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

TITLE: Memory of a Misfit
By Kristen Hester
05/14/08


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As I headed down the familiar oak-lined drive to the estate sale, I expected to feel nostalgic, but the sudden and specific memory caught me by surprise. When I rounded the bend and saw my deceased in-law’s home, I was instantly transported back to the first time I was there, almost forty years ago.

Charlie and I were newly engaged. I was thrilled he was finally taking me home to meet his family, but his evident nervousness was contagious. What about his family made him reluctant for me to meet them? We were madly in love and shared all our hopes and dreams, but regarding his family, he’d always been vague and elusive.

I had snuggled up next to him as he drove. “Do you think your parents will like me?” I asked, hoping for a hint of what to expect.

He squeezed my hand but kept his eyes on the road. “Of course.” No one but a soul mate would have noticed , but I felt his unsureness.

“What is it, Charlie? What about your family are you ashamed of? Are they poor? Because if they are, it’s okay. You know I’m from a simple background myself.”

At the word poor, Charlie laughed. “Yes, they’re poor, but not in the way you mean.” That was all he would say. We drove the rest of the way in silence.

Charlie sighed heavily when we passed through an impressive gate and started down a long driveway. When I first saw the mansion, it’s beauty left me breathless, but I didn’t comprehend I was looking at his home. Charlie pulled up to the grand entrance. A uniformed man appeared out of nowhere and was instantly beside the car. Puzzled, I let him help me out and then followed Charlie to the house. The door opened for us before we knocked, and a silver-haired gentleman in a black suit bowed his head and motioned for us to enter. Charlie stopped in front of the gentleman and stared until the stoic man finally broke into a grin.

The man glanced nervously around the room before speaking. “It’s good to see you, Sir.”

“Don’t put on airs with me, James,” Charlie said laughingly as the two men exchanged a bear hug.

“Charles, dear, is that you?” The voice came from the ornate balcony above us and caused both men to pull apart and stand up straight.

The elegant woman whose words had interrupted the reunion started her graceful descent down the curving staircase. I stood timidly beside Charlie in the opulent foyer as realization slowly sank in. This was Charlie’s home. His family wasn’t poor. They were rich, very rich. I was overwhelmed by a variety of emotions--greed, joy, fear, insecurity-–as I waited to be introduced.

“Mother, this is Rachel, my fiancé. Rachel, this is my mother, Veronica.”

Veronica wore a suit I later learned cost as much as my first car, and her hair was twisted into an elegant french twist. I wiped my sweaty palms on my cotton sundress, a Woolworth special.

“Nice to meet you,” I said, trying hard to hide my country upbringing.

Veronica’s smile didn’t reach her eyes. She shook my hand and said the right words with perfect diction, but no enthusiasm. “The pleasure is mine.” She turned to Charlie. “I’m sorry your father is not here to greet you, but he’s out hunting. Dinner will be served at six. We’ll visit then. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a situation that needs my attention. James will take care of you.”

Charlie, James and I stood silently and watched her leave. Charlie looked at me apologetically, then turned to James. “She hasn’t changed a bit.”

“No, sir, she hasn’t.”

I was confused. I’d just learned I was marrying into a wealthy family, but I had a knot in my stomach. I’d never fit in with this lifestyle. Later that night, I confided my insecurities to Charlie.

“You’re right. You won’t ever fit in,” Charlie began. “Which is exactly why I love you so much.” Charlie tenderly brushed a lock of hair behind my ear.

As I parked in front of the mansion, I pushed that same lock of hair, now white with age, behind my ear. Charlie had been right. I never had fit in with his family. My in-laws’ hearts and lives were as empty as their house would be after the estate sale, but the love Charlie and I shared had grown richer with each passing year.


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This article has been read 655 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/15/08
You showed in your story how love brings happiness--not money. I felt sorry for the "poor" parents.
Debbie Wistrom05/16/08
This packed a punch. So many happy unhappy people in the world.

Bet 6 o'clock dinner was a doosey.

You put me there. Well done!

Joanne Sher 05/17/08
I would LOVE to see this expanded - so much I want to know. Your descriptions were excellent. Very well done.
Joanne Sher 05/17/08
I would LOVE to see this expanded - so much I want to know. Your descriptions were excellent. Very well done.
Karen Wilber 05/17/08
I just loved the sentence "Veronica’s smile didn’t reach her eyes." I could just see the clenched teeth. I felt like I was eavesdropping.
Lyn Churchyard05/18/08

The mother-in-law Veronica gave me the creeps. You have done a great job here. The voice is excellent and flowed beautifully.
Jan Ackerson 05/18/08
I really like the fact that most of this was a flashback, and that you returned to the present at the very end. Nice framework for the story.

My only red ink: it's a fairly familiar situation. I was waiting for a twist of some sort, to make it stand out from similar stories.

I love the alliteration in your title, and that your title matches with the "flashback" structure.
Betty Castleberry05/18/08
You made me "see" the cold, indifferent mother-in-law. This was very well-written.
Yvonne Blake 05/18/08
This has a fairy-tale style... or a Grace Livingston Hill book.
Good descriptions of the estate and mother-in-law.
Great writing.
LaNaye Perkins05/18/08
Great story with a great message. Well done my FW friend.
Laury Hubrich 05/18/08
Very nice entry. It all was very real. I felt as if I were there. I especially liked the Woolworth special dress! Love it:)
Laury
LauraLee Shaw05/18/08
Love this novel read. Your characterization is outstanding, which is what makes this piece so engaging to read.
Veronica wore a suit I later learned cost as much as my first car, and her hair was twisted into an elegant french twist. I wiped my sweaty palms on my cotton sundress, a Woolworth special.

Right there. Descriptive and funny at the same time. Soooo admire your talent.

Sally Hanan05/18/08
Great writing. Red ink wise--you could have put more into this if you had left out the drive to the house and only focused on being there. Lots of good "showing."
Mariane Holbrook05/18/08
What a great read! Your attention to detail is impressive! Kudos!
Sharlyn Guthrie05/19/08
You did an excellent job with this story. I like Charlie's comment about his parents, “Yes, they’re poor, but not in the way you mean,” And then the way that you demonstrated exactly what he meant by that comment.
Joshua Janoski05/19/08
Awesome story. If two people really love each other, then it shouldn't matter what economical backgrounds they come from. Love is stronger than dollars, despite what the world would try to make us all believe. You really got that point across in your story. What a great read. :)
Beckie Stewart05/21/08
Wow, this is great. Good writing and getting the reader right into the atmosphere. How sad for Charlie's parents to have so MUCH, but truly have so little.
Chely Roach05/21/08
This was so well written...the first paragraph pulled me right in, and the characters were perfectly demonstrated.
Tessy Fuller05/21/08
“Yes, they’re poor, but not in the way you mean.” Talk about throwing a punch with one line. I just loved that. I also like the title.
Benjamin Graber05/21/08
Wonderful! The descriptions you used here were great - I almost felt like I was there with them!
Glynis Becker 05/21/08
I felt Rachel's nervousness just like if I was there. Your descriptions are perfect--love the 'Woolworth special'!
Sara Harricharan 05/21/08
You zeroed in on this memory and really made it come alive, I liked the descriptions and how you made her real with feeling insecure, but still trusting. Good job. ^_^
Dianne Janak05/21/08
We had family like that, the super-rich made the middle class seem poverty-striken, and it caused so many sad scenarios. You got me here, not only from good story-telling, but your sensitivity and insights coming out. I felt a kindred spirit with the woman and the writer... BRAVO.. well done.. standing O!
Peter Stone05/22/08
A most engaging read. Liked the honesty of the MC when she learnt her in-laws were rich, although I got the hint that they were spiritually poor. At first I hoped James was his father, but at least Charlie had one friend in the home.
Joanne Sher 05/23/08
Congratulations, Kristen, on placing 25th overall. Great job!