“Hey, do you think we could talk for a minute?”
She huffed the bangs off her forehead, a display of rainbow color rising upward before settling back in over pale, golden brows. “I’m on my way out.”
“I know, honey, but this will just take a minute.”
The things he had to tell her would take far longer than a minute, but he had to get her to stay somehow. Reel her in with false pretense, get her attention and then drop the bomb. It felt wrong, manipulative and wicked, but she was so headstrong, so much like her mother, and the older she got, the harder it was to relate on the level they once shared. But it couldn’t wait. There wasn’t much time, and the sooner he told her, the more time they’d have together.
Everything was so much easier back then, the problems of her world smoothed over with bubblegum ice cream, her tiny mind distracted by a burst of cloud bunnies parading across the blue bridge of the sky. A cold dab on the end of her nose, pigtails tickling his cheek as she shrieked, “Daddy, why?” An explosion of giggles held the power to obliterate even the darkest of evils from her life.
What he wouldn’t give for it to be so simple again.
She was the very embodiment of impatience, body language leaning toward annoyance with the barest hint of inconvenience, and maybe he should take the hint. The time wasn’t right. She wouldn’t be receptive, but if he didn’t tell her soon, he might not get to. He didn’t want her to find out the hard way, didn’t want her to come home and find him…
“Look, I know you’re busy. You’ve probably got plans with that… with Derek.”
He wanted to reach out, brush the display of vibrant hair from her forehead, tuck a lock behind an ear dangling so much metal he wondered how she held her head upright, and just touch her face. But such affections were no longer welcome. She was too old for bedtime stories, too cool for a hug from her old man, even with no one else around to see it. She’d grown too proud to admit that just under the surface, a part of her wanted to feel like a little girl again, but the world wouldn’t let her. He couldn’t even let her.
“I am busy.” Her tone was ice, jagged teeth nipping at his heart, and she took a step back, as if in anticipation of his longing to touch her. “Derek is outside waiting. We can talk tomorrow, Dad.”
Before he had a chance to call out, tell her it was important, that it maybe couldn’t wait until tomorrow, she was already gone. The door slammed at her back, and outside he heard someone whistle; her laughter rang in his ears.
He peeled back the curtain, tilted his head against the cool glass and watched her throw a fishnet-clad leg over the backseat of the motorcycle. The roar of an engine, he could almost smell the fumes from the exhaust. Rainbow colored hair fluttered in the wind as they pulled away from the curb.
Palpitating heart, he brought a hand up and smoothed it across his chest. His lungs ached, every breath riddled with liquid that would slowly and painfully drown him.
“Tomorrow might be too late,” he muttered, letting the curtain fall.