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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Before and After (05/14/09)

TITLE: Standing Again
By Margaret Gass


Jennifer had been nervous. She and Daniel had been at her parents’ house for just ten minutes before Mom began putting him to work. Jennifer saw it as a good sign, because Mom wasn’t treating him like a guest, she was treating him like family, but it had been hard enough to bring her first boyfriend home as a junior in college--she didn’t want him to be her first and last boyfriend because of a visit home! She needn’t have worried: Daniel went above and beyond her mother’s expectations. Mom had asked him to chop some firewood and place it against the garage wall, while she and Jennifer made a “quick” Costco run.

Mom never made quick trips to Costco; they were gone just over and hour. When they returned with way too many groceries, Mom pulled into the driveway, but did not shut off the engine. Instead she climbed out of the van and walked to the side yard. She turned to the garage and then exclaimed, “I don‘t believe it!” There, neatly stacked against the garage, she saw the wood Daniel had chopped…and that he had chopped the entire woodpile. He had even made separate bundles of kindling and covered the stacks with a tarp! She rushed inside to thank Daniel, who didn’t seem to realize what he had done, or the impression it made on Mom and Papa. Both of them approved of Daniel, and the weekend had gone well.

When did things change? Jennifer mused, but even as she did so, she knew the answer. Mom’s attitude had changed dramatically the following spring, when Daniel began making himself a sandwich instead of waiting for dinner. Dinner was three hours late, and Jennifer knew he was used to eating promptly at 6:00 pm. It was now 9:00 pm., and he wanted to head back to the dorms. They had made the 90-minute drive together, and Jennifer felt caught in the middle. After apologizing to Papa because Mom had gone from screaming to refusing to talk, Jennifer and Daniel left. Things only got worse when, after getting engaged, Daniel had been hospitalized for his manic-depression and Jennifer had refused to break the engagement. She told her mom that she was marrying Daniel “for better or worse, in sickness and in health”--what would it say about her commitment and love if she couldn’t handle a temporary setback?

Sixteen years later Jennifer asked herself those same questions again, but from a different perspective. Daniel, who had gone and off his medications several times during their fifteen year marriage, had been off them for nearly two years. She had come home at 3:30 and started dinner, just as she always had; he came downstairs and headed out the door--but not before telling her to leave, that he was done being married. Something about his tone and eyes caused her to pause only a moment before telling their son to get in the car. Jackson started to complain, but when he saw the tears in her eyes, he quickly complied. Jennifer had been right about Daniel’s demeanor: as she tried to get in the car herself, Daniel came out of the barn screaming.

“Where are you going with Jackson? He can stay. Jackson, get out of the car.”

“Jackson, stay right where you are and buckle up. I need to talk to Daddy a moment.”

Daniel wasn’t interested in talking. He began yelling, and as Jennifer saw his jaw tighten and the veins bulging in his neck, she knew what was next. Even as his hand tightened around her wrist, she found herself raising her own voice. “If you want me to leave, then Jackson is coming too. How can you care for him when you can’t take care of yourself? I’m not leaving without him!” Jennifer’s words found their mark, and Daniel flung her to the ground. He tried to get Jackson out of the car, but Jackson had locked its doors. Daniel climbed into his truck and threw it in reverse so recklessly that Jennifer was knocked again to the ground by the side mirror. Daniel kept going, and Jennifer scrambled in to the car. She knew he would be right back. In the calmest voice she could muster, she told Jackson they were going to see a friend.

The pastor’s voice brought Jennifer back to the present. The last ten years faded as she focused on his message. No longer cowering in fear, she stood tall to praise Him.

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This article has been read 338 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Kellie Henningsen05/23/09
Your story caught my attention and kept it the whole way through, but it seemed to cover a lot of ground given the limited word count. The final paragraph left me wondering exactly what had happened. I would love to know more!
Connie Dixon05/24/09
Good story. Probably too many details for the average (me) reader to get hold of. Also, maybe it's just me but when you call Jennifer's mom, "Mom", it seems like you are changing your POV. Glad you and "Jackson" were able to survive this long ordeal. I know it wasn't easy.
Myrna Noyes05/24/09
Wow! What an intense scene there in the second half of your story! I'm glad mother and son got away okay!
Daniel started off sounding so great, but ended up being a monster! What a "before and after"--both for him and for Jennifer! I wish I knew a bit more about what happened to Daniel and Jennifer, though!

Nice writing!
Joy Bach 05/25/09
Very intense. Having lived through similar scenes, I totally understood the fear. You made it all so very real. Good job!