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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Empty and Full (06/04/09)

By Folakemi Emem-Akpan



It took all of three hours for my home to turn from full to empty. Three hours, a drunken truck driver and a faulty traffic light.

They called me at work, buried in the midst of the ancient tomes I was proficient at translating. I can’t remember going down the elevator, getting into my car, driving. But I found myself at Mary County Hospital, in the ER, clutching at the blue scrubs of one of the attendants.

I was in the wrong place, for there was nothing more that could be done for my two kids. They were pronounced DOA by the attending ER physician, had been transferred to the walk in refrigerators.

The week passed in a blur. At the funeral, our pastor tried gamely to speak of short but eventful lives but even he was at a loss. How can a ten year old girl and her seven year old brother have lived eventful lives?

I retreated into myself. Mark sank to the bottom of whiskey bottles. For the first time since we’d been married, the house was exceptionally quiet. No laughter, no sounds of children horsing around, no false-cheer of early morning cartoons. Even the old house refused to creak. It sat there like a dead mouse, unmoving, deathly still.

I walked unceasingly through the barren rooms of my home, expecting to see Sarah and Michael as I turned corners. Sometimes I saw them but by the time I hurried to gather them in my arms, they were gone.

They took me to a sanatorium where there were no sharp objects, where I was constantly monitored. But I wasn’t suicidal, merely empty, merely hollow.

For the two weeks that I spent in that white forlorn room, Mark visited only once. And then he wouldn’t look at me. His eyes were glazed, as if his soul was in another planet. I remember thinking that he needed to be committed even more than I needed it.

When they finally let me out, I was surprised to realize that the sun was still shinning, that people still went to work, that the world had moved on without me.

I returned to work, and it was good for me. Not that it made me forget, but it made the pain more bearable. It faded to an itch below the skin, accessible yet distant.

I returned home late one night, found Mark in the living room, his eyes unusually clear. He smiled at me and my spine tingled. He had such a lovely smile and the haggardness of his face lent him a somewhat sexy form.

When he put his arms around my waist and I smelled not whiskey but shampoo on his skin, I gave in to the tears I’d not shed in months.

“It’s okay baby. It’s okay.” He said as he shushed me. “We’ve got each other. We’ll be fine.”

In the kitchen, he’d broken every last bottle of whiskey, dumped the contents down the drain. In the middle of the dinning, he’d made a picture collage. When we were newly wedded, when I was pregnant with Sarah, Sarah’s first picture, Mark with Michael. In the center of them all, in the most prominent place, he’d put a picture of Jesus, torn from Sarah’s preteen Bible.

“He’s the one that makes our lives full.” Mark said, “Not alcohol, not work, and not our pain.”

In that moment, I let go. Not of the memories, because how does one forget ten years of being a mother, of sticky smiles and mischievous grins? But I relieved myself of the hurt, of the pain that gripped my heart every time I thought of my children, and of the bitterness that stung when I thought of the drunk driver.

And for the first time in months, my heart was full again. Filled with Christ and his healing grace.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Chely Roach06/13/09
Wow. This was heavy. Perfect title, btw. You did a fantastic job of portraying the grief that fades to an itch under the skin...great imagery.
Sharon Kane06/14/09
Wow! You about took us to Hell and back again in 750 words. I am so glad they found their way back. Well done for some very powerful writing.
Lollie Hofer06/16/09
Oh, so sad! I could feel the sufferings of your mc in this story. I'm glad for the hope they were able to find, and yes, it can only from the Lord. I can't even begin to imagine going through this type of suffering without Him. Without actually saying it, you brought out a good point. God is in so hurry for things to be "fixed" and get better. It was a slow process that they had to go through but He did help them find their way. Thanks for sharing.
Lollie Hofer06/16/09
Whoops! "God is in so hurry.." should have been "God is in no hurry..."
Charla Diehl 06/24/09
Sad, yet you ended on such a happy note. Yes, with God we can be restored to live our lives fully--with His help. I felt the pain of your MC and your picture words brought each character to life for me. That's great writing!