A small, self-contained piece about fathers, daughters and growing up, which, unusually for me, has no fantasy elements whatsoever. Enjoy.
He comes home tired, his nerves frayed, and checks all that must be done off his list.
Hat on its hook.
Coat hung precisely next to the door.
Fire lit; chair drawn; pen laid to paper; eyes shut and a frustrated breath released as the paper stays blank.
Then he hears the cautious footsteps, the scrape of another chair, and looks up. She smiles and asks him to tell her a story, eyes wide and hopeful.
So he does. He tells her of kings and queens, witches and wizards, cities rising and falling.
She listens, enraptured, eyes never leaving him; she gasps at the perils of a fairy tale, smiles at the inevitable happy ending. Then she thanks him, kisses him on the cheek, and leaves to find her mother.
He watches her go, then he writes.
Pen and paper become a typewriter.
She still sits opposite him and asks him for a story, but the tales have become sharper, greyer, of war and crime, those with too much power and little sense. Still watching him, her face falls as the stories continue. The happy endings are fewer now, but she smiles at each one, and he finds himself doing the same.
The furious scratching of a nib is now the staccato clattering of keys, but he’s even now hunched over his desk, glaring at the paper as he defeats it with ink.
Sheets and ribbons later, she runs her hand over the book, tracing the letters of his name with a finger. She looks wonderingly at him, then the cover, and after a pause, her face breaks into a smile. He can’t quite believe it himself. She hugs him, the two of them laughing, and leaves with it carefully tucked under one arm.
The spines are getting dusty, she notices disapprovingly as she walks, absentmindedly running a finger over them: her father’s name, multiplied again and again.
He’s still here, in the way the furniture’s arranged and the carefully piled first drafts she’s never wanted to throw away.
She stands for a moment, looking up, watching the dust motes dance in the sunlight filtering through the window. Inhaling the place. Then, with a quiet sigh, she leaves, closing the door gently behind her.
She reads them again, sometimes, in the quiet between the chaos of her own family. When she does, it’s his voice in her head, and she’s a child again, being told stories.
She shuts the book, looks up to where his typewriter is gathering dust in the loft, and bites her lip.
It’s heavy, unexpectedly so, and refuses to co-operate; it takes her husband to help her heave it down. He looks at her oddly as the door to the study creaks open at her touch; she places the typewriter on the old desk, halting briefly at the familiarity of it all, then recovers, giving him a smile and walking to the door.
She looks up from the blank page at the sound of footsteps, her daughter peering over her shoulder and asking what she’s doing.
Writing, she explains, and her daughter nods, smiles, saying she’ll be back soon, and quietly leaves.
She looks at the fire blazing, at the keys she knows so well in front of her, and exhales. Then, swallowing, she begins to type, her fingers dancing, like her father’s but different. She thinks of him then, and she smiles, defeating the paper with ink.
The stories remain.