Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Christmas Gifts (11/13/08)
By Chely Roach
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As she excused herself to use the restroom, she rehashed the conversation she just departed. “Six hundred and ninety seven dollars; that’s what we need to cover our health insurance for this month…”
“Ouch,” Rene said as she sucked a breath through her teeth, “I guess you still haven’t received your Workmen’s Comp?”
Nancy frowned at her wrist brace, “Nope. It’s been six weeks of nada.”
Her thoughts were drawn back by the clearance rack of craft supplies. Mylee would love a purse with those organza butterflies…
It might not be the most indulgent Christmas her grandkids ever had, but they were gonna open gifts from their grandma; even if she had to break her other wrist in the process of making them.
As Nancy put her weight on the restroom door to open it, a customer on the other side pulled it open briskly, causing Nancy to stumble in awkwardly. “Oh, I am so sorry!” exclaimed the other woman.
Nancy looked at the walking cast on the patrons left leg, and then at her own wrist. “It’s okay. I suppose we are both a little accident prone, eh?” Both woman blushed and chuckled as they passed through the threshold.
With six stainless steel stall doors to choose from, Nancy chose the very last one out of habit; it was a quirk she had always had. She slid the lock and hung her purse on the door, but as she turned around something caught her interest on the floor between the wall and the commode. She held her breath as she bent over to touch the envelope…
Nancy completely forgot about her pressing business and scurried back to her shopping partner. “Oh, Rene, now I am in a quandary…”
“Why? What’s up?”
“Look what I found in the restroom.” Nancy held out her good hand. In her palm was a bank envelope.
“Does it have money in it?”
“Yep,” Nancy sighed, “Seven brand new perfectly crisp one hundred dollar bills.”
“No!” Rene whisper screamed.
“Yes, exactly how much I need…” she sighed again.
The two friends held each other’s gaze, and Rene felt her companion’s conflict. Most people would take the money quietly, and think it was an answered prayer. “You know what you have to do, right? This is a test…” Rene said calmly.
“I know, I know. What a cruel temptation. But I know that not only would I ruin someone else’s Christmas, I would ruin my own. How on earth could I pay my bills—much less buy my grandbabies Christmas gifts—with tainted money?”
Rene touched Nancy’s shoulder tenderly. “Well, Sweetie, all I can say is that what the devil intends as a temptation, God can use as a test of your faith. If you turn that money in, He could bless you tenfold.”
With that, they silently began their approach to the front of the store when they passed an orange-smocked manager in the next aisle. “Excuse me,” Nancy read her name tag, “Marty? I found something in the restroom…”
“Is it seven hundred dollars?” Marty asked frantically.
Nancy and Rene looked at each other smiling, and then simultaneously nodded to the manager.
“Thank God. The woman who is looking for that is at the front of the store. Her name is Susan. You can’t miss her; she has a cast on her leg.”
“Perfect. We already met…” Nancy took the lead and made a beeline for Susan, who had the contents of her purse scattered across a checkout counter. “Pardon me…did you lose something?”
Susan’s angst distorted eyes met Nancy’s, and then Nancy extended her hand with the envelope. When Susan saw it, her entire body began to quake violently, and her panicked eyes melted into deep, weary puddles. She braced herself on the counter to keep the floor from devouring her. Nancy recognized that evolution of expressions; hopelessness colliding with hope—the acknowledgement of being pulled out of the quicksand by a benevolent stranger. What she was doing for Susan, Susan was also doing for her.
As gratitude replaced Susan’s shock, she wrapped herself around Nancy, with her intermittent sobs seizing their embrace. “Thank you so much,” she cried into Nancy’s chest, “Please, let me give you a reward…a gift.”
“This is my gift.”
As the women smiled and said goodbye, the great tempter sputtered profanity and decided to move on to easier targets at the casino.
But the Dove peered down from his leafless perch, savoring the gift exchange.
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