Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: PHOTOS and/or SOUVENIR(S) (vacation) (07/16/15)
TITLE: The Handkerchief
By Katherine (Kat) Kane
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“He just asked me for directions, Ash. I swear I’ve never—”
“You lying slut! Look at you, flaunting yourself in such skimpy clothes. Aren’t I man enough for you?”
“It’s forty degrees Celsius out there, Ash—“
“Shut up, Grace! You’re going to pay for making me look a fool!”
“Ash, please no—I haven’t done anyth— No, NO! STOP! PLEASE!”
The loudspeaker announcement brings her back to reality. She looks around and realises that she is standing in Portugal’s Faro airport, and will soon be heading home. She fights to slow her breathing. That hotel room is miles away! Forget about it.
She glances over her shoulder and pulls her coat round her a little tighter. The coolness of early morning gives her a decent excuse to wear something to hide the bruises. If only the thrumming pain and the trauma could also be blocked out...
And where was God? Did He even care?
She sees an empty bench by the window. Still shaking, she sinks onto it and decides to rest here for a few moments to recover from the flashback. Around her, the drowsy airport is awakening to the aroma of coffee and the clicking of footsteps.
She watches the first arrival of the morning taxiing to the terminal building. It seems impossible that a mere five days ago, she was one of those excited people, preparing to disembark. She walked through this very building, looking forward to ten glorious days in the Algarve, blissfully unaware of the events that were to unfold...
She feels her phone vibrate and fishes it out of her pocket. She untangles it from the colourful embroidered handkerchief that the hotel receptionist gave her while giving her first aid. She hits the ‘on’ button. She freezes as she’s greeted by Ash’s photo, the one he badgered her into taking while they waited for their baggage. Desperate to avoid rocking the boat, she reluctantly let him set this photo as her lock screen.
She punches in her PIN. This virtual Ash seems a chillingly accurate metaphor for their relationship. And that grinning face – how can that be the same man who glared at her yesterday with such hatred and contempt? The same man who had said he’d never hit her because she’s not like his previous girlfriends…
Love shouldn’t hurt like this. I just want to be loved, not controlled…
The message says ‘Nearly @ Gatwick Airport, C U there. Mum & Dad’. She recalls her parent’s horrified reaction to the news of her going on a last-minute holiday with him, and her feeble attempts to justify and excuse how he treated her by insisting that they didn’t understand him as she did. Or thought she did…
The sun is now peeking over the horizon, painting the sky in beautiful hues of mauve and pink. She savours the beauty of the moment, and knows she’s lucky to be here. She’ll never know heard the commotion and raised the alarm, or what would have happened if they hadn’t.
She dabs her eyes with the handkerchief, thinking of the kind receptionist. Despite being so busy, she had taken such good care of her – even contacting her parents to arrange to get her home. Even the manager refused to let her pay for the damage done to the room, insisting it was not her fault.
She thinks of these simple, selfless acts of kindness, performed without expectation of repayment. Suddenly, it’s clear where God was in all of this.
So this is what love really means…
She whispers a prayer of gratitude, clasping the handkerchief. The feel of its intricate embroidery is so comforting. It’s the only souvenir of her holiday, but one that she will always treasure.
Her phone vibrates, announcing a new message. She’s pretty sure she knows who it is and what the message will say. She scans through Ash’s texts. It’s his usual litany of promises, excuses and emotional blackmail.
But this time, it’s not enough. This is not love…
The final call for boarding echoes across the terminal. She takes one last look at the rising sun, and takes a quick snap. She titles it ‘Light conquers darkness’ and sets it as her lock screen. Perfect.
She joins her fellow passengers in the queue to board the plane, promising herself that one day, she’ll return to enjoy this beautiful place with someone worthy of her.
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