He can hear the crunch of snow as his daughter stands on one foot and then the other. He notices her red hands, and wonders how long she’s been searching. Their home isn’t far away from the schoolhouse, and he began to worry when she didn’t turn up within fifteen minutes of the bell.
She was always so soft-spoken, and shy; and when she smiled he couldn’t bring himself to look at her, because as stupid as it sounded, he’d see someone else standing behind her. Someone with the same smile and mannerisms: someone that had the same incorrigible habit of separating the vegetables and meat on their plate, and eating them in clockwise order.
She looks so utterly alone, he thinks, and finds that a drop of salty warmth is sliding down his cheek.
His sleeve is tugged. “Papa…?”
He doesn’t hesitate. Not this time. She just hugs back and buries her face in his shoulder. For the first time in his life, he hears her cry; and she cries harder when he says something into her curly hair.