Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Love (04/27/06)
By Steve Uppendahl
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I watch, silent as the grave, as she sleeps. Her tiny body outlined beneath the covers, red, curly hair circled around her green checked pillow. Her heavily freckled face barely peeks out from under the covers. Perhaps sensing my presence she sighs, and turns pulling at the extra pink Cinderella blanket she insists on keeping, even though the blanket is a shadow of its former self. Kind of like me. But, we both serve a purpose, even now. I smirk as she continues to suck her blue and green binky with her trademark fierceness and endurance. Even in sleep she has character. I sigh as I feel the familiar pang rise in my chest. It’s always there, that responsibility, the burden of constant protection and fear. It won’t ever leave me. Ever. I gently brush the hair away from her face. I bend over and kiss her softly on the cheek. Our nightly ritual. Strangely, perhaps naively, I feel as I’m protecting her in some way.
Sophie, age twelve
Again, I quietly slip into her room. It’s different now, the yellow paint and wallpaper border of various zoo animals are long gone. Her room now is orange and green, her favorite colors. Posters of current heartthrobs and boy bands cover the walls. She has cried herself to sleep. Trevor Bower, popular, basketball player, and major league “hottie” has broken my little girl’s heart. Middle school love, as common as the cold, followed closely by middle school heartbreak. They didn’t make it three months.
It was obvious to everyone but her. That doesn’t matter now. What does matter is my Sophie is hurting, and I can’t stop it. Oh, I would if I could. I’ve tried to console her, so has her mother, but I remember those days. Mom and Dad try so hard, they really do, but they can’t fix this. No one can. I would make any deal that I could to ease her pain, to make things better. But I’ve already done that. I can’t ask for more.
Time does heal all wounds. In the next six years, four boyfriends, four serious man-to-teenage Romeo talks/threats, numerous groundings and lectures, and four imagined, yet still powerful heart attacks. (Oddly, all those heart attacks happened on prom night.)
Sophie, age eighteen
Sophie’s last night at home, officially anyway. Tomorrow she’s college bound. My wife and I are proud beyond words. And I’m scared beyond words. This will be my last night watching her in this room, tucking her in, gently brushing that vibrant red hair away from her face and kissing her cheek (most of those freckles are gone now).
Her room has changed again. Electric blue paint on the walls. Computer desk, corkboard chocked full of notes and pictures, many more clothes in the closet (half of which give me a heart attack when she walks outside wearing them), and so on. But, some things never change. Her old Cinderella blanket (the small piece that’s left of it anyway) is packed into her suitcase along with our picture. I ‘m still trying, in vain most times, to protect my little girl from harm.
Sophie pulls out of our driveway waving frantically on her way to school. We wave back, crying tears of pride and fear.
I can’t go any further. “Please, God, please protect her as only you can. I’ve done all I can do, but you can do so much more. Watch over her.”
I bow my head and walk through the front door. My wife is sitting on the couch directly in front of my ragged old La-Z-Boy. Her head is down, looking at a family picture taken years ago, just before the accident that took me away. Physically at least. She looks up and wipes away a tear. She gets up and yells for our two boys to help get ready for dinner. She walks by without noticing me.
Two warriors are walking, their white tunics glowing, their bronze swords gently slapping their legs. One is shorter, black hair, and muscular, the other blonde, tall, imposing and highly ranked. The smaller one is reporting while the Captain listens intently.
“He still refuses to move forward.”
The Captain smirks and shakes his head. “Still? Same reason I suppose?”
“Yes. He won’t leave them. Ever, according to him.”
Again, the Captain shakes his head in wonder. “The power of human love. Never underestimate it. Or it’s lasting effect.”
“Even after death.”
“Especially after death.”
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