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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Embarrassment (01/12/12)

TITLE: Ashley's Agony
By Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom
01/18/12


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Sitting on her bed, Ashley tucked her knees under her chin and rocked back and forth. Once in a while, she swiped the snot off her face. She heard a banging at the door, and flinched when her father barged in.

He towered over her and waved a plate in front of her face. “This is disgusting! Why would you put a dirty dish away? You’re totally useless.”

Ashley shielded her face with her arms just as her father hurled the plate at her head. She held her breath as he yelled, “Clean this up and you can forget about getting any breakfast or lunch!”

Her body trembled as she picked up the broken pieces. She grabbed a sweater, even though it was warm outside, it would hide the cuts and bruises on her arms. She slowly opened the door and peeked around the corner. Relief washed over her when she realized the coast was clear. Grabbing her backpack, she jogged to the bus stop.

Everyone stopped their chattering and stared at Ashley. Her ears flushed a brilliant red and splotches crept up her neck and speckled her face. Jennifer, the most popular girl in fifth grade, snorted and rolled her eyes. “Ewww, haven’t you ever heard of showering?” The other kids laughed as several girls reached into their pockets, pulled out bars of soap, and threw them at Ashley’s feet. Ashley sniffed and kept her eyes down until the bus came.

When they arrived at school, Ashley lifted her head for the first time. She plodded down the steps and carefully avoided the cliques lurking on the playground. Her teacher, Mrs. Frost, ushered the kids into the classroom. Ashley tugged on her sweater sleeves and sank into her chair.

Grabbing her English book from her desk, Ashley flipped it open and escaped into the world of make-believe. The characters in the stories managed to thrive despite trials. Ashley felt the blood rush to her face. Happily-ever-after only happened in stories. Deep in her heart, she believed she wasn’t worthy of salvation. There'd be no knights in shining armor coming to her rescue. She swallowed hard, trying to choke back the tears. The other kids pounced at any sign of weakness.

Ashley’s stomach grumbled when the lunch bell rang. Her mouth twitched as she reached into her desk for her lunch. Her heart sank when she remembered she didn‘t have any. Oh, why hadn’t she washed the dishes properly? Her cheeks flushed crimson when Mrs. Frost approached her desk.

“Where’s your lunch, dear?” Ashley bowed her head and shrugged her shoulders. “Ashley, this is the third time in a week that you haven’t had lunch.”

Ashley could hear her heart thumping in her ears and her face was hot. “I’m just not that hungry. Can I go sit on the playground?”

Mrs. Frost sighed. “Very well, but if this keeps up, I’ll have to call your parents.”

Ashley darted out the door; she kept her head down as she passed the kids eating at the picnic tables. Her mouth watered as she watched her classmates eat and talk. Ashley pushed her body against the tree hoping that she would blend in and no one would notice her. She licked her lips and her stomach rumbled as the kids trashed apples, pieces of sandwiches, and bags of half-eaten chips.

She’d never understand how people could be so wasteful. She promised herself that she would teach her kids to be considerate and share with others.

Mrs. Frost motioned to Ashley. The school nurse stood next to her. Ashley’s heart pounded. She stumbled over and looked up. Mrs. Frost touched her arm and Ashley jerked it back. The nurse smiled and patted Ashley’s back. “Your teacher noticed drops of blood on your sweater. She also said you’ve been skipping lunch. Why don’t we go into my office and chat?”

Tears plopped down Ashley’s face. She'd heard of kids that had been removed from their parents and placed in special homes. Her mind whirled as she tried to picture what her father would do if someone took Ashley to a different house. She covered her mouth as her stomach somersaulted. Mrs. Frost smiled and nodded. The nurse held out her hand and Ashley grabbed it. All of the kids stared, but for the first time Ashley’s cheeks didn’t burn. As she walked away with the nurse, she realized this must be what hope felt like.


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This article has been read 400 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Chapman01/19/12
This pricked my heart....
CD (Camille) Swanson 01/19/12
I am beyond speechless! This hurt my heart. I wanted to put my arms around this child and take her home.

Powerful, emotional, and spot on with the topic.

God bless you~
annie keys01/19/12
Powerful story; well written. My parents were foster parents to children removed from abusive homes, so this piece moved me in an unusual way. Very emotional story; subject well done.

My only critique would be the last paragraph; "Her mind whirled as she tried to picture what her father would do if someone took Ashley to a different house." The person tense doesn't fit--is Ashley talking? It seems so, yet, she refers to herself in the third person tense; Ashley.

Other than that, the story is most excellent.
Ken Ebright 01/19/12

I liked the story it was very good. The only thing I didn’t understand at the end I was confused by all of the “kid’s starred” comment. When she went into the nurse’s office I pictured her being there just with the nurse. Otherwise it was a great story. I hope that someday I can be as descriptive as you.
Amy Michelle Wiley 01/19/12
Ooo, good job at letting us feel her embarrassment at the same time as touching our hearts with her plight.
harvestgal Ndaguba01/19/12
Oh my gosh, how this touched my heart. Poor Child. I loved the story though, very well told.
Hiram Claudio01/20/12
This was so powerful! It grabbed my heart and didn't let go. I could feel this little girl's pain, shame, and despair. You wrote this MC so vividly that she jumped off the page.

What a wonderful piece of writing!
Linda Goergen01/21/12
Like the others this touched me deeply and once again I find myself wondering how any parent can be so cruel to their own child. I kept waiting, as I read, for one of the children to take pity on her and offer her kindness and to share their food. More pity that not one did. I don’t know if this is fictional, but tragically it could be true for all too many children out there. Well written, heart grabbing piece
Leola Ogle 01/23/12
Such a heart wrenching topic with so many stories like this one lived out by children all over the world. I had a mother dump her 14 year old daughter in my front yard once and scream how she hated her and didn't want her. That young girl found Jesus while staying with us (the court eventually sent her to live with a married sister). Today that girl is married with 3 daughters and still in church. It takes so little to give hope to some children. God help us to be willing! Gos bless!
Glynis Becker 01/24/12
My heart just breaks reading this. Well done and so sad. Thanks for sharing.
Theresa Santy 01/24/12
You depicted the pirhana-like nature of school children rather well and I could feel the MC's shame.

I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but the name 'Mrs. Frost' made me feel like this woman was going to be ice cold, and I was sure she was only going to add to the MC's problems. Turned out Mrs. Frost was actually quite warm!
Kimberly Thomas01/24/12
As a teacher, I can say you have captured the heartbreak in situations such as this one. I think the timing of this piece is well-planned. Other than agreeing with some of the other critiques, the only thing I would add is that you might think about showing a bit more conflict in Ashley as she leaves with the nurse....hope AND fear...hope AND doubt....etc. Nice job with a difficult subject.
Noel Mitaxa 01/26/12
This is so powerfully expressed, and sadly a too-frequent experience for the voiceless vulnerable in our world. The word limit has got in your way, but thank you for this sensitive portrayal.
AnneRene' Capp 01/26/12
C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S on your HC! Powerful story and left me wanting a sequel!
Leola Ogle 01/26/12
Congrats Shann! Woohoo!
Danielle King 01/26/12
Congratulations Shann. This was a very worthy HC placing.
Carol Penhorwood 01/26/12
Absolutely heartbreaking! It takes a gifted writer to reach hearts.
CD (Camille) Swanson 01/26/12
Congratulations on this highly acclaimed entry. I really loved it! I thought it was going to get first place...But happy you received recognition for this moving tale.
God bless~
Vicki GRECH 02/03/12
A moving story, and one with many truths, well done.
Sandra Renee Hicks 05/21/12
Hi -

This is a precious read.

My heart ached for that abused and lonely child. For so many, that's a reality. May our Lord rescue those many precious souls.