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I've been waiting to smile

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The summer has been quite warm this year, enough for the Millers and Hardys to agree to spend the evening on the beach for the return of Daisy from University. They had settled near the little kiosk on the seawall, along with tourists and a few other Broadchurch residents. Some were even dancing on the music coming out of the speakers and generally speaking the ambiance was light and fun.

It had been Daisy’s idea. Hardy would probably never have agreed to this setting otherwise, Ellie was quite sure of it. And while Tom kept Fred busy building sandcastles and doing his best rendition of Godzilla, Daisy was ecstatically retelling them her life at Uni.

Ellie was glad to see her again, especially thriving like that. She had become a very energetic young woman, quite far from the moody teenage girl who first moved here. Only three years had passed by, but it seemed like both yesterday and a lifetime ago. Tom’s own departure was rapidly coming, but she’d rather not think about it now.

Seeing Daisy this enthralled was doing wonders on Hardy. He seemed completely relaxed, nodding at all the right moments while smiling softly at his daughter. It was so rare Ellie couldn’t help herself to gaze at him from time to time. It’s amazing what a smile could do on a face, really. He could even be pretty like that, with wrinkles at the corners of his eyes.

But she was cut from her musing by a cheerful shout from Daisy.

‘Oh my God, Dad, I love this song!’ She had sprung from her seat and was already tugging on her dad’s wrist as the first claps of On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons were resonating on the open beach. ‘Come dance with me, pleaaase!’

‘What? No, no, Daiz’, please, don’t make me do that’ he whined, but reluctantly allowed her to drag him on his feet. ‘Please, I don’t want to’ he added for good measure, but even Ellie could see he didn’t stand a chance against his daughter’s pleading eyes. ‘Oh, come on, you used to love it!’

That made Ellie’s eyebrows shot up. She couldn’t envision him dancing. Not the Hardy she knew. He grumbled something she couldn’t quite make out while begrudgingly joining his daughter on the edge of the improvised dance floor. Daisy was already shouting the lyrics along with the speakers.

If you love somebody,
Better tell them why they’re here ‘cause
They just may run away from you

He was embarrassed. That much seemed obvious, but he still started to move shyly in rhythm with his daughter who was decidedly on fire tonight. Ellie watched them as she listened to the song whose music was quite perfect for the ambiance of their warm summer evening. She began bobbing her head in time with it too.

“You’ll never know what went well
Then again it just depends on
How long of time is left for you”

It was extraordinarily funny for her to see him dance on this kind of music. It seemed so alien to his usual gruff self that she couldn’t help beaming her big toothy smile, matching the one Daisy was throwing at her dad. His stiff limbs appeared to be loosening a bit, melting under her smile.

“I’ve had the highest mountains
I’ve had the deepest rivers
You can have it all, but life keeps moving”

‘I always think of you when I listen to this song!’ Daisy shouted at him over the music. As his eyebrows lifted in surprise, she teased ‘It’s the lyrics! Cause you’re so much better and happy now than you were! And cause it’s so at odd with you!’ she finished in a laugh.

“Now take it in but don’t look down”

He shook his head but didn’t dignify her with an answer, and rather closed his eyes and cocked his head as the chorus started, listening, letting himself get swiped away by the music, the lyrics, the rhythm, forgetting in the process why he was embarrassed with every second passing by.

“‘Cause I’m on top of the world, hey
I’m on top of the world, hey
Waiting on this for a while now
Paying my dues to the dirt”

His movements were getting wider, more fluid, and Ellie watched with amazement as he softly transformed into a completely different man, all long limbs dancing and smiling slightly, becoming completely at ease with himself.

“I’ve been waiting to smile, hey
Been holding it in a while, hey
Take you with me if I can
Been dreaming of this since a child
I’m on top of the world”

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ she heard him say. ‘I like this song.’

Ellie’s astonished smile was slowly morphing into a genuine one. She was discovering an entirely new face of Hardy, a face twenty years younger, carefree; a face only his daughter seemed to be able to bring up. Daisy looked absolutely gleeful and a little smug at her success.

Ellie had no idea he could dance like that—hell, she didn’t know he danced at all. There was no pre-set pattern to his moves, but he was in complete sync with the music, his steps matching his daughter’s. It was truly beautiful to watch.

She didn’t even register the verses pass by and as the lively chorus erupted again, Ellie itched to join them—but she wouldn’t dare disturb their father-daughter moment.

She shouldn’t have worried though, as when the vocals between the choruses echoed around them, Hardy glanced her way, grinned, and decided in a split second to invite her, holding out his hand. A burst of joy surged through her at the gesture. She gladly took it, and suddenly she was dancing with him, and with Daisy and it was the happiest she felt in a long time.

“‘Cause I’m on top of the world, hey
I’m on top of the world, hey
Waiting on this for a while now
Paying my dues to the dirt
I’ve been waiting to smile, hey
Been holding it in a while, hey
Take you with me if I can
Been dreaming of this since a child”

Their eyes locked, bright and intense, and their moves hitched a notch with the rapid rhythm of the bridge. Ellie was following his lead, entranced, both by him and the lyrics.

“And I know it’s hard when you’re falling down
And it’s long way up when you hit the ground
Get up now, get up, get up now”

As the bridge repeated itself, Hardy included Daisy in his whirlwind and Ellie looked over to her boys who were watching them, Tom with an incredulous look on his face and Fred with ecstatic joy, and motioned them to come and dance with them, mouthing the last verse—‘Get up now, get up, get up now!’

Fred bolted to the “dance floor” with a shriek of joy and began a disordinate dance making them all laugh out loud. Tom was more reserved, but he joined them nonetheless indulging in Fred’s frenzy with a smile even if he didn’t really dance.

They were all having a lot of fun, laughing and dancing and it was as if the world had decided to offer them a brief moment of peace and bliss.

And as if on cue, the sun blazed the sky alight in bright pinks and oranges while setting down on the horizon, watching as it went the Millers and Hardys be together and happy, pretending for the night that the song and this moment would never end, as we’ll do with this story.