His return had been a whirl of reunions with family and friends, all jolly and avuncular. His wife was warm yet it remained chaste between them. It was to be expected. A long time apart. War had seeped everywhere. He smelt of it, convinced that others could smell it too. He consciously scrubbed death and grime off each morning. It still clung.
‘You smell funny Daddy.’
‘Soap, lots of soap Stella.’
‘Big bubbles Daddy?’
‘Yes, big bubbles so big they burst with a bang’ and he clapped his hands for emphasis.
‘Don’t Daddy, I don’t like it.’
‘Show me your scrapbook then.’ He gives her an encouraging smile.
Stella, the child that he barely knows. He can’t begin to fill in the gaps. He has to start here sitting with his daughter on soft patchwork pillows, his wife’s making. He was a stranger; Stella was happy to have a Daddy. He is fascinated by her small hands, a dimple on her left cheek and eyes like porcelain blue beads. The chatter, the constant chatter. She is whole, her flesh intact.
‘Look there’s Uncle Harry’ pointing her pinkie finger at a photo a little lopsided but firmly pasted in. He doesn’t recollect a Harry. Perhaps he’d been at their wedding. He must ask his wife. He’s handsome he can see that. There is another photo of Harry with Stella possibly aged four. He’s not sure. She has a big beam on her face. He wished he’d been Harry.
‘Uncle Harry sometimes smells like my mummy; you know that lavender smell? I think it’s yuck.’
A scrapbook and a child’s chatter. Not normally the ingredients of a land mine. The mines he knows blow people apart.
Andrea is predominantly a poet but is very intrigued by micro fiction and short stories. She lives in the East Midlands.
Artwork – Pauline Willis is currently dabbling in water colours and lives in the East Midlands.