Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)
- TITLE: For Love of Loni
By Deborah Engle
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“How did you find him?”
“Someone saw our ad in the newspaper and brought him home.”
Alanna and Carrie spent the afternoon celebrating Scruffy’s return. Walking back home, Alanna remembered the happy face of her friend as they watched Scruffy scamper about the yard.
I’m glad Carrie isn’t sad anymore. Alanna knew all about being sad, because she had been sad for a long time. As she neared home the sight of her house brought bittersweet memories of happier times. Last fall she and Daddy had spent a day together planting flower bulbs in the yard. Now, flowers lined the sidewalk, but Daddy wouldn’t see them because he was gone. All the joy of the afternoon was quickly forgotten. Alanna stood and blindly stared at the row of daffodils, but the tears in her eyes would have kept her from seeing them anyway.
Dejected after a difficult day at work, Dave slowly walked to his car. Going back to a lonely apartment was all he had to look forward to. Waiting at a traffic light, his gaze drifted to the remodeled office building across the street. It had been an old, decrepit eyesore for too long, and it was good to see the changes that had been made. Even the landscaping was improved. Spots of bright color drew his attention to clusters of yellow daffodils. The vision brought to mind a scene from the past.
“This hole is just right. Are you ready?”
Seven-year old Alanna’s face reflected her concentration as she asked, “Like this, Daddy? The little roots go down, right?”
Dave grinned at her and answered, “Yep. Set it right down in there, then push the dirt back in. We’ll have some real pretty flowers in the spring.” She followed his instructions, then smiled and pushed her hair back, smearing dirt across her face.
What a precious memory. He could still see the sparkle in her eyes, and now had to blink away the moisture from his own. The pretty yellow daffodils across the street seemed to bow their heads, acknowledging his sorrow.
Too bad fixing families isn’t as easy as fixing buildings. A horn behind him honked and with a start, he realized the light had changed. Just as well! I can’t be dwelling on that. I had good reasons for the choice I made and I’ve got to move on.
Nights like this were hard on him. Once the memories appeared, they lingered until he found relief in sleep, but tonight, sleep didn’t come. Over and over, a little dirt-streaked face smiled up at him. When the alarm finally went off, Dave was more than ready to get up. Wearily going through his usual morning routine, he grabbed a cup of coffee and the morning paper, then braced himself for another demanding day at work.
Alanna hurried into the house after school. After checking every room just to be sure, she settled herself where she could see the front walk. Mommy had tried to discourage her plan, but Alanna was so insistent, she had reluctantly agreed. Uncertain, and concerned for her daughter, she now hovered from the next room. Alanna hardly noticed. She knew this would work. It had to work, because she didn’t want to be sad anymore. All she had to do was wait.
A car drove by, then three boys raced past on their bikes. After a long time, two more cars went by and still, she waited. She stood up and paced back and forth, but her eyes never left the window. Alanna wasn’t going to chance missing anything.
Suddenly, she saw what she had been waitng for. In her excitement she could only stand and watch as her daddy walked up the steps. Seeing her through the window, he hesitantly entered the house, knelt, and reached out to her. As she clung tightly to his neck, he told her, “Daddy’s back, Little Loni. I made a big mistake, and I’m sorry. Nothing is worth losing my little girl over.”
Now aware of his wife’s presence, he stood to speak again. “Sometimes things seem to be in ruins, but with hard work restoration is possible. I want to make that happen for us, if you’re willing.”
Fallen on the floor unnoticed, lay the newspaper, folded open to the classified ads. Set in a border, in bold print, were the words, “Daddy, The yellow flowers bloomed and they’re real pretty. Won’t you come home now? I miss you. Love, Loni”
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