Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: THE UGLY TOURIST (07/09/15)
By Zacharia Fox
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“Excuse me! Can you keep her quiet?” The girl’s mother nodded.
Gwen closed her eyes, thankful nobody was next to her on the flight.
* * *
The intercom came to life as Gwen applied rouge lipstick for the third time. “We’ll be landing in ten minutes…” Gwen tuned out, studying her handiwork in a compact.
“Knock ‘em dead, Gwen,” she said, and snapped the compact shut.
When they landed, Gwen pulled her carry-on from the overhead, and strutted the aisle like a cat walk. “Where are my sunglasses?” she mumbled, as she stepped from the plane. Then she noticed the brilliance of the shimmering runway. Her skirt hugged her legs as she knelt to touch it.
“Ms. Brandt.” She looked up to find a striking man staring at her. “I’m Gabriel. I’ll be escorting you.”
“Hello!” She said, conjuring a playful smile. “I’ve never seen a runway like this.”
“You’ll find all our roads unique, Ms. Brandt. They’re paved with gold. Now, if you’ll follow me.” Gabriel started walking.
“Certainly. Did you say gold?”
Gabriel looked toward Gwen. “You’re in heaven, Ms. Brandt.”
A sea of people parted like she was Moses when Gwen approached, everyone sporting the same wide-eyed stare. A little girl darted in front of her, and Gwen stumbled as she said, “I don’t believe in heaven!”
“That which is real, is real, with or without your belief.”
Gwen tried to ignore the stares, but found herself annoyed. “Gabriel! Why is everyone staring at me?”
“The light of Jesus presence makes everything plain.” Gwen fell into thought, before Gabriel asked, “You’re beautiful, are you not?”
“You said it, not me.” She grinned, glancing at a crystal sea. “So, they’re staring because I’m a looker?”
“You think yourself beautiful because of your shape, your skin, your hair. Here, those things are not seen. His presence makes plain who we are in our heart. Would you like to see who you are?”
Gwen’s heart quickened. Why am I afraid to see myself? She expected Gabriel to be impatient, but instead found the soft curve of a smile underneath a pair of sad eyes. She nodded, and Gabriel motioned toward the crystal sea.
The sand tickled her feet, and as her toes kissed the water, the sea went stone still. When her reflection appeared, she gasped. Her face was gnarled, her eyes white with cataracts, her hair thin and pallid. Her tears felt strange on her face and she realized she couldn’t remember the last time she’d cried. “I’m hideous.” Her words were barely a whisper, but echoed across that eternal sea.
“Such are the unredeemed.”
Gwen fell to the beach, and let the unfamiliar warmth of tears swallow her as she gazed over the unending expanse of water. “That water is like my sin; there’s no end to it.”
“No. The water is like His grace.”
Her chest tightened. Every sorrowful tear released some weight she’d not known she carried. He loves me.
“Ms. Brandt, we must be going.”
Gwen followed Gabriel back, oblivious to gawking eyes. The little girl who’d tripped her hugged Gwen’s leg, handed her a daisy, and skipped away.
“Who’s that girl?”
“She’s the girl on your plane.”
Gwen bit her lip, covered her eyes and cried.
“Ms. Brandt. Your time on earth isn’t over. There’s yet grace for you, and in that grace, purpose.”
Gwen smiled, slipping the daisy in her pocket. She climbed aboard the plane and collapsed into her seat, eyes spilling water like a broken dam.
* * *
When she opened her eyes, everything was normal. The plane landed and Gwen grabbed her carry-on. Then she noticed the girl’s mother struggling to carry their belongings while supporting her daughter.
“Here. Let me help.” Gwen caught the girl under the arm. She walked the girl to a seat in the concourse, and flagged a trolley. The girl’s feeble frame rose and fell in a slow rhythm of shallow breaths, as Gwen knelt in front of her. “What’s your name?”
“It’s nice to meet you, Daisy.” Gwen’s eyes stung with tears, as she slipped her hand in her pocket, and froze. She lifted a daisy from her pocket to her nose, as the familiar warmth of tears graced her cheeks.
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