It was a mundane day as Nina drove down an unfamiliar road. Soft jazz played through the car’s speakers to act as white noise to her ears. Her eyes fixated on the road in front of her ,as she hums the repetitive tune from the radio. She was on her way to find a new home for herself ,to move closer to her workplace.
She saw a quaint little cafe. Her eyes were beginning to droop from the amount of time she had been on the road. She needed the caffeine to jump-start her from her drowsiness. She quickly parked the car and went inside the shop.
The atmosphere quickly changed. Instead of the stuffiness in the air of being in a car too long, the air felt light and had a pleasant aroma. The coffee shop had only a few people in it because it was a slow Sunday. She quickly ordered and paid for the brew and sat down. She sipped the hot beverage as her face scrunched up in disgust.
She never really liked her coffee black, but it was a small price to pay to stay awake.
She looked outside the window as if to distract herself from the pungent bitter taste. When she landed her gaze on a specific house her eyes suddenly lit up in the sense of familiarity. She tried to decipher why it looked so familiar...it was familiar yet it didn’t seem so at the same time. She turned to the buildings nearby to ask for help, for they seemed more familiar to her than the house in front of her. She started to remember the little things causing her eyes to bulge out of her eye sockets and quickly ran to stand outside the house.
The house wasn’t anything special except for the brilliant blue that was painted on it, but Nina knew better. Just looking at it reminded her of a shade of bright yellow that wasn’t too bright that it was overbearing to the eyes, yet bright enough to make it memorable. The pond near the house helped the resurfacing memories. Water Lily. A flower that meant pleasure but also peace. It was a nickname given to her long ago. Now she could clearly see. She set her gaze back at the blue house and found it to be yellow. She saw various pots of different flowers that weren’t there before. The roof which was dark brown before has now changed into a pure white. She could smell the cool smell of peppermint.
This was it.
This was home.
Farewell for now
Nina woke up to the smell of eggs and crispy bacon. She quickly got out of her child-sized bed and ran out of her room holding a sky blue blanket. When she opened the door she was welcomed with a brightly colored living room.
The room had beautiful swirls of color on the walls each having its own personality.
There sat a rough looking couch and it had been there ever since Nina was a toddler. Sure it was rough around the edges but it held too many memories for them to throw it away. Right across from it sat a coffee table with numerous writing and coloring materials on it. This was where her and her father would do quality time together. Basking in each other's presence as they colored and watched TV at the same time.
She stalked him to the kitchen as she watched her dad hum to himself while making eggs. She giggled to herself as she tiptoed towards him. Milo, Nina’s dad, quickly heard the hushed giggling and started to pretend that he hadn’t noticed her. She quickly jumped and hugged him saying “I got you!” Milo looks to see a small kid clutching on his pants tightly. “Ahhhh! You got me!” He said, grasping his shirt, trying to be as dramatic as possible. Nina giggled to herself as she motioned for her dad to carry her. Milo chuckled to himself as he lifted her up. “Gooodd morning to you too Water Lily.” He said, kissing her forehead. “Did I scare you? Did I? Did I?” Nina asked excitedly. As she looked at her father with starry eyes. “Yes! I thought I was gonna have a heart attack!” Nina cackled at the revelation.
She knew that she surprised her dad, for she always did.
“Whatcha cookin’ ?” Nina said as she stared at the pan which had scrambled eggs on it. “Just some eggs, bacon ,and toast.” he replied as he continued cooking. “ Go to the dining table and I'll bring the food there.” He said as he put her down. She quickly started pouting. Milo chuckled again,“I can’t hold you and make beautiful eggs at the same time.” He said pouting himself. Nina giggled at his reaction and quickly forgot why she was pouting in the first place. She walked to the table humming a tune her dad was humming a few minutes ago. She sat down at the table. Like everything else around the house the chairs were also very colorful.
Though they were all mismatched it was still pleasing to the eyes.
The table in front of her was made of dark oak which contrasted with the bright room, but it was quickly balanced by the amount of the plants on it. “ Here we go! Here’s one eggs-and-bacon with toast for the Water Lily.” Milo said in an attempt to sound like a waiter. As he gave Nina her food and sat down with his own. They ate and talked until it was time for Milo to go to work. He was very hesitant to leave the girl all alone by herself, but then realized there was no better alternative . He hugged her tightly as he bid his goodbyes. Nina looked at her father; sad that he was leaving but also ensured that her dad would come back from work at 8 pm. “Bye papa!” As she waved outside through a window. “Farewell for now, Water Lily.” He smiled and waved back at her.
As soon as her dad left, She got up and went to her small bedroom. The bedroom had a lavender wallpaper that was hand painted by her dad; like everything else was in the house. Near the corner was a small box of stuffed toys she owned. In the middle of the room was her bed with white sheets and pillows. But her favorite part of her room was a tent her dad had made for her out of blankets. This was where he would play with her. The blankets were all vibrant colors making it seem almost magical. The soft pillows inside made her feel like she was on top of a cloud.
She sat down inside the tent as she began to play with her stuffed toy, still lugging around with her the sky blue blanket that was given to her at birth. She knew she had to study but she didn’t feel like it. She just wanted to play and have fun. So she did so for a few hours, allowing herself to forget about the needed things and just playing in her own fantasy world.
When Nina realized how long she had been playing she got up and walked to the living room. She really didn’t want to but her father would scold her for not doing it. She sat down on the soft green carpet where the coffee table could be found. She brought out multiple books with highlights, dog ears, and notes everywhere. She grabbed a pink pen and started answering the questions her father had left for her. She felt stuck the moment her eyes landed on a specific question. Her eyebrows furrowed from just reading the question. She looked for help at the side ,where her father gave her a clue. She couldn’t get her head around it though. The clue was of no help to her. In fact she felt more muddled than she was a while ago. With a sigh she lifted her head to look at the clock.
It read 7:59.
She looked towards the door expecting her father to be home and to greet her with a hug and a smile on his face. The door did not open. She didn’t see her father going through it. The warm embrace she was expecting did not arrive. All she could do was wait. The drowsiness and hunger hit her sooner than expected. As she rubbed her eyes, still keeping them towards the door. She then realized how late it had become and reluctantly stood up and walked towards her room. With one last look towards the door she went inside her room to restore energy like any other day.
Freedom at a Price
She fluttered her eyes open as the memories of last night resurfaced. She sprinted towards the door ,until she realized she left her blanket behind, causing her to go back to get it. As soon as she opened the door she expected to hear music to come from the kitchen. It didn’t. It was silent. Not the comfortable one you share with someone whom you trust. It was the eerie and the kind that could make someone’s skin crawl.
She walked around the house calling for her father from wherever she thought he would be. When she couldn’t find him she thought that maybe her dad had already left for work. Even though she knew he wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye.
The thought of her dad not coming home made her think about the questions in her book which she didn’t answer yet. She didn’t need to answer it anymore since her dad wasn’t there. Her eyes lit up at the thought of not doing something boring for hours on end.
In fact since her dad wasn’t here she could do anything she wanted, and boy did that excite her.
She ran to the kitchen getting the cereal that her dad usually forbade her from eating, since it was too sweet. She grabbed a bowl and shoved the sugar down her throat, all the flavor exploded in her mouth. As she felt the sugar coursing through her veins, it gave her a sugar rush, one that she has yet to experience.
After a childlike breakfast she went to the drawer where her dad’s prized possessions were.
Inside were multiple pictures of her and her dad and some photos of her dad with a woman she has never met. None of the photos though were what little Nina was after. She was after the shiny object that lay at the very end of the cabinet.
Her small hands grasped it, feeling the cold and smooth metal. She looked at it in all its glory. It was a beautiful purple thing that shone in the sunlight. The object was not only beautiful for the color but also for the carvings it had on it.
They were butterflies in different colors, but still complimented the purple.
This was what her dad called a “lighter”. She opened the lid to find the only part that wasn’t whimsical ,yet that’s what caused it to stand out. She was about to turn it on imitating how her dad would do so, but she stopped herself. As much as she wanted to, she knew that if she did, she would be breaking a promise to her dad to stay away from “dangerous objects”. So with that she put the lighter gently back at its place inside the cabinet.
She was thinking about what she could do while waiting for her dad to come home. Then a thought crossed her mind causing her to grin like a child on Christmas.
She ran, colored, danced, played, anything that would have crossed her mind. She felt more alive than she had been in her entire life. No need to do taxing homework. No need to act responsible ,instead she was able to act like a kid for an entire day. She was joyous for the entire day ,but as the clock once again hit 8:00, she looked towards the door again. Half wishing her father would come through the door, and the other half wishing he wouldn’t because she wanted to be disconnected from reality a while longer. It remained shut.
And with that her smile widened.
“The feeling of missing someone or something”
Bright light was the first thing Nina saw when she woke up. Instead of seeing the plastic stars that were in her ceiling, she woke up to see swirls of different colors and the glare of the overhead lights. She quickly sat up knowing she was in the living room and looked towards the kitchen.
There was no one there.
Maybe it was because she stood up too fast, causing her vision to blur slightly, or maybe it was the fact that no one had come home again. She begrudgingly got up from her position still holding the blanket. She meandered her way to the kitchen to prepare a meal again for herself. She lifted her hand to the cabinet to reach for the cereal but stopped herself.
Her father wouldn’t want her to keep eating something like that, for it was unhealthy for her.
She quickly pulled her hand back and went to the stove. She couldn’t quite reach it so she grabbed the steps that her dad bought so they could cook together. “Let’s cook!” She heard her father say in her head. She quickly opened the stove and started cooking french toast.
It was her dad’s favorite.
She could still hear his terrible singing in her head. “Hey focus Water Lily the toast is going to be burnt.” She turned to her side to see nothing. It felt so...real. It felt like he was actually there with her teaching her again how to do it. She was lost in her thoughts until she smelled something acrid and overpowering. She looked down at the pan to see that the toast was burning. She quickly removed it from the pan and turned off the hot fire from the stove.
She looked towards the burnt french toast and thought “AAAA! My dad’s gonna kill me-”
He wasn’t here.
Not now anyway. She slowly made another french toast as she hung her head while going to the table. It was so quiet. She wasn’t used to this. She didn’t want this. She couldn’t even eat anymore because it left a sick feeling in her stomach. She pushed the plate away from her and stood up from her chair. The silence was killing her at this point. It would never be this quiet. There would always be humming, laughter, or even the white noise of the television. There wasn’t anything though. Funny isn’t it? Silence was supposed to be...well silent. Quiet, but for some reason it was the loudest thing. The ringing could make your ears bleed making it seem like it was asking it to stop.
She couldn’t take it anymore.
She swiftly ran towards the radio that her dad had.
She had to play something. Anything would do.
She turned it on, finally breaking the silence with the soft buzz of the music. She changed the station, until she came across a very lively song. “Care for this dance Water Lily?” She turned to see her father there. With a smile on his face, as he held his hand out. She took it and started dancing. Her laughs could be heard around the house. Again the house felt alive. Everything seemed to be more colorful than they were a few moments ago. As the song ended Nina was back to her smiling self. She was so happy that her dad had returned. “Dad! I thought you weren’t gonna come bac-”
But he hadn’t.There was no one there.
She rubbed her eyes thinking it had something to do with her vision, but there wasn’t anyone. The laughing was only from her. She didn’t take anyone’s hand. She was dancing by herself. The colors dimmed again at her realization.
Her knees felt weak but she stood her ground and sat down on the carpet to relieve the tension. She looked in front of her to see the books and notes her dad had prepared for her. She opened the book to see her dad’s handwriting all over the pages. “Think of square as the number times the same number :>”
“You got this Water Lily!”
She felt as if tears were brimming at her eyes.
No, she said to herself.
Why was she going to cry? She knows her dad would be back. She knows that he loves her. She knows that her dad wouldn’t leave her like this. She held on to a tiny hope that he would be back. That everything would go back to normal.
Sadly, she knew deep down….
Night has fallen.
No one dared to open the door.
Not the slightest creak from the door was heard. Leaving the wide eyed child alone to her thoughts. It was getting late already. 9:00 pm to be exact. As much as she wanted to stay and wait for him to arrive, the lethargic feeling was settling in. She then thought of a way to get closer to him. His room. She would wait there.
Opening the door she was met with a mute-looking room, which contrasted with the rest of the house. The walls were a light brown, leaving the floor to be a darker walnut brown. There was a small bookcase at the side with a mixture of children's books and some books that didn’t seem that fun to read. The bed was the saddest part for little Nina though.
It was still fixed from the day he left.
The white sheet looked extremely clean since Nina didn’t even dare to come to this room. She knew being here could make her cry. The smell of the room wasn’t any better. It smelled like peppermint. Like him. Like home.
She took a book from the book case and carefully sat on the bed. She opened it and started reading out loud. She could feel his arm around her correcting anything that she might have mispronounced. She could feel his warmth again. She could feel that happy feeling again. When she finished reading the book she felt content until she looked to her side.
There wasn’t a sunken space in her bed occupied by anyone. Her senses numbed. She couldn’t smell the peppermint anymore. She couldn’t feel the warmth of home.
She quickly stood up and bolted for the door. When she realized she had left her blanket she didn’t come back to get it. She had too many things on her head to worry about a stupid blanket. She went to the front door to find it still not open.
That was the final straw.
The floodgates opened up as she fell to her knees. Feeling the same feeling she didn’t want to feel in the first place. She couldn’t stop herself from crying.
“Papa! Where are you?!” She cried, bawling her eyes out.
Still no one could hear her pleas no matter how much she cried. No matter how much she shouted. After what seemed like hours her cries stopped.
She now knew. He wasn’t coming back. And she couldn’t do anything about it.
She sat there in her thoughts
She knew that he would do anything for her and to keep her safe. He’d have gone to hell and back. She knew he would come back. Was that not enough? She then remembered that whenever she did something bad he would come to scold her, because it was too dangerous for her to do it.
That was it.
She ran to the cabinet with the “dangerous object” that her dad told her about. She ran like her life depended on it. She grabbed the lighter and was ready to open it.
She paused. Her dad had specifically warned her not to touch it and yet here she was about to do something that he forbade her to do. She knew that she wanted her dad back and this was the only way to do so. By defying him. With no hesitation she opened the object and lit it on.
It was beautiful. It produced a small flame.
She stared at it as her curiosity got the best of her and walked back to the living room. She quickly knew what fire could do from what she could do with the stove.
She dropped the lighter on the ground and within seconds fire caught on the wood. It spread until it was bigger than the spark that it was a while ago. Nina could feel the heat of it ,but she didn’t care. She knew that fire was “dangerous” and she waited for the door to open. Smoke filled her lungs as she breathed in the fumes. It was getting unbearable.
She couldn’t take it anymore. She ran outside the house to see that the fire had started climbing the walls. Lighting everything on it’s path on fire.
She quickly realized what she had done and tried to reach out for the house.
She had done what she thought she had to do.
And yet no one came.
She said as she felt tears coming again. She had left her blanket.
What could she do now anyway?
All she could do was watch the flames consume her home, as she finishes the thought she had a while ago…
He’s not coming back.
“Uh miss? Are you okay?”
Nina opened her eyes to see a man holding a small child in his arms. The boy was looking at her with worry in his eyes. Nina looked down in embarrassment. “Oh I’m fine sir your house just looks really...lovely.” Nina said lying through her teeth. “Oh yes it is nice isn’t it.” There was an uncomfortable silence that rang in the air.
Nina hated silence.
“Well I should get going.” She said with a small smile on her face. “Ah, yes okay..uh have a safe trip.” He said, reflecting the same smile she was wearing. As she started to walk away she heard a bubbly voice “Hope you stay safe miss!”
She looked behind her at the boy and smiled while waving goodbye.
There isn’t any point in looking back, she said to herself when she went inside her car. Sure she regretted what she did, but what could she do now?
Watch the flames consume her house again? Let her entire life be about that?
She might have hated her father a while back but she never got to know what happened to him. Who is she to place the judgment? All she could do now is raise her chin up and make things better for her. She looked towards the house again, causing a lump to form in her throat.
She saw her and her father.
Waving her goodbye.
With a heavy heart and tears in her eyes, she turned on her car and drove away to look for a house to live in once more.