(Revised from original Challenge entry)
“Momma, Dada, Momma, Dada,” wrenched Mark from the depths of sleep. Flipping the covers off, he staggered from his bed.
Marie was hysterical by the time he reached her. Picking her up, he struggled to arrange her against his shoulder, as she clutched her two dolls and teddy bear. He grimaced as one doll giggled, the mechanism triggered by the pressure.
“Stupid doll,” he cursed, yanking it from between them, and sending it sailing across the room, where it landed with a muffled giggle.
He dropped into the oversized rocker, pulling the comforter onto them both. Moonlight filtered through off-white sheers, providing a soft night light as he rocked in rhythm with the ticking clock, Marie’s sobbing slowly quieting.
I don’t think I can do this. It’s too hard.
Leaning his head back, Mark closed his eyes. The words of his sister’s letter came again, unbidden, into his weary mind. Jennifer had thought so far ahead, writing it shortly after Marie was born. He was surprised when the lawyer handed it to him, after the reading of the will.
There is so much I want to say, dear brother. We love you and both thank you for taking our baby girl. We know it will not be easy to raise Marie, but we know you love her, Mark.
Do you remember all those discussions we had about you being Marie’s guardian? It seemed incomprehensible to even talk about it. When you turned away from Christ, it made our decision incredibly difficult. Both of us are afraid for you, and her.
Your promise to raise Marie to know about Jesus is wonderful. But, Mark, you can’t pretend to be something you aren’t, or convey something you don’t believe. I know you are lonely and have made decisions because of that.
No one can force you to live for Christ, but even for Marie’s sake, please, return to Him. He knows all your hurts and loneliness. He knows how difficult it is going to be to raise her. He will guide you.
Jack and I are with the Lord now, Mark, and we want to see you both again someday. Please teach her well, that God loves her. Make sure she knows we loved her.
Love always, Jennifer and Jack
The tears started as a trickle and turned into a stream as they followed the track down his cheeks, his single dimple submerged in his anguish. He missed them as much as Marie did, and forced the accident and funeral from his mind.
His rocking slowed as Marie’s sobs subsided and she relaxed, asleep again.
How many more nights will she cry for them? he wondered as he placed her gently back into bed. Sleep refused him the rest of the night, the sky turning to a light grey when he finally fell into a fitful sleep.
Mark awoke with a start. Marie was standing beside the bed staring at his face, her arms hugging her teddy bear. “Uck Mok,” she said reaching up to him. He smiled as he pulled her into bed, and her dimple finished him as she smiled back, and snuggled in.
Walking at eight months, Marie was so busy exploring everything it seemed there was no time to learn to talk. Mark was six feet, and back then, she looked like a tiny doll walking beside him holding onto his little finger. She still looked like a miniature doll to him. When she started talking, she called him, “Uck,” and now she was past two, and he was her, “Uck Mok.” He loved it. It became a family joke whenever he phoned and she related some incoherent story to “Uck.” He listened intently, and laughed, or said something that made her smile and nod, her single dimple identical to his when they both laughed.
“What are we going to do, Baby Doll?” he asked sadly, looking at her sweet face.
“Tos,” came with her questioning look.
“You want toast, do you?” and Marie smiled happily as he sat up and tossed her into the air. The giggles, that only a two year old can have, escaped her. Catching her, Mark carried her football style into the kitchen, and placed her in her chair.
He watched Marie as she ate the peanut butter laden toast, and drank her milk. Jennifer’s letter, their many conversations, and arguments, ran through his mind.
Jennifer is wrong. I can teach Marie about Jesus without living for him. I can just take her to Sunday school and church.
Picking up the newspaper, a headline and an editorial caption caught his eye. Family killed...You never know when it is your time…
“Momma, Dada?” Marie asked, her lip trembling, and as he scooped her up, the tears streamed down both their faces.
Revised from the original Challenge article topic> Uncle > now 799 words
Original Challenge article was 750 words > Topic was Uncle/Aunts
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This is a beautiful story. I loved every minute of it. (and I usually do not read the stories). This may be just a short story but it sure sounded like the real thing to me. I could see and hear the entire scene. Thank you. GOD BLESS YOU