May 30, 2012 § 6 Comments
Wisps of White Hair
. How could she explain this to her father? It was simple, she did not want Barbie’s butt stuck into her birthday cake. But that wasn’t so simple to say. He was her father, after all.
. She blew out the candles.
. ‘What did you wish for?’ he asked.
. ‘Dad, I’m not supposed to tell you. Otherwise it won’t come true.’
. He smiled.
. ‘Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. And how else will I know what to get you for Christmas?’
. She smirked.
. ‘I thought Santa Claus was the one who delivered everyone’s presents.’
. They both laughed half-heartedly, stifling sadness.
. ‘I think we’re both a little old for that,’ he said.
. She knew she’d upset him, reminded him of how her mother used to set up the Christmas tree every year, the pride she took in placing the star and getting everyone in bed before midnight and keeping everyone believing in the magic of the little virgin family and the fat red man.
. She tried not to let it show, and it wasn’t like she was glad Mom was gone, but she finally felt that great weight lifted off her shoulder. She could finally be open with her beliefs, with what she wanted to do with herself and her life.
. ‘And I suppose you’ll be at aunt Judy’s as well, right?’ her father said. ‘And why not? It’ll probably be for the best. Your mother was always the one who knew how to take care of you.’
. She tried to change the subject.
. ‘Dad, thanks for getting me a cake and everything. But why does my old Barbie have to be sitting in it?’
. She was successful.
. ‘Barbie’s always been your favourite toy, sweetie. Don’t you remember?’ He smiled and looked into some unknowable distance. ‘God, you used to carry her around with you wherever you went. We would go shopping, go to the park to play, even while you were eating you would hold her in one hand and ask if she was hungry too.’
. ‘But I’m fourteen, not four, Dad.’
. He took the doll and sat it down on a plate, then cut each of them a slice of cake.
. By the silence, she was afraid she’d hit a nerve. She tried to think. The only thing she could come up with was that he was disappointed she was moving on with life.
. ‘Your mother was the same way, always quick to point out the details.’
. ‘Yeah, except for every detail that disproved her religion.’
. She instantly felt bad. It was a remnant of a reflex, the words came automatically out of her mouth after countless arguments with her mother.
. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—’
. ‘No, it’s fine,’ he said. ‘You have her fighting spirit. She always loved you for that, you know.’
. She felt worse. Her father had lost his wife and was about to lose his daughter, too.
. ‘I’ll visit at Christmas,’ she said. ‘I promise I’ll be here. Or you can come to aunt Judy’s house. Henry will be there, and you can watch football with him and uncle Dave if you want.’
. She looked at him, he looked away. She noticed white hair dotting the landscape of his head.
. ‘We both know your mother’s sister wouldn’t want me there. I’m fine with her husband and brother, but I just wouldn’t feel right.’
. ‘No, but they’re nice. Aunt Judy said she would love to have you over.’
. He laughed.
. ‘Yeah, I’m betting she’s hoping I don’t take her up on that offer. And besides, she’s just saying that to be polite. Adults do that, you know.’
. ‘Well, I think she means it. Jessica and Dave and Henry would all be happy if you were there.’
. He drew his hands into a steeple under his chin.
. ‘I just don’t think being around people who would remind me of your mother so much would be the best thing to do. You understand.’
. She sighed. She did understand. But just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you have to be alone during the holidays.
. ‘After all, holidays are for family and friendship, right?’
. They both realised she’d finished her train of thought by speaking things out.
. ‘Exactly like your mother. Maybe it is better that you won’t be around, then.’
. She didn’t know what to say.
. ‘Almost done,’ she said, speaking into her phone. ‘Are you and aunt Judy here yet?’
. Her father knew she was talking to her cousin Jessica, who’d been ecstatic after hearing the news. He listened from the doorway of her room and watched his daughter pack all of her clothes and things into two large luggage bags.
. ‘Okay, I’ll be outside in a minute. Why didn’t you ring?’
. He noticed someone knocking at the door.
. ‘Dad,’ she yelled. She turned around and saw him in the doorway. ‘Sorry,’ she said. ‘Jessica says the doorbell must be busted.’
. He smiled.
. ‘I’ll take a look later.’
. He walked over to help her carry one of the bags.
. ‘It’s okay, I’ve got it,’ she said, dragging one of the bags behind her and pushing one in front of her. The squeaks of their wheels echoed as she left the room.
. ‘Wait,’ he said, and handed her the doll.
. ‘I see her bottom’s all washed up,’ she said, and smiled. ‘Thanks, Dad,’ and gave her father a hug before leaving.
. He watched her leave, half-happy. She even looked like her mother from this angle. They both smiled at each other before she left.
. From here the doll looked old and pale and thin, nothing but plastic and wisps of white hair and memories.