She loved to play ball. Everyday we would go to the park, her small, delicate fingers entwined in mine as we walked down the car-ridden streets. We would stop right under a grand oak tree, its sprawling branches strewn with luscious leaves, supplying just the right amount of shade from the sweltering sun. We would then sit within its shadow, laughing, as I told her stories of fantastical kingdoms, boundless magic, noble heroes and beautiful princesses she adored. Then she would rise from her place against the trunk and run across to the far end of the outstretched field.
“Throw it Dad, throw it!” she would shout with a smile that radiated so much happiness, it seemed the sun had tumbled out of the sky to find a place within her heart.
But the memory burns the back of my eyelids, like tongues of fire, incinerating everything I hold dear. The tattered baseball flew from my hand towards her but she faltered and it slipped from her grasps, rolling into the crowded streets. She followed it unconsciously, her frail figure barely visible by drivers. My heart raced and I lunged towards her but my cries of warning were drowned by the deafening horn of the truck. Within an instant… she was gone.
There is no point in waking up this morning. There is not point in waking up any morning. I sit up in my bed, watching as the morning’s gray, dismal light bleeds through the sky. I can’t fight the sun. I can only observe helplessly as it hauls me into another meaningless day. But it doesn’t glow like it used to. It simply sits in the empty sky, a constant reminder of the hours of pain I must endure, living in a world without her. Her cheerful voice that once resonated through these walls was now replaced by silence, an unnatural void that gnawed at my insides like a poison. I walk down the desolate halls towards the kitchen for a breakfast in solitude. My heart skips a beat as the shrill rings of the phone pierce through the silence. I hesitantly grab it from its place on the counter.
“Hello.” I say, barely audible.
“Hello, is this Peter Johnson?” The caller answers boldly in a voice I do not recognize.
“Yes” I reply.
“Your laundry is ready. Please come by today to pick it up.”
“Ok thank you” I say weakly, putting the phone back.
The sun’s torrid rays beat down on my back as I navigate the intersecting streets of Phoenix. From the corner of my eye, I notice it once more, the oak. Its boughs still strived to touch the clear blue skies yet it seemed dull, the life and glory it once radiated diminished. I march towards it, sitting within its large roots woven into the ground. The world melts away as I run my finger down its trunk, feeling its rough surface and latching on to every crevice. Once I reach the bottom, I feel it engraved on the very base, Hailey and Daddy. A droplet trickled down my cheek as I clenched my fist, trying hard to keep my pain within. Soon I realize I cannot keep my grief internal any longer and within seconds, streams of blatant tears flow down, pouring the months of sadness, woe, and mournfulness I confined within me. I never got to hold her. I never got to say goodbye. I never got to look directly into her gentle eyes and tell here that I love her. She slipped away, scarring my soul and instilling an endless heartache that no one could heal.
I sit for hours in pain, until I catch a glint within the roots. I doubt it for a second but catch it once more and scramble through the dirt. I find it and pull it from the soil revealing a box the size of my hand, adorned with mesmerizing patterns of silver and gold. I open it cautiously to find a leather-bound notebook and a gold pen. I first see spidery writing scrawled upon a simple note. It read, This box and its contents are in the possession of the one who needs it most. Weave the story you most desire and watch it stir to life.
Without another thought, I try writing something I have always wanted to. I pour my soul, writing everything about her. Her dazzling eyes, the colour of the tranquil sea, her bright smile that ignites my world, and the resonating sound of her laughter. I write everything about my little girl, Hailey. Within a few seconds, the soil upon the ground spirals into a swirl of particles, forming a glorious cloud of vibrant colours. The ethereal billow disintegrates to the floor unveiling what I want to see most. She lay before my eyes and the world rose from the abyss it lay battered within. The sun shone brighter than ever before, its dreariness evanesced. The breeze relieved my body of the sorrow I was once shrouded within. The tree even seemed to be grander, its bountiful lush returned. I rise and run towards her, holding her within my arms. But when I touched her, it wasn’t the same. When I hugged my Hailey, my world sparked to life. Now, I was embracing a cold, lifeless stranger. Her eyes were distant, no light enkindled within them and a look of utter hollowness was plastered upon her pale face. She was not my Hailey. No one would ever be my Hailey. My Hailey was truly gone.
I turned back to the notebook, and shredded the page I had written. The young girl, disappeared and I lay my head upon the trunk and realize why it is so special. Her spirit still lingers within the tree. It courses through its branches, like blood through veins, bringing it to life. Its crevices, rough surface and luscious leaves are reminiscences of our time together. I cannot bring her back. That day cannot be changed. The clock cannot be turned. But one thing's for certain. She will forever be remembered as she is a part of my very soul. Her laugh, her smile, her features, our memories and our infrangible bond are the interstices and branches of our oak tree that will grow for an eternity.