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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)

TITLE: Manger Mistake
By Kristen Hester
11/11/08


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Audrey did a double-take from her McDonald’s booth when she saw the petite brunette push the glass door open with her backside and enter the restaurant in reverse. Her chosen entrance was for practical purposes. Both her hands were occupied administering a death grip on two small boys whose bright eyes revealed they might indeed bolt if released. The determined mother made her way to the counter and, without loosening her grip, placed her order. When it was time to pay she held both boys in one hand while she fished in her purse for her money with her other hand. The boys squirmed and twisted. The mother’s arm looked as if it might snap off her body, but she held strong.

Audrey’s husband, Chris, noticed his wife staring at the mother, so he, too, watched with interest. “She looks strong.”

“She’s even stronger on the inside.”

Chris tilted his head towards his wife. “You know her?”

Without moving her eyes from the mom, she answered. “She was one of my best friends in high school. Her name is Rhonda.”

Chris shook his head indicating he didn’t remember the name.

“We’re not friends anymore,” she said before Chris questioned her. It wasn’t until Rhonda wrestled her boys out the establishment with the addition of two Happy Meals that Audrey returned to her chicken sandwich.

“What happened?” Chris asked gently.

“We just lost touch.”

Chris squeezed ketchup from the tiny packet onto a napkin. “I know there’s more to it than that.”

Rhonda set her sandwich down and wiped her face. “The Christmas after my dad died, I never heard a word from her. She was busy preparing for her wedding, I know, but she didn’t even send me a Christmas card.”

Chris dipped a fry into the ketchup. “Audrey, not everybody sends out Christmas cards.”

“But she did send them out that year. All our other friends got one. They were Anne Geddes cards with a baby laying in a manger. Very cute. Very Rhonda. I was at another friend’s house when I saw it on her refrigerator. It was precious.”

Chris shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe she accidentally left your name off the list. ”

“Maybe, but her mother died when we were in high school and of all my friends, I thought she’d know what I was going through. It hurt that I didn’t get a Christmas card. When I got her wedding invitation the next month, I ignored it.”

Chris’s eyes widened. “That doesn’t sound like you.”

“I know, but I was still hurting from my dad’s death. After that things were awkward and we haven’t spoken in seven years.”

Chris looked at his wife for a moment, then reached out for her hand. “I’m sorry.”

“Yea, me too. Especially after seeing her today. I miss Rhonda.” Audrey looked through the glass window at the bright colored playground where her own Mason and Maddie played. “I think our kids would get along.” She grinned as Mason popped out of the twisted slide and then pulled up his drooping pants with his chubby hands.

“You should call her.”

“Perhaps...” was all Audrey answered as she sipped her Diet Coke.

Rhonda was still on Audrey’s mind that evening when she went to kiss Maddie good night. She sat on the edge of her daughter’s bed, then shifted as she pulled a Barbie out from under her. She tossed the Barbie aside and brushed blonde bangs away from her daughter’s blue eyes.

Suddenly she noticed a picture thumb-tacked into the wall above Maddie’s bed. “Maddie Grace, how many times have I told you not to thumbtack things to your wall?” Audrey reached for the picture and stopped short when she saw the design. It was a photograph of a plump, sleeping baby laying in a hay-filled manger. “Where did you get this card?”

“It was in the box of dress ups you got down from the attic. I found it in one of your old purses.”

Slowly Audrey removed the Christmas card from the wall and opened it, her heart beating so loud she felt certain Maddie could hear it. When she saw the tight cursive script that was undeniably Rhonda’s, she gasped.

Praying for you this Christmas. I know how hard it is. Let’s get together and talk. Merry Christmas, Rhonda.”

“What is it?” Maddie asked.

“It’s a Christmas card.”

“Who’s it from?”

“Someone I hope will forgive me.” Rhonda kissed Maddie goodnight and went in search of a phone book.


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This article has been read 552 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 11/14/08
Sweet, lump-in-the-throat story, with a really deft touch with dialogue. I felt as if I knew Rhonda, without having her say a single word.

One teensy thing: your title foreshadows the ending.

I felt myself very drawn to your flawed main character--because I, too, am flawed! Well done.
Joanne Sher 11/15/08
Very nice job with the dialogue. I was definitely drawn to your MC. Lovely story.
LauraLee Shaw11/15/08
This is creative and VERy realistic. When I looked at your title, I thought it referred to making a mistake by holding a grudge so long over a cute Christmas card. Your ending twisted it a bit. That's just my take on it, though.

I wonder how many misunderstandings happen like this in our non-fiction lives... over an "unreturned" phone call or email. Or Christmas card. Thought-provoking.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge11/16/08
Thank you for a powerful, thought provoking, convicting story. I've been the one falsely judged and know her friend would be thrilled to hear from her, even without an apology or explanation.
Sharlyn Guthrie11/16/08
Great flow to this story. I appreciated the honesty portrayed in it. This made it all the more believable.
RuthAnn Cornelson 11/17/08
I really enjoyed this story. Emotion evoking and thought provoking. Great writing!
Lynda Schultz 11/17/08
I NEED to know how this card got into this purse and was never found by Audrey—it's a thread that feels like it was left hanging. Other than that—which might only be my peculiar perversity—this is really good.
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/20/08
You chose a creative way to show how easily misunderstandings can hurt a friendship. Excellently done.