Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)
TITLE: Manger Mistake
By Kristen Hester
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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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