Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SMEAR (03/10/16)
TITLE: Goodbye, Abbi Junebug
By Leola Ogle
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He missed her. He was reliving her childhood through the photos in the album he held in his hands. After having four sons, Abigail June was born. He affectionately called her Abbi Junebug. He was smitten the moment he saw her.
She had been gone for a while now – his Abbi Junebug. He smiled at the photo of Abbi’s first birthday – she in her highchair with birthday cake smeared on her face. Much to her mother’s dismay, Abbi was a tomboy and never outgrew her love for messes.
Two-years-old. Stomping in a puddle, covered in mud. The photo showed her mischievous smile. “Jack, quit laughing at her,” his wife, Melinda, whined. “It encourages her. I have four boys. I want her to be girly. Why doesn’t she love being a princess?”
Jack chuckled at the memory as he brushed a tear away. He turned another page – him with four-year-old Abbi. They were both grinning, holding paintbrushes. Abbi had paint splattered all over her.
Melinda had called him at work, crying. “Abbi smeared finger paints all over the entry walls.”
“Honey, it’s okay. It’ll come off with water. Make her help you wash the walls.”
Sniffle, sniffle. “I scrubbed the walls. But it made the wall paint come off, too. It looks awful.”
Jack tried to be stern with Abbi. He told her she would have to help him repaint the walls.
She loved it.
Having four older brothers didn’t help. She worshipped them and they adored her. How many times did Melinda forbid her to follow her brothers out the door? Abbi would sob and wail, “I wanna be a boy.”
Jack turned a few more pages. She wasn’t always messy. Holding an Easter basket, dressed for church in a lacy dress with bows in her hair. She was beautiful. But most of the pictures were of a messy, happy little girl.
The ache in Jack’s heart swelled. Why couldn’t she stay little – his Abbi Junebug? So many memories of his daughter.
The sunlight was fading. Sounds from other areas of the house pricked his ears. They would be looking for him. He wasn’t ready to face anyone just yet.
He shuddered, nostalgia gripping his heart. He turned another page. Photos of her junior high school graduation. Abbi’s first try at make-up. Mascara smeared on her face. “Uuuugggghhhh! I poked my eye with the mascara brush.”
The mastering of make-up. Her first crush. Her first date. High school graduation. Abbi’s announcement she wanted to be a medic and serve her country in the military.
Although he was proud, Jack tried to talk her out of it. She was his baby girl. He wasn’t ready to let her go. But he put a smile on his face, told her he was proud, and off she went.
She blossomed. She thrived. Then she was deployed. She came home quiet, subdued.
“Hey, Abbi Junebug, do you want to talk?”
Tears welled in her eyes. “It was hard, Daddy.” She fumbled with her phone, then turned it so he could see. There was a picture of her in hospital scrubs. Blood smeared on her cheek and top. A haunted look in her eyes. Jack gasped. “What happened to you, honey?”
“It’s not my blood. His name was Kevin. He was my friend. He was wounded. We couldn’t save him. We tried, Daddy.”
Jack held her and let her cry.
“I want to go back.”
Panic gripped Jack as he tried to talk her out of it. He begged. He shed tears. Fathers are supposed to protect their children. How could he protect her if she was so far away?
She deployed again six months later.
He longed for his Abbi Junebug with smeared finger paint, mud, and icing all over her face. Why do parents care so much about trivial things? What were a few smears in the big picture of childhood?
Come back, Abbi Junebug. Be a little girl again.
Jack shut the photo album. Footsteps were approaching. Then the rap on the door before it opened.
“Daddy? It’s time to go to the church.”
His beautiful Abigail was getting married.
She had long outgrown being Abbi Junebug.
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