Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Worth the Wait" Part 3

Sweat poured down the bride’s face and every muscle ached as she struggled to maintain her holds on the jagged rocks. With every grasp her hands were deeply cut by the serrated spires and with every step a new slit appeared in her simple gown. That dress, once so clean, plain, and elegant now was nothing more than shredded rags clinging to her weary form and carrying the stench of sand, sweat, and blood.

But she had almost reached her goal. There, towering above her in the direct sunlight she could see the dim outline of the chapel. The cool of its shade and the bright sparkles of the stained glass lifted her heart and gave her confidence. She continued her ascent with renewed vigor.

“Not much farther,” she said, “I can make it to the top.” But, growing confident in her abilities and relaxed in the knowledge that she nearing the chapel, the bride became careless. Her grasps became dangerously loose and her feet were no longer firmly planted.

“See!” she cried breathlessly, almost giddy in her exhaustion, “I said we would make it!”

“But we aren’t there yet,” warned the maid-of-honor, “We must keep our focus and remain faithful till we reach the church doors.”

“Oh but we’ve made it this far!” she answered carelessly. “Why be worried when the end is within sight?” In that moment the rock upon which the bride had foolishly placed her all her weight gave way. Her hands flailed around desperately trying to find a hold before she would be sliced to pieces by the angry knife-like stones below. But the wall of the cliff suddenly seemed slippery, preventing her from gaining a grip and causing her to slip farther and farther. A terrified shriek burst from her pale shredded lips as she realized her hopeless state. The wind whistled past her ears and questions raced into her mind during the split seconds of her fall. The entire journey, all the struggles she faced and battles she fought, were they all coming to their end here? Was her one act of carelessness going to destroy all she had hoped to save? Was all this… worthless?

Suddenly her body received an agonizing jerk and she was tossed onto her face. Dazed by the blow, she drifted out of consciousness for a few moments. When she came to, she thought at first that she was paralyzed, for she felt no pain and was unable to move. But as her head cleared, the pain returned. It was so intense the bride wondered whether every bone in her body was broken. Yet as she turned to see blood trickling from her hands and arms, she realized that in spite of the pain, she was at least able to move both legs and arms

Sitting up, the bride looked up to determine how far she had fallen and what had kept her from falling still further. A large shred of satin fabric hanging from a jagged stone above showed that her dress must have snagged its edge, swinging her onto the small ledge directly beneath. Looking up past the piece of cloth, the bride realized she had slid and fallen about thirty feet.

Her two remaining companions were nowhere to be seen.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Worth the Wait" Part 2

Part 1 can be found here

“Why this is lovely! No wonder you chose taking this trail instead of just walking through the front doors,” the maid-of-honor said as she and the bride strode through the woods. Upon seeing the beautiful and seemingly easy path, all the bridesmaids and many family members and friends had decided to follow the bride on her journey. She had warned them of the difficulties ahead, but their eyes were blind to the impending hardship and saw only the delightful woodland path. Shaking her head at their ignorance, brushing back her hair, and hiking up her simple satin dress, the bride began her quest.

“Why didn’t you make everyone come this way?” the maid-of-honor continued.

“Because this is my journey,” the bride replied after some thought. “It was my decision to take this path. Others may follow me, but I’m afraid if they have not made a strong commitment in their own minds to pursue this course, they will drop away as the journey hardens.”

She was soon proven right. When only a little more than halfway through the forest, the bride began to hear grumblings behind her.

“Is it much farther? Our feet are aching in these shoes…” asked a pretty cousin.

“Why, this is only the start,” the bride answered.

“Oh… I don’t think we’ll make it all the way then. My sister and I will go back and meet you at the chapel, all right?” The bride nodded sadly as they waved and soon walked out of sight.

Casting a knowing look to the maid-of-honor and saying confidently, “It will be worth it,” she turned and continued down the path. She tried to cheer herself up by thinking of the family members and friends still by her side, but could not shake off the images of the impending chasm and cliff she would have to climb. She had not dwelt on it long however, when a shocking new landscape appeared before them at the end of the forest. The group fell silent.

Stretching in front of them was an endless plane of auburn sand dunes, speckled with rocks and boulders of the same color. The burning rays of the sun shot down from the sky like searing needles ready to strike any who dared leave the forest shade. Even from where they stood, the bride and her party could feel the overwhelming heat on their skin and taste the grit of sand in their teeth.
Soon cries of, “This is ridiculous!”, “You didn’t tell us the path would be like this!”, and “You can’t even see the chapel from here!” burst from the lips of irritated wedding guests.

Tears of fear began to well up in the bride’s eyes as she looked at the road ahead and listened to their doubts, mumblings, and criticisms. Then, as though trying to convince her own heart more than the hearts of her companions, she slowly turned around and repeated the words of the usher. “Trust me,” she said, “It will be worth it.”

With many a scoff or harsh word, over half of her so-called friends and family turned to walk back the way they had come. Less than a dozen friends remained, but they included the mother-of-the-bride and maid-of-honor. Our bride smiled sadly to these two as she turned with resolution to the path before her. But as she took a step, a branch caught a fold in her satin dress, causing it to tear. The bride’s heart sank. The beauty she was struggling so hard to save, had it been ruined? No. “It will be worth it!” she said defiantly as a hot tear trailed down her cheek. With a deep breath, she stepped out from the branches’ protecting shade.

The sand was deep and the sun unmerciful, burning and stifling any victim within its reach. And the wind, that was worst of all! It began as a welcome breeze, but after time turned into a roaring howl, swirling large handfuls of sand into the face of the daring bride. Her entire form soon was covered in sand and her satin gown torn in more places than one. So parched from lack of water were her lips that they began to crack and bleed.

Finally, relief appeared in the distance as the group approached a block of shade cast by a tall cliff. Within its shelter, members of the party dropped to the ground in exhaustion. After lying there for some time, the bride rolled on her back and slowly opened her eyes. A faint, agonizing sob escaped her parched lips. For towering above her was a sight both dizzying and terrifying. Here was a path more daunting than anything she had yet faced; a sheer cliff covered with sharp, jagged rocks protruding from every angle. No footholds were to be seen while stones lay alert as giant knives, ready to cut and destroy any who tried to scale them. It was no wonder then that the remaining guests and wedding party members broke out in exclamations of anger and bitterness.

“Why didn’t you warn us that it would be this hard? You dragged us out here promising it would be worth it, that it would be wonderful and beautiful. But your ideas are a stupid, senseless fancy! From now on, you travel this foolish path alone.”

And so they left her. At this point the bride neither knew nor cared. Her dream of arriving at the chapel door in simple, elegant beauty and seeing the admiration in her lover’s eyes as she entered now had faded beyond even the slightest hope. All she now prayed for was the strength to survive the climb. But turning over she realized she was not entirely alone. The mother-of-the-bride and the maid-of-honor still remained. Both were just as tired and just as worn as she, but they had stayed by her side. Seeing their faithfulness gave her strength. She smiled a faint “thank you” and painfully rose to her feet.

Reaching with both hands to find a secure hold, she was about to begin her ascent when her mother’s voice delayed her movement.

“Sweetheart,” she said, “I know this is important to you and to him, but are you sure that…”

“Yes, mother,” the bride interrupted, without shifting her eyes from the path, “It will be worth it!”

To be continued...