It was the night before Christmas and I had dozed off while telling little Gracie a bedtime story. Talk about irony. I woke up with a start and realized I had slept off beside Gracie on her bed. I had been dreaming about Ted, again. I yawned and stretched some before I stood up, careful enough to not wake up sleeping beauty.
Gracie was just three and she was already the carbon copy of her father. She had his brown eyes that lit up in excitement at the slightest opportunity, she had his soft gaze that always seemed to bore right into me and bring me out of myself. She also had his temperament; always gleeful and slow to anger. And when she did get angry, just like her father, she scrunched her nose and wagged her tiny fingers at the object of her anger, animate or otherwise. It amazed me how alike she was to a man she had never met.
Ted, her father, my husband, was a soldier. He was deployed two weeks after we found out we were pregnant. Ted promised to serve for a few months and come back to me. But three weeks after he left, we lost contact. I tried to get to him by all possible means but I was met by brick walls everywhere I turned.
Three months after Gracie was born, three uniformed men arrived on my front porch. My Teddy had been killed in combat.
To say I was devastated is simply putting it mildly. I no more saw reason to keep living, except of course, my little angel. I still hadn’t named her because I was hoping Teddy would come home and we would pick out a name together. I held my baby that night and cried my eyes out. She didn’t cry at all that night, instead she clutched my thumb tightly in her little hands and just stared at me through brown eyes.
That night I decided I had to be strong, for my baby and for myself. I had to survive, I had to live through the pain. I couldn’t kill myself and leave my baby girl for somebody else to raise. I had to do this for Teddy, he’d want me to be strong; to find joy even. That night I named my baby Grace.
We buried Ted three days later. Well, a picture of him. The army couldn’t recover his body.
I tiptoed out of Gracie’s room and into the kitchen where I had been mixing up the ingredients for an Oreo chocolate cake. It was Gracie’s favorite and she wanted it for her Christmas brunch which meant I had to finish it before I went to bed.
I looked at the time. 7:51pm. I could work with that. As I began stirring the mixture, I got lost in thought again.
I had been dreaming about Ted more often than usual for the past four days. It wasn’t a bad thing but it was definitely strange. Most times I couldn’t remember exactly what happened in the dreams but I was always sure that Ted was in them.
I still thought about Ted everyday and I told Grace about her dad, how he was a big strong and brave soldier who had died fighting for his country. I don’t think she understood just yet but she got the idea.
I hadn’t allowed myself to date since Ted passed. Sure, a couple times I saw attractive men and had lustful thoughts towards them, that only makes me human. But it never went beyond that. Family and friends had even tried to set me up on dates but I just wasn’t ready. Gracie was all the emotional attachment I needed. Besides, no one could ever measure up to my beloved Teddy.
I still missed Ted deeply and sometimes I imagined he’d walk through our door and call out my name in his richly deep baritone voice. I imagined I’d run into his big strong arms and just stay there forever.
If wishes were horses …
As I dumped the mixture into the pan shaped like a snowman (Gracie’s idea), I heard the doorbell. I frowned as I looked up at the clock; 8:23pm. I wasn’t expecting anybody, who could it possibly be?
Still frowning, I wiped my hand on my apron and headed to the front room. As I approached the door, the bell rang again.
“Abeg chill!” I retorted rather harshly, “Don’t wake my sleeping child.” It was probably those carol people from the nearby church again. They were already becoming a nuisance.
I roughly yanked the door open, ready to raise voice, and froze when I saw the man standing on the other side of the door.
Tall. Very handsome. Soft, brown eyes. Boyish smile. And the most beautiful scar I’ve ever seen running along the side of his neck.
“Merry Christmas, babe.”