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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Charade (08/14/08)

TITLE: Pretend Until
By Debra Martinez


“ I can stand this for the next fifteen minutes, “ Samantha murmured aloud as she applied mascara to her skimpy lashes. She would repeat these words, with slight variations, all through her busy day. The “this” was her life at the moment, a broken relationship trying to live within the same walls, trying to parent the same kids, trying to avoid intimate moments that might bring the pain to a peak. She seated her purse strap on her shoulder, reached for her laptop, and headed toward the kitchen.

It was Jack’s turn to drop the girls at school, so Sam leaned over the sofa and dropped a kiss on their neatly combed heads, checking for bookbags and lunchboxes, while their dad was still showering in the other bathroom. She missed the warm hug and shared “I love you.” but she was learning to survive without them. For now.

“I’ll pick you up for dance at 3:00, babies,” she said. “I’m gone!” was thrown into the air as she shut the door behind her. A tightness gripped her shoulders and stomach, and it would not leave her all day, she knew. But now, she could dress in her business mode where it was sometimes possible to forget the pain, sometimes, for a few hours, if the work was consuming.

“Where’s your smile?” Nancy asked as Samantha reached her associate’s desk. “Did you leave it in the elevator again?” Nancy knew nothing of the struggles Jack and Sam were facing. Few of her friends did. Samantha had learned long ago that the less said, the less damage control one had to overcome when life moved on to better places. There was only one in whom she confided her worst pain. And He was providing everything that she needed to make it through each of those quarters of an hour.

When Samantha had first learned of Jack’s infidelity, she had been devastated. Though he had assured her that it was nothing, that it was Samantha and the girls that he truly adored, the Mars-Venus obstacles to communication had made it impossible for either of them to understand the other. He could not comprehend the level of pain that was internalized in her very core. She did not see that a man could love one person deeply and yet casually spend intimate time with another. Only one thing was clear to them both: their marriage was a sacred union of over fifteen years that should somehow provide them a way to healing.

She walked into her office and set her bags on the desk. When she swung around in her chair, she was unprepared for the wrenching pain that hit as her eyes zeroed in on her family’s pictures on the credenza. In her favorite, Jack was swinging the girls in the back yard on a crisp fall day, the maple tree he had given her for their tenth anniversary providing a vivid golden-yellow backdrop. “Fifteen minutes,” she intoned, opening her laptop and getting to work.

Hours later, as she waited in line to pick up the girls, she understood clearly why she was enduring the pain. It was not just a marriage that was in the balance. It was a family. It was a sacred union that was worth the fight. She didn’t know how long it would take for the healing to take place, for the love to reignite. Until then, she would remember the things that she had learned about love. Love is not a feeling. It is a choice. She would choose each fifteen minutes, if necessary, to love. And until that love felt real, she would rely on another truth that she had discovered as an insecure young woman in a shark-invested business world. Back then, she had pretended confidence until it came.

In the months since the pain began, Sam had daily laid it at the feet of the only one who could understand. He had made it clear that divorce was not an option for her.
“Stand firm,” was the message that she received whenever she begged for an out. This she would do for Him, even if it were in fifteen minute increments, for her relationship with her Savior had grown unbelievably sweet as she learned to rely totally on Him.

So, she would pretend to be a loving wife until it became true again. She could only trust that it would return. Somehow, even as she wept again, she knew that she could wait.

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Member Comments
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Charla Diehl 08/21/08
I felt Samantha's pain as she glanced at the family photo. Thankfully, her faith is strong and she is faithful to her Savior. Hope she doesn't have to pretend too long. Is there a sequel in the works?
Jan Ackerson 08/21/08
Love the title, and Sam's determination to survive "fifteen more minutes."

Toward the middle, this seemed to be more "tell" than "show"--I'd have liked to know Sam better, and to be "under her skin", as it were.

Glad that you resisted the temptation to tie it up all pretty at the end.
Sunny Loomis 08/25/08
Good story but sad. An affair is always more than nothing. God gives her the strength for fifteen minutes at a time. Nicely done.