Sitting looking at the piece of card in front of her, Sophie had no idea what she was going to draw. Everyone else in her class was busy drawing Christmas cards for their parents on the front lines. Sophie had tried to do a reindeer, but it looked more like a cow and George laughed at her.
Then she tried drawing Santa only it looked stupid, so she screwed it up. He wouldn’t grant her wish if she didn’t draw him right and Daddy wouldn't be home for Christmas. Tears filled her eyes.
The teacher came over and sat down next to her. “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t do it,” she managed. “It has to be special cos it’s for Daddy.”
“How about a snowman? That’s just two circles with stick arms. Could you manage that?”
“Can try,” she whispered. She took the new piece of card and picked up her pencil. As she drew, her tongue poked out from between her lips. Finally she drew something she was happy with but most importantly, something she knew Daddy would like.
It was hot where he was, and there would be no snow or Santa or reindeer. Just bombs and guns and people dying. Mummy tried to hide it from her but she knew. She knew how dangerous Daddy’s job was, otherwise Mummy wouldn’t cry when she watched the news.
She wrote on the front of the card and then wrote on the inside. Dear Daddy, a snowman to look after you and your friends. Love you lots. Happy Christmas. Love Sophie. XXX OOO XXX
Jeff didn’t look up, instead concentrating on the paper on his desk. He hated writing these letters, but ones like this, when the kid was only eighteen, even more so. Dear whoever, I have had the privilege of being your son’s commanding officer...
“Colonel, there’s one for you Sir.”
He looked up. “Thank you, Sgt.” He took the letter and looked at it, a slight smile crossing his lips. In big scrawling red crayon letters it said DADDY. Under that Sara had written Colonel JD Williams, BFPO 1701. He skipped the rest of the address and carefully opened the envelope.
He pulled out the card, the smile on his face growing, the simple message inside bringing tears to his eyes. “Sophie,” he whispered. He’d not seen her for almost nine months. She’d be so much bigger now. He ran his fingers over the photo Sara had enclosed of her and the two children. Both Sophie and David had grown. His fingers trembling he leaned the picture against the coffee mug and read the card again.
He looked down at the letter he was writing. Ten years ago another parent would have received a card just like this one. He took a deep breath and set the card by the photo. Picking up his pen, he continued to write.