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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Love (04/27/06)

TITLE: Tough Love
By janet rubin


Michelle pulled at the line of blue yarn coming up from the basket at her feet and wrapped it around her knitting needle. After making another stitch, she laid the project in her lap and gazed across the room. A rectangle darkened the otherwise dusty tabletop where the television was only last week, and another smaller one marked the spot on the shelf below, where the DVD player had been.

A familiar wave of nausea washed over her remembering the intrusion. Little Mark’s prized possession—the X-box Santa brought at Christmas—had been stolen as well.

“Why, Grandma?” he’d asked, his eyes red and puffy. “Why would he take my toy?”

She’d had no explanation, only a prayer and a hug before tucking him in, pulling the covers tight as if a quilt could offer any kind of protection from the world.

Closing her eyes, she echoed Mark’s question, aiming it at the ceiling. “Why Lord?”

No answer came. It was a question without answer, one she’d mostly given up asking. Only God knew. All she knew for sure was that God would continue giving her grace and strength to get through.

Boots thudded on the front porch. The doorknob jiggled. Michelle’s pulse quickened and her mouth went dry. Within seconds Kevin would realize that his key no longer fit the lock. Heat crept up Michelle’s cheeks, shame filling her. What kind of mother locks her son out? Father, can’t I give him one more chance?

You’ve given him many chances.

But maybe this time…

Sometimes love says no

A slow breath escaped Michelle’s lungs as she absorbed the painful truth and headed to the door. Kevin pounded with his fist now, sharp bangs like a hammer on a nail. Michelle jumped with each thud and prayed that he wasn’t high.

Help me Lord. She twisted the handle and the door swung open. Relief flooded Kevin’s eyes and Michelle saw that those eyes were clear, not confused by drugs.

“Mom, you changed the locks?”

Michelle managed a nod.

“I’m sorry about the TV and stuff. It’ll never happen again. I promise…”

“No. It won’t.” The sharpness of her own voice surprised her. “You can’t come back this time, Kevin. You need to get help.”

Kevin’s mouth fell open. What must it be like for him to hear these words?

Michelle desperately longed to cradle this boy. In an instant, she remembered him nursing at her breast, eyes closed and mouth desperately sucking at the milk, one tiny hand clutching a fistful of her long, hair. She’d stroked the silky wisps atop his head and given thanks, wondering what he’d grow to be.

“Mom, you’re not serious. I know I’ve messed up, but I’ll do better.”

Michelle squeezed her eyes tight, saw Kevin eight years old. He’d fallen while climbing the oak tree. Blood oozed from the scrapes on his side, chest and shoulder where the rough bark had torn at his bare skin. Sobs racked his thin body. It hurts Mom. She’d made up silly songs while gently cleansing and bandaging the wounds, finally getting him to laugh. She remembered the feeling of satisfaction that came with being mom—the one who could make things better.

The boy—no, the man—standing before her was broken and hurting, but she couldn’t make him better. No embrace, no ointment in the medicine cabinet could help him.

“I love you Kevin…”

A shadow of rage darkened his face. “You don’t love me! You wouldn’t lock me out if you loved me. What about Mark? He’s my son!”

Michelle let herself go numb, let the emotional anesthesia of self-defense protect her against the hurt of his words. “Your father and I have custody of Mark. We’ll care for him until you are able.”

Kevin began to scream—hateful words, desperate words. In a violent burst, he picked up her pink scented geranium from the porch railing and hurled it at the sidewalk, where the clay pot shattered.

Michelle eased the door partway shut. “We’ve gotten a restraining order Kevin. You can’t come back. I’ll pray for you.”

With a click, the lock engaged and Michelle sank to the floor. She wept. Outside, Kevin let out an animal-like growl. Another crashing sound disrupted the quiet neighborhood, perhaps the hanging plant Mark had gotten her for Mother’s Day or the birdbath being toppled. Then silence.

Where would he go? What would he do? What had she just done?

You’ve shown him love.

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This article has been read 1129 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Helen Paynter05/04/06
Powerful writing, strong message. Thanks for sharing this.
Anita Neuman05/05/06
A painful, but well-written glimpse of reality. Great job!
Suzanne R05/08/06
The smashing of the plant pots really illustrated the depth of emotions well - a good touch.
Maxx .05/08/06
I really like this take on love. Very strong piece about a terrible situation. You brought the conflict and characters to life with expertise. Well done! And just maybe another winning entry!
Sandra Petersen 05/09/06
Such pain and anger! You did a very good job here at expressing all of the emotions! Great definition on real love.
Ann Grover05/09/06
Realistic portrayal of a very difficult situation. I agree with Sandra; the emotions were 'right there'.... both Michelle's and Kevin's... Well done.
Melanie Kerr 05/09/06
Excellent! The title fits perfectly. If only we could display some of this tough love when needed.
Dr. Sharon Schuetz05/09/06
Wow! What an awesome portrayal of a real life situation so many of us parents face. Good job.
Purity Snowe05/09/06
Queen Janet has struck again! Another perfect story from her awesome pen!

You just gotta be a pro, I know, I know, I know!!

Great story. Loved it!