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    Daughter

     

    “The stars are so far away that they cannot see the wanderer. It is only the wanderer who can see the stars, hence there may come no agreement between him and the stars. So this melancholy of poetical longing is grounded in a deep misunderstanding, because the lonely wanderer is everywhere surrounded in nature by that which does not understand him, even though it always seems as if an understanding must be arrived at.” –Soren Kierkegaard

     

     

    Hi. I’m here. No need to cry. It’s okay, Savanna. I promised you that I would always answer whenever you prayed. So here I am. I’m sorry you couldn’t reach me the other day. You have to put all your heart into it when you reach out to me, honey. Sometimes it takes a little while but I will come. Dry your tears. I know. What you have gone through is what no child should have to experience in a lifetime. Breathe, honey. Breathe. You have got to pull yourself together. You’re just having a bad day. You have to stay strong. I want you to know that I appreciate how hard you’ve been trying to live a normal life despite all that’s happened to you. Your grades have been suffering. But only a little. And who’s wouldn’t? Don’t give that boy the time of day. If he can’t treat you with dignity and respect then he doesn’t deserve you. It doesn’t matter what he said. I was there. I saw that nothing happened. All the angels in the spirit world were watching and that’s all that matters. Your classmates can talk all they want. But my angels and I know the real truth. What everyone else thinks is pointless. Just keep praying to me. I’ll keep watching over you. Wherever you go. No matter what happens. Listen to me. I want you to take your profile down. Just for a couple days. When we had no reception you didn’t have access to the internet. Just take a break from it for a couple days. Wait until those fools wear themselves out. They’ll get bored and find some other kid to pick on. Yes, kids can be cruel to each other. All of us go through it. Remember the boy I told you about? The one who used to throw snowballs at me and steal my hat at the bus stop? We’ve all experienced our share of bullying. But we come out stronger in the end. Be strong, Savanna. Breathe. You’re going to be fine. I’m here. Call on me whenever you need me. That’s what I’m here for. 

     

    **********

     

    Don’t do that. There’s no need to do that. You aren’t fat. You’re the prettiest girl in the school. Kristin is not the prettiest. You are. She’s stuck up and mean. She might be more popular but she’s an awful person. You beat her in personality and intelligence. Matt likes you far more than Kristin. He’s not just saying that. I know this for a fact. I never knew you threw up your food like that. You shouldn’t do this to yourself.

     

    *********

     

    Yes, I’m here. I’m always here. I’m everywhere. I am so sorry, Savanna. I am so sorry that I hurt you. I’m sorry you had to move in with your grandmother. She is very hard to get along with. I’m not going to lie. Believe me, I know. I grew up with her. She just doesn’t like dogs. She got bit by a German Shepherd when she was little. I know Shiloh’s harmless but you can’t convince that old bat of anything. She’s hardheaded just like her son… Like your father. You are not a burden to her. I want you to stop telling yourself that. Do we have deal, honey? Pinky swear? Okay, good!

     

    ********

     

    So now you’re smoking. My brand, I noticed. I don’t care if the smell of the smoke reminds you of me. You shouldn’t be smoking, honey. It’s bad for your health. I did a lot of things. A lot of things I’m not too proud of. That certainly doesn’t mean you should do them. You’re already wearing my jacket. That has my scent all over it. If you want to smell cigarette smoke just smell the collar. I don’t want you following in my footsteps, Savanna. 

     

    *******

     

    What’s it like after you die? It’s wonderful, Savanna. Absolutely wonderful. There are no limits to what you can be. The afterlife is a boundless love. I can love you more now than I ever could when I was living. Because that was an earthly love. But this is a love that is vaster. It is infinite. There is an eternity. And my spirit now embodies it. I am everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I am always dreaming of you here. Always soaring. Like a plane through the clouds. This is a love that is pure. Unsullied by the physical realm. And I will continue to care for you, my sweet girl. I will never stop watching over you. This is a love that endures long after death. Too long for your little heart to fathom. Please remember me as always having loved you. But never having known how to express that love while I was alive. Have a good night, my baby. I love you so much. 

     

    ********

     

    Okay now. Just calm down. Deep breaths. I know you’re embarrassed. Wearing white pants to school might not have been the greatest idea, kiddo. Yes, I know you didn’t know. I know you miss your mom. This is girl stuff but it’s perfectly natural. Breathe, honey. Breathe. It breaks my heart to see you cry. This isn’t the end of the world. Right now it might seem like it is but the class won’t even remember in a couple days. Nobody cares what they think. At least Matt wasn’t there. So what if he does find out? All girls go through this. What you need to do is get yourself together. Clean yourself up a little bit. The nurse’s office is right across the hall. She’s a woman. She’ll understand. I’m sure there are plenty of clothes in the lost and found that you can switch into. Better yet, you have a change of clothes in your gym locker. No one is going to notice that you’re wearing sweatpants. Now get yourself together. Head over there before the bell rings, honey. She’ll take care of you. Calm down. Breathe. Yes, I have seen your mother. She’s alive and she thinks of you often. She misses you very much. She is waiting for the right time to come back for you. But now is not the time. You have every right to be angry with her. You have every right to be mad at me. Some day you will find it in your heart to forgive both of us. You have to get going before the bell.

     

    *******

     

    No, Savanna! Don’t go in there! Get out! Now! You’re going to regret this! Get out!

     

    ******

     

    Yes, that was me. Your mind wasn’t playing tricks on you. I can take on different physical forms now. The snake near the well was one of my many earthly disguises. You’re still as quick as a whip. You figured out that no snake would be out in the freezing cold. I’m sorry I slithered off when you tried to talk to me. It was too risky. I cannot return to the spirit world if I’m discovered. Still, I was glad to see you. And Lexie, of course. I’m glad you were able to keep her. It was looking pretty bleak there for a little while. You almost had to give her up. You made quite a fuss over that pooch, let me tell you. I know how much she means to you. What she represents. She’s the only remnant of what we once had as a family. You looked captivating today. Standing on our old property in this biting wind, looking out over the river. It brought back memories. Fond memories of nature and the hikes we used to go on. Yes, I saw that. It still hasn’t sold. Some people are saying it’s haunted. It’s looking pretty bedraggled. Broken windows. Rotting wood. Overgrown weeds. It wasn’t much of a home. But it was ours. I had built it from the ground up. The shack. That’s what you called it. Without insulation we had to huddle up together with the dogs in winter. Next to that gargantuan heater that went through so much oil. We didn’t have much but we had each other. We were a family. You went into the shack. You went inside our old house even though I told you not to. You saw where it happened. It all came flooding back. I called you in to the dark room. I’m not sure why I did it in front of you. Maybe it was a cry for help. I was drunk. I wasn’t thinking clearly. You thought I just wanted to show you my latest batch of photos. I kicked the chair out from under me when you opened the door. You tried to hold me up. But my weight was too much for you. You watched me hang helplessly. You stood before my dangling feet. Like Mary at the feet of Christ. The life drew from my face. My carotid arteries were swollen knots. The cords in my neck were as thick as the rope I swung from. My tongue hung out of my mouth. My eyes were pointed heavenward. You looked up at me in shock and wonder. You had done everything to keep me from leaving you up until then. You lost both your parents in the same year. One ran off, the other killed himself. I never expected your mother to leave. Especially since we started doing better financially. You were doing so well in school. I was finally working full-time. There was nothing to have indicated that anything was wrong. She just left one day. She disappeared. It was devastating. To both of us. I should have been stronger. I should have been there for you. But the despair became too much for me to bear. Your mother’s absence tore me open from the inside out. She left a void. Despair took root and an abyss opened up within me. My heart was infected with grief. I became deathly ill. My sight grew dimmer. My body grew weak. The old habits came back. I turned into a different person. I became someone we both hated. I could no longer care for you as a parent. But we had to go on.  You were terrified of losing me. I was all that was left for you. You saw my pain. You sought to comfort me. I never told you what was happening to me emotionally. But you knew that the bottle and the depression were killing me. We shared the conjugal bed. But not just to stay warm like the old days. You did your best to replace your mother. You showed me love beyond what any person is capable of. Let alone a child. Your love was the only thing that could suck me out of that vacuum of despair. If only for a few fleeting hours. I found a haven inside you. Inside your tiny body. It’s okay to think of me when you touch yourself. Those are your thoughts. Your private thoughts. And nobody can see them except for you. And me if you permit me to. Your therapist calls it abuse. But you and I both know there was anything but abuse going on between us. Don’t expect them to understand. They won’t. You’re not obligated to say anything you don’t want to. Just tell them what they want to hear. They won’t stop bothering you until you do anyway. I know you’re confused. Don’t feel ashamed. Don’t feel guilty. Don’t dwell on what happened.

     

    *****

     

    Deep breaths. Don’t worry. It almost got out of hand but it didn’t. He stopped. Eventually. It’s scary. People do crazy things when they’re drunk. I’m proof of that. Boys Matt’s age are especially bad with alcohol. I don’t think he would have been so aggressive if he could handle his firewater. You might have agreed to it but you wanted to stop. Women have the right to change their minds. If you’re uncomfortable and you’re not ready than that’s perfectly acceptable. If that’s all that Matt wants from you then you can find someone else. Someone who is going to respect you. It’s okay if he’s mad. His ego is hurt. Boys are sensitive about rejection. He’ll get over it. You know you shouldn’t have drank so much. It puts you in a vulnerable position. I know you still want me. I still want you too. More than the entire world. Just take a deep breath and go back out to the party. Stick with your girlfriends. Kendra’s still here. She’ll look out for you. She hasn’t been drinking either. She can give you a ride home. Ignore the boys. They’re immature. They’re going to say what they’re going to say regardless of what happens. Pay it no mind. You’re strong. You’ve gotten through more than most kids. This is nothing. I’m proud of you. All of us in the spirit world are proud of you.

     

    ****

     

    It’s beautiful out tonight. Quiet here on grandma’s porch. You can see billions and billions of miles of space from where you’re standing. I noticed that you were looking through my old photos. Maybe I wouldn’t have taken my own life if I had found success in the field. You are the most beautiful girl who has ever lived. And I’m not just saying that because I’m your father. My pictures capture that. Don’t ever lose them. I see you. I took the form of a squirrel so that I could watch you from the branch of a tree before. But now I’m back at my home in the sky. From the endless universe, I look down at you from above. Like a scarecrow looking out over a field. The sky fills up my head. Deeper blue as night encroaches. I’m watching you from this starlit sky. My blue face floats outside of your window as you sleep.  As peaceful as an angel. You have suffered a serious trauma. But you will heal. Your pain is great. But it will get better. I will help you. I stand above you like the sun in the morning. Do you feel me? Breathe. Breathe and let me in through the cracks in your heart. Pray to me and all will be well, Savanna. I saw you run through meadows of chicory and baby’s breath yesterday. It was unusually warm out. The cumulus clouds roamed the sky. They broke apart and reconnected. You ran with the abandon of youth. With no time for regrets. A boundless future is in store for you. All you need to know is this. I will always be here for you no matter what happens. My love for you fills this lonely sky. I am inside you. I am a universe inside you expanding endlessly. Feel me. Feel the pain. Let it pass through you. Feel my loving spirit. Breathe, honey. Breathe. Everything is going to be okay. 

     

    About The Author

    Oliver Lodge

    Oliver Lodge resides in Kingston, New York.  He has been published in Inner Sins, Blood Moon Rising magazine, Body Parts magazine, Yellow Mama, ANON magazine, Whorrorhouse, Ravenwood Quarterly, Creepy Campfire Quarterly, and Yellow Mama.