Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Bitter and Sweet (05/28/09)
TITLE: So different
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan
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I must be the only man, the only father in the world who ever has these feelings. When I look at my daughter’s brown face, I see not one person but two. Of course Rebecca is and will always be her own person. At five, she is extremely strong-willed, a competitive opponent at whatever game, a little girl who’s not afraid to speak her mind.
In that respect, so different from Lola, so completely different. Lola had been extremely quiet, content to sit in a corner with a good paperback.
But Rebecca’s face is Lola’s face, a smaller version though. The same burnt sugar hue, the same high cheek bones, the same full lips, the same slanted eyebrows.
In that irrational angry moment, when I felt such rage at her desertion, I’d ripped all of Lola’s pictures into shreds, fed them into the burner, determined to erase her memory from my home, from my heart.
Until Rebecca came home. Until I looked at my daughter’s face and realized I’d just been handed a photocopy of Lola. The pain settled about my shoulders. I cried that day, cried the whole week, agonized in the knowledge that Lola would not watch our daughter grow.
For Lola had been taken from me the day Rebecca was given to me.
It had been a difficult pregnancy, and an even more difficult labor. Lola bled endlessly, closed her eyes for the last time that morning. She gave up her life for our child.
I have fared remarkably well. I changed diapers, rocked Rebecca to sleep, became adept at mixing formulas. As the years swept by, I became a professional at shopping for a girl, at putting pink barrettes in her hair.
But I’ve not gotten over the startled way my heart jumps at the way she resembles Lola.
“Why are you looking at me that way, Daddee?” Rebecca snatches the brush from my hand and begins to drag it over her hair.
“Here, let me help.” I take back the brush, section her hair into four parts and hold them in place with yellow barrettes to match the color of her shoes.
“I hate yellow.” She announces and starts to yank at her hair.
“It’s a yellow costume party, Becca.”
“Then why am I not in a proper costume?”
I hide a sigh behind my hands. “Because Nana couldn’t get you one. The party was short notice and Nana is ill.” Nana is the housekeeper and nanny, the closest thing Becca has to a mother.
“Then why didn’t you?”
I pray for patience, feel my face spread out in a smile. “Because I was in the office till late last night. But you know something sweetie. If we don’t hurry up, we’ll be very late for the party, and we don’t want to be late, do we?”
Becca’s face is instantly lighted, as a thousand watts smile births on her lips. She jumps to her feet, grabs my hand and starts to pull me towards the door. “We don’t want to be late.” She says.
For a wonderful moment, I understand how blessed I am. Lola might be gone, but Becca is here. If Lola had been alive, I know I wouldn’t have been this close to my daughter as I would have delegated all things motherly to her. I love being Becca’s father, love being her mother.
My thoughts turn to Kemi, the woman who’s soon to become my wife. Unlike Lola, she is a firebrand of a woman, totally opinionated, sort of like Becca in that respect. And the good thing is that she and Becca get along, very much so, sometimes making me feel like a third wheel.
How will it feel to have a complete family, a father, a mother, a daughter, and perhaps more children later? The thought is a delicious one.
“Dad?” Becca is staring at me strangely.
“We are going to be late.”
“No, we won’t.” I encase her hand in mine and on second thoughts pull her into my arms. When I drop a kiss on her forehead, I’m not kissing one person but three. Becca, Lola, and Kemi.
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