Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write in the ROMANCE genre (04/19/07)
TITLE: It Happened in Providence
By Cheri Hardaway
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Behind him, a door scraped open. In his peripheral vision, a dark head moved toward them. He caught John’s eye: You got this?
She’d entered the Planned Parenthood in Providence a couple hours earlier – alone. Josh had been speaking with a young woman and wasn’t able to catch the girl with soot black hair.
She approached their little huddle. Her hair lay limp, lifeless on her damp forehead. She kept her eyes cast down.
Encouraged by Kristy’s decision, Josh broke away to intercept her path. When she raised her gaze, time stood still. Her dark eyes – almost black – were hollow and empty, accentuated by dark circles, the kind acquired through long, sleepless nights. Her face was ashen in contrast.
“What?” she clipped, annoyed that Josh blocked her escape.
“Leave me alone!” she spat, roughly shouldering past, leaving him to stare after her.
She’d silenced his mouth, but his heart cried out. Others might have seen malice in her actions, but he saw only pain in her tortured eyes. The hostility masked fragility.
Over the following months, the girl with soot black hair was Josh’s constant companion. Her hunched frame relentlessly inhabited his thoughts. Those hollow eyes haunted his dreams — if he managed to sleep at all. Mostly he lay awake, laboring over her in prayer, though he didn’t even know her name.
He didn’t know her name, but he knew her heart. Somehow, in those brief seconds on the sidewalk, a connection had been made, one unlike any he’d ever known before.
His prayers for her were punctuated with petitions for himself.
Father, what does all this mean? Why does this anonymous stranger with her soot black hair and empty eyes haunt my heart?
A glimmer of understanding came one day as Joshua was reading the book of Hosea. God had asked Hosea to marry Gomer, a woman of less than reputable morals.
Father, I’ve been your child for most of my twenty-two years. I’ve never even dated, waiting instead for you to bring me to my bride. Could it be...?
I assumed my wife would come from a background like mine. Yet you’ve pierced my heart. I cannot get her out of my mind. I don’t even know her name.
If she’s the one, how do I find her? And she probably doesn’t know you...
An uncanny peace stole over Joshua as he bared heart and soul before the Lord. He didn’t have to understand everything to trust God. He chose, instead, to surrender his need to know all the answers; he chose to walk by faith.
Three years had passed. Joshua, now living in Sacramento, was in church when he caught sight of a young woman with soot black hair. Could it be?
He decided to find out. Her eyes, full of life, smiled into his, as he introduced himself.
“Hi. I don’t believe I’ve seen you here before. My name is Joshua.”
“Hi, Joshua,” she said warmly. “My name is Grace.”
“Is it possible we’ve met before?” He had to ask, though he already knew. Her eyes were no longer hollow or empty, but they were unmistakable.
Later that evening, Grace shared how she had relived the horror of her abortion, again and again, in the months following their sidewalk encounter. The only peace she’d known during that time was the kindness she’d glimpsed in Josh’s eyes. Her own eyes reflected only self-hatred when she looked in the mirror.
She’d remembered seeing a church’s name on his tee-shirt, and she’d sought refuge there one night, while trying to flee her nightmares. The pastor found her and led her to Christ. She’d been healing and walking with Him since then.
Often her thoughts had drifted to that day back in Rhode Island, those few seconds on that sidewalk. She knew that had been the beginning of her new life.
Grace’s hair gleamed in the sunshine. Her eyes sparkled as her dad placed her hand in the crook of Josh’s arm, there on the sidewalk in front of the church. The pastor waited at the top of the steps. Together they walked, all four, into the sanctuary and down the center aisle, between the guests gathered on both sides. And all of heaven smiled.
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