Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Gone Fishing (02/01/07)
TITLE: This second time
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan
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He stares at her with perfect black eyes. She stares back, hypnotized, caught in the magic of the moment. From the distance at which I stand, I sigh and my face ripens into an involuntary smile. Right before my very eyes, my dream is coming true. All I ever wished for. If God plays his cards well - the way I’ve been praying - I’m going to get myself a new daddy.
He’s shorter than my mum, stutters a bit, and walks with a pronounced limp. To me, his deficiencies don’t matter at all because he likes to fish. Just like my dad used to.
I can remember the first time they met. It was a very sunny afternoon, they type that left you perpetually thirsty no matter how much water you drank. Mum looked especially tired but she’d promised she’d take me to the lake where dad liked to fish before he was taken from us. It was a small lake and you could only catch a fish or two even on the best of days but we weren’t just going there to fish. We were going to be with dad, to remember him even though he’d been gone for two years.
“Can I help you?” He cautiously approached Mum after watching her struggle valiantly with her fishing pole. She started to shake her head no but turned nevertheless in the direction of his voice.
“It’s very quiet here. That’s why I like it.” His eyes crinkled up into a smile and as I watched, my mum’s eyes also filled with light.
“My husband used to come here a lot. He sort of made it a family tradition for us all to come here two Saturdays a month. I’m trying to keep that tradition alive.”
“I used to come here with my wife too.”
I stood soundlessly and walked some distance to observe the scene undisturbed. Dan, as I would later learn his name was, helped Mum with her pole. Afterwards, they sat and talked a bit.
That was when it occurred to me I could have another dad. A stray bullet in a gang/policeman shootout had killed mine.
“Lola, come let me introduce you to this kind gentleman.” And so I was introduced to Dan, widowed childless and full of humor.
After that time, he always managed to show up each time Mum and I went fishing. We fell into a routine. He’d help her with her pole, I’d disappear, they’d talk while, I’d reappear, and then we’d have some drinks together.
Then the pattern changed. Dan’d come to our house sometimes and seeing him there watching Mum with gentle eyes would fill me with gratitude…and an overwhelming sense of loss about my dad.
Six months, nine months…and it is suddenly eighteen months since Dan and Mum met.
The sun is setting quickly but Mum and Dan seem to be oblivious. In my heart, in that place where you could never lie to yourself, I know that today’s the day. The way he holds her arms, the smile he bestows on her…and the way she responds. Satisfied with the progress of things, I leave the scene and take a stroll. The trees are shedding their leaves; the grasses make a crunching sound underfoot. It feels good to be alive. I think inevitably of my daddy. He was larger than life, filling every room he happened upon with humor so wonderful you almost forgot yourself.
I think about Mum. Quiet, gentle, trying to be mother and father at the same time.
Then I think about Dan. Sensitive and fun to be with.
When I return to where the couple stand, Mum beckons to me, her eyes twinkling. “I have news. Dan has asked me to marry him.”
I stare from her to Dan then back. My heart soars inside of me and I’m full to bursting. I want to jump, to scream, to hug them both. I do none. Instead, I nod my head and say cool.
After all, a sixteen year old girl isn’t supposed to show so much emotion when her mum’s about to remarry.
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