Liz sighed as she looked down at her little girl. “It won’t be long now my darling.” She whispered as she gently brushed Alexis’s cheek with one finger. It had been a long, painful twelve months of tears and hugs and “whys.”
Alexis stirred slightly and mumbled something too low for Liz to hear. As always, Alexis held the framed photo close to her along with her teddy. It was the same every night – bath, pyjamas, prayers, story and the inevitable, “Where’s my daddy?” And every night, Liz would lay the framed photo of the tall handsome naval officer in her daughter’s arms, along with the purple teddy sent from a far off place. The purple teddy received a kiss, but the photo received many, many kisses each night.
Twelve months is such a long, long time especially when you’re four years old and unable to understand why your Daddy kissed you and then waved goodbye from the deck of a great big grey ship. For twelve months, Liz watched her daughter’s eyes light up expectantly every time the phone rang, every time somebody knocked on the front door, only to see the little shoulders slump in disappointment.
Closing the bedroom door gently, Liz took herself off to bed but felt sleep would be in short supply tonight. Surprisingly enough though, Liz closed her eyes and when she opened them again, the sun was shining in the bedroom window and a four year old girl already dressed – after a fashion – with shoes on the wrong feet, sat at the foot of the bed, still clutching the photo and the purple teddy.
Alexis’s eyes grew wide as Liz smiled at her and said, “Yes, today.”
The wharf was crowded with people, streamers and balloons. Wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, all smiling and chatting as the anticipation built. The adult’s excitement and impatience was nothing when compared to that of the children clutching parent’s hands or sitting on shoulders for a better vantage point.
Suddenly there was a great roaring cheer as the ship came into view and slowly sailed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, guided by tugs that set their siren blaring and added to the sense of excitement and festivities. The minutes crept by as though fighting their way through a morass of treacle, but at last, the ship was caught, tied up to the wharf and relaxed and the first of the crew thundered their way down the gangplank.
Liz craned her neck as she held Alexis close to keep her safe from the milling crowd. A glimpse of a familiar face appeared and disappeared between the bobbing heads and the myriad of arms and bodies reaching for one another.
And then... and then a small space opened up and he stood before them.
He stared in amazement. “Alexis?” He got no further as a pint-sized rocket almost bowled him over.
“Daddy! Daddy!” she sobbed, as he scooped her up and his arms and she buried her head in his shoulder. “Oh Daddy, I love you. I love you!”
Liz threw her arms around them both and their tears mingled, as they stood together, yet alone in the middle of the crowd, with eyes and ears only for each other. “Welcome home my love.”
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