Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: THE UGLY TOURIST (07/09/15)
- TITLE: Beyond the Looking Glass
By Karlene Jacobsen
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Apparently, not far enough. Back home, near Detroit, she’d been forced to tolerate undesirables. Because Eloise’s husband, Edward, was pastor of their prestigious church, these people invaded every space possible in Eloise’s life: church, Bible study, life group, the children’s soccer games, school functions, the soup kitchen … the list could go on forever and eternity would never dim the stench they left trailing them.
And now, this woman. Eloise could almost see the cloud of vapor that swirled about her person. Maybe that’s why her skin seemed slightly tinged with green and her smile produced yellow with black speckled teeth. It was doubtful she’d ever been shown a comb, let alone taught how to use one. It was impossible to know whether she was a dirty blond, or if her blond was just that … filthy.
Even the shores of Whitefish Bay—supposedly one of the most amazing places to visit in Northern Michigan—couldn’t insulate Eloise and her family from those less … er … fortunate, apparently. They might be ensconced in family feuding and sibling wars, but at least they were out of sight and out of danger of soiling the pristine Christian image she and her family had worked tirelessly to paint in Detroit.
Eloise chewed on her lip. She had to get the family to quit quarreling long enough to escape into their Suburban before the woman saw them and came to ask for money. The children scowled at each other after threats over who’d pay the most for taking the best seats in their SUV. Eloise’s husband, apparently oblivious to any impending doom rocked on his heels at the shore’s edge, hands jammed in his pockets. “Edward.” Eloise finally caught his attention and she nodded in the direction of their abhorrent invasion. “We really must go. Now.”
He looked in the direction of Eloise’s sideways glance, and grinned. His eyes sparkled with that look that always spoke of trouble for Eloise. She knew what would happen next might seal the family’s fate for the rest of eternity. “Don’t even think about it, Edward.”
“What? She must be lost.” He turned from Eloise and walked further from the safety of their vehicle. “Hello, there.”
The woman’s lips curled into what appeared to be a smile, though it was a wobbly one. If the whitening streaks forming on her face were any indication, her smile was melting into a full on cry.
Edward cast a glance over his shoulder. “Eloise, you can go ahead and take the kids back to the hotel, if you’d like. But I think this woman needs a friend.”
Eloise knew her husband well enough to know he wasn’t releasing her to escape, but imploring her to see beyond the looking glass and catch a glimpse of the heart. She looked over to where her children waited, impatiently. There wasn’t enough room.
“No,” The woman spoke, her voice a squeak behind her tears. “It’s okay. I just wanted to say how beautiful your family is.”
Of course their family was beautiful. Eloise had worked long and hard to keep it that way. It wouldn’t be prudent to soil that image now. She turned a stone throwing glare at her husband. “Don’t you think we should go? The children are hungry.”
“Yes, of course.” He reached out a hand towards the woman. “I’m Edward. Do you live up here?”
Eloise should’ve known better. Even in the remotest parts of the world, Edward would find a way to extend his clean hand towards someone. Even an ugly, foul smelling tourist.
“Naw. I don’t live nowhere.”
That was all it took. Edward had the woman sandwiched between our older two children, refusing to take no for an answer on his invitation to lunch. His piercing gaze silenced any cries of annoyance over their discomfort. He climbed into the driver’s seat and gripped Eloise’s hand, a silent challenge to check her heart’s thermostat. She would either comply, or be left seething over her husband’s lack of tourism etiquette in exchange for his pastoral heart.
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