He spoke to me of broken tapestries and shattered windows, the colored glass tossing rainbows onto walls. “They came at midnight,” he said.
“It was sunset a few moments ago.”
“It was midnight,” he insisted.
I let it go with a roll of my eyes. Let him have his peace. So I imagined moonlight creating rainbows, not the dying rays of a setting sun. The only downside was there wasn’t enough sound to drown out the whirring and beeping.
“They came at midnight.”
“You already said that.”
He looked at me with watery gray eyes, rainclouds about to burst. I regretted opening my mouth. This couldn’t be easy for him, losing me.
“Sorry. Keep going.”
“You ruined it,” he said, turning away. He reached for a tissue and dabbed at his eyes.
I reached out and touched his hand. “I’m sorry.” His skin felt soft, nothing like the paper I had read about in countless short stories and poems. It brought me comfort. He still had time. I couldn’t say the same for me.
“She cheated on me,” I told him, breaking the silence. “I caught her at the mall when she was supposed to be at a meeting. The mall.” Pressure built behind my eyes. It had been a few weeks, but I could see her clearly, arm wrapped around someone. Someone who looked just like me. A replacement.
He didn’t turn to look at me, but his hand tightened around my fingers. Did he feel how fragile I’d become? Did he know how close I was to breaking?
“Dad,” I said, sob distorting my voice so I sounded like I was drowning. “I don’t want it to end like this. I don’t want to be alone.”
“You’re not alone.” He smiled at me. “I’m here.”
Tears streamed down my face and I hated myself for it. I was supposed to make this easier for him. I was his daughter; it was my duty. Of course, if she were here, she could be helping too, but I had been replaced. The thought made me cry even harder.
“Does it scare you?” he asked me.
I nodded against my will, which made him hold my hand tighter than before. Say something, I thought, but I couldn’t open my mouth. My throat was closing up on me. I was drowning. Say something. In the end, I didn’t but Dad knew.
“The mall, huh?” He shook his head. “What a cheap whore.”
“Dad!” I stared at him in shock, though I appreciated the change in subject. Anything to forget why I was here, the sheets scratchy and the machines whirring all around me. My tongue tasted salt.
“What? It’s true.” He smiled. “She’s a cheap whore if she goes out on a date to the mall.”
For some reason, his comment made me laugh. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. He laughed with me too and for a while, the sound bounced off the walls. I could hardly catch my breath. My laughter bubbled up, bubbled, bubbled until red poured out.
He held me for a long time as I tried to keep it under control. The nurses came, but I could see it in their eyes. So this was it then. My arms coated in blood. I looked up at him so I didn’t have to see it.
“Cheap whore,” I choked out, smile on my face. More red poured out.
My dad smiled, eyes like rainclouds.