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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Home for Christmas (11/20/08)

TITLE: It's Never Too Late
By Carole Robishaw


Sitting in the shadows, she stared at the decorated church. I’ve arrived too late, I’ve already missed her.

There was a sound of somebody approaching, probably the janitor, who had let her in, now I’ll have to do it on my own. Oh!

Hesitantly, “Hello Audrey.”

Audrey started, hearing a voice in the nearly completely dark room, but turned with a smile to greet her. Audrey never would have been a good poker player. Stella could see all of Audrey’s emotions, completely exposed across her face and in her eyes, one by one, as she went through them. Fear, anger, anxiety, and then, is that peace I’m seeing?

“Stella, is that really you? It’s been so long.”

“Yes, I know. Twenty years now.”

“Why? What made you finally come back?”

“I guess it’s true, that old cliché, what goes around, comes around. My daughter decided to spend the holidays with someone else. A boyfriend, probably, she didn’t say who, just that she was going to be with someone else for Christmas. It drove home the final nail, I realized how much I had hurt dad, all those years ago. I’ve been thinking about you, and him, for a long time now, but it took that to make me finally get up the courage to come back.” She rushed on, afraid, unable to stop the stream of words. “I came to the church, remembering how you always did the decorations. I hoped I remembered correctly, but then I got here, and they were already done… I knew I’d missed you and I would have to go alone. I went to the house what must be a dozen times tonight, I just couldn’t go to the door. I came in here, I, I” she dropped back down to the pew with a thump, not even realizing she had stood up during her spiel to her stepmother. Her body shook with the suppressed sobs.

“Will you come home with me, then?” Audrey asked.

“Will I be welcome? How is he? Does he hate me?” Can he ever forgive me?” all came tumbling out, almost in one breath.

Audrey sat down beside her, and wrapped her arms around her. “He never has hated you, you were forgiven within minutes of your leaving, he misses you desperately and you always were welcome. He spent a lot of time, and money, trying to find you over the next few years. Then we received that picture when Pamela was just five, no return address, no name, just a picture of you and her. She’s a beautiful child.”

Audrey wiped away Stella’s tears, and hugged her again. “We put the picture in a frame, and it’s been sitting on the mantle, where your dad can see it, ever since we got it. Come, let’s go home.”

Slowly they stood up. “What made you come back tonight? The church is already decorated.” Stella asked.

Audrey laughed. “I forgot to bring the box of candles, I was going to wait and bring it tomorrow, but then I got one of those nudges. I knew I needed to come tonight.”

“God still speaks to you?” I asked, incredulously. “You’re still…” I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to open old arguments. I had never believed all that “stuff” about God, and being able to “hear a still small voice” was just over the line for me, even now.

“Yes, I still hear, and respond, to His voice. That’s what sent me here, tonight, so I could take you home with me. Come, let’s go.” Audrey smiled at her, giving her arm another squeeze, before standing up.

They walked, arm in arm, out of the church and next door to the parsonage.

Stella was wondering, again, if she’d been wrong about a God who cares, just she had obviously been wrong about her dad.

They walked in the door, and Stella felt like someone had kicked her in the stomach. “Pamela? What?”

“Mom! You came! We’ve been praying for you, that you would come, but…oh Mom. Grandpa, look, she’s here.”

After many hugs, and even more tears, Stella tuned towards her daughter, “so, this is the someone you wanted to be with?”

“Just one of the someone’s. I wanted you to come, too, but I was afraid to ask. Grandpa, grandma and I, we’ve been praying, that you would come home, too.”

“I guess I was too stubborn to come any sooner, but I’m here now.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Catrina Bradley 11/30/08
There is a great story here, and I think it needs more that 750 words to be told. :)

Red Inkish feedback: The paragraph that starts "I guess it's true" packs a lot of punch, but needs to be broken up to send home the strong action points in your dialog tags. I also think your story would have been fine ending with the mom saying, "Pamela?" What comes next will be inferred by the reader.

I like your characters, and the plot and pacing of the story kept me reading to see what happened next.
Sharon Kane12/01/08
A lovely story of redemption and the return of a prodigal.
You captured the emotion well; I especially liked the bit where she thumped back down into the pew without realizing she had stood up, and also her uncertain questions about her dad and whether he could forgive her. The ending gave double satisfaction with the unexpected emotional reconciliation with the daughter as well as the all round reconciliation with the parents.
If I interpreted your hint properly you asked for Red ink: I found the opening lines confusing. You refer to the MC as 'she' sometimes and as 'I' other times, so at first I thought there were 3 people in the church. I had to read the story a second time to get it straight who was who.
Jan Ackerson 12/01/08
Great reconciliation story here--that's one of my favorite themes.

I had to read this a few times before I got the characters and their relationships straight.

Love the attitude of Audrey.
Pamela Kliewer12/02/08
This is a lovely story of redemption and forgiveness. Red ink: I agree that the opening was confusing, with the she and I. It might have helped had you used italics to show her thoughts.
Deborah Porter 12/04/08
Carole, in case you don't see the Highest Rankings each week, I just wanted to let you know that you did very well in the Challenge this week. Even though you didn't quite make it into the winners' circle, you made it into the highest rankings for Level 3, placing 13th for the level. You also made it into the Highest Rankings overall, placing 38th out of all the entries for the week.

The competition is always extremely intense in Level 3, so well done. Keep up the great writing.

If you would like to check the highest rankings for yourself, you can see them here:


With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)