Hello everyone! And a lovely Thursday night to you
stalkers readers! I'm finally here with the entries from the recent Imagine This challenge. Gahhh, they're all SO. GOOD. Judging was nigh impossible (when is it not?), but I managed...sorta.
I'm considering just cutting the judging part next time? And just posting the entries? Any thoughts/opinions/suggestions on that?
To all participants, thank you so much for entering! All the entries were so beautiful and amazing and I loved them each and every one. I smiled, I cried, I felt all warm and happy, and bittersweet and achy inside. *nods* Y'all are all amazing writer people, okay? <3
First Place ~ Kaitlyn Krispense
The day had finally come: Jonas was leaving. My heart ached as we drove to the airport. It seemed so natural, the three of us together. As if it would go on like this forever. I glanced into the backseat where I could just see our daughter’s head over the back of her carseat. She was such a contented, happy baby. She looked just like her father, with her bright blue eyes and brown hair.
When I faced forward again, my eyes misted over, and I blinked rapidly to keep my tears at bay. It was certainly a good thing that Jonas was the one driving; I probably would’ve had us in a ditch by now.
“Miss me already?” He took his eyes off the road for a moment to smile softly at me.
I pressed my lips tightly together. He knew the answer, and to speak would only make me cry. My father, being a salesman, often traveled, leaving my mom, three siblings, and I at home. Each time we took him to the airport, Mom would hold his hand, caress it, and say, “I miss you already.”
I sometimes wondered what she meant. How could you miss someone when they were right there with you? And now… I sniffed. I knew exactly how my mother felt.
But Jonas wasn’t going to be gone for just a few days like my father was. He was going to be gone for months. And only God knew if I’d ever get to see him again.
We pulled into the airport. It was a mess of people rushing around, cars coming and going, planes taking off and landing. Jonas is leaving, I thought, and the world goes on. They don’t care what he’s doing. God, why does he have to leave? He’s just one of the many soldiers that will be forgotten to all but those who love him. He’s going to fight for all these people, yet they won’t give him so much as a second glance. I don’t know if I can give him up; make me strong, Lord.
Once Jonas had parked the car, I stepped out and opened the rear door while Jonas grabbed his things from the trunk. I reached in and unbuckled the carseat, then pulled it out. Maria stared up at me, her serious face reminding me all the more of how much like her father she was.
“I’ll take her.” He held out one arm, the other laden with his luggage.
I hesitated. “Are you sure? You’ve already got your luggage and—”
“Laura.” His quiet voice interrupted me. “Please. I want to hold her as much as I can.”
I saw it in his eyes: agony. He missed us already too. Oh God, will there ever be peace? Will there ever be a time when husbands, sons and brothers aren’t taken away from home? I swallowed against the tears. It didn’t work. As we walked into the building, my face was wet and my eyes burned from the salt.
“Let’s say goodbye here.” He stopped and set his luggage and Maria down. “Goodbyes are bad enough, and I sure don’t want to look back after I’ve cleared security and see the barrier between us.”
I nodded and took a deep breath, willing my tears to recede back to from wherever they had come. It worked… until I looked into his face.
“Laura…” He licked his lips. “I—” his voice broke and he pulled me into his arms. I broke down and sobbed, clinging to the front of his shirt.
Finally I pulled away, sniffing. “I’m getting your shirt all wet.”
He smiled slightly. “I’m gonna miss you.”
“Not as much as I’m going to miss you.”
He pulled my face forward and our lips met. I shut my eyes tightly, but several tears leaked out anyway. Would this be the last time he would ever kiss me?
Finally the moment ended. He turned and pulled Maria from the carseat. He held her gently in his arms, cradling her head in his hands. He stared at he intently, as if memorizing her every feature. He’s such an amazing father.
He dipped his head and planted a kiss on the top of her head. It was then that I saw the solitary tear make its way down his pain-filled face. He’s hurting just as much as I am.
“Let’s pray.” He positioned Maria in one arm, slipping his other around my waist and pulling me close. Together we bowed our heads as he prayed aloud in a husky voice, “God, we know You’ve called me overseas. Be with Laura and Maria. Lord, be my little girl’s daddy while I’m away.” his voice broke, then he continued after a moment, “Comfort Laura, and help her to be the mother You made her to be. In Your name… amen.”
He gingerly handed Maria over to me, and kissed us both, then backed away. I watched him go until he disappeared in the crowd, then turned, placed Maria back in the carseat, and began to walk toward the big glass double-doors. A sob tore through me, then another. My steps quickened; I wanted to get out there as quickly as possible.
“Laura!” I heard his voice calling me, and I pivoted. There he was, towering above the crowd. He must have climbed atop a bench. Normally, being the quiet, shy guy that he is, he wouldn’t do anything to attract attention to himself. But now, I don’t think he cared. I saw him take a deep breath. “I love you!” his voice rang out.
I pressed a shaking hand to my lips, then held it out to him. He did the same. Our eyes locked, and in that moment I knew that, whatever happened, with God’s help, we would be okay.
Second Place ~ Jesseca Dawn, "If I Return"
The airport was crowded, filled with the usual hustle and bustle. People were hurrying from one place to another, running to catch a flight, or walking quickly past the chairs of people waiting, as if trying their best to avoid human contact.
But tucked away behind the chaos, a different scene unfolded.
He sat there, bag on the floor by his feet, cap on the chair beside him, and his uniform jacket settling across his shoulders.
His wife was beside him, one hand resting on his shoulder, the other gripping his elbow. As if, somehow, holding to him in such a way could--or would--make him stay.
Dayton felt her hold on him and swallowed hard. He knew his leaving was difficult for her. God, did my tour have to come now? It was the same question he had been asking for days. She had been through so much. How would she handle this on top of it all?
His eyes dropped to the small child he held in his hands. A feeling of wonder and awe washed over him yet again. She was so small, this baby. Not yet a month old. But she was flawless. Her eyelashes brushed her cheeks as she slept, and her hands balled into fists.
Such tiny hands.
Yet, so perfect.
It had been God working, bringing the baby into his life. Dayton had been at the right place at the right time. Though, he hadn't realized it then. The walk around the neighborhood hadn’t meant to end at the abortion clinic. But that’s where his feet had taken him. And that was where he’d met her as she stood outside, waiting for her appointment. And he’d been able to talk her out of it.
Moving the baby to the crook of his elbow, Dayton took his right hand and draped it over his wife’s shoulders. “It’ll be okay.”
She only nodded and rested her head on his shoulder.
He ached for her. Ached for what she had gone through. For what she was going through. It hadn’t been her fault. She had been taken advantage of, and then left behind. Alone and scared, she had nowhere to turn, and a baby would only have added to her problems.
But somehow, God had been able to use him to convince her to keep the child.
The one thing he hadn’t reckoned on was her falling in love with the Saviour . . . and then he falling in love with her.
Dayton looked again at the baby in his arms. Little Grace was proof that God could bring beauty out of anything. And that He was orchestrating every life to work as a part of His plan. Every time he looked at the little girl that now belonged to him, a strange mixture of love and fear overwhelmed him. Love for this child who wasn’t his. Fear that he would never be the father she needed.
“Flight twenty-seven, en-route to Houston, boarding now.”
The voice of the attendant sounded on the loudspeaker.
That was his flight. He checked his watch. Still twenty minutes until the gates closed.
“I love you, Dayton.”
Leslie’s voice sounded close to his ear and he turned and brushed her lips with his. “I love you, too, Les.”
The seconds stretched into minutes as the little family sat there, oblivious to the world around them. Dayton tried to relish that last few minutes he would have with the two people he loved most in the world.
The bundle that had nestled into the crook of his left arm stirred, and then settled back into the land of dreams. His gaze fell on her again. Grace, if God wills and I return, I promise I’ll do the best I can to be a good daddy to you.
The thought was a sobering one. Most men weren’t fathers only two months after they were married. He knew his situation was unique. But that was okay.
“Final boarding call to Houston.”
This time, Dayton knew he couldn’t stall any longer. He stood and handed the baby back to Leslie while he swung on his bag and slapped his cap on his head. Then, taking a deep breath, he turned back to his wife.
She stood there, almost a head shorter then him. So small. So fragile. Would she be okay without him here to help her? To protect her?
The still, small voice whispered through his worries, bring them to rest at the feet of Jesus.
Yes, he would trust. God would have to be strong for her when he couldn’t.
Forcing a smile on his face, Dayton enfolded her in a hug, baby and all. “Don’t be worryin’ about me, Les. God’s got us both in His hands.”
He felt her nod against his chest. “I know.”
Stepping back, he reached his hands out for Grace. He wanted to hold her one last time. She opened her eyes and yawned as she changed hands once again, and he grinned. This little girl had him wrapped around her finger. Bending down, he pressed a kiss to her forehead.
The attendant motioned for him to hurry, and he reluctantly handed the baby back. Then, he drew Les toward him and pressed a kiss to her lips. “I’ll see you again, sweetheart. I promise.” The ache he felt at leaving her behind was almost physical. And, oh, it hurt!
Before she could reply, he started toward the gate, blinking hard to keep the tears at bay.
Les’ quiet voice stopped him, and he turned.
She stood there, her brown hair falling softly around her waist, and Grace sleeping on her shoulder. “Thank you.”
He cocked his head, wondering what she could mean. “For what?”
“For wanting us.” Her words were quiet, but he heard. And it took every ounce of strength to keep from turning and holding her tight.
So he only smiled past the tears that gathered in his eyes. “Of course I want you. I love you with all that is in me.” The last sentence came out in a whisper, and thankfully the attendant seemed to have given him a break. Her own eyes were glossy with unshed tears.
As he walked past her to board the plane, she placed a hand on his shoulder. “Thank you for your service.”
He cleared his throat and nodded. “You’re welcome, ma’am.”
It was all he could manage.
Stepping off the ramp into the plane, he took a deep breath. God would take care of Les. And his little miracle baby would be there waiting for him to love.
If he returned.
Third Place ~ Micaiah K. "Coming Home"
He’s coming home today.
My heart flutters inside my chest as I pull into the airport parking lot. Easily finding an empty space, I put the car in park and eye the rearview mirror, seeing my four-month-old baby girl sleeping in her car seat. She’s leaned up against the cushion, white, flowered onesie lopsided, hair and headband in disarray from her position. A smile creeps across my face and I have to blink tears away. Noah has never seen her. He’s never gotten to hold her, or make her laugh, or see her smile.
But he will soon. He’s almost home.
I nearly rip my seatbelt from the latch and swing the door open. Emma begins shifting when I open her door, then scrunching her small nose, and, after a moment, sleepily opening her bright blue eyes to stare up at me. “Hey, Emma! You woke up,” I say, reaching inside the car to brush at the wisps of light brown hair covering her head and rearrange her headband. I take a second to look at her, realizing for the umpteenth time how much she resembles my husband. I finagle my way under the car seat handle and press a kiss to her forehead, grabbing the diaper bag off the floor and dropping it over my neck and shoulder. Unlatching the car seat from its base, I tuck my left arm under the handle. The door shuts with a click and I’m hurrying across the parking lot, eager to be inside and wait with Noah’s family.
The front entrance slides open automatically at my movement and I step through, immediately enveloped in cold air and the rush of people. I bite my lip and study my surroundings, hoping I’ll be able to find the Kohls in this menagerie of suitcases and moving bodies.
I turn at the sound of my mother-in-law’s voice. Her hand is waving in the air frantically, and I start that way, dodging rolling bags with hurried people at their handles, somehow ending up in her arms. She hugs me tightly before pulling back and smiling. “He should be here soon,” she says.
I nod and press her hand, words clogging in my throat. Thank you, Father. Thank you so much.
A moment later I’m in the midst of the whole family, Mr. Kohl greeting me with a small nod.
And then we’re waiting. Ten minutes tick by, but it feels like hours. I set Emma’s car seat on a nearby bench, keeping my hand on it and peeking underneath to see her sleeping again.
Another ten minutes. I’m suddenly nervous and ask Mrs. Kohl to stand by Emma while I go check on the flight. She agrees with a soft tilt to her lips, and I realize she understands how I feel.
Just a few steps into my quest, I see him. He’s across the room, eyes roving the place, still in his military uniform. And then Noah sees me too, and he begins to walk in my direction, nearly crashing into a few people. He starts jogging, and suddenly I’m running too. It wasn’t very far, so before I can even think he’s wrapping his arms around me and squeezing me so tight I can hardly breathe. I place my arms around his waist and bury my face in his chest.
“Amelia,” he says, so quietly I can barely hear him in the cacophony around us. I look up to see tears forming in his blue eyes. “I’ve missed you.”
I laugh and sob all at once, standing on my tiptoes to kiss his cheek. “I’ve missed you so much,” I say.
Noah grabs my hand. “Can I see Emma?”
I nod vigorously, grinning beneath my tears. I lead him across the room, where his family waits. They all want to hug him at once, and I laugh as I watch the most exuberant round of greetings I’ve ever seen.
Mrs. Kohl demands we come over for dinner, and Noah just nods, hugging her a second time and kissing her cheek.
I sit on the bench where the car seat is and unbuckle the straps around Emma’s small abdomen, gently tucking her in my arms. She’s awake now, and happy, though a bit unsure of what’s happening around her. I stand, and Noah steps close to me. His orbs land on our baby girl and light in a way I can’t describe. He reaches out to take her, and he holds her in his large hands, staring at her with amazement etched on his face. Like she’s the only one in the room and he doesn’t want to look away. “Amelia, she’s beautiful,” he says.
I begin nodding again, heart so full I can barely speak. “She is.”
Noah presses a kiss to her forehead. “You’re so beautiful, Emma,” he says softly. “I love you so much.” Her little face scrunches at then her lips form a toothless smile. Noah laughs, a sound I’ve longed to hear so badly in the last year. A moment later he looks up at me, smile so broad I can’t contain my own. “Let’s go home,” he says.
Mrs. Kohl overhears and reiterates her invitation to dinner, and we laughingly assure her we’re coming.
I move to take Emma, but the look on Noah’s face stills me. “Can I do it?” he asks, eyes wide.
I bite my lip as a grin pulls at my cheeks. “Of course you can.”
Noah places Emma in her car seat, so gently it’s like he’s afraid she’ll break if he isn’t too careful. He clicks the straps together and then crooks his arm under the handle. Mr. Kohl grabs Noah’s duffle bag, and we’re walking towards the entrance.
Noah is holding my hand, and he tugs on it, pausing his stepsand mine. He leans over and rests his forehead against mine. “I love you,” he says.
I squeeze his hand. “I love you too.”
Fourth Place ~ Livi Jane
“Ladies and gentlemen, as we begin our descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Please be sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Thank you.”
Twenty-year-old Reid Kohl blinked once to clear his blurred-by-sleep-vision and slowly pulled himself into a sitting position. He yawned and stretched.
The elderly man in the window seat next to him smiled in his direction. “You slept almost the whole ride,” he observed, using his index finger to push his thin-rimmed glasses further up his nose. “Long deployment?”
Reid snapped his seat belt in place and nodded. “Somethin’ like that,” he said, a Texas twang evident in the young voice. He glanced down at his uniform, brushed it off. He didn't realize the man was still speaking to him until he heard the word “army” spoken.
“I served back in the sixties, during the Vietnam War.” The elderly man’s silver eyes took on a faraway look.
“Well, thank you for your service,” Reid acknowledged, offering his hand. “Reid Kohl, by the way.”
The old man took it. “Danny Thompson. And thank you.”
A silence fell between for only several seconds before he spoke again. “You headed home?”
“Yep.” Reid’s young face took on a proud glow. “I’m goin’ meet my daughter. She just turned three weeks old.”
Danny’s smile grew. “Congratulations! Is this your first?”
At the soldier’s excited nod, he smiled. “I thought as much. You look quite young to have a family!”
“Twenty,” Reid told him with a smile. The younger man was almost surprised when the flight attendant’s voice came across the speakers, announcing they had landed.
Reid slung his backpack over one shoulder and eagerly gathered up the rest of his belongings. He followed the rest of the passengers off the plane, now fully awake and anticipating his little family’s welcome.
He turned to Danny. “It was great chatting with you, Mr. Thompson.”
The old man smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “Just Danny. That’s what everybody calls me. And you have a wonderful time with your family. Don’t take any of those moments for granted.” His gravelly voice sounded like he spoke from experience
“I sure won’t,” Reid promised. “Thank you.”
With one final handshake, Reid watched Danny disappear into the sea of people.
It took no time at all to weave his way through the Texas airport. Reid’s heart pounded. He couldn’t wait to see his baby in person. The young soldier picked up his pace.
“Reid!” The shout drew attention from bystanders. A slim, five foot one figure rushed up to meet him.
Reid barely had time to kiss his wife before a tiny body was eased into his arms. He looked down.
"Cora Grace," Jessalyn whispered, tracing a gentle finger down the side of the baby's cheek. "Three weeks old today," she added, although Reid didn't need the information. He had watched each and every minute drag by since he was informed of his daughter's birth.
His gaze slipped down to the baby. Sure, he had seen her twice over video calls with Jess, but there was something a thousand times more special about seeing her in person, holding the little form in his arms. Reid lifted Cora up, one hand gently bracing her neck and the back of her head. He leaned in probably closer than was necessary, taking in every detail about the infant.
Her nut-brown hair, same color as her daddy's. Those blue eyes, brighter than a happy sky, like her mommy's.
The little turned-up nose and puckered-up lips. It made his heart melt.
“She's perfect,” he breathed, awestruck at the tiny life before his eyes.
Cora shifted in her soft, flower-patterned pajamas and stared up at her father, observing him every bit as much as he had been doing to her.
“Isn't she?” Jess’s voice from next to him directed his focus away from the baby, and he realized he had hardly given his pretty wife a welcome. It has been months since he’d last seen her. She was still gorgeous as ever, with her short, slim figure and long blonde waves. His heart ached at the thought of not having been with her when baby Cora arrived.
He put one arm round about her shoulders and gave her a tight squeeze. “I love you, J. I missed you so much. I'm so sorry I couldn't be here when--”
“You're here now,” Jessalyn interrupted softly. “That's what matters.”
She hugged him back; stood on tiptoes to plant a kiss on his cheek.
Reid’s gaze shifted back down to Cora. My little princess. His chest swelled.
“What do you say we get home?” Reid asked, ready to be away from the crowd, alone with his family.
Jess nodded, her blonde waves bouncing slightly. The corners of her rosebud-shaped lips turned upward in a smile. “Apache will be ecstatic. He’s missed you, that’s for sure,” she said, referring to their Golden Retriever. She offered to Reid slide Cora back into her arms so he could go search out his luggage, but he quickly decided he could hold the baby and get his luggage at the same time.
In no time at all, the trio was packed into the family sedan and headed home.
Reid glanced in the rearview mirror, his eyes settling on the carseat carrying his baby. He still could hardly believe he was father.
“Is something wrong?” Jess’s worried voice cut in on his thoughts. She squeezed his hand, which was caressing her own.
Reid blinked, realizing there were tears in his eyes. “No, no,” he denied. “In fact, something’s right.” He grinned at his wife through the tears.
“I'm home, and we’re together. Our whole family.”
Hope y'all are having a great week! May recap, coming soon.