Where Is Daddy?

This is one of the few stories I wrote last year. I admit it was fun. But it was also out of my comfort zone (for obvious reasons that you’ll find within). The story is…long. Enjoy and please feel free to share you thoughts with me.

WHERE IS DADDY?

Two men in green uniforms were standing outside our home when Mummy opened the front door. They smiled warmly, said theirs greetings, then asked if they could come in. Mummy’s eyes took in the living room and hallway, briefly, before she agreed. Both men walked in with quiet, calculated steps, their black caps tucked under their arms. Those caps…they were the same ones I had seen some military men wearing a few days ago on TV. Since Mummy had decided to let them in, I wanted to believe there was more to their visit. After all, we were eagerly expecting news from the military on Daddy’s whereabouts.

The uniforms turned to us. “Mornin’, ladies.”

My sister and I responded. “Good morning, sirs.”

“Please, sit. What can I offer you, gentlemen?”

“Thank you, ma’am. But we’d rather have nothing.”

“Oh…” Mummy settled down into a seat close beside them.

The younger uniform flashed an even set of white teeth at us. He waved a hand at my younger sister, Amber, who smiled back. When his eyes met mine, I quickly turned away.

“You and Jerry have pretty girls.”

Mummy gave an appreciative smile. Her eyelashes fluttered, and she brought her hands to rest on her jean-cladded legs.

“Can we talk to you alone?” The older uniform asked.

Mummy looked taken aback. She sat up in her seat. “Alone?”

“Yes. In private, Mrs. White.”

Mummy cleared her throat. “Girls, could you take your game upstairs?”

Without a word, my sister and I picked up the Scrabble board and headed for the stairs. When we were out of sight, almost at the foot of the stairs, I pulled lightly on Amber’s floral gown and placed a finger on my lips. Intelligent girl—she understood, nodding sharply.

“Daddy,” she whispered. “What about daddy?”

“Dunno. Let’s get closer. Maybe they have news about Daddy.”

Amber took my hands, her little fingers digging into my palms, her eyes gleaming in expectation. We dropped to a crouch and slid up to the edge of the wall.

“We can’t put that at a hundred percent,” a male voice said.

“What do you mean, Lieutenant? It’s been over three weeks and no one has cared enough to tell me where my husband is!”

Silence.

“Three frigging weeks of uncertainty! Or is there some military protocol I am not supposed to know? For Chrissake we are his family. He’s got two wonderful girls and they…” Mummy’s voice was already breaking. She took a deep breath. “I—I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be…rude.”

“Perfectly understandable, ma’am. It’s our job to ensure that people, citizens and non-citizens alike, feel safe and cared for, both here and outside our country. That’s why we’re here.”

I looked at Mummy. She held her head in one hand, eyes nearly closed. She muttered, “Faith…? God knows I’m trying. We’re trying.”

Heels shuffled on the tiled floor. Bodies moved on the leather seats. The wall clock chimed in the hour while the ceiling fan whirled slowly.

“Have you…I mean, is there any news as to where he may be as we speak?”

“Yes, and that’s why we are here. We found this…”

Amber and I moved our head slightly past the wall so we could get a view of the recovered item. It was Daddy’s necklace with a cross-shaped pendant. The older officer gently placed it in Mummy’s hands. She gazed at it with unblinking eyes.

“It was a gift for him last Christmas.” Mummy chuckled. She raised her pale face to the men. “Where did you find it?”

“Kupeert. Northern Kyrgyzstan.”

“Northern Kyrgyzstan? I thought his job as a journalist was to report the war from the south?”

The older uniformed officer positioned himself to face Mummy. “People don’t wish for war; neither are they happy sending their loved ones into battle. The truth is; the British army is currently short of qualified personnel in the region. But that doesn’t mean we have to fold our hands and watch an unreasonable government subject her people to slavery. The Kyrgyzstanis have picked up arms to fight. And we are standing by them.

“In the north, the people are trapped. Food and sanitary supplies are low. We, alongside the Red Cross, have been doing our best to send aid to those people. Jerry volunteered to fly one of the non-combatant planes, transporting aid-workers as well to the region. Unfortunately, on the second trip, the plane was shot down. We located it by satellite. And for the past few weeks, we’ve had our men on ground, searching the crash site. Along with the necklace, our men found a pilot vest with fresh blood stains—”

“Oh my God…was the vest his, too?” Mummy cried. She began pulling at her hair.

“DNA results confirmed he was the person who wore the vest. Now we are faced with two possibilities; A, he may have been struggling to survive as well trying to radio home; B…” the older officer paused to catch his breath, scratched a brow, made eye contact with the younger, signaling him to continue.

“Mrs. White, we—”

“Please, you can call me Molly.”

“Alright, Molly, out of the three aid workers, we found two. Their bodies were dumped in an old factory. Chances are that he, along with the remaining aid worker, escaped.  Or were being taken to another location. The vest has some marks on it. We can’t rule out the possibility that those marks could also be defensive marks.”

Mummy put her hands on her face and collapsed into her seat. “God…”

“Now you hang on, alright? He needs your support and that of girls too.” The older tapped the younger officer on the leg. “Molly, please be rest assured that we are doing everything we can to find the whereabouts of your husband.”

Both men got to their feet.

“In the meantime, please be strong, and don’t give up hope. Your girls need you,” the older officer said. “We’ll keep you updated.”

Mummy walked them to door and they shook hands with her. When the men were gone, Amber and I raced up to Mummy. It was my younger sister who was the first to speak. “Where is Daddy?”

Our own emotions reflected in mother’s eyes. She gnawed at her lower lip, glanced up at the ceiling as if there was an answer safely tucked away in it. When she brought her eyes back to us, she managed to smile. Bending down, she pressed us hard against her bosom. “You remember Psalm twenty-three?”

“Yes. The Lord Is my Shepherd,” I answered quickly.

Mummy grinned. “Good. That means He’s always watching over us.”

“But why hasn’t He brought Daddy home?” Amber began to cry.

Mummy held Amber’s hands. “Daddy will be home before your graduation.”

I was old enough to tell despair from hope. Mother had the latter. Her assertion touched me. It lifted my crumbling faith and pulled me from the dark depths of hopelessness. Her belief and strength gave me hope, but I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. They’d been withheld for weeks.

***

Weeks passed. The morning of Amber’s graduation came with some element of hope. It had given us something we could forward to, a moment of cheer. Standing behind her in my flowery dress and white sandals, I helped her prepare for the occasion.

“Someday, we’ll look back and smile…” Amber flapped her purple gown playfully as I combed her hair. “Smile for what we have, what we have learnt from you.”

The song was pleasant and I couldn’t help humming along as I combed her hair. When our eyes met in the long mirror, Amber stopped singing. Gloom clouded her once smiling face.

“Kate,” Amber began, eyes downcast, hands clasped in front of her.

“Yes?” I came over and knelt before her, removing the few strands of auburn hair stuck in the comb.

“Daddy won’t get the chance to see me in my purple gown. He won’t get the chance to see me sing. We won’t be able take photos together as he promised.” She twirled a finger in one of the buttonholes of the gown.

I wanted to find the right words, but I couldn’t. I was poor at pretending. Grief had found a place within me.

“Kate, what if I don’t sing it right?”

“You’re doing great.” I knew my smile was crooked.

“No, I’m not!” Amber plopped herself down on the edge of her bed.

“Smile for what we have…” I tried to remember the lyrics. I sat quietly beside her, fixed the last ribbon in her hair, then hummed the melody. “See…I like the song.”

Amber lips slowly curved into a smile. Hope out despair, I thought.

***

On stage, a stream of purple-clad children enthralled the audience with a remembrance song and a lively dance. Young boys and girls from the graduating class at Tomskins Primary School couldn’t hold back the joy and excitement in their voices as they all sang to the listening pleasure of the parents, teachers, and well-wishers gathered for the ceremony. Midway into the song Amber walked to the center of the stage and climbed up on an elevated wooden platform. The pianist paused in her playing. Silence filled the hall. Mummy and I held hands while looking on with the rest of the audience. And Amber began:

There is place I know,

A place where young boys and girls

Could learn, learn to be better people

A place called Tomskins,

Where everyone is a winner and a friend.

We thank you for being here for us

We thank you…We thank you

We thank you for being our greatest fans

We thank you…We thank you

For seeing us make it this far

Amber paused midway. The rest of the young boys and girls chorused the last three line, then gave way for her continue yet again. But she couldn’t. Her eyes found ours. Tears rolled down from her cheeks, and at last, she began. She was focused, and her voice grew louder, more pleasant:

Someday we’ll look back

And smile for what we have

Smile for what we have gained from you.

When I followed the direction of her eyes, I saw Daddy in the midst of the uniforms, who had paid us a visit some weeks back. They were standing behind the audience just by the entrance of the hall. I gave Mummy a nudge just in time before the standing ovation. But it was the sight of Daddy, smiling at us now, that brought an even greater ovation into my heart.

Advertisements

57 thoughts on “Where Is Daddy?

  1. Congratulations, Uzo. Nice use of absolute phrases and small, pertinent details. It is a complete and satisfying story.

    1. That’s just the same way I feel whenever I read your any of your posts. You also write about man’s state and his environment in such a novel way that endear many (including myself) to you. Thanks for commenting.

    1. O Liza, what would I do without your comments? I do love happy endings too, and this one really touched me after I edited and edited all in the name to make it natural.

      As always, your comments are most welcome 😀

  2. Your writing is heart-felt and wise. It paints a wonderful setting and I feel as if I am there, as if it is MY family going through such variations of emotions. Truly you are a writer with talent that I admire, like this phrase which takes my breath away with its powerful beauty: “I was poor at pretending. Grief had found a place within me.” This is amazing.
    With deep gratitude for your sharing, Gina

    1. O did I do all of that? *dances around*

      Your adorn my heart and efforts with shiny medals and words of encouragement, Gina. As an aspiring writer, I have been told to pay attention to even the very little details of life and conversation. They are vital ingredients to writing a good piece. Honestly, Gina, who says your writings don’t move me? I bet no one. I’m blessed reading your works too.

  3. Superb indeed Uzoma – this piece may have been out of your comfort zone but it did not appear that way at all – you created a real sense of atmosphere and hope in your characters that was finally fulfilled at the end. I thought the layout was terrific too with Amber’s singing, which breaks up the piece nicely – along with being perfectly paced, the dialogue is natural and the style is both uncluttered and precise, well done my friend – truly excellent work.

    1. Oh thank you! To read such a comment from a literary great like you gives me a lot of courage to write on. This is one of my early experimental writings from a girls’ pov..

      1. You’re welcome Uzoma, I always like to take time to read your pieces because I know they will be of great quality and move me. I can really learn alot from you too, as I don’t write from the POV of other people much, I usually write from either children or sarcastic adults to match my sense of humour!

  4. Reblogged this on 85 Degrees and commented:

    Hey folks,
    Sorry, there won’t be “We Are Not Cursed” today. I have been sick (malaria fever) for the past few days, so couldn’t write 😦
    But … I’m OK now and have some catch up to make 😎
    Since there is nothing new in the queue, I’ve decided to share this old story of mine with you. Enjoy…

    PS: The serial returns next week.

  5. I’m sorry to know you are unwell. Get to the computer soonest… (aka get well soon!) and give us your inspiring words.

    This story: Quiet and taut and quite perfect in itself. It makes me taste the mother’s flickering hope… the girls’ hope, more brave… the graduation day ceremonies… very nicely narrated. You dwell on the detail, take time over the telling, think thru the nuances… THAT is what assures me you are going to go places.

    Why did you end it this way?

    1. Aw, thanks for get well wishes — at least I can now sit and type without the fever raking over me, making my hands and feet tremble.

      Oh yes, my aim was capture the flickering hope, courage, and then happiness in a typical western family. I’m happy to have your handsome on this story. It does me a lot of good to know am really progressing as an aspiring writer.

      About the way ended I ended it: I tried, mentally, extending the story beyond its current point, but it wasn’t so powerful an ending since every reader’s imagination of what would happen afterwards won’t be so different. Again, I love inviting the reader to finish the story, if possible. That way, I feel the story lingers a bit more in his thoughts.

      1. That is a good point. No, you should not extend it beyond this. This is the acme… the point the characters are working towards.

        Let me be vain… in my ending, I retain the; hope, the flickering hope and I don’t see the father, but I imagine I see him somewhere among the audience. 🙂

        1. Um, he actually he lived to witness Amber’s graduation–that is, in the last paragraph. So, you see, we both share the same idea of the way it should end 🙂

  6. Do get better soon Uzoma, it mean’s we’ll have double portion of your serial next week! 🙂 The didn’t seemed long, I read it within minutes and loved it! It was a relief that Molly’s husband lives! And the girls were certainly the strong type too! Great story!
    🙂

    1. Aw, thanks sis. I feeling much better now. Thanks to the meds and God’s healing power.

      Glad you enjoyed the story and I love the ending too. Many thanks for your time.

      1. Oh, for a double installment…I’ll try my best to come up with both. But even if I don’t, there will definitely be a new on by next week.

  7. So glad to hear you are feeling better, Uzoma!! Take good care of yourself, my friend. I agree with Seyi sandra–the story didn’t seem long. Once again, I found your telling very compelling–emotional, vivid, convincing. Thanks for reposting! Sending healing thoughts across the seas….

    1. I was hoping to catch up with the latest on your blog before you dropped by. But all the same I’ve to.

      Glad you enjoyed this one. Yes, I feared the length would dissuade some from reading but it’s honour to have your thoughts on this one.

      Healing vibes from Sirena>>>>>surrounding moi now. Thank you, thank you, my good friend.

  8. This is what you did with the story, that I liked:

    Weeks passed. The morning of Amber’s graduation came with some element of hope. It had given us something we could forward to, a moment of cheer. Standing behind her in my flowery dress and white sandals, I helped her prepare for the occasion.

    “Someday, we’ll look back and smile…” Amber flapped her purple gown playfully as I combed her hair. “Smile for what we have, what we have learnt from you.”

    When Amber says (sings), “Someday…” I did not realize it was part of a song, I thought she was thinking aloud, such profound thoughts… Then you revealed it was a song (a song that suited the occassion), brilliant! And I couldn’t help but identify with young Kate who in your words, “… was old enough to tell despair from hope.”

    Well done!

    1. Thank you so much, Timi. It’s heartwarming to understand that you love the song in the story. I’ve to confess that I’d actually wanted to remove the poem after writing the story. I thought it was some sort of hindrance. But it’s turned to be the part most people love. As for Kate … I’m glad you could also relate with her character, thus the narration from her POV.

  9. The length of the story didn’t put me off as I knew I would be carried by your writing as always. There is something about the details you add to your narrative – “Mummy’s eyes took in the living room and hallway, briefly, before she agreed” or “Heels shuffled on the tiled floor. Bodies moved on the leather seats…” and so on, that make the story engrossing and I didn’t want it to end. The inclusion of the poem and the singing made me think that this could easily be turned into a play/film.
    Hope you recover fully soon, Uzo 🙂

    1. Oh my, oh my! Thanks for your concern. I’m doing fine now. Working as I’m supposed to.

      Glad you enjoyed the story. It’s exciting writing from a female POV and this was my first. Ah! The song, I believe, is a part that turned out great and am so happy you love it, too.

      I look forward to reading your stories. I guess you’re still busy so have very little time to participate in the prompts.

      Wish you a wonderful week ahead, Lena 🙂

  10. As a student of Reiki, I am sending you healing waves of health. Do you feel better already? Yup, it usually works.
    I like the story and think you raised some questions when Daddy was standing between the two officers, watching the concert. Perhaps you were hinting that all was not well; maybe he was under arrest???

    1. Oh my! I can feel the healing vibe all around me. It’s super! Ronnie, I never knew you were into Reiki until you mentioned it. It’s a wonderful art going by what I’ve heard.

      To the story: Your comment about the Daddy possibly being under arrest has given me something to mull over. It could be the start of yet another story–the prospect is SO exciting I’ve noted it down.

      When I was approaching the end of this story, it was a ‘happy reunion’ that repeatedly hit me. Since ‘happy endings’ are my kind of thing, it was easy to let that side in. Thank you so much, my good friend. You comments are always a treasure.

  11. As you might know, I’m having some computer problems but had to return to post my comment.

    The story you’ve weaved is so gutting – something that resonates with people all over. Poignant and well rounded off. It is well told and I love the first person approach. Your choice of certain words and phrases are evocative and adds zest and pacing. Though there are a few typos – the complete story is so captivating and even overhwhelming is some parts – that any generous reader would overlook these. I do apologise for mentioning ‘typos’ – trust me my dear friend, it is with the best of intentions. I make mistakes all the time – it is something of a bane for us writers.

    The story is definitely not long and if it was, I certainly did not feel the length.

    Very well done, Uzo – very well done indeed.

    All good wishes and a speedy and complete recovery.

    🙂 Eric 🙂

    1. Oh I hope the your computer works to full capacity sooner than later. Does he know you need him for a lot of things?

      Oh you shouldn’t feel bad or apologize about mentioning the typos. As a matter of fact, such a kind of comment is very helpful at this point of my writing because it tells me that something is wrong or missing somewhere. Again, I understand that some of my readers won’t want to say so because they fear they would hurt my feelings if they do so. Either way, I’m so open to all. I will comb the piece for the typos again. I owe you one, Eric 😉

      About the story: I admit you’ve given me a handsome remark; one that brings me a lot of cheer on this dull Saturday afternoon. The specificity of words (using the right words in certain passages) isn’t my forte, but I’m super happy you said nothing in that regard jumped out at you.

      Thanks a lot, Eric.

Your thoughts matter

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s