Gerard returns to a surprise - and not exactly a pleasant one.
I walked up to my front door and found I was smiling. I always loved coming home after a tour. Opening the front door and having Bandit run to me shouting "Daddy!". Picking her up and cuddling her close, her silky hair rubbing on my cheek. Having Lindsey follow her into the hall laughing, then coming over and kissing me, whispering that she missed me and she loved me...
The door was locked. I wrinkled my nose in confusion. Why was the door locked? Lindsey never locked the door if she was home. I fished in my pocket for my key and unlocked the door, swinging it open, ready for my family to greet me warmly, the way I knew Frank's and Ray's and Mikey's would. But I got nothing. "Girls? I'm home," I called, my voice too loud in the quiet house. Silence. "Er... Lindsey? Linds, baby, it's me. It's Gee - I'm home." Still nothing. "Bandit? Daddy's back..." My voice wobbled. Nothing. I'd told Lindsey God knows how many times that I'd be back at three - and she'd gone out.
I called Lindsey about fifteen times. I called her mom. I called all her friends. Nobody knew where she was. I was panicking - I knew we'd not been getting along so great recently, but surely she wouldn't deliberately go out when she knew I was due back? And she wouldn't take Bandit with her? I sighed and headed to the back garden for a smoke. Our neighbour was gardening. "Hey, you haven't seen my wife and my little girl have you?" I asked him.
"As it happens I have," He replied, pleasantly. "They just went out about... five minutes ago."
"Oh. Okay, thanks," I smiled at him (forced it really, but I don't think he noticed) and then went back into the house.
It was seven in the evening when Lindsey and Bandit returned. I was sitting in the living room, trying to draw. I couldn't concentrate, though. When I heard the front door, I sat up straight so suddenly that I almost broke the tip of my pencil. Bandit ran into the living room, then squealed with delight. "Daddy home!" She said, toddling over to me and climbling up onto my lap awkwardly, due to the wad of papers she was clutching in her tiny arms.
"Hey, sweetie. What you got there?" I said, giving her a huge hug.
"I did some dwawings - just like Daddy!" She giggled, showing me the pictures. "This is a kitty," She explained. "This is a doggie. This is a fish. This is a twee. This is Daddy, Uncle Fwank, Uncle Mikey and Uncle Way," I chuckled fondly at that one - four stick men, one incredibly short, one with a bright red scribble for hair, one with the same in straw yellow, and one with a crazy brown cloud of curls. They were all smiling lopsidedly and holding hands. "And this is Mommy, Daddy and Bandit." She showed me the last picture. Again it showed three stick figures- the same cherry-headed one from the previous picture, one with a triangular body (obviously supposed to be a dress) and black hair down to her knees, and, in between them, a very small stick-girl in a dress. They were again, holding hands and smiling. Below their feet was a strip of green for grass and a smiley sun shone down on them.
"Oh, sweetheart... it's beautiful," I smiled down at her, and meant every word.