My Little Girl – Reality Check IV
She smells of Imperial Lather.
I hug her firmly, squeezing her chubby-fat nine-year old frame. Her thick arms circle my neck and she squeezes back. In this moment I’m as young as she is, giggling and laughing and holding on for dear life. The way we are behaving you would think we haven’t seen each other all her life.
But I was here yesterday. Not that it matters.
Inhaling, I draw in the sweet-smelling scent of her ‘shukued’ hair – hair her mother spent quite some time making. I breathe in my daughter, trying to close my mind to the image that keeps intruding; image of her lying down, tubes attached to her arms –
“I’m okay. I’m okay now, daddy.”
I open my eyes and she’s looking at me – looking in my eyes with her beautiful brown ones. I want to ask what she means – how she knows what I was thinking – but she just smiles and leans her forehead against mine.
“You can put me down now, daddy. Mummy’s waiting for you.”
I kiss her nose gently – and grin as she giggles in that cute way she has. Looking over her head, I try to pierce the dark corridor behind her with my eyes. Her giggle floats up to me and wraps itself around my head – pretty much like a dust cloud – and then gets into my heart.
I go on one knee and pull out a box from the white nylon bag I had placed beside my leg before carrying her earlier. I watch her face as I open the box, grinning proudly as her expression goes from raised eyebrows – simple interest – to widened eyes and open mouth.
Chubby fingers crawl; hesitantly, much like a snail peeking out of its shell to see if the coast is now clear – and reach into the box for the white-gold bracelet gleaming against the deep-red velvet inlay. The fingers touch, prod – but do not attempt to move the bracelet.
And then they withdraw.
“Is that for mommy?” a hushed voice asks.
I nod, still grinning. “Think she’ll like it?”
“Think I’ll like what?”
I nearly knock my daughter senseless as my head swings – at the same time with hers – towards the source of the voice. We turn and freeze; looking very much like kids stealing meat from the pot in the middle of the night – and suddenly; the kitchen lights come on.
But I’m sure we froze for different reasons.
My daughter probably froze because we had been talking about a gift for her mother – something that was supposed to be a secret – at least till I give it to the owner.
I froze because – well; I still cannot get over how beautiful she is.
Her arms are behind her head as she walks forward, doing something to her hair, small movements that send ripples along the multicolored gown she’s wearing and sets my heart racing. The gown shimmers and ripples along her thighs; thighs I know are a shade lighter than her ready-to-drink Milo complexion.
Slowly, I close the box and rise as she comes to a stop in front of me, head bent, looking at my – our daughter who is giggling and trying to hide behind daddy’s legs – then she looks up into my eyes.
“Hello, dear. Think I’ll like what?”
My eyes drop to the still open box in my hand and hers follow like north and south poles of different magnets. Her face is very much the reflection of our daughter’s from minutes ago; from polite interest to surprise –
Her eyes dart back to my face, mouth hanging open like the cleavage area of a low-cut blouse. I clearly see her throat muscles work as she tries to swallow past something in her throat – I see her liquid eyes become even more fluid – water starts to overflow.
“Is that…is that…” she swallows and tries again. “Is that…for me?”
I don’t respond. I just push the box into her hands – hands that are suddenly softer than wet biscuits. I hold onto the box till her hands firm around it – and then I let go and step back.
She steps with me, throwing herself into my arms and wrapping hers around me. Her head nestles against my chest and I feel thirty feet tall. If she asks me to storm Borno all by myself to take on those guys – I wouldn’t hesitate.
God help me.
“I love you,” she whispers, strength in her voice putting the tears wetting my shirt to shame. She moves her head and kisses my jaw softly. “I love you, you hear? With everything I am and hope to be. I love you.”
“I love you too,” I answer, and clasp her to myself – as though I want to pull her through my chest and into my heart. She sighs peacefully and buries her nose in my chest, closing her eyes.
“Mummy? Daddy? It’s getting late o – shebi you’re still going?”
Our eyes open and we look at the grinning elf standing by our feet. My sweetheart – the senior – kneels and kisses my other sweetheart – the junior – on the forehead. “Go on inside baby,” the senior urges. “Go and meet grandma. We’ll be right back.”
Junior nods. “Love you daddy!” and runs inside, shuku flying this way and that. I lean to nuzzle senior’s neck – and at the same time whisper in her ear. “Grandma’s here?”
She nods. “Someone has to babysit na.” She changes the box into her left hand, holds my left in her right one and looks up at me with always-wet eyes. “Shall we?”