I woke up floating and saw my own body lying down on the back, eyes tightly shut, and hands put together on top of the flat stomach.
Filled with curiosity, I flew around, observing my body that was in a black dress. The long sleeves covered my entire arms, hiding all the scars. The scars that were also on the pale face, making me stretch my hands to touch it. Yet, I couldn’t feel a thing.
Letting out a deep sigh, I had no choice but to keep observing my own body.
Until this one man came.
A man that I knew very well. The man who wore the black robe, the one whom I always saw for the last eighteen years. The man who gazed at the body lying inside the nicely engraved wooden box with neither a smile nor words.
I stared at the man, knowing very well that he couldn’t notice my presence. I observed his wavy red hair and dark brown eyes; the same one as mine. I examined the shape of his lips, his nose tip and his high nose bridge, then turned to see the face on my lifeless body, only to realize how similar we were.
Yes, similar, in terms of physical appearance. Ironically, our relationship wasn't that great.
I remembered that he was a busy man. He wasn't there when I needed him, even from when I was a kid.
"Papa, play with Bella, please?"
"Maybe later. Papa is busy preparing a sermon."
"Sermon? What's that?"
"Papa's work. Now, go and play by yourself, okay?"
Change the sermon to midweek worship practice, church leader meeting, morning prayer, group bible study, Sunday service, and funeral service. You get the point: he was never available to spend time with me.
Also, he was overly strict. He expected me to obey everything he said, although he was asking for something unreasonable, to the extent that it annoyed me.
“Pa, just letting you know I’m going to a party with my cheerleader squad tonight,” I messaged him during my lunch break.
“You are going nowhere tonight, my dear. Stay at home.” In just a few minutes, the man had sent me a text back. The text that made me boil in anger. The text that made me excuse myself from my friends, walked to the secluded area behind the school building and dialled his number.
“What? Why can’t I go to the party?” I spoke as soon as I heard his greetings.
“I just feel it’s going to be unsafe. I can imagine your friends getting rowdy, drinking all night until you’re all wasted.”
“I can assure you it’s safe, Papa.”
“Hm…, well, I’ll let you go as long as you come back home by 10.”
His reply made my jaw drop in disbelief. “What? You're unreasonable, Papa! The party is going to start at 8, and you want me home by 10? They're going to call me a loser! I might even get bullied for this, you know? Do you want me to suffer?”
“You're the one being unreasonable! You’re comparing me to your friends; some strangers over a family member who took care of you since you were born?” He continued his nonsense preaching about my ungrateful behaviour. I rolled my eyes at his long reply, cursing him inside my mind, waiting for him to stop talking.
“Ugh, you never understand me! Fine, whatever you say, I’m still coming to the party tonight!”
Change the party to trivial matters like my cheerleader uniform, the length of my shorts, my newly bought swimwear, and the new piercing that I got. You get the point: debates, arguments, and fights were common occurrences between us.
To top that, he didn't even bat an eye when I told him I got a boyfriend.
“Sure, Kevin has a good attitude and looks trustworthy,” he commented, then glued his eyes back to read his book as if it was nothing special.
This reply made me realize a lot of things about our relationship.
This man never worried about my feelings; he only paid attention to how I acted toward him.
This man couldn’t care less about what’s going on with my life; he didn’t put me as his top priorities in life.
This man simply didn’t love me, his one and only daughter. At least that’s how I felt.
But what I saw today proved that wrong.
Because the man in front of me stretched his hands, gently caressing my pale face, slowly moving his fingertips from one cut to another.
Because the man who never looked sad for as long as I could remember, removed his hands from the cold body, covered his eyes with his right elbow, and started shedding tears.
Because the man finally calmed down, dried his tears, then took the powerless hand of the girl into his and started talking to the dead body in this white-walled room.
“I never thought you would pass away before me.” Oh, neither did I, Papa.
“The past four days after the car accident, I started to think more about you, and realized that I knew nothing.” Same, Papa; I also feel I knew nothing about your actual feelings.
“Life introduced us. Yet my busy lifestyle was stopping me to know you more.” I’m partly at fault; I was busy partying with my friends and going on dates with my boyfriend instead of getting close to you.
“I’m sorry.” I’m sorry too, Papa.
“Pastor Gerald?” A familiar voice called the man in front of me. My eyes followed the source of the sound, only to see my sweetheart, Kevin, dressed in a black shirt and pants.
The man gave a faint smile to the boy, gestured him to wait at where he stood. The man then kissed the weak hand, placing it back, and looked at the girl inside the coffin for one last time.
"Goodbye, Bella, my beloved daughter. May God be with you until we meet again in Heaven.”
And the man in the black robe twirled the purple sash around his neck, walked towards Kevin, ready to start my funeral.
And with a heavy heart, with an inaudible voice, I muttered a reply.