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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Touch (the sense of touch) (08/05/10)

TITLE: Mental Case?
By Catrina Bradley


Zoe didn't know which hurt worse--the desperate need to be touched, or being touched itself. Dr. Madison was helping her work it out. Trying to convince her that the pain was mental, not physical. All he'd managed to convince Zoe of so far was that SHE was mental. Not that THAT took much convincing.

Ever since the fire and losing her daddy, the horrendously painful skin grafts, and year-long healing process, she'd been waiting for the old Zoe to make a reappearance. It had been one l-o-n-g year. She knew she wasn't 'right,' and Dr. M's suggestion of 'mental' sounded right on.

He never came out and SAID that she was mental, of course. Just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo head-shrinker talk about psycho semantics, but she knew what he was getting at.

She was mental.

So when Tristan walked into her life, you can understand why she was a bit paranoid. First off, he was gorgeous, and Zoe felt that 'need' to be touched again--but different this time. It was more than physical. Second off, the first thing he did was reach out to touch her.


Her mom had invited him to dinner. Zoe knew it was a hook-up--even though her mom had told her it was so 'the new neighbor boy could meet kids his own age.'

'Kids.' Whatever. I think with all I've been through, I hardly qualify as a kid anymore. So when the doorbell rang at 6:00, and her mom and little brothers were (conveniently) nowhere to be found, she was on her guard.

The vision that greeted her was nothing like the pimply-faced geek Zoe had been expecting. He offered his hand, and she hated the hurt she saw in his big green eyes when she gasped and shrank back--and she hated herself for her automatic reaction. But she couldn't help it--it was automatic.

Zoe mentally (ha ha) rehearsed and practiced the exercises Dr. M had been helping her with. For the first time, she actually had the desire to. A deep breath; pull out a memory of a time when being touched didn't used to hurt and was connected with good feelings; focus on that and not her fear; another deep breath. Relax.

Zoe opened her eyes, and was embarrassed to realize she had shut them. Tristan was still standing there, gaping at her, more confused-looking now than hurt, and she wanted to die. She pushed her hair behind her ear, and mincingly offered her shaking hand.

Obviously Tristan was no dummy. He didn't grab her hand, but met her halfway, matching her speed, waiting for her make first contact.

This was an approach Zoe was definitely NOT familiar with, and she didn't know what to do. So she did Dr. M's exercise again (quickly), and added an exercise of her own (actually one of her Grammy's) and said a prayer.

Then she slid her palm under his, wincing involuntarily but not pulling back.

The lack of burning pain startled her and she almost collapsed. A dream. This must be a dream.

Again, Tristan held back and let Zoe make the next move.

Zoe dropped her hand and stepped aside. "Come on in. Everyone's in the kitchen."

Lord, what IS this? And I'm not just SAYING the word "lord" this time. I'm really talking to you. And, WOW, I think you're really listening.

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This article has been read 786 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 08/12/10
Interesting account of a burn victim's pain beyond the physical healing. I enjoyed the upbeat ending.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/16/10
This is beautifully done. The virus that invades my body has caused severe nerve damage. On certain areas of my body the lightest tough can have me crashing to the floor writhing in agony. I consider writing about my hyperesthesia, but wasn't sure I could make people understand what it is like. You did an outstanding job of putting a voice to the pain I feel. Thank you for writing about the very thing I couldn't even begin to describe.
Amy Michelle Wiley 08/16/10
This is great. Touch hurts me sometimes, too, but thankfully it's never gotten bad enough for me to shy away from all touch. Great look inside the character's head.
Maria Egilsson08/17/10
This makes me want to know more about the relationship and how they worked out the difficulties with touch.
It also brings understanding on how touch is painful for some with certain "conditions"... the most basic of human needs can be a painful experience. Very well written.
Rachel Phelps08/17/10
Wonderful take on the topic. You did such a good job putting us inside Zoe's head.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/17/10
Excellent story, right on topic and with a great message: God cares about our concerns, and He listens when we ask for help. This sounds like a good beginning for romance with such a wise young man.
Patricia Turner08/17/10
A wonderfully insightful look into hidden pain. I like Tristan's "let your gentleness be evident to all" approach. I'd like to know where this leads, but the story stands very nicely on its own.
william price08/17/10
Very cute and very real. Mental case? No! Great writing and insight? Yes! This belongs!!!!! Cat. You belong! I love your stories. Honest and sincere. That cannot be taught, anywhere. God bless.
Mariane Holbrook 08/17/10
OK, leave me hanging! I'll let my imagination take me on from there and trust me, it will also have a "they lived happily ever after" ending. The thing I like best about this entry are the "undertones." Great job, no kidding!
Barbara Lynn Culler08/18/10
This seems an unusual point of view and that you, yourself, knew that pain.

Great job and right on topic!
Melanie Kerr 08/18/10
Very much on topic. I liked the casual style of writing which made it easy to follow the story.

Did Tristram know about the fire and effect it had on your MC?

I liked the prayer and the reaction to its immediate answer.
Ruth Brown08/18/10
Cat, that was very well done. You captured the feelings very well. I hope it places.
Love, Ruth
Sandra Petersen 08/18/10
You kept me reading to the end and hoping your MC would begin to allow internal healing. Mental? Not at all. Just slow to heal.
AnneRene' Capp08/18/10
Talk about...ON TOPIC, nailed it!

What a truly eye opening story to touch the hearts of those who've never endured such a trial. What an encouraging story for others who have and felt so alone in their self consciousness. AND what a great example of a person's love-kindness in dealing with what he didn't understand! Awesome job Cat!
Kimberly Russell08/18/10
Left me wanting more. Great take on the topic and very well written. Nice job, Cat.