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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Bitter and Sweet (05/28/09)

TITLE: Filthy Water in a Washing Machine
By Debbie Roome


“She stole my story, God.”

And so?

I paused in the bookshop door, the aroma of paper and new books spilling over me. The air was warm and part of me wanted to be inside.

Go in Michelle.

“I can’t, Lord.” The familiar feelings rose within me; a turmoil of hatred and anger that poisoned my system. I hadn’t known what bitterness was until Zoe betrayed my trust. Now it churned in my gut like filthy water in a washing machine.

You need to go inside. Michelle.

I knew I should but my body was frozen. This was the closest I’d been to Zoe in two years. Two long years where she’d shot to stardom by turning my confession of pain and abuse into a sensational Christian bestseller. “She betrayed my trust. I don’t want to see people fawning all over her.”

Don’t let it destroy you, beloved.

I caught sight of my refection in the shop window. I’d lost two dress sizes and tight lines hardened my face. Bitter, cynical eyes looked like bruises in pale flesh.

You know it’s for the best.

It was only a few weeks since I started talking to God again. Tired of venom circulating my veins, I’d asked Him for help. Now He wouldn’t leave me alone. “So what must I do, Lord? Buy another book and ask her sign it? Thank her for exposing my innermost feelings? Some friend she turned out to be.”

The book is sold as fiction.

“It doesn’t excuse what she did.”

I can turn all things together for good.

A crowd of women hustled down the pavement. “I can’t believe Zoe Milford is actually here.”

“I’m buying copies for all my family.”

“I wonder what she’ll write in mine.”

They flooded the bookshop entrance, sweeping me into the store with them.

That wasn’t so hard, was it?

A bitter war raged within. “I don’t know if I can face her, God.” Zoe had apologised and called many times but I’d shunned her. Eventually she backed off.

Trust me and keep walking.

Zoe was sitting at a table in the centre of the store, books piled next to her. She looked like a star with sleek raven hair, dazzling teeth and flashy jewellery. The washing machine churned within and I felt physically sick.

How does the book end, Michelle?

I snorted. “Shelly turns to God and deals with her past. Through her testimony, many people find healing in their own lives.”

And how does your story end?

I was thinking on that when I heard a commotion at the table.

“Excuse me one minute ladies.”

Zoe hurried towards me, hope in her eyes. “Michelle, I so wanted to see you while I was in town.” She was carrying a file that she pressed into my arms. “Won’t you have a look at this?”

I couldn’t say a word but managed to nod.

She tentatively placed a hand on my shoulder. “You’ve got so thin. How’ve you been keeping?”

Venom threatened to overflow but I clamped my lips together as I turned towards the coffee corner.

You’re doing well, daughter.

I ordered a bitter espresso to match my feelings and sat down in the corner. “What is this anyway? Fan mail? A list of accolades?”

Just read and see.

I opened the file and saw it was a collection of letters, some typed, others handwritten, and all preserved in plastic sleeves.

Dear Zoe,
I can’t thank you enough for writing this book. It seems so true-to-life and through it, I’ve found God. I too had a dreadful childhood and my stepfather raped me regularly. Your character was an absolute inspiration and ...

Before I knew it, thirty minutes had gone and I was still absorbed in the file. “Is this what You meant about turning all things to good?”

Yes and this is a tiny sample of what your story has achieved.

It was as though someone connected the drainage pipe to the washing machine and I felt the filth gurgling away; the bitterness, pain and poison that had tormented me for so long. In its place, the sweetness of forgiveness and surrender began to flow.

“I want my story to end like the book, Lord. Full of sweetness and victory.”

The choice is yours.

I pushed the espresso away and caught the eye of the waitress. “A hot chocolate with cream and sugar, please.” Then I sat back, tears overflowing as I waited for Zoe.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 06/04/09
This is a perfect title for your story. I was caught up in it just as you had hoped, I'm sure. Good job!
Emily Gibson06/04/09
You nailed the theme with this one! And I love the washing machine metaphor! Well done!
Charla Diehl 06/05/09
Great title--and the story surely did not disappoint in any way. Loved the message that God can use all our struggles and pain for good. Thumbs up to you.
Sheri Gordon06/08/09
I really liked this story, and would like to read more...both before and after this snippet. Nice job with the topic.
Genia Gilbert06/08/09
I love this. Thanks for the lovely treatment of the the topic.
Colin Swann06/08/09
Really enjoyed this. Absolutely great! Hope it does well. Colin
Joanne Sher 06/09/09
Oh - what a powerful image, and powerful telling. Exceptional.
Sherry Wendling06/09/09
This one's a winner in my book! You throw a great hook with the opening sentence, then you nail your audience with the "successful novel" theme and the MC's immensely believable dialogue with the Almighty.

I also savored the similes and symbolisms, such as, "Bitter, cynical eyes looked like bruises in pale flesh", and the MC pushing away the expresso and ordering "hot chocolate with cream & sugar."

Right on topic, without a single wasted word--exquisite and powerful writing. (Did I mention this one's a winner??)
Carol Slider 06/11/09
What a fascinating story! This really could be a novel. I'd love to know more about these characters. Congratulations on a very well-deserved First Place!
Glynis Becker06/11/09
Beautiful! The inner struggle was written so skillfully and the title is the perfect image for it. Congratulations on your well-deserved win!
Beth LaBuff 06/11/09
Your wonderful story is very moving. I love your title! Congratulations on your Editor's Choice and 1st place in the Master's Level!
Patricia Turner06/11/09
Congratulations!! What an intriguing title and a great way to draw the reader on into the story. I was with her every step of the way. :-) Love it! A very well desered win!
Tracy Ruckman06/11/09
Debbie - this is just beautiful. I felt myself right there with your characters. Well-deserved win!
Pat Guy 06/11/09
Wow...I had tears in my eyes too. What a read. Congratulations -- well done girl.
LauraLee Shaw06/11/09
Absolutely magnificent. Congratulations!
Marylea Monroe06/12/09
A wonderful take on real life. I more than enjoyed this. What a great reminder of our Father's love for us and how we often keep ourselves from receiving it.
Eliza Evans 06/12/09
Very, well done, Debbie! Wonderful.
Love the little detail of the espresso, too.
Congratulations! :)
Timothy Osuch06/15/09
I am brand new to this place, FaithWriters.com, and this is the very first challenge entry that I have had an opportunity to read. I am truly blessed to have been led to such a great piece to that gave me so much encouragement. It was a joy to read and experience your writing.