Monday, July 13, 2009

We Have a Winner!

Last week's special guest judge, Adam Blumer, chose Seema Bagai's short story, "The Unexpected Ride," as winner of our contest.

Adam - thanks for judging the entries and providing comments to all the authors - we appreciate your time and effort very much!

Congratulations, Seema! You'll receive a copy of Adam's debut novel Fatal Illusions.

As promised, here is Seema's story, for your reading pleasure.

The Unexpected Ride
By Seema Bagai

The bang startled Katherine. “What was that?” As the car shook, she gripped the steering wheel and maneuvered to the side of Highway 1. Turning off the ignition, she stepped out to investigate. Her tan pumps crunched in the gravel.

Great. A flat tire. Not today. She slid back into the driver’s seat and reached for her phone. No bars. She folded her arms, and stared at the cloudless sky.

“I thought you wanted me to attend this thing. Now what?” The crashing ocean waves below the deserted highway provided the only reply. Bodega Bay was miles behind and Katherine was unsure of the distance to her destination. A glance at the printed directions inside the invitation offered no clues. She fingered the ivory envelope with her name and address printed in calligraphy.

Within seconds, a pick-up truck pulled up. From the rear view mirror, Katherine glimpsed a neatly dressed man approach. She reached over to make sure the doors were locked.

“Can I help you?” He smiled and pointed to the tire.

Katherine hesitated as she studied the stranger. He doesn’t look like a rapist. Then again, they look like everyone else.

“I can change the flat.”

Squeezing her phone, Katherine cracked open the window. “Thank you.”

“Sure. Pop the trunk and I’ll get the spare. Within seconds, he called out. “Bad news. The spare’s gone.” As he returned, he said, “Gualala is the next town. I could drop you off at a mechanic’s. Someone can bring you back with a tire.”

Katherine glanced at her watch. I’ll be late.

“Where are you headed?” He smiled.

“The lighthouse at Point Arena. A wedding.”

“Me, too. The Powell and Franklin wedding, right? How about if we attend the wedding and afterwards we can see about fixing your car?”

She flinched for a second and nodded. “I hope it’s no trouble.” She straightened her suit, followed the man to his truck, and climbed in.

“No trouble. My name’s Josh.”

She reached out to shake his extended hand and realized she was still gripping the phone, which she dropped into her lap before returning the greeting. “I’m Katherine. Thank you so much.” She smiled as she felt her shoulders relax. She looked past Josh at the gorgeous view of the ragged northern California coast.

“Have you been to the lighthouse before?” Josh asked.

“No. I'm from Illinois. I flew in to San Francisco last night. It's my first time in California.”

“I've been to lots of weddings up there. The place is beautiful. Tom and Chloe chose a great place to get married.”

“Are you on the bride or groom's side?”

“Both.” When she shot him a puzzled look, Josh added, “I'm their pastor and the one performing the ceremony. What about you?”

Katherine flipped her purse over and over in her lap and bit her lower lip. “Groom,” she whispered. “I haven’t seen him in a long time, though.”

“Tom never mentioned being in the Midwest, and you said you’ve never been to California.” Josh paused, hoping his passenger would fill in the blanks. After minutes of silence, he added, “I don’t mean to pry. I’m just curious how you know Tom. I’ve known him for years.”

“Um, well.” Katherine hoped to preserve her makeup from being smudged by the tears pooling beneath her closed eyelids. She fumbled in her bag for a tissue and dabbed at her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she blurted, “He’s my son.”

“Wow. I should have figured it out. Tom said his birth mother’s name was Katie. He’s talked about you before, but didn’t say you were coming.”

“It’s a surprise. I’ve kept in touch with Josephine and Marcus over the years. They would send pictures and I’ve even talked to Tom on the phone and sent cards. He asked me to come to his graduations. They wanted me to meet him in person, but I always made excuses. Then I received the wedding invitation, and, after a lot of thinking and praying, I felt like it was time.”

“Why have you waited so long?”

“I was sixteen when I met Tom’s biological father. He was performing card tricks on a street corner in Chicago. One afternoon, he took me to get a pop and we talked and talked. He said he wanted to become the next Houdini. After that day, I would watch him every day after school. Sometimes we’d go to his apartment. He told me he loved me, but one day he forced me to…”

She dug her fingernails into the leather purse and turned to look out her window. Her voice cracked as she continued. “When I found out I was pregnant, I told him and he vanished a week later. The first time I held my baby, I saw his father’s face. Each picture of Tom reminds me of the man who abandoned me.”

“Have you forgiven him? The magician, I mean.”

Katherine nodded. “I have and I’ve asked God’s forgiveness, too.”

“I’m sure Tom and Chloe will be thrilled to finally meet you, and to have you celebrate this day with them.”

“I was going to slip in and out and not tell anyone. But now I don’t have a car, so…”

“Have you also forgiven yourself?”


“You’ve flown halfway across the country to attend your son’s wedding and you aren’t even going to tell him you’re there. God has forgiven you, so what makes you think you can hide in shame? Besides, how do you think Tom will feel when he finds out you came and didn’t introduce yourself?”

The remaining miles passed in silence. The lighthouse appeared on the horizon and Josh steered off the highway. Katherine finally said, “You’re right. I need to face everyone and show my happiness for the couple. I’m kind of glad I got the flat tire.”

“It was a God thing,” Josh said as he parked the truck and they headed for the ceremony site.

About the Author:

Seema Bagai is an elementary school teacher and writer in Southern California. She is currently working on a historical fiction novel. Visit her blog.

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Cindy said...

Awesome story! Congratulations, Seema.

Glynis said...

Congratulations, Seema! What a wonderful story!

Seema said...

Tracy, thanks for creating the contest. Thank you, Adam, for liking my story. I look forward to reading your book.

Joanne Sher said...

Congratulations, Seema! This is a wonderful story, well-deserving of the win.

Adam Blumer said...

Congratulations, Seems! It was fun to read the entries and see the wonderful talent represented here. May the Lord be glorified in all that you do.

Adam Blumer
Novelist, Fatal Illusions:
Freelance editing: