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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Joy (05/18/06)

TITLE: When Joy Smiled
By Amy Michelle Wiley


The sickly-sweet fumes of marijuana mingled with urine, sweat, and mold. Andrea gagged. She peered into the shadows, and tried to brace herself. Her destination was the tiny room in the back. Police stepped aside to let her pass.

It was worse than she imagined.

For a moment she couldn’t move, couldn’t see, couldn’t even gasp. There were no windows in the room, but a faint light drifted from behind to give a glimpse of the horror. The girl was only three or four, crouching on a sordid mattress on the floor, her hair a tangled mat clinging to her head, spidery tendrils dangling here and there. She was rocking, her arms clutched around her spindly legs as she swayed.

“Oh, sweetie.” Andrea knelt, ignoring the moisture that seeped through her jeans, and reached out a hand. The child inhaled sharply and jerked back. The girl was scared of people, but still alert enough to respond to a presence.

Andrea returned to the main room and approached an officer. “Chad, what do we know about her?”

“One of the younger guys is talking. He says she is the boss’s daughter. Lived with her mom until she died and then he brought her here. I don’t know how long ago. We haven’t found a name or anything yet.”

“I can’t believe--” Andrea closed her eyes, fighting the rage that burned in her chest.

“I know.” Chad looked away. “To bring a kid to a place like this…. I’m just glad we were able to bust the cell without too much violence, and find her before it was too late.”

“Can you clear the building for a minute?” Andrea leaned on the rickety door frame, watching the child as the men left. Lord, she’s so traumatized. Will she ever be normal, walk with confidence through life? Will she ever smile?

“Sweetie, you are safe now. I’m going to take you to a new home where you will be safe and loved, okay?” Andrea reached calmly and took the child’s hand. She stiffened, but allowed herself to be lead from the room. Thank You, Lord.

The girl sat, tracing the pattern on the car seat fabric, still rocking. Andrea watched her in the rear view mirror during the quiet car ride. I believe You have plans for this child, Lord. Plans to give her joy. I give her to You. Use me in her life. Andrea pulled into her driveway and led the girl into the house.

It was bright and uncluttered, created specifically for children such as this one. Yet, as Andrea watched her standing forlornly in the middle of the room with her eyes glazed and hands limply at her sides, she knew that this child was unlike any who had come before.

A tear slipped down Andrea’s cheek, and her heart cried out, Why Lord?

You have been placed in this job for just such a time as this. Remember My promise: Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Andrea lifted her chin and rested her hand on the child’s head. “I will name you Joy.”

Joy wrapped her arms around herself and once again began to rock.

For three days Joy did not look directly at Andrea. For five days, she made no noise but a soft whimper as she rocked. Andrea read to her, prayed with her, took her for walks, and let her cuddle with the pet cat.

On the sixth day, Joy said, “Cat. Come.”

Andrea wept.

It was the singing that Joy seemed to enjoy the most, though. As time went on, she would gaze into Andrea’s face for hours, as she sang everything she could think of, from hymns to nonsense songs.

“Joy, I know a song that has your name in it. It’s all about joy--the kind God gives us. It goes like this:” Andrea threw back her head and sang with abandon. “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart! WHERE? Down in my heart, to stay!”

The child reached tentative fingers to touch Andrea’s heart, looking into her face. Andrea slipped her own fingers around the tiny ones and kissed them.

Joy smiled.

God’s words taken from Esther 4:14b and Psalms 30:5b.
Song lyrics written by George Cooke, © Public Domain

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This article has been read 1651 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jessica Schmit05/25/06
You did an excellent job with this piece. Your intro was superb. Your ending perfect. I was really impressed. You also did an excellent job of describing instead of telling. Very strong piece.
Anita Neuman05/25/06
I loved your intro, too. You really grabbed my attention - and kept it all the way through. Fabulous job!
Lauren Bombardier05/25/06
Oh, this was really good! I agree, the intro was great. It really pulled me in.
Claudette Wood05/25/06
This is wonderful! I also was captured from the beginning, wondering where you take this to find JOY... but you did it. Thank you for sharing your talent.
Shari Armstrong 05/25/06
Well done!!! I wanted to take her home with me, too.
Crista Darr05/25/06
I love this piece. Very well crafted from beginning to end. It's just wonderful in every way.
Melanie Kerr 05/26/06
Your description was excellent. My heart ached for the little girl.
Ruth Neilson05/26/06
I can see why you are in the master's level. Wonderful. Loved the little girl, though I think the name thing was addressed on the message board...but it fits at the same time.

Sorry I can't make logical since tonight. My brain has been fried at my job today pretty much literally.
Suzanne R05/27/06
I loved the opening scene too - it was very well done.

I wondered at first if Andrea was a social worker - being on the scene to collect the child, having a home especially designed for children like her etc. In the end, with the song about joy being there to stay, I figured that the child is there to stay, right?

Very good writing.
Debbie OConnor05/28/06
I like this very much. I was also a little confused about your main character's role in the little girl's life...social worker, foster mother, adopting mother...? You were very descriptive, I could picture the scene easily and I loved the little girl's growing trust in her caregiver. Great job!
Rita Garcia05/28/06
Like Shari, I wanted to take her home. Wonderful writing!
Marilyn Schnepp 05/28/06
A beautiful and bittersweet story...but all ended well. Nicely told.
Jan Ackerson 05/28/06
Heartbreaking--and wonderfully written.
Trina Courtenay05/29/06
Funny how the only thing that came to my mind when the challenge word was posted was that same song. Great piece.
Dr. Sharon Schuetz05/29/06
This is a great story and so true to life. There are so many "Joys" out there who don't get rescued. Great writing. Thanks.
Linda Watson Owen05/31/06
oh! What wonderful writing! You reached right into our hearts and planted 'Joy' right there. A gripping and unforgetable story!
Alfreda Byars06/01/06
I wondered from your title how could Joy smile, now I know, great story.