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Daddy's Home (Short Story Sunday)

This is a short story I wrote waaaaay back in the day - September 11, 2002, to be exact. It was a much-needed brightening of spirits at the time, and a story I knew I would end up sharing again at some point when I started the "Short Story Sunday" series, as it has so much to do with fathers in the first place. The site it was originally posted on shut down several years ago, so I'm sharing a heavily revised version of it in its entirety today.

After the jump, of course.




Today was going to be a good day. Nikki just knew it.

She knew it because when Mommy came into wake her and Becky up this morning, she had that funny look on her face. That little bitty smile when she's thinking about Daddy and doesn't want anyone to know her attention is somewhere else. That one she always wears on the day Daddy said he would be home from one of his business trips.

"Time to wake up, baby girls," she'd said in a sing-song voice (even though Mommy was a terrible singer with a capital T), and some wonderful spark lit up inside of Nikki as she sat up and looked over at her twin sister.

Today's going to be a good day, Nikki had mouthed at Becky, who was still too groggy to understand. But that was okay. Whether Becky knew it or not, today was going to be a good day.

Mrs. Penny, the crosswalk lady with the long grey hair, only made that spark inside brighter as Nikki and Becky got closer to the crosswalk right in front of school. She always had a big smile on her face when she saw them walk up, but there was something more cheerful in it today.

"Good morning, girls," Mrs. Penny said, with a little bit of the same sing-song as Mommy's voice when she was waking them up that morning.

Nikki and Becky looked at each other and grinned, because now that Becky was awake, she knew the truth about today, too. This was going to be a good day. A really, really good day, according to Becky.

"Good morning, Mrs. Penny," they said to her together, at the same time.

"You two look happy. Did you get to talk to your dad this morning?"

Everyone knew Daddy was out of town all the time on his business trips. Some people said they thought the trips were more than just business, but Nikki and Becky never knew what they meant when they said more than business. Whenever one of them asked, the adults would shake their heads and say they would explain it later.

But they never did.

"Nope." Nikki shook her head. "But we think he's coming home today."

"That's a good reason to be happy," Mrs Penny told them. Then she looked up at the crosswalk, and lifted her sign like she always did when it was time for them to get ready to walk across the street. There were three or four other kids, all a little bit bigger, walking up, and when Nikki looked down the road, she could see a car or two coming. "You'll have to tell me about it tomorrow if he does."

"We will," Becky promised, and reached for Nikki's hand like she always did when they walked across the street. Even though they were big enough they didn't have to hold onto each other anymore when they walked across the street, Becky still needed it.

Otherwise, Nikki would have brushed it away.

Well, that and today was going to be such a good day that Nikki didn't care if anyone else saw them holding hands. They were sisters. It was always allowed. Mommy said so, and she wouldn't lie about that.

Their day at school made the spark inside of Nikki grow bigger and bigger. She got to help collect the science folders. She spelled all the words right on her spelling test. Her teacher let her read the first paragraph out of the book they were reading for literature, and no one laughed while she was reading out loud. It was like the whole world knew today needed to be extra special because Daddy was coming home.

By the time school let out of the day, Nikki was ready to G.O., go. Daddy could be home any time. She wanted to be there to meet him.

So did Becky, if Nikki hadn't been able to guess from the way Becky yanked on Nikki's arm as soon as they got outside the building. Nikki didn't mind too much, though. She started running to the corner, with Becky really close behind her. Mrs. Penny was starting to cross the street with a huge group of kids, so they had to slow down some, but as soon as they were on the other side, they started running again. They didn't even say anything to Mrs. Penny, who did not look surprised to see them do it.

Nikki and Becky didn't slow down until they were in front of their neighbor's house. Mommy didn't like it when they ran like that, so they needed to catch their breath before they got inside the house. Today was not a good day to get in trouble.

Daddy was coming home.

Becky saw the car before Nikki did, moving as slow as a turtle on the street. She yanked on Nikki's arm again, and Nikki yelped.

"That hurt!" Nikki said, biting her lip to keep from crying. She didn't want this day to get ruined by a little arm yank.

"That's Daddy's car," Becky answered impatiently, then started running again before Nikki completely understood what she meant.

Da-

Suddenly, she was running, too. She barely caught up with Becky in time for the car to pull into the driveway. They didn't wait for Daddy to turn off the engine before they were tugging on the door handle, trying to get it open. Today wasn't just a good day, it was the best day of the week because Daddy was home.

Daddy was smiling when they finally opened the door, and he wrapped his arms around Nikki and Becky both. His hug was so tight, Nikki thought her head was going to pop off of her body and start rolling down the street. She squeezed him back as tight as he squeezed them both. His face was all whiskery, but it was okay. Nikki liked it when Daddy's face was whiskery and scratchy. It tickled.

"How's my girls?" he asked, his voice a little bit choked up like it always got when he was gone for a long time.

I miss you guys, he'd told them when they'd asked about it. Lots and lots. Then he'd pulled out the pictures of them and Mommy he kept with him, telling them he looked at them every day so he wouldn't forget what they looked like when he got home.

"We missed you, Daddy," Nikki said, squeezing him again as tight as she could.

"You were gone forever," Becky added.

"I know." He hugged them even harder, and kissed their foreheads. "It felt like forever to me, too."

Then Daddy's hug got really loose. Nikki stepped back, and so did Becky. It was time to let Daddy get out of the car so he could go in and hug Mommy, too.

But today, instead of going back to the trunk and getting his bag out, Daddy squatted beside the car after he quietly closed the door, and pulled Nikki and Becky in close again.

"Sh-sh," he whispered when they were near enough to hear him. "I want to surprise Mommy, so let's be quiet like mice when we go up to the door."

Nikki and Becky nodded at each other. Surprising Mommy was one of their favorite things to do, and helping Daddy do it was going to be even better. So they both zipped their mouths shut, locked them, and threw away the key. Daddy laughed a little bit, then leaned in to kiss their cheeks.

It was hard to stay quiet as they walked up the stairs onto the front porch, but their mouths were supposed to be zipped shut and locked up. When they were right in front of the door, Daddy bent down and whispered to them again.

"Ring the doorbell."

Becky was closer, and she had to get up on the tips of her toes, but she did it. Once she was finished, she nodded at Daddy with a grin on her face, and stepped backwards. Nikki did the same thing. Daddy needed to be in the front this time.

"Stupid phone..." they heard Mommy saying on the other side of the door, her voice scared and panicky. She was probably trying to call Daddy, and her phone wasn't working. "Stupid, stupid phone... why can't you..."

Mommy was still talking as she opened the door, her new cell phone in her hand. When she saw Daddy, it fell on the ground, and she just stared at Daddy like she thought it wasn't really him. Daddy stayed where he was, waiting for her to see it really was him, but Nikki didn't want to wait. She just wanted Mommy to be as happy as she was.

"Daddy's home," she said.

When Nikki said that, the look on Mommy's face changed. She smiled, looked at Nikki, looked at Becky, then at Daddy.

"Yeah," she said, starting to smile. "Daddy's home."

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