Daughter Dearest

Despite my lengthy walk I wasn’t quite sure where to start. Thankfully Cara did.

“I’m sorry I freaked out on you last night,” she said while examining her shoe-tops.

“It’s okay kiddo… but that really has to stop. We can’t keep going through this every time I talk to a woman who might maybe possibly be a potential date.”

Cara hitched her backpack higher up on her shoulders and continued her study of her shoelaces. If this kept up, I thought, she’s going to have a degree in synthetic fibers before we get home.

“I’ve told you this before but it looks like it needs repeating – there is room in my life for both you and a partner,” I said while watching her out of the corner of my eye. I think I caught her rolling her eyes. “But no matter what, at the start of every day, in the middle of every day and at the end of every day… you will always come first.”

“I know you mean that Daddy, I really do.”


She took several more steps to muster up her courage before replying.

“But… I’ve seen what’s happened to the other kids at school who had parents start dating again.” She finally looked up at me and I saw the fear in her eyes. I felt as big as a gnat. “At the beginning the new guy or girl makes this big effort to win the kid over, just to impress mommy or daddy. Then they forget all about the ‘little darling’ and all of a sudden the kids are left on their own more and more and they go from having one parent to having none.”

We reached the beach and followed the path to the left to head for home. It seemed everywhere I looked I saw happy couples walking hand in hand, with not a child in sight. Not helpful.

“I’ll make you a deal,” I told her as we passed a young couple walking in the same direction as we were. Well, walking wasn’t the word – it was more of a stumbling shuffle, with their arms and fingers and everything tied up in each other. “Any time I start dating someone new and it starts getting serious, she has to meet your approval. If you think there’s even a chance that she’s going to steal me away from you just say so and I call it quits.”

“You don’t mean that… do you?” It was plain to see on her face – the desire to believe, all mixed up with her fears and doubts.

“Kiddo, you’re the most important person in the world to me. Nobody will ever come between us - I’m not fool enough to let it happen.”

The ferocity of her hug almost knocked me sideways into an oncoming bicyclist – we were only saved from a nasty collision by a career that relied heavily on balance. I put an arm around her head and held her tight.

“I love you Daddy.” The words were muffled and barely audible over the wind and waves, but they still caused my heart to warm and my cheeks to redden.

“I love you too.” It was all I could manage. It was enough.

We separated but remained close together as we started walking again, slower now, but with lighter steps.

“So what happens if she passes the initial test but then we stop getting along?” Cara asked, her voice leaving worry behind and moving on to curiosity.

“Done and over with,” I said without a second thought. “Compatibility with you is on the top of my list of requirements in a woman.”

“You have a list?”

“Of course. Number one: Cara compatible. Number two: cute bum.”

“Dad!” It wasn’t quite a shriek but it certainly got everyone’s attention in a twenty foot radius. Cara clamped her mouth shut and returned to staring at the ground, her cheeks a perfect match for her hair. I started laughing and couldn’t stop. “Not funny – at all.”

But a few steps later she began to snicker, which quickly evolved into giggles with shaking shoulders, and then finally shattered into gales of laughter. We stumbled to the side of the path to collect ourselves and allow the curious onlookers to go by.

A little while later we were on our way again, the very picture of respectability. Aside from the odd poorly smothered giggle or two.

“So,” Cara said as she cocked her head in my direction, “when do I get to meet Dawn?”

I nearly tripped over my feet.

“I’ve barely met her myself!”

“Yeah, but last night you had that same goofy look that you had after you met Jen for the first time,” she said ever so sweetly. Jen was my last girlfriend of any length – we were together for just over a month before she decided she wasn’t ready to be a mother. Not that I was anywhere near being ready to even suggest the idea.

“How about I get to know her a bit better before I unleash you on her?” I asked, refusing to acknowledge her observation.

“Oh come on – I’m not that scary,” she said with a derisive snort.

“That, to say the least, is debatable.”

We returned to our apartment building in a much happier silence than the one we had left it in that morning. As we rode up the elevator Cara leaned against my left side, resting her head on my upper arm. I smiled and savored the moment, committing it to memory.

We had a quiet night of dinner, homework and reading while listening to two of the cds Dawn had leant me. She was right about Tchaikovsky, he seemed like my kind of guy – at one turn quietly refined, at another filled with primal urges, with a light-hearted touch here and there.

Cara kissed the top of my head goodnight around ten o’clock and I collapsed into bed not long after that. I could feel my muscles tightening all over my body, but my head was clear and free.

It felt good to have normality restored to our little home.

The End

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