“Daddy what is this little shinny thing?” Karen touched the white shell hanging round her neck. Neil had made it for his 8 years old daughter as they were walking down the beach. He hold her little delicate hands into his big strong hands and looked at that beautiful smile. He made her a necklace from the shell they collected from the sea shore.
“That’s a necklace for my princess”
“You look like your mother” he often told her. She had brown eyes flecked with every shade of the color and glossed over so they sparkled like a hundred diamonds; full lips and cheeks, both plump and rosy; and black, perfectly curled locks that fell down her ivory skin to her elbows.
They made castles on the beach and Neil was her daughter’s best friend. They had a bond like no other.
Suddenly the vibrating phone makes the train of her thoughts disappear into the thin light air and she opened her eyes. Staring blankly out of the bedroom window she saw the snow falling endlessly over the green grass. Her little snowman was still standing there. She found him grumpy as if his smile was missing. She made it last night and was not pleased with it at all. She found him sad and lifeless.
“It had to be” She thought to herself
The beautiful orange autumn leaves were now covered in icicles. Her head was throbbing with the thoughts.
Neil and Karen often made the snowman together. Neil often rolled the snow in round objects while Karen decorated it with her little hands. She would place a carrot for a nose and her favorite red scarf around his neck. She would then gently hug Neil kissing him on the cheeks
“I love you daddy”
Without warning everything in her mind changed again. Her heart was throbbing and her life was beginning to go cold and dark. Even though the light was son, she could see darkness al around slowly swallowing her.
“No Karen, you have to be strong” She reminded herself
Wrapping her arms around her thin shaking frame, she slowly dragged herself out of the room. As she stepped in the living room, a glass rolled over to her feet, touching her gently. She picked it up and kept it on the table aside.
“Gooooorrrr Mosning” her father wished her in a sloppy voice.
Empty beer cans were lying across the floor.
Neil had been inebriated every day of his life for the past two years. After a major loss in the business, Neil turned towards alcoholism. He drank just a little less than the amount that would slur his words and hoped the rosiness of his cheeks didn’t give him away.
He added some vodka to his orange juice every morning before Karen wakes up and put it in a plain water bottle to keep on his table. That way he could stay anesthetized through the day while planning exactly how he’d become paralytic by evening. This he did every day, often awaking in the morning with a cold pile of vomit to clean up either from his bed clothes or from the floor on the way to the bathroom.
Karen’s mother left him six months back. Karen decided to stay back. She loved her Daddy and wished he would be the way he was. She never left her daddy’ side and did everything that was her mother’s responsibility. Her mother tried to explain her but Karen was adamant.
“I am not going to leave my Daddy” She had screamed on her mother who eventually left taking her little brother with her. Karen was just 16 years old. She managed to grab a job nearby and served her daddy with all her heart. She loved that man, he was her first lover, her hero.
Karen looked at Neil and smiled hiding the tears in her eyes.
“Good Morning Daddy” She wiped his mouth with a piece of cloth and helped him to the bathroom.
“Go have a good bath Daddy”
Neil would be abusive towards his wife but he never shouted a bit on his daughter. He loved her more than anything else and that was the reason why Karen decided to stay back. She wanted to help her Daddy. She cannot just live him on his own like her mom did.
Karen helped Neil towards his room and made him lay on the bed.
“Sleep for some time Daddy till I make the food”
She glanced at her watch, it was 7 am. She ran to the kitchen and made some food for the two of them. She blinked off her tears trying to act strong. She had to run to the café by 9 am. Preparing the food, she ran to get herself ready for the work.
Karen worked as a waitress at the nearby café. She made it a point to come home for her lunch so that she can eat with her daddy. Her manager was a kind man. He knew Karen and her family situation. Karen was normally allowed 5-10 minutes late at work, though she never took undue advantage of it and usually managed to reach just in time.
Her Daddy would be sleeping till she arrived for the lunch. They would have their food together and Karen would talk about the current affairs and all the funny things going in the world. Though Neil never smiled, but Karen still would talk and whenever she found a hint of smile on him, she felt contended. She never left hope.
While leaving for the work, she often asked the neighborhood Mr. Johnson to sit with his dad for some time after he was awake. He was an old witty man with great sense of humor. When Karen asked him for this favor and the old man dint refuse. He was the kindest old souls she had ever come across. Neil and Mr. Johnson would watch the television for some time. After he would leave and Neil was alone he would turn towards the bottle lying in the corner as if it was calling his name. Karen would call her Daddy every hour and Neil would leave the bottle and keep it away whenever she called. His habits were reducing and it had minimized to a great extent.
In the evening when she returned home, they would go for a walk in the park. They used to sit on the swings and talk about the weather. Though Neil never spoke much, he did listened to everything Karen said.
That day they had a peaceful dinner at night. Then they watched a movie as it was her week off the very next day and soon Karen was asleep on the couch itself. Neil covered her in a blanket and went to his room to sleep. Before leaving he looked at her daughter sleeping like a small baby. She had bags under her eyes and some grey patches surrounded her big eyes. She had grown very lean and she looked tired. Neil kept staring at her with tears in her eyes. He soon left walking towards hi room.
Karen woke up to a chilly winter morning to the noise of bottles being broken somewhere outside her house. She was literally shivering and she noticed that it was her open window. The cold wind slapped her face and she felt numb. Suddenly in-between the falling snow she saw something.
“Daddy” Karen yelled running out of the house and launching herself into his embrace.
Neil was smiling brightly at her. Her big brown eyes looked like pools of iridescent brown, sculpted upon her creamy face like dazzling jewels. Tears were rolling down her face.
“Common Karen, it’s time to build a snowman” Neil was not drunk this morning. He was making a snowman like they did when Karen was young.
A single tear slid down from his warm, butterscotch eyes, followed by another one, and another one, until soon, a steady stream of salty tears flowed its way down his pale cheek, releasing the sadness and sorrow that has been held inside of him for all this time.
“I am sorry Karen for the trouble I have been to you” and he was holding her hands
“No Daddy, you are not a trouble and Karen would always be there for you” Karen could not be happier. She respected him although he had a bad phase in his life. He never expected more of them than he gave of himself. When the days where good, Neil had been the best father and the best husband that anyone could have asked for.
Karen was as pleased as a little kitten in the cream pie and started building a snow man with him. She got her red scarf from inside and tucked it around the snowman’s neck.
“Karen, I am going out with Mr. Johnson in some time” Karen had a look of amusement on her face
“He is introducing me to someone and I have to explain my business proposal” Karen jumped on him and hugged him tightly.
“Wow Daddy, that’s really great”
“Thank you Karen, you are my strength, without you your daddy would have been lying drunk somewhere”
“No Daddy, you are a strong man and I believe in you”
They walked back towards the house leaving behind their footprints in the snow. The Snowman was standing there and anyone looking at it could say that he was smiling more than ever.