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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Era (02/03/11)

TITLE: Hello, Dear, have we met?
By Rachel Phelps


The drive back from the airport was silent.

Jeanna systematically folded and unfolded her scarf, focusing on smoothing out every wrinkle. She didn’t dare look at Daniel, though she knew his eyes were fixed on the road as they caught the highway.

It wasn’t that the silence was an unusual occurrence - silence was something of a tradition in the Kember household. It was the uncomfortable knowledge they were thinking the same thing.

”Sheesh, you two should be living it up now that I’m out of the way!”

Sarah’s playful exclamation had caught them both off guard. Thankfully, Daniel deflected the moment with a joke about Sarah’s college tuition, or they would have been in the awkward position of answering their daughter’s pointed questions about their relationship.

Or lack thereof.

Jeanna didn’t kid herself. It had taken all of 36 hours without Sarah in the house to realize that she was living with a stranger. No, realize wasn’t the right word. Admit. It had taken her 12 years to get around to admitting to herself that she and Daniel were parents, nothing more.

“I’ll need to swing by the church this afternoon,” Daniel said. “Pastor wants to discuss the Advent services.”

After four days of college-student energy around the place, the house would seem dull, but so be it. She nodded, face settling into the familiar lines of a forced smile. “Sure, honey.”

He looked relieved. She didn’t let herself ask why.

More silence. Jeanna wished he’d at least turn the radio on. It would keep her from wondering if their minds were still running along the same lines…

” You have to be responsible, Daniel. You’re a father now, not a college boy cutting class to tour!”

“You knew this was my passion when you married me. Don’t tell me you thought I’d just grow out of it!”

Words flung at one another over the wails of an awakened toddler in the confines of a dingy Winnebago. They’d squared off like duelists, daring each other to be the first to pull the trigger. Instead, she’d gone to comfort Sarah and Daniel had left to play his piano.

And so the tradition began.

She’d worn him down about traveling. They made a show of praying together about it – though who they were acting for was anyone’s guess. Daniel took a position as a music minister, and Jeanna accepted silence in exchange for four solid walls. They rarely fought. They were a team at church. It worked, somehow. He never said he forgave her. She never asked him to.

Funny how that was suddenly so important.

Jeanna risked a glance at him. Even with the permanent wrinkles etching themselves in the corners of his eyes, she recognized his mulling look. He was thinking about something. Hard.

Daniel dropped her off in the driveway with a quick, traditional peck on the cheek. She headed to the bedroom, intent on gathering the laundry. After the holiday weekend, it would be piling up.

She found herself in front of the mirror instead. Sarah had asked if she had a thing against hair dye, since the gray was showing more and more. There were other things Sarah was kind enough not to mention – the thickness around the waist and neck, for example. Daniel was kind enough not to mention any of it – or just silent enough.

The reflection didn’t smile. She wasn’t surprised.

A creak of the floor alerted her to his presence. She turned to find him holding out a single peach-colored rose. Her favorite. Outside of the obligatory bouquet at Valentine’s and her birthday, she couldn’t remember the last time he’d gotten her flowers.

“Excuse me, ma’am, but have we met?”

She raised an eyebrow. One side of his mouth tipped up in a grin that reminded her of the 22 year-old she’d married.

“You look familiar… didn’t we meet about 20 years ago in college?”

“Daniel –“ She was rolling her eyes, but somehow thrilled when he continued.

“And then we got married, and had a kid, and then – hmm, what happened?”

“We got old.” Jeanna tried to shrug, but found she couldn’t.

“Not all at once.” Daniel stepped closer. “I had to learn God was calling me into music ministry. That took a few years.”

Jeanna stared. “You never –“

“You never asked.”

“So you don’t –“


The rose was still held out, waiting to be accepted.

Maybe it was time for some new traditions.

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This article has been read 859 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 02/11/11
I wonder how many couples go through the same challenge when the nest is suddenly empty and they realize that they don't know each other. Added to this the hurts of the past that never got resolved in the flurry of family life. Lots to think about in this story and I'm so glad it has the beginning of a happy ending.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/13/11
I'm facing that empty nest feeling about now. I know I really need to put in-extra effort to keep my marriage fresh. Thanks for the great reminder and story.
Kate Oliver Webb 02/14/11
Oh my, the thickness in the air is so familiar -- you've caught it perfectly! I felt the bewilderment, the disappointments, the buried hopefulness of those flown-by years. Glad to know there may be a fresh start.
Gregory Kane02/15/11
This story certainly has an authentic feel to it. I felt that it was a little slow to get going but I loved the climax, especially the way that she didn't immediately snatch up the flower. Romance takes time ...
Melanie Kerr 02/15/11
Thanks for the read. I am glad that one of them had the courage to stop the rot! A very gentle ending full of promise.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/15/11
This is a story to really make the reader think. I like that. You captured the mood perfectly.I really liked the hope at the end.
Jody Day 02/15/11
Wow, awesome. Held my attention throughout. When's the book coming out? Good job.
Jody Day 02/15/11
P.S. For someone who isn't married, I think you nailed it. We are at that point in our lives, not estranged in the same way, but facing getting to know each other again. Again, good job.
Lollie Hofer02/15/11
You did a great job of capturing the tension between the couple. The voice for the mc was strong too. I like how they knew each other enough to finish each other's sentences at the end...a good sign they're still in touch with each other after all.
Jim McWhinnie 02/15/11
You are highly skilled at syntax. Your sentence variety is A plus. This gives your writing a highly polished feel.
Amanda Brogan02/16/11
Aww, I love the ending! I hope that they worked at revitalizing their marriage from that point on rather than letting it sink deeper. You did a great job of capturing the sad picture of a couple being "just married" having forgotten their love, and then turning it around and showing that there is hope in those situations. God can renew their love.
Carol Penhorwood 02/16/11
Poignant and beautiful....as we always expect from you.
Noel Mitaxa 02/17/11
Economically descriptive and evocative work. Nine years ago we moved into the empty-nest stage, but we're finding that it need not be the empti-est stage.
Amanda Brogan02/17/11
YAY! Congrats! :D
Theresa Santy 02/17/11
Excellent piece. Congratulations on your win.
Michael Throne02/17/11
Very Nice. Makes me realize that God works with us even when we aren't in a hurry to work with him. I found your characters realistic and believable, and I loved the ending. Good job.
Henry Clemmons02/17/11
You are getting so good at this. Your voice is fine tuned; a pleasure to read. Congrats on EC!
Margaret Kearley 02/18/11
Beautiful writing Rachel - sad, often true, but a wonderful ending of hope and restoration. A very touching story. Congratulations on your well deserved placing.