There were a father and his daughter living happily in their small detached house in the suburb. The mother had departed from them long long ago, but the father hadn’t remarried; no-one could fill the void left by his wife but his daughter and so, he had decided to raise his little one all by himself. The daughter grew up basked in her father’s unadulterated love and although life was hard for a single-father salaryman and a motherless child, they were relatively content and happy. Days would pass joyously the same: the father got up early to prepare breakfast for them, woke his sleepyhead daughter, had their food together before he went to work on his motorcycle and the girl to school on the bus. When they came home they would make dinner together and enjoy their meal together. Then the rest of the evening would flow in hearty laughter mingled with incoherent chatter from the TV show they both loved.
One day the father had to go on a business trip. This was his first trip ever and if he managed to seal the contract with their client, he would get a promotion to the department chief. The significance of the trip weighed heavily on his mind, but it paled in comparison to his worry for his twelve-year-old child who would have to spend a whole week on her own. The two of them had few living relatives and they all lived in another town. He told her that he considered declining the trip. She spent hours assuring him, in her sweet, childish way, that he shouldn’t let his big chance slip from his grasp and that she could look after herself in his absence. The school was out anyway so she would just stay in with all her favorite reading, and the week would go by before they even noticed. In the end he was won over by her determination and reported to his boss that he would take the trip.
He stuffed the fridge with readymade food and drinks with an amount enough to last both of them for a month and wrote down all the emergency numbers in the notebook by the phone. He even changed all the old locks with new ones and reminded her again and again that she had to secure the door carefully and never allowed a stranger in. She giggled at her father’s hectic expression and nodded.
“It’s alright, Daddy,” she said, kissing his stubbly chin with her strawberry lips. “Don’t forget to call me every day.”
And he did, thrice a day, as a ritual to ensue her well-being and soothe his own anxiety. Every time he called, she would reply, “I’m alright, Daddy. Everything’s fine. Come home soon. I miss you.” Every time he heard her soft, cheerful tone, he would find peace and motivation to work harder, win this crucial contract, and go home on schedule.
He stepped up the plane holding in his suitcase the signed precious papers that would soon be translated into his promotion and hopefully a slightly better life for both of them. He thought about buying her the electric bicycle she always wanted so that her hours of being crammed in the tuna-can bus would come to an end. He thought about redecorating her room, perhaps buying some new furniture and painting the molded walls blue – her beloved color. He thought about buying her the frilly dresses and doll shoes he knew she always secretly glanced at every time they passed the glass-doored shops. He thought of her beaming face, how joyful she would sound, how soft and pliant she would feel in his arms…
The plane soared into the sky and so did his hopes.
Soon as his feet landed on his town’s land again, he got a phone call, and his hopes, his whole world, shattered.
They found his daughter in their little white-picketed house, dead for almost a week. Her decayed fingers were clutching the phone.