Michelle, Terri, and Kelly were already back when I made it back to the room after the booksigning, and they greeted me brightly. "There she is!"
I set aside my bookbag and fell backwards across the bed.
“You need to get dressed!” they said.
“I’m not going,” I answered.
“You’re going,” they said, “if we have to pick you up and drag you.”
“I need coffee,” I moaned.
Terri hopped right up and started a pot of coffee. (Have I mentioned that these ladies were wonderful to me, but relentless?)
Somebody suggested dressing me. I had a silly thought and sat up, holding out my arms. “Yes! I can pretend to be the queen, and you can be my ladies in waiting.” I promptly dissolved into giggles. “But that might be taking historical research a bit too far, don’t you think?”
With another dramatic groan, I went to get my clothes out of the closet.
As I reapplied makeup, Terri handed me my coffee. (Even black, it was GOOD!) They all agreed I should leave my hair down. Scandalous, I told them. Troy would be miffed to find out I wore it loose in front of other men. More giggles. I wore it down anyway. No children, no housework. For the first time, I began to be truly glad those in charge of the conference had chosen to do the awards ceremony up big. Even going to the Christys couldn’t possibly be more fun than this, and I felt nearly as beautiful as they assured me I was.
I was still processing through what had happened that day. More than ever, I consciously rested my future in God’s hands. Some of the conference themes were obedience and sacrifice. I had certainly written Gift out of obedience—set aside the true story of my heart to see this one done, and now the Lord was gently calling me to set this one aside—though perhaps not as completely. He had promised to make a way for me to walk. He had also promised to complete the work that He was doing in me personally. Whatever that meant, I was willing to trust Him.
We went downstairs. Stuart met me in the hall just outside the ballroom, where the meals and main sessions were held. Apparently Beth and Becky were holding me a place at one of the tables up front (where we finalists were told to try to get a seat), and when I was running late, had sent Stuart to look for me. I felt so honored by their concern, so—loved.
When I reached the table, Beth was already seated to my right, and Becky beyond her, with Bryan Davis in the next chair and Ane Mulligan beside him. Alice had the seat to my left, and then Pamela Griffith, who also wore her very beautiful, long black hair falling loose. (Something in the air that night?) We were just one table back from the stage.
Dinner was exquisite. Freshly-baked rolls, still warm from the oven; a fancy salad with greens, caramelized walnuts, raspberries, cucumber, tomato, and was that asiago cheese? And raspberry vinaigrette dressing to go over it. I ate every bit. Then portions of both basil-grilled chicken breast and salmon, with more exotic veggies. A flourless chocolate cake to follow. More coffee. I drank and I ate, basking in the fellowship and the wonderfully festive atmosphere of the banquet, gawking at everyone’s finery. I teased Bryan about his tie, chattered with Alice about canning (should I admit how imperious I was when assuring her that she could indeed find time for it, especially if she included her two children?), and managed to tell Becky about me “repenting of SF/F” and keep a straight face long enough to get a really good look of horror out of her. In general, I’m sure I made myself extremely obnoxious. But by the time the awards part actually began, the whole night felt extremely surreal.
Bryan’s book Circles of Seven tied for second in the general category for Book of the Year (which included SF/F and YA), and Miles’s Daughter of Prophecy took first. Several others that I had read and judged for that contest placed, and I delighted in reading the first lines and guessing whose story had won. Then it was time for the Genesis. We were the next to last category to be announced. Our names were called (was that my crit partners cheering for me??), and we stood briefly. Then came the placings. Third … Sherry Thompson. I nodded. I’d read an excerpt of her work at her website, and found it strong. Second … Rebecca Grabill. I nodded even more emphatically, but blew out a breath. I’d so wanted to deliver that speech for her. I started to lean toward Beth and Becky and whisper Mir’s name, when Camy announced, “And the winner is … Mirta Ana Schultz!”
We applauded wildly, and I leaned over. “I told you—I told you!”
I could hardly wait to get away and call Sherry and Rebecca and give them the good news. (I already shared how wonderful those conversations were!)
And strangely enough, I was not disappointed. Just—relieved to have it over.
Next: Rosh Hashanah ... the year ends.