Please don’t give me any presents this year. I don’t want any. All I want is my Daddy. He’s been away since forever, fighting a war thousands of miles away. Please bring him home from the war.
Sitting looking at the piece of card in front of her, Sophie had no idea what she was going to draw. Everyone else in her class was busy drawing Christmas cards for their parents on the front lines. Sophie had tried to do a reindeer, but it looked more like a cow and George laughed at her.
Then she tried drawing Santa only it looked stupid, so she screwed it up. He wouldn’t grant her wish if she didn’t draw him right. Tears filled her eyes.
The teacher came over and sat down next to her. “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t do it,” she managed. “It has to be special cos it’s for Daddy.”
“How about a snowman? That’s just two circles with stick arms. Could you manage that?”
“Can try,”she whispered. She took the new piece of card and picked up her pencil. As she drew, her tongue poked out from between her lips. Finally she drew something she was happy with, but most importantly, something she knew Daddy would like.
It was hot where he was, and there would be no snow or Santa or reindeer. Just bombs and guns and people dying. Mummy tried to hide it from her but she knew. She knew how dangerous Daddy’s job was, otherwise Mummy wouldn’t cry when she watched the news.
She wrote on the front of the card and then wrote on the inside. Dear Daddy, a snowman to look after you and your friends. Love you lots. Happy Christmas. Love Sophie. XXX OOO XXX
Colonel Jeff Williams looked at the paper in front of him and then at the base CO. “I see,” he said quietly.
“I’m sorry, Jeff.”
“Our tour is meant to be finishing early December. The lads were depending on going home. We… they wanted to be with their families.”
“I know, but there is nothing I can do. We need your unit to stay until March.”
“Then I’d best go break it to them.” And to Sara, he thought silently, thinking of his wife.
Sophie got home from school to find Mummy in tears. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
Mummy wiped her eyes. “Daddy’s got to work a bit longer. He’ll be home for your birthday though.”
Sophie looked at her then burst into tears. So much for Santa.
Jeff didn’t look up, instead concentrating on the paper on his desk. He hated writing these letters, but ones like this, when the kid was only nineteen, even more so. Dear whoever, I have had the privilege of being your son’s commanding officer…
“Colonel, there’s one for you, Sir.”
He looked up. “Thank you, Sergeant.” He took the letter and looked at it, a slight smile crossing his lips. In big scrawling red crayon letters it said DADDY. Under that Sara had written Colonel JD Williams, BFPO 345. He skipped the rest of the address and carefully opened the envelope.
He pulled out the card, the smile on his face growing, the simple message inside bringing tears to his eyes. “Sophie,” he whispered. He’d not seen her for almost nine months. She’d be so much bigger now. He ran his fingers over the photo Sara had enclosed of her and the two children. Both Sophie and David had grown. He’d promised to be home for Christmas and he wouldn’t be.
The base alarms went off and everyone got up. Shoving the card in his pocket, Jeff ran with the rest, pulling on helmet and flak jacket as he went. Sirens wailed, gunfire sounded. A huge explosion rocked the building sending him to the floor, concrete cascading down around him.
Sophie sat by the phone. She had opened her stocking presents after breakfast, but wasn’t particularly interested in them. The rest of the presents still sat unopened under the tree. Her older brother David was building his Lego spaceship. Mummy was cooking dinner in the kitchen.
She didn’t see why they had had to wait until half past six for Christmas dinner. Normally they had dinner just after church in the morning, but not today. Then they opened all the rest of the presents after the Queen’s Speech, but not today.
She had looked at the presents and there were a few with her name on, but not what she wanted. That wouldn’t come in a box or wrapping paper. The best present of all would be Daddy coming home. That was all she’d asked for and she hadn’t got it. He had to work, she knew that.
Daddy had said he’d ring but he hadn’t. Although Mummy said not to expect a call. She’d been so sad the past few weeks and kept crying.
Sophie looked at the phone again then at the clock. He wouldn’t ring now; it was too late. Tears filled her eyes and she jumped down off the chair. She ran into the hallway and sat on the stairs in the dark. She wrapped her arms round her knees and leaned her head against the wall.
She didn’t know how long she had sat there. It was dark outside now and the lights round the door sparkled against the night sky. A car stopped just outside and doors slammed shut. Then the car drove off. There were footsteps on the gravel and then a key turned in the lock.
Sophie looked up as a tall figure in uniform stepped into the hall, bringing a blast of cold air in with him. His uniform buttons were duller than she remembered, and as he dropped his bag she hurtled across the hallway into his open arms. “Daddy!”
Tels Merrick has been married for 16 years and has three children. She lives in the UK and writes fiction. Mainly romance with a spattering of horror, sci-fi and children’s stories thrown in for good measure.