The wave, breaking against the shore, is gentler tonight. It isn’t all encompassing, threatening to engulf me underneath its blanket of water. It doesn't seem intimidating either, like it knows that there’s a more dreadful thing awaiting me the next day and it doesn’t want to add to my concerns.
My wedding, yes, my wedding. Even right now, the ring in my finger feels like a chain despite all the happiness when I first got it. People may wonder, why in the world is your wedding day a fearsome thing? Aren’t you supposed to be happy to tie the knot with someone you adore? Sure, I am happy, but doesn’t mean I don’t fear it.
Wedding means you’re entering a door to a whole new life. Different people and unfamiliar lifestyles. Tomorrow night, I won’t be sitting here —burying my feet in the soft sand, letting the sea wind caress my face. No. Lucas, my betrothed, has chosen a house on the hill, closer to the stars than the water. And yet, it’s not even the water that I’m scared to lose. It’s my cottage, wooden and warm, along with the person I’ve known since forever living in it. My dad.
For the past hours, I’ve been contemplating on how to talk to him about the whirlwind inside me. We’re not exactly close, but we sure do love each other, and that’s what makes everything so complicated. We used to be so familiar though. I remember that I would jump on his back after a tiring morning walk. We would even play with dolls in the evening. I never really held back anything that I would like to say to him. Yet, I don’t know why, as I slowly grow up, it’s just so difficult for me to share my days with him. Probably it’s because I hate to bother him after an exhausting day of work.
Nevertheless, I have to speak to him tonight. Everything may not go back to how it used to be, it’s too far-fetched, but at least I have to tell him everything before I leave. He deserves some real sentences from his only daughter, not just some incoherent mumbling due to the tension.
“No point in sitting here and mope, stupid,” I whisper and sigh. “You’re just wasting your time.”
It seems like the wind agrees, for it blows harder toward the direction of my cottage.
“Alright, alright.” I stand up and pat my bottom to clear the sand.
I trudge to my cottage, hands clamping my knit coat as the wind rumbles louder. The moment I step into the threshold, I can already feel the warmth from the fireplace seeping into my skin, replacing the cold state it’s in before.
Dad is sitting in his usual arm chair, rocking back and forth with round glasses perching on his nose. He doesn’t seem to budge as he keeps focusing on the book he’s reading. Either way, it seems he notices my entry because he says, “Take a rest. Tomorrow is your big day.”
He still doesn’t move his eyes away from the book. Typical of him.
“Okay, Dad,” I reply and take off my coat to hang it on the coat rack.
This is usually the conversation that will let me retire to my room, but I’m not having it. There’s no way my hours of contemplation end up in vain. I’ve made up my mind, I have to really talk to him.
So, instead of going to my room, I walk to a couch right in front of the fireplace and sit. I might be sitting too straight to be comfortable, but it’s alright.
With this conduct, Dad starts to shift his glance and his wrinkly gray eyes meet mine. Oh, I don’t realize how much older he already is. The days when his eyes look more alive than tired are still so vivid, it’s unbelievable how much time has passed. This, however, is the reason why I need to have this conversation. Time waits for no one and I never want to wail in regret.
“Dad,” I begin.
He’s more alert. He’s already putting down his book and taking off his near-sighted glasses. He’s putting all his focus on everything I’m going to say in the next few seconds.
Spitting out what’s on my mind is more strenuous than I thought, especially when this is not the usual atmosphere between us.
I gulp. “Tomorrow is my wedding.”
Okay, let’s just start that way. Bridging is important, it wouldn’t make everything too sudden.
He knits his eyebrows. “Yes, I’m aware of that. Is there something wrong?”
I shake my head and play with my ring. “No, no, it’s not that.”
He sits straighter in his seat, abandoning the book on the table. “Don’t tell me you want to stop the wedding?”
“What? No, no, of course not!” I’m too flustered, this is definitely straying from what I hope this conversation will be. “That’s not it, Dad. I’m very happy with Lucas.”
He exhales and slouches. “Great, that’s great. You were playing with your ring, so I thought…” He laughs. “I thought the worst.”
A smile forms on my lips. Oh, how I would miss his laugh. Yet, my small elation doesn’t last long, for I can see more of his wrinkles when he smiles. More reminder for me to not waste my time.
I chuckle a little to reciprocate his attempt in melting the ice between us. Now, I should really get going or else I will chicken out.
“You know… I will miss this house and the sea. I don’t know what made me agree on buying that house on the hill, maybe because I was dying to see the stars.” I sigh and smile, looking away from him. “But now that the day will come, I kinda wished that I had told Lucas I’d want to live near the sea instead.”
My dad nods. “Well, I can see why. Your mother used to love the stars too, so maybe you inherited that from her. It’s okay, you’ll adjust. The stars are beautiful too, you see.”
“But, you know, it’s not the stars nor the sea that is bothering me, Dad.” I bore my eyes into his. “It’s that I’ll be far away from you.”
Only the crackles of fire accompany the silence that follows. I’ve started fidgeting, feeling too exposed. I’m not one for showing my vulnerability, and right now, I’m baring my soul in the shroud of awkwardness. Even so, I don’t regret it.
“You can always visit. It’ll be okay,” Dad answers finally.
“But I can’t see you that often,” I say.
“That’s how marriage life can be.”
“But…” I can feel a lump in my throat. Call me spoiled or whatever, but if this is marriage life, it’s too devastating.
“I think you’ll be fine, Lila.” Dad laughs again. “It’s not like we talk that much… I believe you’ll get over it in a few days. The night before the wedding is always the hardest.”
Those words catch me off guard. I certainly do not think he will voice the truth between us. Although we’ve been so distant, none of us ever address that problem. And yet, when Dad says it like a normal thing, I just want to hug him and cry. Which is something I refrain from doing. I hate to make him feel worried.
I swallow the lump and dam of tears. Not now. I need to continue. “I won’t be okay just like that.” I pause and swallow again. “We… may not talk much. I may be a terrible—” Shit, my damned tears. “—daughter, but I—” Shit, shit.
Shit, now I’m a mess. A sob rocks my body. My tears are like a spillage from a broken dam, it’s unstoppable. I don’t even dare to look up and stare at my dad. He must’ve stared at me with horror. I’ve never cried in front of him since elementary school.
However, in the midst of my crying party, I suddenly feel a warm pat on my back. I haven’t yet got the bravery to see Dad’s expression, but his calming presence beside me just makes me want to cry more. It’s been so, so long.
He brings me closer to his shoulder and I just cry there, muffling my sobs on his shirt. Back then, I used to cry like this as well, and I’ll eventually fall asleep afterward, still on his hug. It’s so warm and familiar, a home that I’ve left for years. I wish I could’ve rewind time and spend more days with him. As open and loving as I am right now. I wish I could’ve let him into more parts of my life, not just my life in the cottage. We’re so near, yet so far apart. How can this be?
“I’m— sorry for— not spending— more time— with you,” I manage to say through my sniffle. “I— love you— you know?” There, I say it.
I can feel him nodding whilst patting my head, and his voice cracks a bit when he says, “Same here, Lil.”
We stay in that position for a few minutes, both of us refusing to let go. My cries slowly cease to be, but his hug and patting is still a constant thing. It’s only when the clock strikes midnight and the bell announces the changing day that we let go. But, we’re far apart no more, for we laugh after that messy display. He makes me a cup of hot chocolate, my absolute favorite, and hands it to me while saying, “Happy wedding day, Lila.”
I sip on my steaming hot chocolate and say, “Visit often.”
He chuckles again. Oh, I love that for him. “I’ll make do, Lil. I’ll make do.”
Although I would’ve paid anything to reverse time and make the silent cottage not so silent long before tonight, I still wouldn’t trade this moment for anything in the world. Yes, wedding or not, I’ll make do too. For my most beloved dad.