Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Home Group (11/29/07)
TITLE: A Comfortable Place To Be
By Marita Vandertogt
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“I’m sorry,” she said to the group. She sat on the chair, her feet flat in front of her, pulling at tiny cat hairs trapped in the weave of her sweater. Her eyes were down, focusing on her task. “But you see,” she kept on talking with a voice barely audible in the circle. Everyone sat not moving, waiting to hear the next words that would come out of the young woman’s mouth. Gabby was new to the group, and didn’t speak much. She’d taken a chair beside Raymond the optometrist and his girlfriend Rachael. Raymond sat with his arm around Rachael’s shoulder, his body turned in toward her in a possessive curve. The chair on the other side of Gabby stayed empty and she felt awkward, exposed.
“I’m sorry,” she started to say again. “I see here that you want people to sign the list to host small group.” The corners of her mouth turned slightly up, not quite a smile. “Well,” she said again. “I’d be happy to do so, but, well, my place.” Her voice started to trail. Her house was very, very small, she went on to explain. In fact, it wasn’t a house at all. It was a tiny apartment, attached to the back of a house.
“Hey, no problem.” Susan walked over to Gabby and put her hands on her shoulders, the shine of a diamond catching Gabby’s eye. “No pressure. Maybe you can sign up to help someone else host theirs.” With that, Susan took the paper from Gabby’s hand and passed it along.
The talking in the room started up again as tiny spoons tinged against china cups. “Looking at some property a few miles out of town. We’re planning on building a cottage next summer so I can bbq by real water instead of the pool.” The voice was booming, the man tall, his face round, leather shoes shiny against the carpeted floor.
“Hey, we just sold ours. To the kids. Too much hassle. We travel too much anyway to get any use out of it.” Words like this flowed around the room. Gabby smiled and nodded when the conversation crossed her way. There wasn’t much to say, so she kept taking sips of coffee to fill in the awkward moments.
“And what do you dear?” One of the women walked over to her. “We don’t know much about you.” Her voice was soft, almost caring in its inflection. “Well, right now I’m kind of between jobs,” Gabby explained, her cheeks flushing, again picking at the threads in her sweater.
“Well, maybe we can pray that something will come along for you. Remind us at prayer time,” she said, and rejoined the voices of laughing chatter. The study started, but Gabby couldn’t concentrate. She kept shifting her body back and forth in the chair, checking her watch. Besides, she hadn’t brought a Bible, didn’t own one.
At the end of the evening, Gabby walked quietly to the closet in the hallway with the rest of the members, talking back and forth to each other, and slipped past a few people to find her coat. She tugged it around her, the frayed collar more noticeable now to her own eyes. She excused herself to Susan, nodded her head in the direction of the other members, and let herself out. “Good night dear,” someone called through to door toward her. “Safe drive now, and hope to see you next week.”
Once outside, Gabby felt the familiar pain of comparison as she jiggled the key into the lock of her rusting K car. “Well God,” she said to the night air. “Guess I don’t fit here either. These people have so much, and I always end up feeling like I should apologize for what I wear, where I live.”
Gabby missed the next four sessions of small group and eventually stopped coming altogether.
Besides, she had a more comfortable place to be now, as she tossed money on the tray for another beer. “Hey Gabs, how’s it going?” a voice called from across the table. Gabby smiled and poked a finger into the white froth of her drink, enjoying the laughter of the people around her. “Not so bad,” she said, blowing the foam from her finger. “Not so bad.”
Meanwhile across town, the small group continued to meet.
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