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The Girl With the Bow In Her Hair
“...And that was the day he proposed to me. See? Those are the flowers.”
“Yes, Freddie, darling, they are beautiful.”
There was a pause in which Veronica Baker, Freddie's mother, smiled fondly at her aunt and her 7-year-old son. Old, yellowed photo albums lay scattered across the coffee table. Freddie's great aunt sat on the sofa holding a photo album with Freddie on her lap.
“Auntie? Was Carl a good man?”
“Yes, Freddie. A very good man.”
“Then why did he die?”
Though Ms. Baker had had a wonderful relationship with her aunt, and they often talked and laughed together, she had never brought up the courage to ask about her aunt's dead lover, Carl. She wondered how her aunt would answer the question. Pretending to be busy folding the laundry, she leaned in just a little close and listened intently.
“Freddie, how about you let Auntie tell you a story.”
Ms. Baker sighed. Of course her aunt would change the subject. She shrugged her shoulders and leaned back in her chair.
“Once upon a time, long ago, a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair met a handsome young man with beautiful brown eyes in a park. They began talking, then laughing. They decided to meet another day, then another day, then more and more. Eventually, they met every day. Of course, they fell in love. In fact, they were in so much love, they decided to get married. They began planning out the wedding day, everything from the dress to the invitations. Each day passed by happily with thoughts of their future family in mind. The couple very much wanted it to be the day when they could be married and live happily ever after.
“But while all was happy between the couple, the world outside was not. The country they lived in, America, was at war with another country called Vietnam. The war was cruel and terrible, but it was also thousands of miles away. The couple thought the war would never affect them. However, they were wrong.
“A week before the couple's wonderful wedding day, the man with the brown eyes was drafted. That means he was forced to fight in the war for his country, the same war that was thousands of miles away. Thousands of miles away from his home. Thousands of miles away from the love of his life.
“The girl knew that the man might never come home. She knew he might come home without a leg or an arm. She knew that he would definitely come home a changed person, and she didn't want that. She was afraid, and that fear nearly broke her heart, but she had no choice. She let her love go.
“At first, all went well. The girl sent bundles of letters to her beautiful soldier fighting in the country thousands of miles away from home. He was doing fine. Nothing serious had happened yet. He stayed alive and healthy for a year. They continued exchanging letters and keeping hope in their hearts that one day their lives would get better.
“Then one day, a letter came in the mail to the girl with the bow in her hair. It said: Dearest, I am coming home! Wait for me, darling. Remember that I always love you. -Your Love, Carl. The girl couldn't be happier. She jumped for joy. She whistled everywhere she went and she smiled at everyone she met that day. Finally, her dreams of living happily ever after with her love were coming true.
“The girl waited. And waited. A day went by...then a week...then two weeks. A month went by, but she kept holding on to hope. Pretty soon, even two months went by. But the girl with the bow in her hair never lost hope. She kept repeating in her head, 'He's coming home. My love is coming home!'
“One day, she was at the college championship football game. It was a beautiful, exciting day for all the football fans of that state. Before the game started, an announcer asked everyone for a moment of silence to honor a dead Vietnam soldier that had come from that very town. Everyone kept respectfully silent, but in their minds, they thought it was a waste of time. Everyone just wanted to see the game. No one really cared. No one except for a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair. To her, the rest of the day was only a blur of tears and broken memories of her beautiful, dead soldier.”
The room filled with a deep silence. Ms. Baker looked up from her laundry and stared at the her aunt, lost in memories about the day all her dreams and all her love died. Then she saw her talkative, innocent son, who was now strangely silent. She reached up to wipe the tears from her eyes.
“Mmmhmmm?” Freddie's great-aunt responded while still staring off into the distance, lost in thought.
“That was a sad story.”
“It sure was a sad story.”
“Auntie, I want that story to have a happy ending.”
Finally, the girl with the bow in her hair turned to look at the boy sitting in her lap. The boy noticed her eyes were blurred with tears.
“Yes, Freddie. I want that story to have a happy ending, too.”