Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) (02/19/09)
TITLE: Ice and Fire
By Shirley McClay
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“Who came up with such a crazy idea, and why do people actually come here?” I stabbed a piece of elk meat with my fork and sniffed it warily. Smelled good. The blueberries and lingonberries, whatever they were, added color to the plate crafted of ice.
“We’re here.” Jack’s saucy grin irked me.
“Because you won it. In a contest eleven people entered. No one else wanted the trip.”
The waiter stepped around my chair and refilled my coffee. “Lapland is indeed a land of miracles and … what is word… revelations!
Jack’s glare made my embarrassment shift to irritation. “I didn’t mean to offend. It’s just… I’m a sun and beach kind of girl.” I flashed a friendly smile at the elderly man as he topped up Jack’s mug.
“Then you must come in the summer and enjoy our midnight sun.” His eyes twinkled at me as I met them for the first time that evening.
He answered my unasked question. “Midnight Sun means time when the sun stays up at midnight. In north Lapland it stays for 73 days in row. That time in the summer you can have sunshine all the twenty-four hours of whole day. No matter if it's two at night the Lapland's sun just won't set.”
He had my full attention. “I can’t even imagine…”
“That you can attempt to imagine. What you really can’t is the sky’s lights. You must sit in an ice igloo tonight. The night flames will melt any cold heart.” He winked at me and walked away.
“Let’s do it.” My words surprised even me.
Jack lifted his attention from his dish of liver and… whatever else. “”You want to do it?”
“That’s what I said.”
“Right.” He dropped his attention back to his ice plate.
The light in the ice igloo was cold and blue. Eerie.
“Like us, huh?” Jack laid on his back, gloved hands tucked behind his head. “Empty, shallow, lifeless.”
He sat up on one elbow and drilled me with his brown eyes. A black curl escaped from his hat and dangled above one eye. “What do we need to do? What’ll it take, Elise? We promised God… till death do we part. How is this together? We couldn’t be further apart if we divorced.”
I looked away. Didn’t want him to see the tears pooling.
He laid back down, closed his eyes. “That’s our problem. All the walls. Look away... don’t let me see you hurt. I don’t push ‘cause I’ve got no clue how to fix anything and I can’t handle another blowup.”
I fumbled in my coat pocket for a tissue. No matter how much I wiped, they kept coming. I laid my head in my hands and sobbed… silently.
We sat that way for… I don’t know… a long time.
Then Jack stirred. He grabbed my arm and shook it. His voice was husky. “Open your eyes, Elise.”
I wiped again and opened them. The igloo glowed. An ocean of green and purple rippled across the sky. I blinked to clear the last of the moisture.
Again we sat in silence. A different silence.
After a time… I had no concept of how long… Jack grabbed my hand and pulled me with him to the door of the igloo. We crawled out and stared. People were everywhere and I couldn’t help but wonder where they all came from.
We stood… together… bound somehow by the strange beauty.
“God did that.” I didn’t recognize my own voice. Something in me let loose, melted. I turned to Jack, the man I’d loved for more than fifteen years, and stepped into his arms. I didn’t want to be an ice sculpture anymore. “Help me, Jack.”
“I can’t.” He stopped and I felt him tremble. “I’ve tried and failed so many times.”
All hope drained from me. The tears stopped. I pulled away. Physically and emotionally.
“Elise. That...” he stopped and pointed at the sky above us… “was done by God. I want that...” he waved his hand upward without breaking eye contact with me… “in our relationship. Only God can create that kind of beauty.”
The truth hit me… it felt like a physical impact. “We haven’t turned to God… together… in a long time.”
He clasped my hands in his. “Let’s start… right now. One miracle sparking another.”
We prayed late into the night, our eyes fixed on His canvas above us.
Author's note... This is taken from http://finland.fi/finfo/english/aurora_borealis.html The finest display of the Northern Lights seen in southern Finland within living memory appeared in the sky on the nights of April 6th and 7th, 2000. In Helsinki, about as far south as you can go in Finland, hundreds of excited people roused their friends from sleep in the small hours with the words, "Don't ask, just go outside now, you won't believe your eyes."
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