Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Home (01/09/06)
TITLE: Strange Familiarity
By Ellena Balkcom
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If only shopping for the best of name brands were a sport, Ciara would be an Olympic Gold Medalist. Like her mother and her mother’s mother, she had mastered the art of looking her best at all times, at all cost, no matter what. She woke up this early spring Sunday morning with a familiar shopaholic’s hangover, regretting that she had spent valuable weeks of her life looking in shops and just about a month’s salary on the outfits and preparation for that weekend’s events. This was money she didn’t have, but it was her ten year college reunion where all her friends and old acquaintances would see her for the first time in years. Unmarried and not as far in her career as she had hoped, she had to be fly! No ifs ands or buts about it. Finding the perfect outfits and accessories had been her mission for the past month. Being perfectly manicured, pedicured and waxed was essential. Having her car detailed and hair flawless was a must.
She had been consumed by thoughts of the reactions of envy and desire she was sure to evoke that weekend. Ciara had flawlessly planned every detail down to the right shade of eyeshadow and lipstick for each new, expensive outfit. Afterall, her friends would expect nothing less from SU’s best dressed diva. Rolling over slowly as the morning sun peeped gently through the hotel’s sheer curtain, Ciara moaned dragging herself to the bathroom sink. Her mouth felt like cotton. She normally wouldn’t dare let tap water even touch her lips, but consumed every ounce like a wilting plant on its last leg. Feeling slightly more human, Ciara replayed the previous night in her head as she attempted to focus in the mirror. The idle chit chat, phony smiles, empty promises of keeping in touch and having one drink too many just to keep the masquerade going had depleted her. Yes, she had gotten all the compliments and propositions she expected. Ciara had wowed them as always, but looking at herself in the mirror at that moment, the sweet smell of satisfaction had left her only leaving the stench of day old perfume and the sight of smeared make up on an exhausted face. “Once I get through this last church event, I’m free to go home,” she thought as she started the shower. “I can’t wait to get this over with. What a waste of time and money,” her thoughts continued. She let the warm water run over her and felt her skin soak it in like she had drank the water earlier. Her spirits suddenly lifted as she remembered she had saved the most exquisite outfit for Sunday service. “Wait until they see me,” she thought smiling to herself.
Just about everyone on campus had made this their temporary “church home” while in college, so the committee’s selection of Mount Zion didn’t surprise Ciara at all. She felt a strange familiarity walking through the old wooden double doors. She remembered the days of kneeling and weeping before the Lord on the old burgundy carpet, and the subsequent healings. These were times she had buried deep and left behind the day she threw her graduation cap in the air, along with the painful hurts and memories that went with them. The cheating boyfriends that had diminished her esteem to zero, the moments of promiscuity to ease the pain, the girlfriends who let her down when she needed them most and the financial struggles of a single mother trying to keep her in college. She could count the times on a one hand she had even been in a church since then. It all came flooding back like a river. She listened to Pastor Salem and the choir and began to feel something rise in her like a volcano about to erupt. Once again she felt the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit take over her body and soul. In front of everyone there she cried, snotted, danced and shouted. Not caring about her outfit or who was watching, Ciara felt a transformation that was different but not new. All morning her thoughts had been fixed on getting back home, but full throttle, with a tear-streaked face buried in that burgundy carpet, she knew she was already home the moment the doors of the church opened.
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