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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: War and Peace (not about the book) (07/07/11)

TITLE: Maelstrom of the Mind
By Anita van der Elst


Somehow, without her knowing it, battle lines were drawn that first day—after the uttering of vows, the heralding of announcements, and the chiming of the bells.

For the following five years, five days a week Brita wished five o’clock in the afternoon would never come. And on the weekends she wished Monday morning’s seven o’clock would come sooner. Yet each day’s ten-hour reprieve was wasted in throes of fearful anticipation of that hour in the day when Gregor returned.

The gentle upbringing by her softhearted, soft-spoken father had done nothing to prepare Brita for the conflict she now endured. Harsh criticisms, angry outbursts and impossible-to-please demands were Gregor’s choice of weapons. He’d fooled them both in his wooing of his bride. So respectful and acquiescent in the old professor’s presence, bringing favored cigars and knowledgeable discourse on literature. Ever considerate and courteous, the epitome of chivalry, in the opening of doors and such for Miss Brita.

It was as though a different man than the one who stood at the altar, walked out of the church that day alongside Brita as the bells rang. Perhaps, Brita mused, first with bewilderment and then with growing horror, it was some magical incantation when the minister presented us as man and wife—as Mr. and Mrs. Gregor Adams—that changed Gregor. But then why am I not changed?

She took the same care as she always had in her appearance and health. Her unblemished skin glowed and her hair, the color of freshly scrubbed russet potatoes, gleamed in soft curls. Long legs still carried her swiftly around the tennis court while well-sculpted arms swung the racket with accuracy. The only mark Gregor had placed on her that could be seen was the ring on her finger. Physically she had not changed, yet Brita was not the same.

No, the change was on the inside. Betrayal, disappointment, and hurt hid and festered in a dark spot in her heart, regularly throwing out clots of despair. These little lumps of mutated unresolved resentment lodged in her mind bringing twists of belief before Brita even realized it.

If only, if only, Brita’s thoughts rattled like machine gun fire, if only I could find a way to be free. Gregor will never leave me. When Father dies, I will inherit my family’s fortune, which is all Gregor sees when he looks at me. I know that now. Why didn’t I see that before? And he knows I will not leave him, for Father, even as kind as he is, will hold me as the one to blame and I cannot bear to disappoint Father. But how can I continue in this barren union that is no union? Oh, if only, if only…

In the midst of another of her mid-week maelstroms of the mind, she watched the mailman come up the sidewalk. Whistling a tune from Showboat, he was unaware of the release the missive slipping from his hand and through the mail slot would present Miss Brita.

As the last few notes of Ol’ Man River faded away, the morning sun spotlighted the official looking envelope lying apart from the rest of the mail. To Brita, in retrospect, it was a holy beam blessing the delivery that brought deliverance. She picked it up. Set it in the usual spot that Gregor had demanded all mail be placed for his perusal. And then she waited.

The wait was not long.

Five o’clock came at its usual time. Gregor marched in with his usual imperiousness and pounded at her foundations with the usual battering rams. She was too quiet, too loud, too much, not enough, old womanly moody, childishly giddy and where was his supper!

Patiently she waited.

Finally, after a tense truce over the meal, when Gregor retired to the front porch with his pipe and the mail, she let a smile slip over her lips and waited a little more.

The official looking envelope was a summons. War had been declared between countries and the government drafting process was swift. When Gregor answered his summons and went off to fight his country’s battles, it was the first peace Brita had known since their wedding day.

She fervently hoped it was a peace that would never end.

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This article has been read 552 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke07/14/11
Oooh, this is top notch writing! Your descriptions perfectly match the era in which your story is set. A sad tale, with a somewhat sad ending, it leaves the reader wanting more. (that's a good thing)
Lillian Rhoades 07/14/11
Nicely developed plot. A few sentence structure errors. Loved the title and the sense of intrigued that kept me reading right to a super ending.
Carol Penhorwood 07/15/11
Amazingly well done! Vivid descriptions of emotions usually so difficult to relate. Haunting.
Catrina Bradley 07/16/11
Spectacular!! Brilliantly written and paced, with an ending that surprised me and left me smiling. I've been where Brita was, but I left. And yes, my father DID blame me. I can feel her pain and her relief.
Noel Mitaxa 07/19/11
Loved the relentless buildup to your surprise twist at the close. Very skilfully done.
Lisa Keck07/21/11
God will make a way when there seems to be no way is the message I'm getting here. Very well written.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 07/22/11
Congratulations for placing 10th in Masters and 15 overall!

How sad that this story is too true for too many. You did an outstanding job of being the voice for the many victims of domestic warfare