Monday, June 17, 2013

Prompt: The Boy Who Cheated Death

I was three when Daddy went to Iraq. Mama’s tummy got big with Essie, and she was always tired, but she had promised to take me to the playground after her nap. So I was playing quietly in the living room when the doorbell rang in our apartment. Mama started crying as soon as she opened the door, and I ran over to see who was there.

They were soldiers in fancy uniforms, a man and a woman. The woman came in first and took Mama’s hands, led her to the couch and sat next to her. The man looked around the apartment, everywhere but at Mama or me. I was looking at the medals on his uniform when I saw Daddy’s necklace. I got mad and scared all at once, and I stomped his boot and hit his legs.

“You took my Daddy’s necklace! The Bad Man will get him! You give it back! Where’s my Daddy?” I screamed and cried, and the man tried to calm me own, but I kept hitting and yelling at him. Mama came over and grabbed me in a bear hug and picked me up. She kissed me until I stopped crying and lay on her shoulder. They hadn’t said it, but I knew my Daddy was dead.

The man pulled the necklace over his head and came over to us. He picked up my clenched fist, and when I opened it, he put the necklace in my hand. I closed my fist back over it, the edges of the charm pressing into my fingers.

“This was your Daddy’s necklace. He was my friend, and he died saving my life. I…I wanted to bring this to you, son. I know your Daddy loved you very much, and I know he’d want you to have this, to wear it and be safe.”

I looked up at his serious, sad face and asked him, “He told you about it?” He nodded. “And it worked?”

“It saved me, but not your Daddy. I’m so, so sorry.” He looked like he might cry, too.

I pulled the necklace over my head and never took it off. Until today.

I’d always been there to protect Essie, to make anyone who thought about hassling her reconsider. Mama said the marks on Essie’s face were Daddy’s handprint, to let her know he was always with her. Four years older and wiser, even as a child I wondered why Daddy hadn’t put his mark over her heart or somewhere people wouldn’t make fun of her. But I kept that question to myself.

Essie’s first day of high school, first day without me walking in with her. And some snotty girl gets attitude and they end up shoving each other. Except Essie was right in front of the stairs, and she fell down twelve steps and broke her leg and banged up her head so bad she was knocked out.

I met Mama at the hospital, but they wouldn’t let us see Essie until they finished the leg cast and the MRI. She was still unconscious, and they had no idea when she would wake up. Mama finally fell asleep on the couch they had in Essie’s room, and I climbed up on the bed and tucked her against me like we used to do when she got scared at night.

I pulled Daddy’s necklace over my head and draped it onto hers.  When I tugged the charm down over her heart, it felt warm. I dropped it against her, and the metal started to glow. I pulled away and stared as the black lines I could trace with my eyes closed began to expand across the face of the charm, then over Essie’s skin.

Dogs in house:

Time writing:
~30 minutes

March word count:

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