Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Hotel/Motel (09/12/05)
- TITLE: The Class of '88
By Garnet Miller
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A manicured hand interrupted the elevator doors. A woman wearing a turquoise party dress stumbled through the doorway. “Hey, can you hit the tenth floor? It’s that one over there.” The drink she carried splashed on the other woman’s shoes.
“Watch it Gretchen!”
“You know me? Wait a minute—I know you. You’re Smelly Shelly.” Her laugh caused her to fall back into the corner. “Who invited you to the class reunion? I thought the Hotel du Coeur was a classy place.” Her eyes narrowed as she baited the hook with her words. “The riff-raff was supposed to be left off the list this year.”
Shelly clenched her fists. Memories of past humiliation washed over her like stagnant water. “Twenty years have passed and this is still going on? High School is over.”
Gretchen steadied herself using the handrail. “You think you’re better than me now? Just remember who played the winner and who stayed the loser. Ha!”
“Was this your plan, Lord? How much hurt must one person endure in a lifetime?” The white hot ball of anger in the pit of Shelly’s stomach threatened to surface.
A familiar voice in her head quelled the surging fury. “This is not about you, Shelly. Those who are not ill do not need a physician.” Ignoring the drunken ravings behind her, she concentrated on God’s words.
Gretchen lunged forward and slammed the red Stop button with her fist. The elevator screeched to a halt. Both women crashed to the floor. The drink glass shattered, slicing across Gretchen’s palm.
Shelly removed the scarf from her neck and tried to wrap the blood soaked hand. Gretchen pulled away. Shelly positioned her body so that she sat between Gretchen’s torso and her injured hand. She bandaged the palm quickly.
Gretchen wailed. “Stop it!”
Shelly stood and stared at the clownish mascara-streaked face. “At first, I thought you taunted me because of my color. Now, I realize it was because you were a heartless bully who hurt others to hide your own pain.”
“How dare you!” she snarled. “What pain did I have? Everyone wanted to be me. I had everything and you know it!” She struggled to stand, but the wounded hand kept her simpering in the corner.
“I should hate you, but I can’t. God won’t let me.” Her voice cracked. “Did you know that I tried to take my life because of you? It was the week before graduation. If Miss Burroughs hadn’t found me under the bleachers that day, I would be dead. She took my mother and me to her church that Sunday where I learned about God’s undying love for me. He proved you wrong— my life does have meaning.”
“I heard you’ve been married three times.”
Gretchen remained silent.
“Did you love them? Did they love you?” Shelly asked.
“I don’t need anybody’s love.” She quickly wiped a tear as soon as it escaped. “I got all of their money. What do you have, Miss Smarty Pants?”
“I have a Ph.D. in biochemistry, but that defines what I do, not who I am. The dearest thing to my heart is God’s salvation. Without Him, all the degrees in the world wouldn’t have made me feel better about myself. You need Him too.”
Shelly released the Stop button. The elevator groaned back to life and resumed its ascent to the top floor. Ding! She removed the small silver key from the slot below the button panel. The doors opened in front of the penthouse.
Gretchen’s eyes registered surprise. “You booked the penthouse suite? I thought some dignitary was up here.”
“You are welcome to come in. I will call a doctor to tend to your hand.” Shelly reached towards her.
She recoiled. “Why are you being so helpful? This doesn’t change anything.”
Shelly smiled. “Maybe it changes nothing for you, but tonight, God showed me that I needed to face you in order to be truly free from my past. For that, I thank you. If you ever want to put your past behind you, come see me. In the meantime, I’ll be praying.”
She reached inside the elevator and pushed the button for the tenth floor. Noiselessly, the doors closed.
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