This piece was entered into a holiday contest on Scribophile.com . It didn’t place, but there were a ton of great writers.
Ama dropped the final weighted balloon into the snow and stepped back. Her father rested his heavy hand atop her shoulder causing her to smile. His hands were warm, ungloved and standing in late December weather. He was a giant, so tall he could reach the top of their old van without standing on his tippy-toes. She loved his square face and fuzzy winter beard. In the summer he always trimmed it down, but when snow fell, it always got thick and a little crazy. It had been this way for three years. Ever since he stopped being a soldier.
“All done Daddy,” Ama chimed, patting her mittens together.
“How many did we drop?”
“50 this year. Right? 50? I think I counted right, Daddy.”
Her father chuckled. Like always, it was a weak laugh from a small smile. The lines around his eyes had gotten darker. His blue eyes had begun to turn gray. Even his shape changed. Her father was looking more round in some areas, thin in others, nothing like the man she used to compare to Hulk.
“That’s right. 50. 1 for each year.”
Each year. Each year of her life went by fast. Every year possibly. She was only 9. There weren’t many years of her life she remembered. The most vivid memories she had were happy ones. Her fifth birthday when her parents gave her the talking doll she wanted. Her first choir play. When her older brother won free tickets to the amusement park, the day her baby sister was born. The day it all vanished.
Ama took a deep breath, staring up at her father’s face. His eyes were red around the rims and starting to fill with tears. This day would never be easy. She unbundled her fingers from her mittens and took the kid-safe scissors from her pocket.
“I’ll start freeing them,” she said, jiggling a blue balloon. There were 12 blue balloons. She cut each one free from their bindings and watched them float into the sky. “Merry Christmas, Max.”
Her father took the scissors and cut each of the yellow balloons. “35,” he said. “Merry Christmas, Sarah.”
Ama ran up and took her father’s hand. They both looked at the three small purple balloons. She took the scissors, cut each one free and quickly hugged her father. “Happy birthday, Lily. And Merry Christmas.”
It has been this way for three years. Ama wiped the tears from her face and snuggled into her father’s jacket. Christmas was never the same. Lily was born two days before Christmas, healthy and fat. Her cheeks were red and puffy. Max and Ama loved the way she looked and proud of all her brown hair. Taking her home was supposed to be the best day of their lives. A new sister for Christmas.
Instead, a drunk driver took it all away.
“I miss them, Daddy,” Ama whimpered into her father’s ribs.
“So do I.”
“Merry Christmas, Daddy.”
“Merry Christmas, Ama.”