It was going to be a beautiful June day. The sun appeared in a cloudless sky. The first rays awoke the birds. One chirped and then suddenly all sang. It reminded John of the chorus in the opera. He smiled and walked towards the window. The thermometer at the window indicated eighteen degrees. He opened the door widely to the terrace. Mucha, a small white Maltese, immediately seized the opportunity and ran out of the garden.
What a beautiful morning! – he thought – A man does not pay attention to such kind of ordinary things. How quiet and green it is!
Immediately, the similar dawn in Afghanistan stood in his eyes. There, the sun was different, and in a landscape dominated brown and gray colors. Two different worlds. There, everything was different. He returned home yesterday. The unpacked a suitcase was still standing in the hallway. The long shower did not rinse completely the Afghan dust. He felt in his nostrils the smell of that land. Each murmur still aroused anxiety. It reminded him of Jack when he said:
Dude, it’s hard to change your life. As I return to Poland, it all seems strange to me. I do not even talk about it with my wife. She cannot understand anything. You have to be on a mission, you must feel the breath of death on your back, then you are allowed to talk about it. When I’m in the country I lack adrenaline, and when I am in Afghanistan I miss my family … You know, on a mission life is simpler. You need to breathe, eat, and do not get yourself killed.
Jack loved risk. In Sharana, everyone knew this fearless commando. The soldiers felt safer in his presence. During combat actions, on the face of Jack appeared a kind of severity and his smile disappeared. In his eyes, you could see the maximum concentration.
People appreciated him for his courage, a sense of precise planning, analytical mind and the accuracy of the eye. John was one of his “unusually quiet thugs” and participated in the most dangerous actions. He learned from the commander that in Afghanistan there are no rules, there are no words “never” and “always”.
Did you sleep well? – She asked. I will bring you a cup of coffee. Sophie was so happy yesterday because of her dad’s return. I was not able to put the baby to the bed, but today “daddy’s little girl” sleeps like the dead. I think she’ll wake up soon.”
Suddenly he felt a presence behind him. He turned around. In the doorway stood Eve, She was in a dressing- gown, without makeup and her hair was tied in a ponytail. There was something sensitive in her look. The wind blew unruly blond curls escaping from the carelessly tied pink ribbon.
Do not wake up the baby. I love watching her sleep. I always have your photos with me. They allow me to survive a longing – He went to his wife and kissed her. He missed the intimacy, the smell of her hair, the warmth of her body, her laughter. Today they were together again and they were a happy family.
Come on, we’ll see what our little sleepyhead is doing – Eve took his hand and pulled him in the direction to the child’s room.
Sophie slept and smiled during her sleep. Long, blond hair writhed on the white pillow. Long eyelashes cast a shadow on the peach cheeks. She was already tan. Not surprisingly, she ran after Mucha in the garden all day.
It seemed that the child was not so long born. She is five years old today. Sophie was lying near her beloved teddy bear. John leaned over his daughter and gently kissed her on the cheek. Sophie smiled in her sleep. Suddenly the memories drew him back.
How old was that girl? Five or more? She was thinner than Sophie, probably malnourished. She smiled like Sophie. She was dirty and ragged, the torn, thick black hair fell to her shoulders. The intelligence said that it was safe. The guys talked in sign language with natives and presented the gifts. It seemed that nothing could happen. Then he saw that girl walking toward the soldiers. The child was wrapped in explosives.
He pointed. A shot was fired. He did not hesitate. Inside the black eyes of a dying child, he saw surprise, regret. Probably she went for a candy that those strange people from afar handed out.
Later Hell opened its door. They managed to withdraw without loss of life, only Jacob was slightly hurt. Jack approached him in the evening. He slapped on his back and said:
Do not break out my friend. It’s not your fault. For them, this girl had no value. They made cannon fodder of her and sentenced her to death. Such a culture, such a war …
He looked at Sophie again. Steady breathing showed the deep sleep of his daughter. He kissed her and looked at Eva. He brooded.
by Alicja Maria Kuberska, Poland