Winning Story for Wait for Me to Come Home!
Welcome back to The Writer’s Quill everyone, hope you had a fantastic Easter Break! We would like to thank everyone that submitted, it was extremely close. Please check out the new prompt for all of your creative writing needs. Now, without further ado, this week’s winner is *drum-roll* Forever Love by Lindsay Newman! Congratulations Lindsay!
A little toddler, bright blue eyes shining with wonder, waddled up to a tall man dressed in a soldier’s camo uniform, her little golden curls bouncing as she moved about. He hoisted her up and held her tightly in a long hug which he would hold in his heart forever. His eyelids closed over his brown eyes as he savored the moment. He would miss her dearly for the next few months. How would he survive without waking up to the sound of her precious voice calling out for him?
When he opened his eyes again, they were moist with tears. These times were the hardest. His family made leaving extremely heart-breaking. The weeks he spent with them had flown by so fast that it had seemed even faster than the blink of an eye. He had dreaded this day ever since he had returned home from Iraq. During his past few years of service, he had gotten lucky, but that didn’t change anything: he never looked forward to a trip back into the war zone.
Taking slow, shaky breaths, the man set his little girl down, then found himself looking at a tall and thin little boy dressed in clothes that needed hemming. Large, innocent brown eyes, like his own, stared back at him, welling up with tears in an instant. In less than a second, the man was down on his knees, clinging to his son as if he would never see him again. The little boy hugged his father, his eyes squeezed shut with tears dripping down his face. He began to cry, sniffling while he took in sharp breaths, trying to calm himself and stay strong, like his father was.
“Do you…have….to….go?” the little boy asked through his tears.
“I’m afraid so, Walter,” the man replied. “I’m going to miss you, buddy.”
“I don’t wanna miss….you. I wanna….I want you to….stay,” Walter cried.
“Trust me, Walt. I don’t want to have to miss you either,” the man said. He pulled away from the boy’s grasp and held his shoulders, squeezing them slightly. Walter’s eyes were red and puffy from the tears he had shed, and the boy’s lip was stuck out pitifully. “Walt, I need you to be strong for Mommy, okay? I want you to be the man of the house. No. I need you to be the man, buddy. Can you at least try for me?”
Taking sharp intakes of breath, the little boy tried to calm himself down, but to no avail. “Daddy….I don’t….know….how,” he said, crying bitterly. “You….know…so you should….stay.”
“Oh Walt,” the man said, bringing his son back into his arms. The boy wrapped his arms around the man’s neck and cried into his shoulder while the man pressed his lips against the boys head. He breathed in the smell of the boy’s hair and then pulled away again. He kissed Walter’s forehead and slowly rose to find his final obstacle.
A young woman in her late twenties, with saddened blue eyes and long blonde hair falling out of a messy bun she had slept in, smiled at him briefly, but did no better than her son had before her. She was soon sobbing into her husband’s already dampened shoulder, clinging to him tightly with her arms wrapped around his middle while her shoulders shook as she cried. Tears escaped the man’s eyes as he held his wife in his strong embrace. Sharp intakes of breath came from the woman and she pulled away, wiping her eyes as best she could.
“Be safe, Nathan,” she said slowly, trying to be as strong as she could. “You stay safe, and you come home.” She took deep breaths to calm down as more tears welled up in her eyes.
He held her hands in his own and squeezed them both. “Don’t doubt for a moment that I won’t try,” Nathan replied, his own voice becoming shaky as he came to be on the verge of tears.
“But I need you to do more than try,” she forced herself to say. “I need you to do it. You’ve done it before, so you’ll do it again, am I understood?” She looked him in the eyes and broke down again, falling into him once more. “I don’t care how you do it, just come back to me.”
He had one hand on her head while the other arm wrapped around her shoulders. “I will come home one way or another, baby. I love you so much, Maura,” Nathan told her, rubbing her side with the arm and hand around her shoulders.
“I love…you too,” she said. After a long moment of staying in each other’s embraces, Maura pulled away, wiping her eyes furiously. “Okay, you should get out of here before we can’t let you go.” Maura reached down and lifted the little girl into her arms, resting her on her hip.
Nathan looked at the little girl and ran his hands through her hair, then brushed her face with his thumb. “I love you my little Lilith. Don’t grow up too much, alright?” he told his daughter.
“Love you, Daddy,” she said happily, bringing a smile to his face. “Have fun!”
Nathan laughed a little. “I don’t know how that will be possible,” he said. “But I will try for you, honey.” He turned to say his last “good-bye” to Walt, but he was nowhere to be seen.
“Walter, Daddy’s leaving, sweetie,” Maura called, looking around for him as well.
“Daddy!” Walter cried from down a hallway behind Nathan. “Daddy, wait! The model! You said we would build it! You can’t go until we…build…it,” the little boy told his father, running towards him with a box in his hand as tears began to trickle down his tear-stained face again. The box had a picture of a shiny, red car on it, labeled “Model Car”.
Nathan closed his eyes, frustrated with himself for having forgotten to do that with Walter before he had to go. He sighed and crouched down so he could look Walter in the eyes at his own height. “Walt. I have to go, and I am so very sorry. I know I promised to do it, but I can’t right now,” he told the little boy whose lip had begun to poke out again.
“But…” the boy whimpered helplessly.
“Wait for me to come home, okay, buddy? Take care of your Mommy and little sister for me while I’m gone, and when I get back, the first thing I will do is build this with you,” Nathan said, tapping the box.
“Daddy, I—I don’t wanna wait….for you….” Walt tried to say, but the rest of the sentence couldn’t come. They were flushed away by a wave of the boy’s tears.
“I love you, Walter,” Nathan said, hugging the boy one last time. “Just wait for me to come home.” With that, he stood, walked to the door, turned, blew a final kiss to his family, and slowly closed the door behind him as he left, his family waving until they could no longer see him.
2 months later….
Maura sat on the leather sofa in their living room with her legs crossed beneath her, reading a magazine that had come in the mail that morning. She reached across the small gap between her and a rectangular coffee table with a panel of glass in the center instead of the smooth, black wood that surrounded it, and set the magazine down upon it, sighing as she sat back and returned to her original position.
Her eyes drifted to the stone fireplace and then to the mantle atop that where dozens of family photos sat. She got to her feet and crossed the room so she could look at a single photo. Having done this hundreds of times before, she knew exactly where this particular one sat: in the middle of the entire mantle and in between the individual photos of her children. She lifted the center picture and ran her finger along its side, gazing at it longingly. The photo was of Nathan and herself on their wedding day.
“Mommy, I’m awake now,” Lilith’s sweet voice chimed. Maura set the photograph back down and wiped away a few tears before turning to see her daughter, awake after a two-hour nap.
“Hello sunshine,” Maura said to Lilith.
“Can we read a story, Mommy?” Lilith asked, pulling out a small book from behind her back. “Can we read this one?”
“Sure, sweetheart. Then we can make some popcorn for snack when Walter gets home from school,” Maura replied, sitting back down on the sofa. Lilith waddled to her mother and crawled up into her lap, then held the book out for Maura to take it into her own hands. Maura grabbed the book and read the title silently to herself before beginning. It was titled, “I Love You This Much”. She recognized this book as the one that Lilith always asked Nathan to read to her.
Maura read the story, tearing up a little as she went along when certain parts came and she remembered how animatedly her husband had read the story to the kids. She could not do the book justice, could not read it as wonderfully as Nathan had been able to do. When the story came to the end, Walter walked in through the front door, having been dropped off by the school bus. He rushed over to his mother without throwing his backpack aside—as he usually did—or even kicking off his shoes.
“Mommy, Mommy! There’s a car that looks like the one Daddy comes home in outside! Come look, come on!” he told her excitedly, jumping up and down. Before Maura could look outside, there came a knock on the door. She set Lilith on the floor and they all hurried to answer the door.
Maura checked the peep hole in the door to see who the person outside could be and was disappointed when she saw a man in that same camouflage uniform, but it wasn’t her husband. She slowly opened the door, trying to keep her children back, especially Walter.
“May I help you?” Maura asked the man as she pulled the door opened wider. She picked Lilith up and rested her on her hip to keep her from running outside, but Walter broke through the barrier she had tried to create and burst onto the front porch.
“Daddy!” Walter exclaimed. When he realized, this man wasn’t his father, he shrunk back into the house. “Where’s…Daddy?”
“Afternoon, Ma’am. My name is Hunter Daly, and I have come here today under unfortunate circumstances. I wish it wasn’t this way, but I regret to inform you that soldier Nathan T. Lane was killed in combat on April sixth,” the burly man before them explained sadly. His voice was soft and gentle, yet hit the family like a boulder.
“Wh-what?” Maura asked, unsure whether or not she had heard him correctly.
“I am so very sorry for your loss. I brought this letter back for you. He said he wanted you all to read it, but he never got the chance to send it,” the man said, holding out his hand. In it was an envelope addressed to their house. Maura reached out with a trembling hand and closed her fingers, weak from hearing the news, around it. “Again, I am so sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” she said in a low tone. Her eyes began to well up with tears, and with a trembling voice she added, “Have…a good…day.” She closed the door and then leaned back against it. Her husband was dead.
She set Lilith on the ground and then slid down, her back pressed to the door, until she was sitting on the floor. At first there were only a few tears rolling down her cheeks, but then she began to weep bitterly into her crossed arms which shielded her face from her children. Walter was the first to say anything.
“Mommy…what’s wrong? Where is Daddy?” he asked, confusion and disappointment apparent in his voice.
“Baby, Daddy’s…not…coming…home,” Maura said through her tears.
Walter shook his head and backed away a few steps. “No…” he whimpered. “Daddy…Daddy’s coming home to build the car! He’s—he’s coming home!”
“Honey, I wish he…was, too, but you need to understand that he’s not…coming home,” Maura told him, trying to calm herself down. Walter was about to answer, but he couldn’t. The words were taken from him and he sank to his knees, beginning to cry. Maura reached out and motioned with her hands for him to come to her, and he obeyed, crawling over pitifully. Maura wrapped her arms around him and kissed his head.
“I want Daddy to come home, Mommy,” Walter sobbed.
“I know, baby, me too,” Maura said, her own tears returning. Lilith joined her mother and sibling, unsure of what was happening. She hadn’t the faintest idea of what any of this meant.
“Mommy, are we going to make popcorn?” she whispered.
For a split second, Maura smiled. “Sure sweetie, in a bit,” she managed to say. “Give Mommy a little bit.” Suddenly, Maura remembered the letter. She looked down and there it was, sitting in her lap. She picked it up and opened it.
Dear Maura, Walt, and Lilith,
How are you? Are you two, Walter and Lilith, being good for Mommy? I hope so. She deserves a break every once in a while.
Here Maura smiled a little.
What have you been doing lately? You don’t really want to know what I’ve been up to. Just boring stuff like patrol and watch duty. Nothing exciting has happened. Everything is quiet. Thank goodness.
One of my buddies came back from patrol today and said he saw some foxes trying (and failing) to catch a camel. He said that the camel spit on them! I hope that sometime I can find a few minutes to get out and take some pictures. Then you could all see my “office”.
At this, Maura let out a little laugh.
Have you built that car without me yet, Walt? Or have you kept your promise and waited for me? I have thought about it every single day so that I don’t forget. I promise we will work on it the minute I get home. After I hug and kiss you all, of course. That’s the most important thing.
Unfortunately, I think I have to go. I’m sorry this is such a short letter. I will try to write longer ones in the future. I love you all so much. You mean the world to me. I am still hanging in there, but I think I will need a hug re-fuel soon. Get ready to send some over to me. I love you.
As she finished the letter, Maura smiled through her tears.