Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: INDEFATIGABLE (02/11/16)
TITLE: Reflections of Love
By Holly Westefeld
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"Good evening. How are you doing today?"
"Be doin' better with some company..."
"I can't stay today, but I pass here every day going home."
He hurries on, briefcase swinging at his side, and I keep lookin' for my first trick o' the night.
"This is for you," Briefcase Man says a couple weeks later, handin' me a small heart-shaped box of chocolates. Before I think what to say, he slips away.
The next time I see him, he slides a slim velvet pouch in my hand, smiles, and keeps walking. I tuck it in my purse, hoping Lou had his eyes on one of his other girls. I've never tried to rip him off, so he rarely goes through my bag.
Finally alone in my room, I take out the pouch. Too heavy for dope... Wrong shape for a blade... I loose the drawstring and pull a gold framed hand mirror out. It seems scratched, til I look closer, and drop it like a hot potato. My initials are engraved on it. Not my street name, my real name.
"Good evening, Pearl."
I whirl, poised to run, and there is Briefcase Man. "You some PI?" I hiss.
"You don't recognize me. But then I'm not the scrawny, buck-toothed Joe who lived next door."
I look him up and down. Finally, I let our eyes meet. Love reflects back at me. I spin away and choke out, "Get lost!"
But he don't.
"Did you think I would stop loving you because my dad got transferred overseas, or because of where life has taken you?"
I walk toward Lou.
"This fella botherin' you, Diamond?"
"What ya want with my Diamond, pal."
"I want to marry her."
Lou doubles over, laughin' and slappin' his knees.
Joe opens a velvet box and holds it so we both can see. Lou's eyes look like they gonna pop outa his head. His hand hovers between the box and the piece he always has in his waistband.
"Get that fake thing outa here," I squeak.
Lou shrugs, and waves us both away. "Ya want the tramp that bad, take her. I got some fresh flesh today, and it's kinda crowded. No guarantee about diseases, and no returns."
I wonder if he's gonna shoot us in the back as we walk away, but he don't.
Two weeks after we close on the house in the suburbs, I go in to labor with the third baby as we put the other two to bed. Joe's mom comes to stay with them. It is a long night, and fatigue and ecstasy at a second boy blind Joe from seeing what I notice immediately. He heads home to freshen up for work.
I rest as much as possible, gathering my strength to slip away with the baby during shift change. There's no way I can stand to see betrayal reflected back from Joe's eyes.
I try to keep the boy quiet while Lou sleeps in, but a loud knock on the apartment door wakes him. I peek out of the bedroom as he cracks the door on the security chain.
"You! Whadda you want?"
My heart skips a beat.
"Do ya now?" A smirk spreads across his face. "Well there's a little problem. She had an unhappy customer a while back, and ran up a hospital bill. Then there's all the diapers and formula the brat's goin' through..."
I heedlessly dash to the door and thrust my disfigured face in the opening. "Don't do it!"
Lou names two amounts, and Joe writes a check to him, and one to the hospital.
Joe won't hear of me sleeping on the sofa. After I put on the white victorian gown he had laid out, I bury my face in the pillow. Entering, Joe gently tips my chin up. There is nowhere to look but in to his eyes, where only love is reflected. Tenderly, he kisses me, then trails kisses across my broken nose, and each scar. He asks nothing in return.
In the morning, I go to brush my teeth and wash my face. I grasp for the counter in shock, seeing my face, unmarred as on our wedding day, reflected back at me.
Very loosely based on Hosea 1:2-9 and 3:1-3.
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