Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)
By Karlene Jacobsen
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“I know honey, but she needs us.” John tried to reassure her. “I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but God will break through that tough shell.”
“Why is she like that?” She muttered. This must be the millionth time I’ve asked him this. Jenna sulked, stomped, screamed, and suffered horrific nightmares, but never talked.
The workers at foster care believed she could talk, but would not. They were about to refuse John and Marissa the chance to help, but John was persistent. “I’m sure she needs to feel loved and safe. We can give that to her.” His arguments won and Jenna came to stay with him and Marissa.
“I’m not sure, but if we don’t keep her here, she’ll be stuck at the group home until the state dumps her from the system; then where will she end up?” They both knew the clock was ticking. Jenna had just turned sixteen, and no one wanted a troubled teen on their hands.
“With an attitude like that…probably jail. I just wish I could be as optimistic as you.” John’s faith was rarely shaken as Marissa’s, for which she was grateful.
“Right, that’s why we pray. Ask for wisdom, God will give it.” He ended the conversation momentarily when he rose from the table and began stacking dishes then moving them to the sink. “Come on, you wash, I’ll dry.”
The two washed, dried, and chatted and giggled. When the last glass was placed in the cupboard, Marissa caught a glimpse of Jenna hiding in the dark corner of the family room, arms folded tightly across her chest; tears streaming and streaking her face.
Marissa’s heart melted toward the girl. “Jenna…is there something I can do for you?”
She did not answer, except for “Grrrrrrrrhhh…” and ran again to her room and knocking figurines from the wall shelf with the slam of her door.
Marissa turned to John who reflected her troubled gaze. “We’ll get through this with her, whatever it is.” He pulled her into his embrace, “We’ll get through this.” He repeated into Marissa’s soft, wavy auburn hair.
The following morning Jenna appeared for breakfast, chiseled mask set firmly in place. Her dark brown eyes smoldered beneath multiple layers of mascara. Her mouth set in a thin line, accentuated by maroon lipstick.
“Good morning, Jenna.” Marissa set herself to be patient and kind as her husband had encouraged. “Are you feeling better this morning?”
Silence answered. Jenna ate the toast and jelly set before her and was off again to her room with a glass of juice in hand.
“Lord, help me. I’m trying. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do.” Marissa’s resolve for patience cracked. She stepped to the deck off the dining room and followed the footpath at the bottom of the steps heading toward the little creek that separated their property from the neighbor behind them. She found the bench hidden among some reeds and crumbled in desperation. “God, what happened? Why is someone as beautiful as Jenna so hard? Please help me…help her.” The melting that began the night before continued until she was an extension of the creek beside her.
“What?” Marissa thought she heard a voice, but wasn’t certain if she had imagined it. It was soft, like the creek skipping over the stones.
Certain she heard it the second time, she asked, “What about coconuts?”
Marissa and John lay in bed talking about their day. “I’ve been thinking about something.”
“Jenna is like a coconut.” She ignored his burst of laughter as she continued. “I was praying today and I kept hearing the word ‘coconut’. As I thought about it, I realized something. Coconuts’ shells are hard. It’s really tough to crack them open, but when you do, they have the sweetest milk and meat inside. In fact, it’s really quite soft in comparison to the shell.”
John, laughter under control, asked, “So, are you saying she’s worth the effort?”
Marissa’s voice cracked with emotion as she replied, “You bet she is. As long as it takes; she needs to know she is home and safe here.”
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