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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Home for Christmas (11/20/08)

TITLE: The Hands of Two Fathers
By Debbie Roome


My duvet sprawls across the bed, a profusion of pink hearts and swirls of silver. Marmalade is at my feet, kneading and purring, his eyes closed in kitty ecstasy. It could be any day of the week but it’s not. It’s Christmas Day and a very special one.

Dad walks into the room and flicks on the Christmas tree lights. His hair is mussed into spikes of grey and fudge and his jaw stubbled. “Merry Christmas, Muffin.” He wraps his arms gently round my shoulders. “It’s so good to have you home.”

I know he means it but there’s a well of sadness behind his words.

“Are you ready for your gift?” I nod as he drops a screen against the wall and begins to set up a projector. My thoughts drift for a moment. Dad has always been a techno-man. He works in computers and has all the latest electronics that go with them. Mom used to call him Inspector Gadget. Mom’s been in my thoughts a lot recently. I know it won’t be long before I see her again. Maybe a few days or a week. I’ve missed her terribly over the last three years and Dad has too.

“Here we are, Muffin.” Dad flicks a switch and my life starts to play across the screen; a collection of photos starting from my early days. He sits down beside me and together we laugh and reminisce. “You were such a beautiful baby.” he tells me. “Look at those gorgeous curls and chubby cheeks.” I fall silent for a moment, thinking of the contrast to the present; the soft knitted cap that covers my hairless head and emaciated limbs that lie limp beneath hearts and swirls.

Concern creases Dad’s face. “Are you alright, Muffin? Do you need more pain-killers?” He checks the fluids draining into my left arm.

“I’m fine, Dad. Let’s watch some more.” My face appears on the screen as a toddler, lightly freckled and curved into a grin as I blow out the candles on my second birthday cake. Dad has captured my life in pictures; the day I started school, the loss of my front teeth, the year I won my first swimming trophy. We both smile as I appear with Marmalade as a kitten. He used to climb the leg of my pants and I would scream in terror.

“You were petrified of him.” Dad laughed. “At one stage we considered finding him a new home but you got used to his mischievous ways.” The slides keep flashing past until they reach the year Mom died. I had just turned thirteen when she lost control of her van and plunged into a flooded river. There’s muted pain in those pictures, a grief that overshadows my smile as I pose for the camera.

Dad and I stumbled our way through my early teen years. He was thrust into an adolescent world of bras, fashion clothing and braces. I look across at him and my heart fills with fresh love. I can’t understand why I got sick but know he’s done his best to ease me through it.

“Daddy.” He hits the pause button. “I love you.” His eyes fill with tears and mine do too. “This is the best gift you could’ve given me. I wanted to be home for Christmas but you’ve helped me live my whole life again.”

We settle into a companionable silence, the slide show looping in the background and Dad in a comfortable armchair next to me. The trip from hospital sapped my meagre reserves of strength and I drift in and out of sleep. Each time I awake, Dad is holding my hand, his lips moving in prayer.


“Yes, Muffin.”

“I’m sorry things turned out like this.”

“Me too, Sweetheart.”

The pressure begins a moment later; an elephant crushing the last vestiges of life.


“I’m here, Muffin.”

His hand is firmly about mine, reassuring, comforting as the room recedes and dims. The pain intensifies and then I feel a grip on my other hand; see the dazzling outline of another Dad. For the briefest of moments, I’m suspended between two worlds, linked by the hands of two fathers.

Daddy sees it too and wonder suffuses his face. As energy surges back into my body, he lifts my hand to his stubbly wet cheek. “I love you, Muffin.” His voice catches. “And your wish has come true. You’re going home for Christmas.”

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This article has been read 1494 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sharlyn Guthrie11/28/08
This is heartrending, but also tender and very well written.
Leigh MacKelvey11/29/08
I want to hug her dad! Very,very emotionally written with a nice build-up to the end. I liked the dialogue, it had so much to do with the whole story feeling.
Connie Dixon11/30/08
There's so much emotion packed into this brief story. Death is such an inevitable part of life, but too much for a 16 year-old and her single daddy. Heartbreaking.
George Parler 12/01/08
Life has it's sorrows but the depth of that sorrow is in how far we can see beyond death. This was tenderly sad yet well done. Good job.
Sharon Kane12/01/08
Wow! This is beautifully told. You did a superb job of capturing the highlights of her life, weaving them into the pain of the moment, and then eclipsing everything with the wonderful home coming. The image of the 2 fathers each holding her hands was breathtaking.
Jan Ackerson 12/01/08
Love your second-to-last paragraph--what a marvelous image!

I'm always a bit stymied by deathbed or beyond-death stories--how and when did your narrator write this? But that's just the right-brained person coming out in me.

Gorgeous writing, as always!
Teresa Lee Rainey12/01/08
You handled this so tenderly. I actually felt such peace in this emotional moment between your characters.
Betty Castleberry12/02/08
Very touching story. I love the relationship between father and daughter. Kudos.
Carole Robishaw 12/04/08
This well deserved first place, very well written. I had to fight back the tears to be able to read, and now to write.
Glynis Becker12/04/08
Beautiful, heart-rending piece. Well-deserved congratulations!!
Gerald Shuler 12/04/08
I wrote (and didn't enter) a story very much like yours. I'm glad now that I decided not to enter mine. You handled the subject so much more tenderly. Congratulations.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge12/04/08
When you mentioned she would soon see her mother, my heart hurt for the father...losing the two women he loved in three years. Congratulations.
Beth LaBuff 12/04/08
I love the ending! Congrats, Debbie!
Helen Dowd12/05/08
This is a real tear-jerker, and well deserves a FIRST. Emotions run all through it. You wove the story so well, leaving the reader eager to know how it would turn out. "Was Mother away? Was she coming back?" NO. You were going to her. And I love the ending where you were passed from one father to the other...So VERY well told...I enjoyed the story all the way through...Helen