“Dad, how much do you love me?”
“That’s a very generalized question, sweety. You can’t measure emotions.”
Her facial features grew somber and her eyes had that look that could only be deciphered as sadness. Dad looked at her and his heart broke. He coughed a little trying to catch her attention.
“But if I had to say, I love you more than this confined universe.”
Her dad did not even know if the statement made sense but the hundred voltage smile on her face was enough to make his whole life worthwhile.
She skipped off happily not having a care in the world. The little soul had not even comprehended how hard her father worked just to keep the lights on in their house. She had not known the struggles, the multiple jobs he had just so that her smile does not extinguish and she should not have to know too. She was a little girl. These burdens were unnecessary on her timid shoulders. Her father watched her off and strode towards his next shift at the restaurant.
The clattering sounds of the dishes, the infinite yelling of the manager and the resonance of the customers, all flooded to Ryan’s ears. He was constantly on the run to wait the tables. He already had a lot in his mind. How he was going to pay for his daughter’s monthly fees. How he was going to for the rent. Suddenly his mind conjured an imagery of Irina. Irina was his wife. She died a few years back of brain cancer.
A vague memory of Irina and Armina on the swing set made his body numb. He was trying to take a picture of them but they would not stop. They kept swinging. The wind had blown through Irina’s soft, brown hair making a cascade flowing over her shoulders. Her iridescent smile had made his heart skip a beat even then. He had a smile plastered to his face unconsciously. He had then looked at his daughter and was awestruck at how similar the mother and daughter’s features were. Armina had the same brownish hair. Her face was pale with pink spots on both cheeks just like her mother’s. Their laugh, oh god their laugh. It was robotically identical. Both laughs had that vivid essence in it that could make anyone question their sanity. The next thing was their eyes. The eyes were different. Irina had hazel eyes whereas Armina had blue, probably because he had blue eyes. But their eyes were beautiful in their own ways. Irina’s eyes were comforting. She had the ability to make anyone feel at home; even a stranger. She could always make his problems seem non-existent, whereas Armina’s eyes reflected simplicity and profundity. Anyone could get lost in her eyes. They seemed like the cavernous ocean, suspenseful yet with so much emotion.
“Ryan, stop staggering around and get back to work!” A booming voice brought him back from his reverie. He felt like it was just yesterday that the memory accounted for. He wanted to cry, yell, quit, he could not do it anymore. He just wanted to look at the sky and question God about his hardships. He just wanted to scream saying how much he missed Irina. He could not do it without her. He just could not.
Ryan ran out of the restaurant leaving angry customers and a much more furious manager behind. His heart was beating faster than Usain Bolt’s strides. He felt like he was going to have a stroke right at that moment. He looked towards his left; an empty pathway lay in front. The boisterous breeze brought his brown hair in front of his eyes, forming a canopy. He knew what he had to do. He ran towards his left. His mind recalled the image of Irina on the swing, her hair cascading along her shoulders, her comforting eyes and her iridescent smile. He ran faster, faster, until he reached his destination. In his sight of vision was a girl with brown hair that reached up to her shoulder. She wore a pink pinafore and was standing rather awkwardly in front of a swing.
“Armina.” Ryan uttered only for him to her but she heard it. It was more like she felt his presence behind. She turned around, an astounded look graced her pale face.
“What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be at school?” he slowly kneeled to her level and looked straight into her eyes. Her blue, intensified, electrified eyes gazed back at him. He knew something was wrong. It was the same somber look she had before. “What is it? Tell me.”
“Daddy, they said I killed mom and that you don’t love me anymore.”
Those few words were all that it took to make Ryan’s tears stream down. Had he made her feel like he did not love her? He had taken multiple jobs just to support her. How could she even have thought that he did not love her? But then she knew nothing about the struggles. He caught up with his train of thoughts when suddenly two tiny hands came to his face to rub the tears away.
“Why would you think that, sweetie?”
“Mom grew sicker after I was born and I looked like her. So I-I th-thought-”
He put a hand to her mouth to stop the blabbering. He tried to soften his features. He knew just what she needed.
“Didn’t I tell you that I love you more than this confined universe? I meant it.”
A vivid smile grew on Armina’s face. She put her hands around her father’s neck. That was it. That was all it took for Ryan. That was all he needed to accept all the pain. He knew it before, but at that moment he was reminded that he could do anything just to see that smile again.