. Love, Brandon.” Her heart began to pound.

Another photo showed Jared with his arm around an attractive woman. They faced each other, smiling. The same little boy stood in front of them, a wide grin on his face. The woman in the picture was the one who had come to the graveside service and slipped away early before Claire could speak to her.

A jumble of confusing thoughts raced through Claire’s head. Her breathing became ragged as a dark reality swirled around her. She got up the courage to look at the last photo. The boy was sitting in a swing with an older woman. It was Nona. The child’s handwriting on the back of the photo read, “Me and Grandma.” Claire felt nauseous.

Nona walked into the den with some of Jared’s clothing draped over her arm. She stopped when she saw the photos.

Claire’s voice was shaky. “You knew.”

She shook her head. “Claire, please, let me explain.”

Claire stared at the woman she thought she knew, then unceremoniously tossed the photos on the desk. They scattered, like the pieces of her broken heart.

Nona cried.

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This article has been read 938 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/15/08
This was such a heartbreaking story. It broke mine. What a terrible revelation. I wanted to know what had happened and where Brandon was.
Peter Stone05/16/08
So much emotion here. I had an inking she would find a surprise regarding her husband and children in his office, but did not expect the 'supporting' mother-in-law to know about it, and participate in the deception.
Joanne Sher 05/16/08
That twist CERTAINLY took me by surprise. Such a sad story - and I also hope this is part of a longer work (or if it isn't, that you make it so) :) Wonderfully written.
Joy Faire Stewart05/18/08
Perfectly written heart breaking story. I wasn't expection the surprise ending.
Lyn Churchyard05/18/08
Very well written emotional story. The ending leapt out and thumped me. I wanted to know more!
Dee Yoder 05/18/08
Phooey...I need a sequel! What a story-you took me by surprise with that twist at the end. The characters are well-developed and the mystery edge you put right toward the end gave this story quite a bit of spice. What happens next?!
Jan Ackerson 05/18/08
Ooooh, more! I want more!

Even if you never do anything more with this, I love it--the twist at the end, the open ending--all things that make for great reading.
Yvonne Blake 05/18/08
facinating way of telling a story..by describing some photos. It took me a second read to figure out the boy and woman. At first, I was guessing that Nona was Jared's grandmother, and he was the little boy. But then I realized that Jared had been married before. Too many questions left over...
Good idea, needs to be a little clearer.
LaNaye Perkins05/18/08
Bravo my friend! You left me hanging on every word and definitely wanting more. So, tell me.... does she meet the other woman and her child?????? Inquiring minds need to know.8/
Laury Hubrich 05/18/08
Oh my. This is positively cruel! I'm with Naye, I want to read the rest of the story. Please finish it, okay? Please????
LauraLee Shaw05/18/08
This is masterfully written. I followed it perfectly and had no unanswered questions. I don't think I want to know more of the story...couldn't possibly get any happier. You ended at the perfect spot in my opinion. Well done!
Debbie Roome 05/18/08
I could feel Claire's shock at the end. Well written and a good twist that caught me by surprise.
Sally Hanan05/18/08
I hope this isn't based on a true story, but it could be, even though it's harder these days to hide money. Nice to see you trying something different, and you caught the emotion well.
Mariane Holbrook 05/18/08
You've given me a recipe for a sleepless night.**grin** Now I have to figure out what happens next! Great story, no kidding!!!
Lenda Blackmon05/18/08
This is really good and heart breaking. I can identify with both of the women. I'm not sure whose side I would be on. Very emotional. Good job, I'm proud of you for trying something new.
Dave Wagner05/19/08
lol, nice swerve! I didn't even realize it was a set-up! Nicely done! I enjoy your writing style.
Lynda Schultz 05/19/08
Excellent story—the nature of the twist was unexpected (though this same story is part of "normal" life in my part of the world!). But the prior knowledge of the mother-in-law was the capstone. Well done.
Debbie Wistrom05/19/08
Oh I hope she forgives Nona.
Tough, tough scene.

Enthralled and in awe of the skill here, I too want more.
Marita Thelander 05/19/08
To be continued? Or end it here?...this is the question.

I vote for more, but I see Laura's view as well.
Joshua Janoski05/19/08
Wow. I wasn't expecting that ending. Nice job surprising the reader with a twist at the end. I would have liked to know more about the other woman and Jared's previous life. Of course, 750 words doesn't allow for that kind of back story to be told. Awesome job!
Beckie Stewart05/21/08
This was so well written, but absolutely devastating. I cannot imagine. My heart hurt for this poor woman.
Willena Flewelling 05/21/08
Aaack!!! Superb writing, but NOT a perfect ending!! Having been left widowed and longing for his child at age 25, I MUST have an explanation.....

Glynis Becker05/21/08
Beautifully done. I didn't expect that twist but it really added an extra element to this story. Great writing.
Sara Harricharan 05/21/08
Ohhh, wow. So sad, I almost wished it would've been a happy ending-but I suppose, I of all people should see the sad endings through-lol. It fit, perfectly, I'm glad it didn't turn out to be a 'typical' story. I could see two hearts breaking there, not just one. Very well done! ^_^
Cheri Hardaway 05/21/08
Oh, soooo... sad. Very well written. Made me feel like I'd been the one betrayed. Good job. Blessings, Cheri
Angela M. Baker-Bridge05/21/08
Amazing, shocking, masterful.
Mary Hackett07/12/08
Wow--to be leaning on your friend for support and comfort and then find out she's hiding a secret that was huge...definitely want to read more! I'd like to know more about the first wife and child and about Claire, especially her journey from this second heartbreak. Well done, but (because of the word limit) too short!