“Heaven knows that I long for you, every night… every night. And, sometimes I yearn through the day.” – Marvin Gaye
Still like the Gargoyles of the Cathedral behind him, Wesley sat in a trancelike state as a lit cigarette dangled between his fingers, the chill of the winter air failing to bother him.
Watching from a distance, unsure of how to approach, his young daughter stood with tears in her eyes as she said a silent prayer for the broken man that had once lived in a world of color and vibrancy.
Everything about and around him reeked of bleakness, shades of his favorite colors becoming dull variants of gray and black as his wardrobe began to encapsulate his emotions.
Just inches away, a small band unpacked their equipment and began to play the melody of Purple Snowflakes, hoping to get the passing public in the Christmas spirit. Some stopped, tossing loose change into the guitar case that rested in front of the keyboardist. Others continued along their usual path, hustling and bustling to get out of the cold and into the warmness of their homes.
Loren sat beside her father, snaking her arm through his before resting her head against his shoulder. It was then that he finally moved, taking a drag from the cigarette before it could burn down to the butt. “What’s wrong?”
“I woke up and couldn’t find you. I figured if you weren’t sitting with her, you’d be sitting on these steps, willing yourself to go inside and pray for strength to move forward.”
He attempted a smile, though it looked more like a slight twitch of his top lip. “You worry yourself too much over me, Lo.”
She caressed the side of his face, tugging at a strand of gray hair that boldly flashed itself in her eyes. He’d aged incredibly in such a short amount of time, overtaken by bouts of sadness that seemed never-ending. “Someone has to now. You’re going to get sick sitting out here all day like this.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“And what exactly are you doing when you come out here day after day?”
“Talking to God.” His voice was low, much softer than the smooth and velvety tone she was used to.
Loren looked at her father, catching the new wave of grief that flashed in his eyes as he lowered his head and exhaled. “I would like to think that he tells you to go home, go inside. Or, at the very least, to wear a jacket.”
Wesley shook his head. “He tells me a lot of things Lo, but never what I want to hear. He never gives me the answer that I seek.” He took one last drag of his cigarette before tossing it and blowing the smoke away from his daughter’s face. “Then, I suppose, I don’t get the answer I seek because we’re not supposed to question his ways and wills.”
“Were you talking to anyone else?”
“Yes. But I’ve no sign that she hears me. I’ve no way or sign of knowing if she knows how much I love and miss her, how I long for her presence.” Gently pushing his daughter away, Wesley stood and looked around, shoving his hands into his pockets. “We can go now. I’ve told them all that I needed to tell them today.”
Loren stood, walking side by side with her father as they began their semi-long walk home. “Considering how things are for the moment, I think you should give me special privilege to drive your car when I need to come and find you. I might be skinny, but I’m not fit at all Daddy. All of this walking back and forth is exhausting.”
He chuckled lightly, allowing his personal problems to dissipate for a moment as he focused his attention on his daughter. Though she would never say so, he knew he’d been doing poorly as of late, leaving her to fend for herself when he should have been holding himself together just for her, if for no one else. “Little Girl, you’re just that. I might be in bad shape, but I’m not irresponsible to the point that I’ll allow my twelve-year-old to drive a car. If it will make you feel better, I’ll make my excursions while you’re at school and I’ll be home when you return.”
“No, that won’t make me feel better at all, Daddy. But I understand why you take them, I think of it as your own way of trying to heal. I just have to work on not worrying so much. I guess I just fear your grief overtaking you, of losing you too.”
Wesley stopped walking. Turning, he placed his hand on her shoulders and asked Loren to look him in the eye. “Let me tell you something, no matter how close to falling off the cliff I am, I won’t fall. I won’t leave you, Lo. I promise.”
She smiled, hugging her father tightly before they began to walk again.
Silently, Loren prayed to God that her father would keep his promise. Because as much as she wanted to believe him, she also knew how much pain he was in. And it was a pain that would last until his very last days. Of that she was sure.
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