Night time was usually a very busy time for Lucy. She spent all night taking care of her daughter Adabelle - she helped her with activities, gave her a bath, prepared her for bed, read her a story, and then usually packed her backpack and lunch for the next day. And most of the time Lucy did all of those things to distract her little 5-year-old and keep her away from Charlie so he wouldn’t get annoyed.
But this particular night was even crazier than usual because Lucy was leaving the next day to go visit her parents. Her father had fallen ill and her mother needed help taking care of him for a few days. Originally, Lucy had planned to bring Adabelle with her but she had kindergarten and dance lessons and gymnastics and lucy didn’t want her to miss all of those things so Charlie’s parents were going to take her for the weekend. So while her mind was busy racing with all of those thoughts, Lucy forgot all about distracting Adabelle from her father.
The tiny redheaded girl tiptoed through the halls of her house to make sure her mother didn’t hear her and snuck down the stairs to where her father was sitting on the couch. In her arms was a ratty old doll she had been given on the day she was born by her Auntie Molly. Even though the doll was a girl, she had named Charlie - if her dad didn’t love her, at least one Charlie would.
She took slow, timid steps toward her farther, clutching the doll to her chest. ”Daddy?” she asked, her voice quiet. She watched as Charlie’s head raised upwards and he looked at her with a blank expression on his face. It was so different than the way the dads looked at the girls in her kindergarten class. While all of those dads looked at their daughters with happiness and love, Charlie looked at her like she was a complete stranger to him.
They stared at each other for a few moments until finally, Charlie patted the spot next to him on the couch. He had never before taken the time to even say more than a few sentences a day to his daughter but seeing her standing in front of him with her long red hair and freckled face in her ballet clothes from her dance lesson earlier, all he could see was a tiny Lucy and he felt compelled to sit with her for awhile.
Adabelle scrambled up on the couch and sat next to Charlie. She looked up at him with her wide blue eyes and again Charlie was struck by the fact that she was literally an exact replica of her mother. He wondered how he had never seen the amazing resemblance before when it was so clear and obvious. All of that time ignoring her and avoiding her had kept him from seeing it.
“What did you want to talk about?” he asked her after she hadn’t said a word to him.
Adabelle had practically dreamed of this moment - the day that her father would actually let her spend time with him. It was right up there with all the imagined father/daughter dances she would probably never get to go to and seeing him in the audience of one of her dance recitals. But now that it was actually happening, she had no clue what to say. She looked around the room for a minute trying to find a topic of conversation until her eyes settled on the doll in her arms. She thrust it up towards his face and held it there. ”It’s name is Charlie,” she told him.
Charlie looked at the doll in front of him and laughed at the way she presented it to him. All her time with Lucy had made her personality very similar, too.
He took the doll from her hands and looked down at it. How had he never even known it’s name when she carried it around everywhere? He almost felt a little bad for it. ”It has the same name as me,” he said, looking over at her with a small smile.
Adabelle nodded her head quickly. ”I named it after you because I know you don’t love me but this Charlie does,” she blurted. ”And sometimes at night I cuddle with him and pretend it’s you.”
Charlie looked at her in shock and then back at the doll. For the first time, he realized that Adabelle wasn’t just a small, annoying little thing that had been accidentally and involuntarily thrust upon him. She was a person. A tiny person with extraordinarily magnified feelings. He swallowed and handed the doll back to her.
“Do you think I’m a bad dad?” he asked her. He looked into her baby blue eyes and wondered if the question were too heavy for someone who was only 5-years-old.
Adabelle didn’t know how to answer at first. She looked down at the doll in her arms and squeezed it tightly. ”Charlie doesn’t think you’re a bad dad,” she said quietly. ”Charlie knows you don’t want to be a dad at all and he thinks that if you were a bad dad, you would have left me and mummy a long time ago. And he thinks that you’re a good dad because even though you don’t like me, you still stay and help pay for all my stuff like school and dance and gymnastics and everything else I need.” She finished with a heavy sigh that sounded much too deep for someone so small and Charlie couldn’t help himself from picking her up and putting her on his lap. She was just too much like Lucy for him to resist.
“Is that what Charlie thinks or what you think?” he asked softly.
Adabelle sat in silence as she thought and finally looked up at him. ”Both,” she decided. Then she opened her mouth to say something but closed it again quickly because she wasn’t sure if she could really ask him what she wanted to. In the end she decided to save it for another day. She smiled a little and kissed Charlie’s cheek, then hopped off his lap. ”Thanks for talking to me for a little bit,” she said.
Charlie smiled back and nodded his head once. ”You’re welcome,” he said. He reached out a hand and tucked a lock of Adabelle’s red hair behind her ear. ”Maybe we’ll do this again sometime, okay?”
Adabelle nodded excitedly and her head began swimming with wonderful thoughts of future father/daughter time. Even if it was just a quick five minute talk once a year, it was a lot better than what she had before. ”Goodnight, daddy!” she called as she ran towards the stairs.
“Goodnight, Adabelle,” he called after her. ”Sleep well.”
She flashed him one more smile before climbing hurriedly up the stairs to tell her mom all about every last detail of the conversation.