The Date (A Short Story)
Penny shut off her computer, grabbed her purse and made a beeline for the elevator. Today of all days her manager requested a report which required she spend the majority of her brain power working on something that she'd rather not. Unfortunately, she had to work through lunch in order to complete the report and leave work on time. Thankfully she had enough time to run home, change clothes, and pick up the cake and present.
Backing out of the parking garage and onto the busy street filled with other weary working folks heading home for the evening, Penny was lost in thought. She had a date tonight and she wanted everything to be perfect. After all, he deserved it.
Since her divorce, the loss of her job, and starting a new career as a statistical analyst, her life had been topsy-turvy, to say the least. Even thought things were different now, he had been consistent, with the added bonus of also being reassuring, funny, patient, and encouraging through it all. Even when she wanted to throw herself a pity party and give up, he wouldn't let her. That's what real love was all about. It had taken her a long time to come to that realization.
A good man. There was no better way to describe him. Lord knows that's what she needed in her life. She'd had enough of those other kind to last her well into the next three lifetimes.
When he was able to he checked on her regularly. He had protected her, cared for her, and made her feel special.
When she thought about their relationship now she had to push down the sadness that threatened to overshadow all of the wonderful memories they shared. But she couldn't, no, wouldn't let sadness hijack her joy. Yes, things were different now, but the time they spent together was still good.
He still loved her. She knew he did, even though he didn't say it anymore. She could still see the love in his eyes. It was the look - the look he gave her when she walked into the room. It's what made her fight, fight to keep their love alive.
Penny stepped out of the car wearing the pretty orange and yellow dress that he once said made her look like sunshine. Balancing her purse, the cake, and a small bouquet of balloons she slowly made her way from the parking lot, heels clicking on the pavement. Trying to keep her nerves intact, she wondered what the evening would be like. Would he be happy to see her or would he push her away like before? Would his words be hurtful or loving? She prayed for the latter, at least for tonight.
Stopping just a few feet from the entrance Penny squared her shoulders and took a deep breath. After a minute or so she mustered up enough courage to knock on the door. Turning the knob she pushed the door gently. As she stepped into the room she saw him, sitting and waiting. Penny looked to his right. She caught the nurse's eye, looking for a sign. But before the silent communication took place Penny heard the words she longed to hear.
"Hi, baby girl."
Relief swept over her like a refreshing mist. He recognized her. She blinked back tears. Everything would be all right, for tonight anyway, and for that moment. That’s all that mattered.
"Hi, Daddy," she replied breathlessly. "Happy birthday."
Painting by Feilipe Echevarria