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

TITLE: Changes
By Betty Castleberry


My breath forms visible puffs in the chilly evening air. Shivering, I pull my jacket tighter around me as I approach the little bungalow. A welcome wreath that Sylvia placed on the door is crooked. I straighten it and enter. She does not hear me come in.

She is in the kitchen, stirring something at the stove. Tiptoeing to the kitchen door, I watch her smash a clove of garlic and peel it. Her hips are curvy, her waist narrow. Black curls trail down her back. She is beautiful, and I believe she is happy. The news I have for her today will make her sad. I must wait for the right time to tell her that I am unemployed. It is hard for me to believe. It changes everything.

She begins to sing along with the radio. I walk up behind her and kiss her neck. Her skin is warm. For an instant, she stiffens, then laughs. “James, do not sneak up on me like that. You will give me heart failure.” She turns and faces me, playfully swatting my hand.

My lunch box clatters to the floor. I grin. “See? You’ve knocked my lunch box out of my hand. You don’t know your own strength.”

Sylvia laughs again. “Yes, I am strong.”

It is true. She is strong. I think back to the first time I saw my bride. She looked adorable serving customers and cooking in her family’s restaurant. I am amazed she had worked there since she was twelve. I am even more amazed that she still likes to cook. At my request, she quit working when we got married.

Pointing to something green in the skillet I ask. “What is that?”

Napalitos. A dish made with prickly pear strips.”

“We’re eating cactus?”

“Yes.” She drops the garlic into the napalitos pan. It sizzles and fills the kitchen with a pungent aroma. “Don’t worry, you will like it. We’re having asada, too.”

“And home made tortillas?”

“Of course. You gringos eat too many salads. You need a few tortillas under your belt.”

“Fine by me. Your tortillas are wonderful.”

“How was your day?”

I avoid her eyes. Instead, I look at the cookie jar on the counter. It is a pink pig with an enormous snout. The words won’t come just yet. I cheat. “Okay, I guess. How was yours?”

“Good. I went to Bible study. The ladies are all so nice. They’re having a luncheon tomorrow. Is it all right if I go?”

“Of course. You don’t have to ask me.”

“But I want you to know I won’t be home in case you call me from work.”

I hesitate and feign a cough. “Oh. Well, you still don’t have to ask. Just tell me.”

She nods. “I love you, carino.”

“I love you too, angel face.” I am not embarrassed by my nickname for her. It is very fitting.

“Go wash up. Supper is almost ready.”

The ancient plumbing groans in protest as I turn on the hot water. Deciding not to wait for it to cooperate, I wash my hands in cold water. It matches the cold facts I am trying to conceal from Sylvia, at least for the time being. I do not want to see her cry.

When I return to the kitchen, she is putting dishes of steaming food on the table. She plucks a jalapeno from a jar and pops the whole pepper in her mouth.

I shake my head in disbelief. “Isn’t that hot?”

“No. It’s good.

“Mama called today. My sister is having a party for Markie’s first birthday on Sunday afternoon. The whole family is going. I told her we would be there, too.”

She looks at me intently. “Won’t it be great when we have our own kids?”

I sit down and put a tortilla on my plate. “Sure. Some day.”

Sylvia stands by my chair and touches my shoulder. Curious, I look at her. Her big brown eyes are filled with tears. She reaches for my hand and places it on her flat stomach.

Carino, some day is eight months from now.”

My mouth opens, then closes. Standing, I hug her tightly. I will find a way.

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This article has been read 837 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 04/16/09
Great story—emotional, with just the right amount of conflict, and a super surprise at the end.
Rachel Stone04/16/09
Nice realism, I was drawn into the moment.
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/17/09
Your story shows well the love in the home, and the husband's fear, as well as his determination. I felt like I was sitting in the kitchen with them. Good writing.
Jan Ackerson 04/19/09
I love the ending of this, and the wonderful cross-cultural relationship, and...well, just everything. This is gorgeous!
Kristen Hester04/19/09
I love this! I love seeing the Hispanic culture and the authentic relationship. Very real emotions. Nice!
Carol Slider 04/19/09
Oh, life is just like that sometimes, isn't it? I'm quite sure that this loving couple will "find a way"! A beautiful written vignette... I loved it!
Karen Wilber04/19/09
The love between the couple really came through in your writing. Beautiful.
Catrina Bradley 04/19/09
I was totally drawn into your characters and this snapshot of their life. Little by little, you introduced details of the woman, and by the end I was in love with her. Aces!
Sharlyn Guthrie04/20/09
I love the relationship you've portrayed between this husband and wife. Both characters came to life for me. Somehow I know they will make it.
Dena Wilson04/20/09
The husband is this story is trying to fulfill his role as head of the household. You can feel the burden he is feeling, but also you can see the wife will be a great supporter of him. You did a great job without getting over emotional.
Carole Robishaw 04/21/09
This was very good. I could see and feel the love they shared. I suspect she was as concerned about telling him her news as he was dreading telling her.
Sonya Leigh04/22/09
What a sweet story that warms the heart. These two were made for each other. Good job!
Connie Dixon04/22/09
This is awesome. I love your subtle references to hot and cold. Your words are powerful and real. Good job.
Diana Dart 04/22/09
I really liked the voice of the MC, the way he looked at his wife, the relationship they had. You very cleverly and nicely weaved the topic throughout - nice job.
Laury Hubrich 04/22/09
I love the interaction between the husband and wife. Very nicely written.
Beckie Stewart04/22/09
What a tender and sweet story, Loved it from beginning to end.
Sharon Kane04/22/09
Lovely story with an ending that took me totally by surprise. I had to re-read it to see if I could pick up any nervousness in Sylvia as I wondered who was carrying the bigger bomb shell. She seemed totally in control though, a strong woman indeed!