By Peter Jervis
A single chime from the heirloom grandfather clock permeates through the father’s throbbing head. His fingernails dig into the La-Z-Boy armrest as another hour moves past his daughter’s curfew.
The father’s fingers tap on his cellphone. The glowing light from the screen illuminates his irate face.
Would the police call or show up at the front door, he thought? Would they have a serious or somber look in their eyes? Would a weary eyed night nurse have to make the call to another unfortunate soul?
He puts his hands on his temples in an attempt to stop these invading thoughts. More importantly, how would he explain to his wife, gone on her first business trip after being out of the workforce for thirteen years, that their daughter was gone?
The air conditioner pounds at the drywall, letting out a hiss through the metal vents. He squirms in his favorite chair, the wood support protruding through the stained fabric. The seat cushion is flat from years of compression; it has started to suck his body in whole.
The La-Z-Boy has been his chair since a month before Eva was born. The dark gray color that once matched the living room walls has faded. He bought the chair for those long days and late nights of rocking to calm his angelic little being. He could still smell her head. That fresh sweet scent where her halo once sat before being sent to earth. Through the putrid smells of vomit and urine from shifted diapers and sick days, the La-Z-Boy has endured. Eva’s body had once fit entirely in the seat as they hugged, her legs inching over the armrests, getting longer after each passing birthday.
The grandfather clock blares its quarter past song. Each vibration reverberates through the skeleton wood of his decaying chair, snapping him back to the mission at hand: casting himself as a ninja hiding in the shadows, silently waiting to ambush her. When she arrives, he would bring the second coming of Jesus upon her.
The discipline would be so…
Every muscle in his body constricts. His chest puffs out, arms up and ready to pound, prepared to show her who was the true king in this castle.
The front door hinges squeak.
The light from the open door reveals his daughter. A young lady serene and lovely. When she looks up, he is illuminated by light from the street outside, ruining his stealthy surprise. Still, before he pounces, the father sees something for the first time. A different sadness in her eyes, on her salt-trailed cheeks.
When Eva sees him, she trembles. “I’m sorry, Daddy.”
The father’s body shrinks, his heart broken. With a gentle smile and a softness the same as the very first time he held her, the father sits still in his ragged chair. “I’m glad you’re home safe,” he says.