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My Little Girl – Reality Check III

Read Parts I and II if you haven’t – Thank You.

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“She’s stable now. It was food poisoning – something she ate. We were able to pump her stomach in time, and she’s responding quite well.”

My ex-wife mutters a small prayer of thanks and buries her head in my shoulder, hers moving up and down, response to the sobs shaking them. I hold her gently, saying my own thanks as I put my arms around her. I am grateful my daughter’s fine; grateful I haven’t completely messed things up for us.

“Thank you doctor,” I say.

“Baby…” my ex sighs softly.

Something happens to my belly every time she does that. Every time she calls me that.

“Yes?” I answer, throat all bumpy and rough.

“I’m glad you’re here. I know how busy you are; I understand how much time you have to do the things you have to – especially now with your book out. Thank you.”

I push her away gently, still holding on to her arms and look into her eyes. “She’s my daughter too, which would mean there’s nothing I can do for her that would be too much. You understand?”

She smiles, pushes my hands away and places her head back where it was. “I know. I know. Just – thank you.”

And that’s that.

*******************************************************************************************************************************

“Hi daddy.”

From the corner of one eye, I see my ex look at me like It’s always you first.

I don’t say anything, the tightness in my chest is reflected in my grip on her hand. I know; I’m probably hurting her – but she doesn’t mind. I couldn’t even let go if wanted to.

And I don’t.

“Hi baby,” I say. At least, that’s what I intend to say but what comes out of my mouth is nothing remotely close to that. The girl on the bed smiles wanly, lifts a hand that has ropes – I mean tubes – attached to it. I don’t know when I start crying – in fact; I don’t realize I am till I taste saltwater.

“Don’t cry daddy,” she says, smiling bravely and struggling to sit up. “I think it was the juice I drank. Ogechi gave me some juice.”

My ex rushes to her side. “Baby, you should lie down – “

She looks at her mother with that eye I assumed before now is reserved for me. “I want to sit up, mummy. I want to be able to look at my parents properly.”

On unsteady legs I walk to the bed, cross to the other side and gently put my hand against her left cheek. It – I mean she’s warm; but it’s a healthy kind of warmth. Her smile remains radiant – even if it’s weak.

“It’s good to see you, Daddy. You and mommy together.”

I try not to look at my ex – instead focusing on the little girl who has been a constant source of joyful torment to me most of her life.

“It’s good to see you too, little girl.”

She frowns. “I’m not so little, daddy. What do you mean?”

I let go of her cheek, leaned back and scratch my beard. “Well I – “

“Are you hungry, darling?”

That was my ex. There was a strange, strained note in her voice…something I couldn’t quite…

At that moment, scales fall from my eyes with the suddenness of NEPA restoring power and I realize; with startling clarity –

My ex is jealous of my relationship with my daughter.

I am so surprised I stumble back a few steps. That doesn’t make any sense to me.

She spends more time with this kid than I spend looking at my reflection. She feeds the kid, dresses her up for school, takes her there most times, brings her back most times, takes her to the hair dresser’s, the tailor’s – takes her to church – everywhere.

Some resentment starts growing in my belly and I frown.

I barely see my daughter twice a month! I’m the absentee father –

You’re the absentee father who’s hardly ever there – and yet the mother literally disappears once you are.

Ouch.

“Daddy – what is it? Are you okay?”

I look at two of the most important women in my life and lie.

“I’m fine. I just need some air.”

And I leave the room before either of them can look surprised.

*******************************************************************************************************************************

It’s been twelve minutes.

My left foot taps on the ceramic floor, making a low but distinct kokoko sound. A passing nurse squeezed her face in my direction once.

I looked at her – I mean really looked at her – and she scrambled away.

Yeah. I’m ugly when I smile. You really don’t want to see me frown.

So I’ve been sitting still, thinking about the ladies in the room behind me. Resentment has decided to leave me alone – and in its place now sit understanding and regret.

There’s a swishing sound behind me – and my nose identifies my wife – I mean my ex-wife – before any other parts of me are aware of it. She sits beside me, places her head on my shoulder and sighs softly. Her hair tickles the side of my face – her hand is heavy and warm on my thigh – but everything feels right.

Like finally finding your perfect size of the shoes that caught your eye from the store window – three hours later.

“Baby- “

I feel her smile – I see it vividly in front of me even though her face is out of sight. “Hmmm?” she mumbles sleepily.

“I apologize if it seems as if I commandeer all of our daughter’s attention away from you whenever I show up. It’s not like that at all. I cannot compete with you when it comes to taking care of that child – and I’m not even trying to. There’s no point. You’re her mother – and honestly – I couldn’t have gotten a better one for her if I cloned one.”

She turns into my shoulder and pulls my chin down with a gentle hand till I’m looking into a pair of eyes that must have inspired God’s most beautiful night sky. Smiling softly, she begins to speak.

“I know. I know; you don’t intentionally do it – just like you didn’t intentionally leave us alone to grow without you. That’s not to say it didn’t happen – it just wasn’t intentional.”

Her shoulders move up and down and a small whoosh of air leaves her lips – but she doesn’t break eye contact with me. “It’s like that prodigal son story – feeling angry because he was unappreciated when he could have just asked for whatever he wanted. I’m her mother, she loves me and nothing can change that.”

She pauses and then, another soft smile teases her cushy lips. “But you’re her father. And she loves you – which only means she will miss you – and be happy again whenever she sees you. So – it got to me and it still might – but I understand it. And it’s okay.”

Some food I have no memory of eating is suddenly stuck in my throat – and it feels as though I’m looking at her through layers and layers of nylon. I pass my hand over my face and look at it.

It’s wet. With tears.

“Aww baby,” she says, wiping my cheeks with tender fingers. “What is it?”

I take her hand; hold it away from my face. “I…I love you,” I say, after not saying it in a long time. And I have to admit, the look on her face makes it entirely worthwhile.

She doesn’t respond. Not with words anyway.

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7 responses

  1. He sounds like a caring father, I suppose he could afford (even with all the busy-ness) to see his girl more often than twice in a month. It matters, I think.

    January 26, 2015 at 11:31 am

  2. Moti

    Aww…such love story. It runs in the family!

    January 26, 2015 at 12:22 pm

  3. Wow…such emotions!
    One wonders what caused the seperation in the first place…

    January 26, 2015 at 6:30 pm

  4. Life is short. The little girl needs her father, the wife obviously still loves her husband and he loves her back. Don’t stay away too long

    January 26, 2015 at 8:41 pm

  5. Gloire

    Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmm.
    With her wonderfully brilliant mind et al, ‘little girl’ must’ve been watching. Those parents of hers, their ife le!
    The man in the story has confessed, previously, that he knows what’s best for everyone but himself. Is he scared of messing things up again? Does it have to be perfect timing, place et al?
    How much water has passed under the bridge? How much more will he allow to pass under the bridge? I appreciate his honesty sha.
    Is he leaving the ball in his ex’s court? If yes, why?
    Finally, is she married????
    Oga Seun, this is the kinda trip your writing takes me mind on. Thank you!

    January 27, 2015 at 10:43 am

  6. Get back together already!

    January 30, 2015 at 9:52 pm

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