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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hot and Cold (04/09/09)

TITLE: A Non-Returnable Gift
By Anita van der Elst


Nola skipped down the stairwell after morning worship service heading to her car. Just as she got a couple of steps from the landing where the stairs took a turn to the right around the corner, a tall, dark, handsome figure swung round it coming up. Her heart skipped a beat as her feet faltered. He’d been introduced in Sunday School class as Xavier Castillo, an exchange student from El Salvador. His deep brown eyes flashed up at her and a wide smile revealed perfect white teeth.

Could he BE anymore of an epitome of the hot Latin lover? Her cheeks burned as the thought came unbidden.

Nola’s lips parted without any prompting from her brain in an answering smile. Words tumbled out.

“Uno, dose, tres,” she offered, as though counting stair steps. Aaagh, I can’t believe I said that. How inane. He’ll think I’m an absolute idiot. But it’s the only Spanish I know.

“Cuatro, cinco, seis.” His response came quick and playful.

In duet they counted, ending in laughter, “Siete, ocho, nueve, diez.”

“I’m Nola,” she reached out to shake hands. Xavier bowed, took her hand in his and lifting it slightly, placed a soft kiss on it. The spark, ignited in her heart, shot waves of heat through her body and soul.

“Xavier at your service,” he said. He spoke with a charming accent but it was obvious his command of the English language, not to mention of the female heart, was quite adequate.

“Would you like to lunch with me today?” he asked. “I have heard of American hamburgers and am eager to try.”

Is this for real? Here I am, eighteen years old, never had a date and this beautiful foreign visitor is asking me out!

“Of course,” Nola hoped he couldn’t tell how dry her throat was.

That first outing led to many more over the spring term and on into the hot summer. Xavier proved to be as passionate as he looked and Nola’s heart was entirely captured.

“You have made a wonderful, how you say, peekneek.” They sat in the park holding hands, the August sunset a masterpiece before them. Without letting go Xavier knelt before her, “I have now something to say, mi muy bonita Nola. God has given you to me. I love you forever and want to marry with you. Do you say yes?”

Tears gathered in Nola’s eyes as she gazed into his glistening ones, “Yes, oh yes, darling Xavier. You’ve made my dreams come true.”

Never had Nola felt so warm and safe as Xavier held her tightly. He murmured into her ear, “I must return home in September but your father agrees to my request for your hand in marriage when my studies are complete.”

At the airport Nola clung to him. “You’ll write to me, won’t you?”

“I will write to you every day, mi querida,” Xavier promised. “The next two years will go quickly and then I come to you. Te amo mucho, mi dulce corazon.”

A last kiss and he was gone.

Although not daily, long impassioned declarations of his love and desire for her arrived at least weekly. Nola almost set up camp next to the mailbox; she missed him so. Her messages went out to him every day—letters sealed with a kiss, romantic cards, sometimes cassette tapes of her recorded amorous whispers.

Then two weeks went by with no letter from Xavier to greet her. Finally a short card, saying he’d been busy with school and a sick mother, but still longing for his dulce corazon. Nola forgave him the anxiety she’d undergone only to have new anxiety mount when again the weeks passed with no notes of sweet love in her mailbox.

Is he ill? An accident? Revolution? Could it be…he no longer…loves me? It can’t be! He promised!

New Year’s came and with resolution Nola sought out advice from Adele, a short-term missionary just returned from El Salvador.

“Oh, my dear,” Adele grasped Nola’s hands in hers. “I know your young man. I’m so sorry to tell you. He is not the faithful gentleman your heart led you to believe. He has asked a young woman of his acquaintance to marry him. Their wedding is next week.”

Nola gasped, shivering, the news penetrating her heart like icicles. The romance born in spring’s warmth and nurtured through summer’s heat had arrived at winter’s icy end; her cold broken heart a non-returnable gift from a hot Latin lover.

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This article has been read 537 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke04/16/09
Good writing. Really like the title. I think this was a good exercise in exorcising that left over pain of a first love/broken heart.
Bryan Ridenour04/16/09
Well written. Reminds me of the broken hearts that the teens in my youth group experience.
Charla Diehl 04/16/09
You told a good story about the tenderness of young love and the pain of a broken heart. Your dialog was convincing and I could easily picture the characters.
Gregory Kane04/17/09
I loved the gentle idiocy of the counting in Spanish - so wonderfully naive and oh so believable. Many a broken heart...
Lollie Hofer04/17/09
Good work in developing the personalities of your characters. By the end, I could feel Nola's heartbreak because you were able to pull your reader into the intrigue and delight of the romance.