A short story by Martin John Solloway
“I don’t want David to be my daddy.” Bethany’s upper lip quivered, threatening to let forth tears again.
“No fear! You’re mine, all mine, Honey-bun.” Peter grabbed his daughter and threw her high into the blue Croatian sky. She shrieked with happiness and pretend terror, but she knew he’d catch her. “Your mummy loves David, but I’ll always be your daddy. Nothing changes that.”
“Hope to die?” Her little face took on a serious expression.
“I promise, cross my heart and hope to die, Honey-bun,” Peter replied, solemnly.
“Don’t step on it!” Bethany’s voice was urgent.
Peter jerked to alertness, his military training coming to the fore. “What is it, Honey-bun?” he asked calmly, balancing on one leg and carefully replacing his foot where it had been. He looked down. Where he would have stepped was a pair of purple flowers, commonly known as frog-cup. He smiled.
“It’s so pretty.” Bethany said, as her father set her back on the meadow grass. “Can I pick it for mummy?”
“Better not! If you pick it, no one else will be able to enjoy it, will they?” Bethany pulled a truculent face, so he continued. “Here, in Croatia, we call it kokavica. When I was a little boy, your grandfather showed it to me. He said it was special, a kind of symbol of our nation.”
“I understand, Daddy,” she said maturely. She giggled with delight, as new flowers caught her eye. “But I can pick those, can’t I? Can’t I?”
“Armfuls, if you want, Honey-bun!” Peter laughed as his little daughter ran into the colourful mass of petals.
The click was barely audible, but it made the hairs on the back of Peter’s neck stand up. The world slowed down.
“Stop!” he yelled, running towards her.
“I’m sorry!” Bethany gasped, clutching the armful of flowers to her.
“Don’t move, Honey-bun. Please stand still.” Peter got to her and felt the ground around her feet. With sickening certainty, he found what he had feared. He pressed down, carefully.
“I want you to run back to Mummy, Honey-bun. Go exactly the way we came, through the trampled grass.” His voice was calm, but very firm.
“I don’t want …”
“Go!” he screamed at her.
Tearing up, Bethany shouted, “You’re mean,” as she ran away; just far enough to escape the explosion.
Copyright © 2013, Martin John Solloway. All rights reserved.