Sorry for the delay of the final story from the Holiday Blog Tour. After working through some technical difficulties, I’m finally able to put this story up for everyone to read.
Thanks for joining us on this tour! Hope you were able to find new favorites while enjoying new material from the authors you’ve already fallen in love with.
For this story, the inspiration came from this question: If I had five minutes with my dad for Christmas, what would we say? Now, our conversation wouldn’t be the same as Ernesto and Yesenia’s but the feeling would be the same — love and laughter.
So from my family to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and enjoy.
The State of Waiting
Ernesto unfolded the white cloth wrapped around the fragile, wooden frame with the care a father has for a newborn. He relished in the emotions evoked by the photograph and for that moment, before the heartbreak of reality set in, she was there again, away from the fraying memories of his mind. She was there in the permanency of black and white, the endless window into a still moment.
In her wedding picture she work a dress of satin, her mother’s pearls and a smile. My little girl. Married. Pride bubbled inside his chest. He wished he was there for that moment when the girl became a woman, watched her grow, fail, succeed.
Re-wrapping the picture, he returned it to the nightstand’s drawer and finished dressing. Soon, he would hear a knock at the door—a signal of the end of purgatory—a fitting Christmas gift on the anniversary of his death. For seven years, he’d stayed in one place, one room with one bed, a locked door, four walls, and a vast view of nothing from his square window. After his death, he thought the room was Hell without the fire and brimstone. Standing still was his version of eternal damnation but when he suddenly discovered the picture of Yesenia on her wedding day, he remembered that Hell was a loveless place and that he was in a perpetual state of waiting.
What he was waiting for he did not know.
A knock. An open door. A dark, long hallway of doors. Then a light, bright and pure , the absence of color and emotion.
The voice of God rumbled.
He bowed his head and uttered a “Señor”. Warmth and love filled Ernesto; it seeped through his pores. The waiting was over. Now what?
“Yesenia needs you. Only the love of a father can help her today.”
“Señor, but you are so great, how can I help her?”
“She mourns you still many years after your death. She will give birth soon and her husband is away in the war. She yearns for five more minutes with you. She has waited so long to be healed.”
The idea of becoming a grandfather overwhelmed Ernesto with a new sense of pride for his daughter.
“She needs her father. I will send you back, but only for a short while.”
“But how can I help her? Won’t she think me a ghost?”
“She’s been waiting for you a long time.”
Yesenia’s home was filled with holiday essentials – a trimmed tree, a roaring fire, and glittering decorations. But with these items, the house was cold and stood still, as if it held its breath. Ernesto was lost and confused in the lavish home — there was no reason for sadness or for the walls to creek with the chill of mourning and yet, crystals had formed in the corners of the house like cobwebs. Over the dressed and frosted windows were thick sheets of ice attached to the inside, obstructing the view.
Ernesto searched for his daughter behind every door. Behind each one was a disappointment. The door leading to the kitchen was made of heavy iron and was difficult to open. The disappointment behind it was the many meals he missed with Yesenia since his death. The flimsy plastic door leading to the garage was the gateway to over flowing cardboard boxes filled with shredded paper, and left no room for what was important. The door to one of the bedrooms, the one his grandson would soon occupy, shattered when he knocked on it, its fragility hidden by its beauty and its beauty mistaken for strength.
The door to the master bedroom was made of paper and before Ernesto knocked, he ran his hand over its thin smoothness. Here, he decided not to knock and instead called out for his daughter. She emerged, moving the paper aside, her belly extended to the point of becoming a burden. Her face was wet with continuous tears and her long black hair was soaked in them.
Yesenia was not surprised to see her father. She knew that one day, he would visit when it was time for him to move on, however, she was surprised at his appearance.
“Papá, why are you so pale? You’re almost translucent.”
“I didn’t know you could see through me.”
Father and daughter sat in the room, daughter on a rocking chair and father on the bed. Ernesto was surprised at the room. In contrast to the rest of the home, the small bedroom was simple–four gray walls, one bed, a window without a view. He stared at Yesenia and touched her belly.
“I miss you,” she said. “I miss you and I don’t know how not to miss you. Your death still hurts, Papá.”
Ernesto nodded. “I didn’t want this for you. You have so much to live for and the birth of your child…it should be a happy time.”
“I’m scared, Papá. What happens if I forget you? I have already forgotten the sound of your voice and the color of your eyes.”
“I’m not a ghost to be remembered in that way.”
“How should I remember you?”
“You should remember me like that rocking chair you are in. It’s the same one I rocked you to sleep in. It’s not the chair that’s important but the fact I had you in my arms and loved you more than life.”
Inside Yesenia’s chest something ripped open and from it and a sadness flowed, the same sad from the first day of mourning.
“Papito, I wish you were here. I wish you were at my wedding day. I’m about to be a mamáand I have no one here to help me.”
“Mi’ja.” Ernesto wrapped his arms around Yesenia. “Do you remember the first time I brushed your hair after tu mamá died? Eventually, I was able to make the ponytails even.”
Yesenia and Ernesto laughed and the room grew warmer. Ice from the windows began to melt.
“I remember the knots,” she said through tears.
“And I didn’t understand the clips. Why do little girls like to wear so many clips?” Ernesto laughed harder remembering Yesenia’s school pictures with lopsided ponytails.
The color of the room’s walls began to peel in the corners, exposing a happy light purple color. In the middle of their memory, the room had expanded by ten feet.
“Papa, how is it like to die?”
“Mi’ja, the dying is frantic but death is peaceful although nothing like the movies. What is it like to live? I’ve forgotten.”
“The same, I guess. Living is like being in the middle of a beehive but life…life can be peaceful, too if we allow it to be,” Yesenia paused. “At least I hope it is.”
“Mi’ja, it can be.” Ernesto kissed his daughter on the forehead, just like he did when she would hurt her knee. “All will be well, Yesenia.”
A prickly feeling inside Yesenia’s chest, from the same place that opened up earlier, told her that the visit would soon come to an end, and so she asked a final question.
“Will I ever see you again?”
“Not like this. But I’m always with you, mi’ja. I’m always watching. I’m still taking care of you.”
Yesenia hugged her father tight and kissed him on the cheek. “I want to give you a present, Papa. Afterall, this is Christmas.”
Ernesto, already hearing the angel’s strumming their harps rapidly said: “The best gift you can give me is to have a good life. Live without fear, and without mourning.”
“I love you, Papa.” Yesenia blurted out.
“I love you, mi’ja.”
And with that, the house took a deep breath. The ice melted and the doors returned to their former state. Yesenia, still with tears in her eyes, sighed and laughed and cried but from happiness. He is okay, she thought to herself. He is still here and I haven’t forgotten.
Hours later, Yesenia gave birth to her son, Ernesto.