Dad appeared at the door of the front porch few seconds after we reached my house. It seems he’d been staying up, waiting for us. The good thing is, Xavier drove me back in time, five minutes earlier before the allotted time.
Dad walked down to us in the calmest way a human being could possibly be as Xavier and I walked up to him, hand in hand. He raised his eyebrows at us seeing us both drenched from head to toe.
“We were playing in the water,” Xavier answered for the both of us.
“Hmm,” dad nodded. “Well then, goodnight, Xavier.”
Xavier, too, nodded, “Goodnight, Sir.” And turning to me, he bit his bottom lip and smiled ruefully as if he was unwilling to leave me. I could feel it too from the way he was holding my hand. And PS - the way he was biting his lip was so sexy.
“Goodnight, babe,” he said and placed a quick kiss on my forehead after a moment of hesitation in front dad.
“Goodnight,” I returned, breathing in his scent.
Giving one last nod to dad, Xavier let go of my hand, finger by finger in hesitation, and walked back to his car. Watching his retreating back, I wanted to scream ‘DON’T LEAVE ME!!’ like a toddler going to school for the first time to his mother.
“Let’s get inside,” dad said, calling me back to him.
I nodded and walked with him. He put an arm around my shoulders and it made me so very happy that he did that, made me feel maybe he’s not mad at me anymore.
Realizing that I still hadn’t heard Xavier’s car leave, I looked back. He was still there, watching me through the window with a pleasant smile pulling upwards the corners of his lips. He blew me a kiss and I couldn’t help but giggle at that cute little gesture. It shot right through my heart like Cupid’s arrow.
Dear God, what is he doing to me? I like him a lot.
At the sound of my light laugh, Dad looked down at me and then back at Xavier. Seeing my dad look back at him, Xavier ignited the engine at once and sped away. The stimulus of his reaction, as if my father’s eyesight was electrocuting him, made me laugh a little again... And then some more.
With a smirk, dad shook his head watching Xavier leave, which really did got me surprised. I expected him to be against the whole idea of me going out with Xavier and warn me again that tonight’s night-out was under some miraculous special consideration, but then he didn’t look that furious about it and studying his reactions, I wondered if he had decided to be Switzerland.
“You better get changed before you get sick and then... get some sleep,” dad said as we walked in through the door.
“Okay,” I responded and ran up the stairs to my room.
After getting changed to warmer clothes, I went down to the kitchen to drink water. I found dad sitting on a couch in the living room. He seemed to be deep in thought. He didn’t even hear me come down.
“Dad,” I called softly from the door.
He turned to me. The not so evident bags under his eyes were begging for rest.
But why isn’t he still sleeping?
“You should sleep. You have work tomorrow,” I reminded him.
“Yeah. I will. I’m just sitting for a while,” he answered. “And you too. Why aren’t you sleeping yet?”
“I just came down to drink water. Then I’m sleeping.”
He nodded, looking at me with eyes that were drooping not only from tiredness but also because of something else. Something behind those gray eyes weren’t right. I would say dad’s eyes were usually light gray but was it fatigue or worry, I’m not sure, but even from a distance, I could catch the vibe of melancholia and pensiveness. Like behind those eyes we would find a canvas painted with a picture of East Port’s weather; cloudy and something sort of Wistfulness.
I headed to the kitchen. When I came back, he still hadn’t move an inch. Looking at his face which was so utterly impassive and blank, I knew that something was troubling him. It was me. I worried him more than necessary. I fought with him and then I went out again with Xavier, few moments after I returned. I stood by for a moment, staring at him and letting guilt and contrite chide me.
I’m such a bad daughter.
I should apologize. I was wrong.
“Dad,” I walked up to him and settled down on the couch beside him, heaving in a sigh. “I’m sorry,” I said, meeting his softened eyes.
He put an arm around my shoulders and stroked my arm comfortingly. He replied, “It’s okay, Sweety. I’m sorry too if I’d been too harsh. It’s only because I love you.”
“I know, dad,” I whispered back.
“I’m just worried that you’d change.”
Pulling back slightly from his embrace in surprise, I asked him, “Why?”
He sighed deeply. “Alana, you’ve always been a good girl. Since your mom passed, you took care of yourself and David too. We’re both blessed to have you. I wish I could do more for you than you do for yourself. We don’t spent much time together and when you left with that boy, tonight, I wondered if I had...” He paused as his voice broke off. I could see that he was barely suppressing the emotions that were choked up in his throat as he swallowed bitterly.
“Dad,” I called to soothe him, hoping that my presence would somehow be able to ease him from whatever that was bothering him.
I know, I’m highly clueless about most of the things that happen in this world. I don’t know who’s going to be the next Miss Universe or how Einstein came up with the theory of relativity or what the Mayor of Los Carlos is planning do next for the town. My capability to catch clues is extremely deficient but when it comes to dad and David, I don’t think anyone would understand them as much as I do. He’s my dad and David is my brother. And so, even from the blank look on his face that was giving away nothing, I could decipher that dad was still bothered about me. He was worried about me. And I just wanted him to know that I was fine.
He breathed and continued, “I wondered if I had already lost you.”
The moment those words slipped out of his mouth, my throat constricted, my chest tightened, my eyes began to get wet. I didn’t know what to say. It was like all the words that ever existed had melted to tears. And all I ever knew was that I’d waited for this moment for so long. I’d always wanted to talk to dad about something besides signs and symptoms of diseases. I’d always wanted us to talk about us but I couldn’t even bring myself to it.
To begin with, I didn’t even have a start; didn’t even know where it would lead. It always felt like walking on a pole with no start or end. You’re in the middle but when you look back, there’s no start. And even when you look forward, there’s no end. And you’re so afraid you’d have nowhere to go and finally fall off and just lose everything.
“Dad,” I called him again and I heard my voice crack too.
And when I felt his hand gently squeeze my arm and embrace me more, the tears that were threatening to break through my eyelids like floodgates flushed down.
“You’re not losing me, dad. I’m so sorry if I made you feel so miserable,” I began to sob like a child as I threw my arms around him.
He hugged me back in the way that I had been missing for so long. All these times, I’d been thinking and worrying my heart out that I was losing my dad and to hear the same worry from him too, it saddened and gladdened me at the same time, that he had been worried about losing me as much as I was worried about losing him. We didn’t want to lose each other and we’d always been together. We just didn’t know we were.
“It’s okay, sweetheart. I’m sorry too,” he said stroking my arm and kissing the top of my head, “Just don’t change who you are for anybody, okay. You’re beautiful and wonderful just the way you are.”
My sobs and sniffles only got louder as his words sank in. Mom always used to say that to me. Now, I was missing mom too.
“I miss mom so much,” so saying, tears kept flooding my cheeks as I buried my face into dad’s comforting chest as and when biting my lip not to let my sobs grow louder.
“I know, sweety. I miss her too,” he replied.
“But I’m happy that you’re still here for us. I can’t imagine losing you too. You’re all we have,” I managed to speak through my sobs.
“Oh, Alana,” he kissed the top of my head and I felt warm liquid drop on my head.
Dad cried too. And it made me cry more. But this time, I knew I wasn’t crying because of sadness. We were both crying because we had found light in our rather gloomy home. We had finally found hope and happiness. Dad and I, both, had managed to climb over the wall that had blocked us out of view for so long.
“We’ll always be together,” he said, “You and David are the reason I live, okay.”
I nodded into his cuddle.
As I sat warmed up in his cuddle, comforted and consoled, I began to drift off to the realm of dreams and vague pictures of Starburst-trees. You can say what a baby I am. To the world, I may be a sixteen year old high school girl fighting through life and it’s odds to claim her place or make a mark, or either a hopeless nerd, or a clueless dimwit or something even worst than that but in my father’s eyes, I’m always different from what you see; in my father’s arms, I will always be his little girl. He will always see me as that crying baby, wailing till his ears burst when he first held me in his arms. And I will always be that baby.
“Alana, is Xavier your boyfriend now?” Dad asked and, all at once, my drowsy senses leaped back to life as if dad had knocked on every nerve in my petite body with bags of caffeine.
I looked up at him, my eyelids blinking rapidly like a dying flashlight.
“Listen, Alana. As I’ve said before, I have no problem with you having a boyfriend. You can go out with people, enjoy life. You should. But I wouldn’t want you carried off. We never know what will happen in the future. If that boy ever break your heart, I haven’t forgotten that I told you I would sell his kidneys.”
I laughed, “Right.”
And then he laughed too.
“So? Is he your boyfriend, now?”
I nodded, “Yeah.”
He smiled, “I think I already saw this happening weeks ago anyway. The two of you are like two argumentive turtle doves,” he ended with a light chuckle which really pleased and soothed me like Bethoven’s symphony.
Argumentive Turtle Doves.
That made me laugh too.
“You really like him?”
I nodded, “Yeah. He’s amazing. I misunderstood him in the first place but the more I get to know him, the more I like him. He’s amazing.” I said looking straight into his eyes.
He shrugged lightly with a smirk playing on his lips.
“Sounds like someone’s in love,” dad said, a smile curving his lips.
And that made me blush.
“Dad,” I tugged at his sleeve reminding him not to tease me. He knew I can’t handle things well when people tease me.
He chortled loudly, too loudly for two in the morning. He suddenly reminded me of Hunt.
I let out a half laugh and asked him rather excitedly, “Does this mean I can still go out with Xavier?”
He shook his head, laughing, his face now glowing with delight, “Promise me, you’ll be good.”
“Yes! Yes! YES!!!” I shouted happily and hugged him tighter, “I promise I’ll be very good. You’re the best dad in the world.”
“I know. I know,” he chuckled.