Coming of Age Drama Teens & Young Adult

Never in a father’s life is he ready for the day that he is expected to turn his daughter over to the arms of another man. Never in my life was that a moment I was prepared for. It was a moment that people joked about.

“She’s gorgeous, Ledger!” My friends would tease. “Pretty soon, the boys will be knocking at the door like crazy!”

“Yeah?” I’d always snorted, waving them off like they had mush for brains. Because my little girl was my little girl. She wasn’t going anywhere. She was just a baby. My baby who loved to play with Barbies and used to beg me to let her sit on my lap while I drove, so she could pretend to drive the car.

“Not any time soon.” I’d say to the ones jesting about lovesick boys asking for my girl. “Not any time soon.”

Where had those days gone? It felt like only yesterday that Sally was born. I remember it so clearly that I can still see it right there in front of my eyes—a memory that plays out down to the detail in my soul every time I lay eyes on my baby.

I remember getting the text from a young woman who I’d met at a bar. A woman who’d known nothing about me, and I nothing about her. We had one night of fun. A one-night crossing of paths led to mornings filled with regret.

Yet, months later, when I’d read that text.

You have a daughter. I don’t want her. Do you?

Regret turned to shock, and shock turned into desperate hope.

Are you sure she’s mine?

I watched my phone screen like a hawk watching a mouse, breath baited and my heart beating painfully against my ribs.

Yes. I’m sure. Do you want her? Or I’m going to give her to the proper people. I can’t take care of her.

I didn’t think. I just imagined a little baby, with my eyes and my blood running through her veins, and I typed.

Yes. Tell me where you are.

Then, she was with me. She was in a baby carrier in the passenger’s seat. She didn’t have my eyes, but she had my mother’s smile. And her eyes weren’t mine or her mother's; they were an emerald green, with specks of gold floating around in them like white sparkles in a snow globe.

She watched me drive the whole way home, smiling that beautiful smile and laughing this wonderful laugh.

She was perfect.

She was my world from the moment I laid eyes on her.

Those first few years were hard. I lost my job at the steel plant after it shut down and had to get work wherever I could for a long time. A neighbor at the trailer park Sally and I called home watched my daughter during the day while I scoured around for work like a stray dog struggling to find food. I didn’t see Sally much in the first five years of her life. Or she didn’t see me much.

Every night, when I got home from work, no matter how late it was, I would go and retrieve Sally from Mrs. Zackby’s and carry her home. She usually didn’t wake up. But that was okay. I was grateful to simply hold her while she snuggled against my shoulder.

When Sally was five, I got settled in a permanent job at a mechanic shop. I got to walk her to her first day of first grade. As she walked into the building, she turned and blew me a kiss, her sandy hair blowing around her rounded cheeks and her eyes sparkling. She was thrilled.

Me? I was scared because it felt as though my heart was walking away from me and into a place I couldn’t follow. My baby was going places where I couldn’t keep her safe from the sting and the ache of life. She would face bullies, injustice, and failures that I couldn’t protect her from.

But I should have known then that Sally was strong enough to face it all. After all, her very existence was because she’d been strong enough to make it through the odds.

Elementary school became middle school, filled with long nights of struggling through homework and the heartaches of finding out who the real friends are and who the fake ones are. Then, middle school became high school, and friends were put on the back burner for the most important thing in a high school kid’s eyes.

Gaining the attraction of the opposite gender.

“Woah! Woah. Where are you going?” I asked one Friday night, my eyes nearly popping out of my head as Sally rushed for the door. She was dressed in a black dress with sparkles. She was wearing heavy red lip liner and smoky gray eyeshadow. She gave me an exasperated smile.

“To the dance, Dad.” She groaned. “I’ve been telling you about it all week, remember?”

For a moment, I saw her mother in her. A jolt of fear shot through my heart.

“I… ah, I suppose you did.” I swallowed. “Gabe giving you a lift?”

“Of course.” Sally tossed her hair. Eyes glinting with a mischief only a sixteen-year-old girl could produce. “He’s a gentleman, like I told you he was.”

There was a knock on the front door. I glared at the door, like it was responsible for all my pain and discomfort.

“He better… be careful, honey.”

Sally’s eyes softened.

“I will, Daddy. I’ll be home by eleven. Love you!”

And then she was gone. Out with this pimply-faced kid with the banged-up old car and the squeaky voice.

She was out there.

Out there, anything could happen.

But Sally, my girl, was smart. She soon broke up with Gabe after she found out that he just didn’t share the same goals and aspirations as she did. She graduated high school with higher grades than I could have ever dreamed of having and went on to go to college and then to medical school.

It was in medical school that she met Fin. Fin was a good guy. His father was a pastor, and his mother was a counselor. He had strong morals, a good education, and two rescue dogs named Jolly and Rancher. Jolly only had one eye, and Rancher had no back legs, just wheels.

“Dad?” I remember Sally calling me a year or so after she and Fin started dating. I was struggling to try and figure out why my TV was telling me I had no internet connection. I had internet, so why the heck wasn’t it connecting? Why was I paying fifty dollars a month to have the television show me nothing but a blank screen and beep at me?

“Yeah, baby?” I asked, bashing the remote in hopes of forcing the TV to come to a different conclusion regarding my connection.

“I’m getting married.”

Suddenly, the TV didn’t seem all that important. I dropped the phone.

Getting married was when a girl left her parents, her father, to be joined with another man. It was an intimate connection between two mature adults, and, ideally, it was a permanent connection.

Marriage and my Sally were two things I’d never wanted to hear connected with one another.

“Dad? Dad, are you there?”

I picked up the phone, my ears ringing.

“To Fin?” I rasped, disoriented.

“Yes to Fin!” Sally let out an exasperated laugh. “Who else do you know that I’ve been dating for over a year?”

A dead man—that's who you’ve been dating. I thought. Because I’m going to kill that boy.

“He-he never asked me!” I yelped. Sally heaved a sigh.

“It was kind of in the moment.” She explained. “He didn’t even have a real ring yet, but we both just knew that it was the right time.”

“Humph!” This wasn’t happening. My little baby, with her pigtails and her buck teeth, wasn’t getting married. Forget that she’d been wearing her hair down around her shoulders or up in a bun and hadn’t had pigtails for years; forget that her teeth had been straightened by braces long ago; in my eyes, she was still my little girl. She’d always be my baby.

Not Fin’s wife.

But I loved my girl. I loved her more than anything. So, I forced out the words I knew she needed to hear past dry lips.

“Congratulations… When’s the wedding, Sal?”

Sally gave me the date and place she and Fin had chosen. It was in a resort lobby in Florida.

The day of the wedding, I walked in and eyed the paintings of sea life decorating the lobby’s walls.

There was a big, green sea turtle on the ceiling, peering down at the floor below it with a happy smile.

Sally had a stuffed turtle when she was a girl.

She took it with her everywhere until she accidentally left it out one night, and the neighbor’s golden retriever ripped it to shreds.

She’d cried when she’d found it torn up. Sally had brought it to me and begged me to fix it.

Like I could fix anything.

I was her hero, and she believed with all her heart that I could do anything.

So, I stayed up all night, restuffing the toy and carefully sewing the tattered limbs back together.

It had taken all night to reinvent the battered stuffed animal, but it’d been worth every moment to see her smile when I handed her the mended toy the next morning.

“Daddy!” Sally saw me in the lobby. She was dressed in a flowing white dress, and her eyes were sparkling. She looked like an angel straight out of heaven. She hugged me.

I hugged her.

The last hug where she was still mine and mine only.

I sat in a seat up front, facing a stage where a man dressed in a black suit with a white undershirt stood with his hands folded, patiently waiting to perform his duty.

The music started. Soft, gentle music that seemed to light up the whole room. The crowd of people hummed and giggled, ecstatic for reasons I simply couldn't feel the same about.

The groom walked to the stage.

The bride—my baby—and I followed him a few moments later. I walked my Sally down the aisle, remembering when she used to hold my hand as we would walk together through the park. 

Fin and Sally stood facing each other, gazing into each other’s eyes with undeniable love as the man in the suit spoke. I didn’t hear anything except Fin’s answer.

“I do.”

And then, more rambling that my buzzing ears refused to hear, and then Sally said, “I do.”

“You may now kiss the bride!” The man in the suit said joyfully. I wanted to throw him off the stage and then throw Fin on top of him.

Fin pulled Sally to him. He pressed his lips against hers, and I felt tears fill my eyes. Oh, deep down in my heart, I was happy for her. I knew she’d met a wonderful man, and I couldn’t have asked for a better son-in-law.

And yet…

More than anything...

In that moment, as I watched my daughter step fully out of the sweet days of childhood and into the woman she’d been becoming more and more in these past few years...

All I wanted was to turn back the clock and go back to the days where the only man she looked at with love and devotion was me.

The days when I'd been her hero.

January 27, 2024 04:30

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Morgan Aloia
03:30 Feb 01, 2024

Hey hi! We got matched for the critique circle. I’ll share my first impressions, but please let me know if there’s anything I can help to clarify or if you’re looking for feedback on any specific points. Overall, this was an interesting read. I don’t personally have kids of my own, but life brought me around to taking care of children earlier than I’d have chosen myself and the moment of realization that that joy was now your responsibility really resonated. Sally reads almost as a force of nature, a turning of the world that even she hers...


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Helen A Smith
13:16 Jan 28, 2024

So hard to for the father to let his daughter go. He wanted to protect her forever and that wasn’t possible. Beautiful, poignant story.


C.N. Jung
14:42 Jan 29, 2024

Thank you, Helen! That is exactly the dilemma Ledger was facing, and I’m happy to hear it showed in the story. I appreciate the feedback!


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Claire Trbovic
13:08 Jan 28, 2024

Really nicely written, particularly liked the section with the sea turtle, like he could fix anything, and ‘while I scoured around for work like a stray dog struggling to find food’ really felt that, great work :)


C.N. Jung
14:37 Jan 29, 2024

Thank you, Claire! I was trying to portray, in a sentence or two, the struggle that Ledger was going through while still taking care of his daughter. I was hoping to find wording that would show his desperateness during that time. I finally settled on “while I scoured around for work like a stray dog struggling to find food." I’m glad to hear it resonated. And I appreciate the thoughtful feedback!


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David Sweet
00:00 Jan 28, 2024

Letting go of the daughter is hard for a dad! This was a very touching story.


C.N. Jung
14:24 Jan 29, 2024

Thank you, David!


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Alexis Araneta
16:16 Jan 30, 2024

Very poignant. Great job !


C.N. Jung
18:19 Jan 30, 2024

Thank you, Stella!


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