Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Help (02/20/06)
TITLE: Empty Ambitions
By Amy Michelle Wiley
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At twenty-six, Catherine Lanthrop was a success. She would soon pass the bar. She was a nationally acclaimed speaker. But most of all, Catherine was making a difference.
After the graduation ceremony, students pressed aroud her, telling her of thier plans, asking for advice. Catherine spoke with them confidently, encouragingly. Hours later, as most of the crowd dissipated, one young man remained.
Dark circled under his eyes and Catherine could find no trace of the excitment that had sparked within the other students.
¨You speak of the future.¨ His voice was flat. ¨But all I have is a past. There is no future for me.¨
Here was the reason Catherine was at this school. It was when speaking to those like him that she felt the most needed. ¨It is because of your past that you can have a future. You know what the world is like. You understand the worst of it. Because of that, you can take a step to change it. You can move on, and use it to make a stronger future.¨
¨Move on?¨ This time his voice was tight with emotion. ¨You don’t have a clue, Catherine Lanthrop. You live your dandy life, standing up there telling us how wondreful we have it, how wonderful we can make the world.
¨Leave the past, you say. But you know, it’s not that easy.¨ His lip curled. ¨It’s not so easy to leave behind the memory of your mother, lying in a heap on the kithcen floor while your father gloats over his beer.
¨Move on, you say.¨ His sour breath filled her face. ¨Move on to the fact that yoru sister is pregnant form the rape of her own father? Is that the future you are talking about?¨
He swore, the vile words slamming all of Catherine’s air from her, taking all her confidence.
He stood, suddenly towering over her. ¨If that’s your future, you can have it. Take it; it’s yours!¨
She reached out to him. Words were easy to find, but the rote speech fell somehow flat. Her pleas to break the cycle of abuse, to reach out to others like himself, they weren’t enough. They didn’t change the emotions, the pain, the reality.
She left that night with a hope that somehow she had made a difference. That somehow she had helped him. But deep down, for the first time in years, she wondered if she really had.
The next morning it was on the back page of the newspaper. His picture was there, in stark black and white, staring at her. Accusing her. He had hung himself, perhaps just moments after they had spoken.
Catherine had failed.
At lunch Catherine sat across from Melissa. She wasn’t sure why she had sought this friend, a new friend. But Melissa listened quietly as Catherine spilled her heart, her frustration.
Then it was Catherine’s turn to listen. ¨You couldn’t change his life, past or future.¨ Her friend’s eyes were solemn. ¨He had nothing to live for on this world. Catherine, you could not help that boy.¨
¨If he had let me, I could have helped him.¨
¨No. There is nothing on this world for live like his, Catherine. There is no hope, no help, nothing that can heal a hurt lke that.¨
Shocked, Catherine stared. Surely she couldn not be saying what it sounded like.
But Melissa was continuing. ¨There is only one thing that can help. And Catherine, you don’t have that one thing.¨
Understanding began to glimmer.
¨Only the promise of a new life beyond this one, a promise of healing for our souls now, a promise of strength beyond our own—These are what make life worth living. These are what allow us to have a future.
¨Catherine, you yourself do not have a future. You work so hard to make this world a better place, but it accomplishes nothing. Souls are still lost. Hearts are still broken.¨
If Melissa had said these words a day sooner, Catherine would have long ago stood and walked away.
But today, today...
Catherine took a deep breath. ¨Tell me how I can help ones like that boy. Tell me how I can have a future.¨
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