She gazes at herself in the mirror. Her piercing blue eyes compliment her golden ponytail which sits long enough to tickle her collarbone. “Today is going to be unusual,” she whispers to herself, whilst brushing her fringe from her eyes. Breathing in sharply, she smooth’s down her summer dress before leaving her bedroom, pulling the door shut behind her.
Trembling slightly, she stops still when she catches sight of her dad. The man that all others must compare to when she’s a little older and learning lessons of love; “ha, Good Luck” she thinks to herself. She watches him yank on his boots, tightening the knot with some irritation. But when he spots her, his mood rapidly changes; he raises his chin and smiles warmly which transforms her fear into a stunning feeling of calm. She throws a weak smile back, before slipping out the front door and into the car, smoothing down her dress once again when seated.
She watches her dad, who progresses more slowly (his poor back has been playing up these days) and she notices that he is biting hard upon his lip; his mind is obviously ticking over something painful. Her cheek is suddenly damp and a lump forms in her throat, but as he eases himself into the driver’s seat, he gently rubs her arm to reassure her, keeping his hazel eyes fixed upon the house – their family home of love and memories – before he starts up the engine of his car.
“Come on princess. Let’s be on our way.” he says.
At Stansted Airport, suitcases line up aside families to be examined and weighed. Care-free children run from their parents, arms extended in flight, whilst couples who got stuck on the motorway reek stress and tension as their dream holiday looks like it might remain but a dream.
Not brought here to travel to somewhere exotic, or even to pick up someone they love, the pair waits outside a coffee shop situated near the entrance of the airport. They’re here because it was the suggested place; a place between two worlds. Time passes and even amongst the havoc, the silence between them is deafening. In the distance, the young girl scans the faces of couples reunited and notices how others have a post-holiday glow – one which arises after a week of pure relaxation and bliss. But suddenly, her attention is stolen away to a contrasting situation; a tall fuzz of blonde curls with piercing blue eyes is confidently making his way towards them. “Is that him?” she wonders.
His walk is strong and brisk and his face remains cold, however he manages a half-hearted smile as he gets a little closer to them. She grabs her dad’s hand as if she were five again, but he keeps his eyes fixed ahead, using his other hand to scratch away at his wispy brown hair. A lot shorter in comparison with this stranger and a little plumper round the waist; the two men could not look more different. Her dad extends a hand out to him, but no handshakes are exchanged, and after darting his eyes between the pair of them, the stranger looks down, shoving his hands deep into the pockets of his worn denim jeans.
“You’re late!” protests her dad.
“Yeah, sorry mate. Got caught up with somethin’,” he averts his gaze to the young girl “You alright darlin’? Want a hot chocolate or somethin’ from this place?” He points to the quaint coffee shop and her eyes follow. She looks to her dad and then back to the stranger.
“Okay, fine. Maybe somewhere else?” he asks, “no?” He rolls his eyes, before staring at her dad, “Are you stayin’ long pal?”
“I’m staying until she tells me to go.” He tightens his grip around her fragile fingers, reassuring her of his presence.
“Well, I though this whole thing was arranged so that I got to spend some time with her, ya’know, catch up on life and all that.”
“Well yes. But, I need to make sure she’s fully comfortable before I leave her,” He looks at her and smiles “that’s if she wants me to – after all, this is a pretty big day for her, don’t you think?”
She stands silent, pained by confusion.
“S’pose so. Just didn’t expect you here. S’abit awkward ain’t it? Where’s her Mum?” he asks, before throwing a sly grimace at her dad.
Those cold eyes throw an ice-pick into her father’s, and tears of anger rise in the sockets. She can feel his hand quivering slightly. Her heart is filled with guilt and regret.
With his lips parted slightly, teeth still clamped together, he answers “Work. So, you’ll have to just make do with my presence, okay? You can do that for her, can’t you? Respect her choice if she wants me here? If it’s the least you do after everything.”
The tension rises and both men visibly puff out their chests a little. The stranger doesn’t hesitate “Actually mate, no. No I can’t. I’m her Dad. I want some time alone with the girl, so you shouldn’t fuckin’ be ere.”
She feels the fury rising up inside her like a volcano ready to spill out words of filth and blood-curdling screams; loud enough to strike fear of an attack in a place like this.
But instead, she calmly says, “Let me speak.” She gently kisses her dad on the back of his hand before she releases it and walks over slowly towards her biological father.
“After talking to you for some time now, I believed I was ready to put my childhood behind me and to see you again. After ten years of not even receiving a blinking birthday card, I was willing to see you again,” she breaths deeply, and continues “I know nothing of you, your hobbies, interests, or of your life in general, and I wanted to meet you, simply to know myself a little better. This was not a day meant for you, as you don’t deserve such a precious chance, it was a day meant for me instead. It was arranged for me to be a little bit selfish because I hoped that I’d get a small memory of happiness with you.”
She stops speaking and looks towards her step-dad; those warm brown eyes, that tender smile and genuine aura makes her feel complete. Just like a jigsaw that has a missing puzzle piece, to one day find that it was stored away in the corner of the box the whole time…
“I see now that I was wrong to come here today. Through seeking a little happiness with you, I have neglected the lifetime of happiness I have shared with the man that I can proudly call my Dad. The man standing right here,” she extends her arm and mimes “I love you” to him. He smiles and nods, eyes glistening proudly. She coldly turns back to the stranger standing before her.
“I’m actually pleased that you’ve been rude to my family today because it’s made me realise that I will never be like you. I’ve grown up under the roof of this kind and generous man and he’s loved and accepted me as his own, teaching me lessons along the way which have made me who I am today. The biggest being that ‘blood is thicker than water’ and that’s what he is to me – blood, family… my Father.”
“You may be technically ‘blood-related’ to me, but he’s actually been there for me. He has put in solid groundwork and bucketsful of love to deserve the title of ‘Dad’ and for that I’m eternally grateful,” She turns to look at him once more, silent tears dribbling for her eyes. “Did you hear me Dad? I’m eternally grateful…for everything. Never forget that, okay?”
The stranger steps back and allows for this moment to occur between the girl and her dad. He looks hurt and his heart feels heavy with regret. He feels saddened by their bond, but he simply nods, being at a loss for words, before retreating into the busy scenery of the airport – gone as if he’d never returned.
She stands alone with her father, feeling happy, blessed and much loved. A dopey grin spreads from ear to ear and she laughs a little at how long it’s taken her to realise the precious bond that she has with him. As if reading her mind, he grins back and nods in silent agreement. She nudges into him playfully, before nuzzling herself under his wing.
“What do you want now?” he responds with jest.
Will you take me home, please?”
He squeezes her shoulder, “Dad’s Taxi Service to the rescue again, eh?” and they both chuckle. He pecks her forehead and they walk together back to the car – to embark upon a journey of a completely different nature from the one on the way there; one of laughter, love and sweet appreciation that they have each other in their lives.
I want to dedicate this post to my lovely dad, Paul Terry, considering Father’s Day is just round the corner. This post is only very slightly real and has many fabrications within, but the words the young girl uses to describe her relationship with her father could not be more true! Love you pops x