Homecoming This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 6, 2013
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I am standing in a sea of people, clinging to the ice-cold metal fence, becoming more and more aware of the prickling numbness spreading through my fingers. It is November 2003. I am eight years old, and today my daddy is coming home from a two-year deployment in Iraq.

The weather at the base is harsh. The temperature in the low thirties and the mixture of wind and rain make the wait almost unbearable. The fierce winds are so strong they are like an unknown force rocking my body back and forth, eventually making me lose my numbing grip on the fence. Before I make contact with the wet pavement, I feel a pull at my wool coat, hoisting me up.

Blinking rapidly, the cold rain pelting my face like tiny needle pricks, I see my mom. She smiles, squats in front of me, and takes my hands in hers. “Just a little longer, baby. Daddy will be here soon.” Still holding my hand, she leads me through the crowd to my sisters. They too are restless. Mom tells them what she told me: “Daddy will be here soon.”

“Soon.” I can't even fathom how many times I've heard that word. My mom assumed that, when I was six, I couldn't understand or handle certain things, so she said “soon” instead of “two years.” And so I waited. As time passed, my image of my dad started to fade. And now, when I'm so close to seeing him again, I'm afraid. What if he doesn't look like Daddy anymore? What if I'm not his little girl anymore? The knots in my stomach tighten. Clutching at my mom's damp coat, I struggle with the anxiety that threatens to overwhelm me.

The crowd suddenly pushes forward, and I am squished between my sisters. I squint through the rain and see nine buses approach. I try to catch a glimpse of what is happening but can only see the backs of those in front of me. I eventually hear the brakes screeching to a stop. This is it, I think.

I strain my neck to see over the crowd, and my sister Sam yanks the arm of my oversized jacket, dragging me to the front. All around families are crying, laughing, hugging. I study the faces of the men in funny-looking outfits coming off the buses.

Disappointed, I turn to my mom to ask where Daddy is, only to see her embracing a stranger. This man is much skinnier and better groomed than my daddy. Fear overwhelms my excitement, making me hide behind my sister's back. However, before I know it, the back I'm leaning on disappears, making me fall. Heat floods my face. I hastily stand, only to see the stranger smiling at me.

Slowly, he kneels. I reach out and touch his face to see if he is real. I can see he understands my uncertainty, but his eyes light up and his face breaks into a smile – my daddy's smile.

I throw my arms around him and start to cry. His gentle rocking and whispering “I'm here” eventually calm me down. I lift my head from his shoulder and loosen my grip from his neck, and then I look up at the sky, noticing the absence of rain.

I say, “God stopped crying.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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WritersBlock123 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 7, 2014 at 6:23 pm
I found this piece really touching and I liked the ending!
 
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