“48, 49, 50. Ready or not, here I come!” My dad shouted as he made his way toward me. “Now, where is my little girl?” He lifted the blanket I was under and flicked it off; a grin on his face.
“You were supposed to think it was just a blanket!” I squealed in excitement.
“I was? Well now, how can a blanket move?”
I laughed as I remembered the cherished moments of my youth. Walking outside to the spot where dad always sat when watching the sunset, I sat down next to him; feet hanging over the edge of the cliff. It was beautiful; watching the waves crash upon the shore. Watching the sun glint upon the sea. I could stay here forever. I looked over at my father, and saw a worried expression on his face.
“Nothing, I’ll tell you later.”
“You’re going to tell me nothing, later? Dad, what’s happened?”
He looked at me, saying, “you know our life can’t stay like this forever.” He paused. “The government is calling people to fight in the war. They’ve called me.”
“What?! No! Your arm isn’t right enough to fight, and-”
“My arm feels fine. Besides, there’s nothing we can do to stop it! I’m not any more happy about it than you are!” He yelled. There was a pause. “I’m sorry,” catching a look at me “It’s just how it has to be.” He walked back to the house, leaving me to watch the sunset alone.
I mixed the cookie dough I was making, trying hard not to think about my dad leaving tomorrow. Chocolate chips. The last ingredient. As I was grabbing some from the cupboard, I heard the silverware drawer opening. Not again. Dad and I always played this game when making cookies. This was probably the last time. I rushed toward the bowl of cookie dough just in time; he was reaching toward the bowl with his spoon, licking his lips in anticipation.
“Not this time!” I said, as I parried his thrust with my own spoon, while trying to balance the chocolate chips in my other arm.
“And she stops Cookie Thief once again!” He shouts, laying his spoon down. I smiled.
“You can have some for your-” I paused and bit my lip. “For your trip.”
And then tomorrow arrived. All too quickly. We sat in the living room, awaiting the ship that I had spotted a half hour ago. Glancing out the window, I saw a man walking up toward the door. A knock sounded. Dad got up, and opened the door for him. They spoke in low tones for a moment before dad headed toward his luggage. I got up quickly and went toward him.
“I’ll carry it”
He shook his head and kept walking toward the door. I followed him all the way toward the dock. A boat was there, waiting for him to board.
The man spoke again. “We’d better hurry if we want to get there in time.” Dad nodded and turned to me. “Goodbye Ella.”
“Bye.” He reached out and hugged me. The tears I had tried to keep in the whole time suddenly let loose. He was leaving. Dad boarded the boat with his luggage. It pulled away. Away. I sat there until it was a speck on the horizon, and longer. I didn’t know how long I sat there, only that he was gone. Gone.
It wasn’t until he left that I realized how much I had depended on him. It seemed the laundry always needed to be done, the dishes always needed to be washed. He had always done those things, and I hadn’t even thanked him. I hadn’t even noticed. They said he’d be back in a year if all went well. I didn’t believe them. It was war. Nothing ever went well in war. The army had been sending me updates every month, but I hadn’t been reading them. I hadn’t read my dad's letters either. All I could think about was trying to keep myself busy. Starting a garden was something I had done. And baking more often. But sometimes I still imagined him here. Grabbing cookie dough when I wasn’t looking. Hiding under a blanket so he could scare me. But he wasn’t grabbing cookie dough. Or hiding under a blanket. He was in the war.
A month passed and I hadn’t gotten a letter. Not that I would’ve read it. But if they weren’t sending updates anymore, that could only mean one thing. So here I was, sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace, with a letter in my hand. Tears were falling down my cheeks. I wished more than anything that this letter didn’t say what I knew it said. So, with trembling hands, I started to rip it open. Then, a knock sounded on the door. Hopeful relief filled me. Could it be another letter? I wished with all my heart that it was. And somehow, I knew it was. So I walked to the door and opened it up. It wasn’t a letter. Standing right in front of me, was my father. He smiled. I smiled. We embraced. Tears filled my eyes. I couldn’t breathe. He. Came. Back.