|This is for a contest entered for another website for writers. It is a short story at 1500 words or less as the requirements.
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Jonathan held the hand of his daughter as she lay in bed. He could see the morning dawning sun reflecting on the buttons of his uniform. Gentle wind passed lightly over her body, making the tiny blonde hairs on her head ruffle like downy feathers. He sat on the end of her mattress quietly, waking her gently as he whispered, “I have to go.”
He was unprepared for the answer he got in return. She barely could make out the words to say goodbye. Her unexpected acute illness had become so severe. The fever simply would not go away. This particular summer morning was the worst he had seen it. Her tiny grasp in his hand clutched him once and then let go as she whispered barely audible, “I do too.”
As morning birds were chirping their symphony of greetings to one another, celebrating the birth of a new day, Jonathan could feel his little girl dying.
He could hear them waiting outside to take him away, the car engine still running. His military career had always been difficult for the entire family. There were many years he spent away from his wife, and now he was watching his only child slip away. He questioned himself. How could serving anyone’s country be more important than family… my own family? How can I leave my family again when they need me so much? His little girl opened her eyes and smiled at him. He could see the tears welling up in her eyes, and he feared this was the last time he’d ever look into them. It was now a question of merely who was going to go first.
His bags packed next to the door painfully beckoned him. He knew the answers already. This was one time he’d have to make a choice. Leaving today would mean possibly saving many lives, something he was very proud of, but with the thought of losing one very special one. He simply could not go. The car horn honked twice as he began to shed tears of his own. He looked into Tiffany’s eyes and shook his head. He could see it was a failing battle and she was going to slip away from him. With trembling hands he laid down next to his daughter. He stroked the wispy hairs along her forehead and felt the heat seeping through his fingertips. Tiffany forced a smile as she looked into her Daddy’s eyes. The next few moments that passed lasted an eternity. Her face, so peaceful, a beautiful angel, just as it was the day she was born. In her blue eyes he could see a reflection of heaven. In her eyes he could also see a reflection of his own. He could not leave her now. The world would have to wait.
He scooped Tiffany into his arms and carried her to the door. His wife sat weeping on the couch. The sight of her was intensely painful. He knew this was breaking her heart. She knew why he had to leave though. She knew his duties to his country would mean so many countless things to so many other lives. She was proud of her husband for being so selfless. Yet, this time it was their family that he’d have to save.
He opened the front door and two men approached. Tiffany’s body was becoming weaker. He could see the struggle in her eyes as she fought the mysterious fever. It only took days for it to progress this far and now it was ready to claim her life unexpectedly. She wasn’t ready to go and neither was he. Was he too late to save her though? He simply shook his head.
Jonathan entered the car and drove away. The two men driving spoke softly to Jonathan as he shed tears. He was not too proud to cry. He had done it. He had left. But instead of two bags, he brought two passengers; his wife and daughter. His only question on his mind now was could they make it to the emergency room in time. The car sped cautiously weaving in and out of the city traffic and arrived at the hospital ER. Tiffany’s eyes were rolling back into her head and his hands were trembling as he carried her inside. With miraculous fate, the waiting room was empty. Tiffany immediately was taken. Doctors were still baffled as to what illness this little girl was fighting. As the medical team assisted her, Tiffany mumbled to them one word: “Daddy.” Her breathing stopped and her body went lifeless. The doctors closed her eyes as they went to talk with Jonathan.
Her eyes opened moments later, lit with a sparkle as the fever broke unnoticed. Her breathing had resumed and the nurse shouted to the doctor to return. As a crowd of doctors hovered over her, she simply said, “I can’t go yet. There are still people I have to save.” The doctors stared puzzlingly at the 4-year old girl, obviously on the edge of life. Was she delirious? Was she quoting her father as he was leaving for war? Certainly the fever was taking its toll. Tiffany called for her father.
He came to her bedside once more with the fear she was saying a final goodbye. This was it. This was the last time he’d see his little girl. He couldn’t bear it. He looked into her pale blue eyes and grasped her hand. It was then he saw it. Her eyes had become clear again. He put his hand on her forehead and the fever was gone!
She squeezed his hand and said, “Sometimes I don’t know why you have to go, but I know why now. I saw them.”
Baffled, he said to his daughter as he hugged her, “Who?”
Tiffany said, “I saw the other children you tried to save Daddy. They said to say ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank you’ for everything you did to help them before they died.” She smiled brightly as the angel he knew she was.
Jonathan stood speechless at her hospital bedside. His heavy heart was filled with joy and love, and gratitude his daughter was alive. He knew now that he really had made a difference. Tiffany had never been so proud to have a father who cared so much, he was willing to go first. She squeezed his hand tightly, and whispered “I love you.”