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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Commitment (01/05/12)

TITLE: 2:40 A. M.
By Sandra Petersen


I dial her number, wondering if her promise holds true. Does her pledge mean anything when the digital clock blazes 2:40 in searing red and the night sky is filled with stars?

The phone rings once, twice, and on the third ring she answers. A yawn muffles her “Hello?”

“Did ya mean it?” I slur into the receiver.

On the other end of the line, cloth rustles. I picture her sitting up, drawing the covers back, standing and pushing her bare feet into slippers.

“Sonja? Is that you?” Her voice doesn't sound sleepy anymore. The tone hints of alarm.

I try to laugh but my vocal cords refuse to cooperate. All my mouth can form is a grimace. A soft groan escapes before I can stifle it.

I force my mouth to form the words again, to repeat the question. “Did ya mean it?”

“Mean it? Mean what?” I can almost see her frowning face as she attempts to understand me.

Time's wastin', Kim. If you're like all the others . . .

“What's going on, Sonja? Have you done something to yourself?” Her voice is edged with apprehension.

Does she really want the answer?

I don't intend to be cruel but I have to know if her promise transcends everything, even lost sleep.

“Guess.” I chuckle at my attempt at cleverness but the laugh comes out as a gurgle.

“Yes, I promised I would be here for you whenever you needed to talk. I'm committed to that. I have to know. Have you done something to yourself? Answer me, Sonja.”

I cast my gaze on the motel bedside table. The ice in the glass collapses as it melts into the amber liquid at the bottom. The pill bottle lies on its side, its childproof cap on the carpeted floor.

“Tonight it hurt more'n it ever hurt, Kim. The memories . . . I can't live like this.” My eyes crinkle with tears. Grief rises up inside me, threatens to smother me. “I'm so alone 'n' no one cares.”

“You know that's not true. How many times have I told you I pray for you every day? Every day, Sonja.”

I want to believe her but I know from some altar calls prayer can be a second long and just as deep.

“Mebbe you get tired of sayin' 'em 'n' seein' nothin'.” The pill and alcohol cocktail I took a half hour earlier is working too quickly. My speech is getting worse by the minute and I feel so weary.

She sighs and when she speaks again her voice is calmer, steadier.

“Alright, Sonja. I need to know where you are in order to help you.”

“Will you help me . . . again?” A shuddering sob courses from my lungs and out of my mouth.

Did ya mean it?

“Yes, a thousand times, yes. Where are you?” She insists I tell her.

It would be much better for everyone if I slept. I'm a high maintenance friend most people can't afford to have. My mind overrules my splintered heart.

“Sunset Motel. Room 8.” Now I can lie back and wait for her.

“Sonja? Don't fall asleep. Get up on your feet and walk around the room until I get there. If I'm going to listen you have to be able to talk to me.”

“Mm-hmm . . . okay.” I let the phone fall from my fingers onto the bedspread. The pillow invites me to rest but Kim told me to walk. She's coming. She promised she would and she hasn't ever failed me.

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This article has been read 592 times
Member Comments
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C D Swanson 01/12/12
This was an interesting story on so many levels. I pray her friend called 911 before going to the motel. Over all, a good job demonstrating and clearly outlining the topic.
God Bless~
Sydney Avey01/12/12
Oh those high maintenance friends. This is a compelling picture of how they test our commitment. Makes me sad to think that the pill popper doesn't seem to making any progress facing her issues. I'd like to see a ray of hope for those who have hung in there with a friend who repeats a cycle endlessly.
Linda Goergen01/13/12
My thoughts too, I hoped Kim called 911 before she left for the motel! This made me think how hard it is sometimes to see the fine line between hanging tough with someone and tough love. Very realistic story of how very difficult true commitment can be! Great job.
Judy Sauer 01/13/12
My heart ached reading this tragic story. I can relate to the friend who's always there because of answering my phone at 3:10 am. Your story certainly raised up old pains. When writing clicks emotionally with the reader, then job well done.
Kristine Baker01/14/12
I am blessed that I do not have high-maintenance friends. This story brought to light a side of my life I do not have, nor do I want. The committed friend has to go through so much. Kudos to this friend. I hope there is a support group for this friend. That sounds like a rough road to be on all alone.

Good writing.
Cheryl von Drehle01/16/12
i agree...very well written, especially communicating emotional pathos without sentimentality. I would love to see you revisit these characters again, addressing the complex issue of commitment versus enabling. Maybe if one of our topics is "disappointment?"
Cheryl von Drehle01/16/12
I forgot to mention: love the title-- short and pointed, with just enough foreshadowing to draw reader in without giving it away
C D Swanson 01/19/12
Congratulations on your HR win! God Bless~