June 6th, 2021
The soft and sweet voice of his daughter broke through the creative fog he was under. He’s been firmly planted at his large oak desk, hard at work for the past hour typing while Lily slept soundly in the Pack ‘N Play behind him. She was tuckered out from running and jumping around outside. After colliding with his legs in a giggly heap, he carried her inside and she fell asleep before they even reached the front door.
“Daddy!” She mewled impatiently, waiting for him to answer her.
She started to cry when a loud clap of thunder from the rumbling storm interrupted. When did the rain start? He had the window in the office wide open to allow fresh afternoon air in while he wrote but wasn’t aware of the incoming storm. Writing often did that to him—it clouded the background noise.
The pitiful whimpers he heard caused his heart to crumble. Lily was standing and reaching her chubby arms in the universal ‘pick me up’ gesture.
“You didn’t sleep very long, Lily.” He appeased her waiting arms and gathered her up in a hug. “Did the storm wake you?”
Another deafening boom of thunder echoed through the house and she whimpered again, burying her face in his chest. “Scared, daddy.” Her small response was practically inaudible, muffled by my shirt.
Her weak and fragile voice broke him. “Oh, sweetheart, it’s okay. It’s alright.”
He stroked her back and her tiny grip tightened around his neck. His three-year-old was such a joyful and animated child, it nearly crushed him to witness her fright and quickly escalating tears.
“Thunder can’t hurt you. You’re safe here with me, I promise.”
After some more soothing words and laps around the living room she began to quiet down. Her irregular hiccups were the only indication she was awake. The storm was still raging on: flashes of lightning, powerful thunder and heavy rain persisted. Lily was calm and on the verge of slumber again.
“How about we go up to mommy and daddy’s room and watch a movie?” She loved their bed and he knew the comfort it brought her would put her to sleep following a few minutes of television.
She nodded eagerly and pulled away so he could see her eyes. She was smiling again. “Thirsty,” she said.
In the kitchen, still cradling Lily against his chest, he filled one of her small cups with some apple juice. She accepted happily, drawing closer to him once again.
He could see the rain pummeling the grass through the window and hoped Scully wasn’t driving in this mess. She was on her way back from a conference she decided to attend with a few colleagues from the hospital and was due home sometime this evening. If she wasn’t back when the movie ended, he planned on calling her but didn’t want to interrupt her driving.
Still drinking her juice, he moved to set her down on the bed while he drew the shades and plopped in her movie, but she whined and wouldn’t let go. Apparently her fear hadn’t dissipated.
“It’s okay, Lily. I just need to put the movie in, I’m not leaving,” he said and she relented, but not without another small tantrum. She pouted—something she learned from him and usually got her anything she wanted from her gullible dad—but went back to finishing her drink.
“How about Nemo?” Finding Nemo had become one of her favorite things to watch. She had an affinity for fish and since showing her the movie, it’s practically all she’ll agree to.
She nodded excitedly, another smile forming. He started the DVD and quickly skipped past the opening scene. Scully insisted she was still too young for it and he obliged. So far, Lily hasn’t noticed.
He fluffed the pillows and propped himself against them, fully expecting her to settle down by his side. She was too transfixed by the vivid blues of the ocean on screen to notice him. He couldn’t suppress the urge, so he reached out and stroked her growing brown curls away from her face, marveling at how he managed to end up with such a beautiful daughter. She was the perfect combination of he and Scully. Her dark hair and chameleon hazel eyes resembled his own, while her pale ivory skin and the light freckles sprinkled across her nose and cheeks were Scully trademarks. She was their angel.
She turned to him suddenly, held out her empty drink cup and eagerly climbed onto him in a tangle of limbs. He took a knee to the stomach and an elbow to the ribs before she was comfortable enough to settle down.
“Fishies, daddy.” She pointed at the screen, gave him a sleepy smile and tucked her cheek against his chest once again.
“I see them, Lily. They’re pretty aren’t they?” She nodded in answer.
About halfway through the movie, an idea popped into his head. He always had a couple pet fish growing up, starting with a goldfish his mother bought him. He was probably six or seven and she dragged him out to run errands with her: the supermarket, florist, some department store he couldn’t recall the name of and other boring tasks. He whined and pouted the entire way and certainly didn’t deserve any presents. But after the seemingly endless slew of stores, she surprised him.
He would never forget the memory. His mother's warmth that day was something he cherished well into adulthood. He and Scully showered Lily with nothing but kindness and affection, hoping to give her the best childhood imaginable and a pet would be another addition to her memory bank.
She started wiggling around fitfully. He stroked her back in soothing circles—it seemed to do the trick. She relaxed. “Love you, daddy.”
“I love you too, Lily,” he echoed her sentiment, awed by the course his life had taken since that fateful night on the docks. He had a family now, complete with Scully and both his children.
The following day, he and Scully watched Lily as she curiously chose the fish she wanted to take home. She took her time, greeting every one in the store before deciding on a single goldfish.
Just like her father.