Write here: A timely short story, given the WWI centenary, about family and sacrifice

Write here: A timely short story, given the WWI centenary, about family and sacrifice

Rita has long believed her father abandoned her for selfish reasons, but the truth is far more complex

“Rita?”

“Yes, Daddy?” said a four-year-old girl holding her father’s hand.

“Promise me one thing?” He looked at his beloved daughter, his eyes full of love.

“What is it?” she asked.

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“Can you promise me that when the day comes for me to fly up into the sky, you will watch me soar?” he asked.

“I promise,” she smiled and hugged her dad.

***

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Rita walked along the narrow path leading to her home. Dull, lifeless grey always seemed to follow her no matter where she went. The cracked and dusty cobblestones that made up the road had been walked on by many. Leaves rustled in the breeze, but Rita could only hear annoying voices, and feel disgusted by the dust blown by the wind. She didn’t think anyone could be as lonely as she was.

She could still remember the day her father disappeared in the sky.

“Look there! Daddy is flying! Daddy is flying!” A girl looked intently into the sky for a glimpse of her father’s plane. Her mum hugged her and proudly looked at the plane that her husband was flying. Suddenly, everyone gasped in terror. Dark, scary, black smoke billowed up into the vast blue sky.

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“Somebody help! The plane is on fire! Please! My husband is in there!” Her mother screamed at the air, begging and pointing at the plane. All that could be heard were screams.

Ignoring them, the girl focused on the plane, focused on her dad. Why wasn’t it going up? Why was there smoke? Tears trickled down her cheeks.

“Daddy! I want my daddy back! Please let him be safe … Daddy, Da-”

A deafening sound filled the air. BOOM!

“DADDY!”

***

That was years ago. Ten, to be exact. Rita headed for home, to the lonely house she’d been living in ever since her dad’s accident. Why did Daddy need to be selfish? He always said he was living his dream. But that was HIS dream! He left Mum and her to achieve his goal.

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Countless times, she told herself she hated him.

Without being aware she had done it, she found herself standing in her father’s study.

It was like he was still around. His cologne was still there. The smell brought with it a flood of memories. Tears started to blur her eyes as Rita wept over his desk. Finally letting it all out. All those years. All the pain.

An hour later, she stood up. Then, she noticed something sticking out of the top drawer. A letter? She reached down and picked it up. 

The letter was clearly old, and the paper had turned yellow.

“To Rita, from Daddy.”

Her eyes were filled with disbelief. She quickly took the letter out of the envelope and began to read it.

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Dear Rita,

You’re probably wondering why I’ve left this letter here. And you’re probably wondering what’s written. But for now, I think I’ll start off with this … I’m so sorry, Rita.”

She ran out of the house, holding the letter tightly in her hand as the tears flowed.

If you’re reading this, well, I’m probably under the ground already. But … I don’t know how long it’ll take for you to find it, because I know you were never good at finding things.

Even 10 years after her father’s death, she couldn’t bring herself to remove his things.

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I know you’re probably hating me. I deserve that … The truth is, Rita, I always wanted to be the one everyone would remember after I died for many, many years. It was my dream. And your dream for me. You promised me you’d watch me soar in the sky, and I swore I would do it.

The world is not as wonderful as you may have thought. There are highly toxic substances sent by the Germans that will be arriving tomorrow at the airport, and no one in our town will survive. I’m writing this the day before the flight. All I need to do is to blow up the substances in my plane and they will be destroyed. Rita, I’ll save the town, the country, and you.

The reason he left, the reason for everything … A hero … He was a hero! She kept running. Running towards the airport. It didn’t matter how far she had to run.

I really hoped I could’ve had more time with you. I’m so, so sorry, Rita. I’m such a fool. I couldn’t be the father you deserve, couldn’t make you happy.

If I had one more chance, I’d sweep you into a hug and kiss you again. And I’d never let go. I … I really can’t bring myself to write any more … you deserve more … I’m running out of time …

She ran and ran down the street, not slowing down.

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Rita, remember … no matter what happens …

A plane flew up above her head. She couldn’t stop crying and reached out a hand to the sky.

I’ll always love you.

She smiled even as the tears flowed down from her eyes, never turning away from the plane.

“I love you too, Daddy.”


Every week, we publish readers’ creative writing, poetry, photographs and artwork. For the chance to see your work published, email it to yp@scmp.com, along with your full name, age and school, and with “write here” in the subject field. (Photos/artwork should be at least 1MB.)

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Ups and downs

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