It was 07:58am when I woke up to a text message from my dad that would change the course my life forever.
‘How are you pumpkin? Come to the house as soon as you can, I’d like to see you today'
Of course at this point, I hadn’t realized the weight such seemingly innocent message held. It looked like a mundane text from a father who just missed his only child whom he loved so much.
Ever since I moved out of my dad’s house a few months ago to live on my own, I haven’t really seen him much. He was always busy with one trip or another and often cancelled on our plans to attend several business meetings, so seeing his message this morning came as a pleasant surprise.
My mom died in a car crash when I was eleven years old and it was extremely terrible for my dad. I watched him go from the boisterous and funny young man that he was to an old sad man in a matter of months. My mom was the absolute love of his life and her death took something from him that could never be replaced.
Taking it upon myself to be the strong one of the both of us, I sucked in my broken heart and decided to take care of my dad. I learned to cook and do the laundry because we didn’t have maids back then. As a result of all my effort to help my dad, I was slipping back in school, my grades depleted so bad my teacher had to call my dad in. That was when he awakened from his state of limbo and saw how I had been carrying the weight of trying to hold the little family of two together on my little shoulders and it broke him completely.
He worked on himself to become a better father, managed to get back to his old self a bit and we have been inseparable ever since. It was me and my dad against the world. So it was no surprise when I called my salon to cancel the appointment I had made for today and booked a later date.
My father always comes first.
At exactly 11:25am, I got to my dad’s house and knocked on the door. I was hit by a wave of shock when I saw the man who came to open the door. This was not my father.
He wore my father’s face and had the same identical big smile and glint in his eyes whenever he saw me but this man’s face was sunken in constant to my dad’s chubby face. He looked sick, really sick.
I stood frozen to the spot for a few seconds, my dad’s smile never vanished from his face as I took in the image of the person that has now been my father.
When last did I see him? Three months ago? Four? What happened to him? Has he not been eating well?
“Isla Mae my darling girl!” My dad announced, opening his arms. I went in. He had lost so much weight but the hug felt the exact same.
Warm and comforting.
“What happened to you dad?” I finally asked, still in his arms.
“Is that anyway to greet your father?” he scolded, flicking his index finger on my forehead playfully
“I’m sorry, how are you dad?” I asked as we went into the living room.
“I’m fine my dear” I doubted the sincerity of that statement, he looked frail and tired but I kept quiet.
I couldn’t keep quiet for long, not when it came to my father’s health
“Dad, are you sick?” my voice was small and weak, I was afraid to say the words out loud.
He looked at me and smiled, knowing that he couldn’t keep it from me any longer, he said the words that shattered my heart to pieces.
“I have cancer.”
My ears started ringing immediately. It felt like I had been slapped simultaneously on both side of my cheeks, leaving me almost deaf. I saw his lips moving but I couldn’t hear anything he was saying? Had I really gone deaf? My vision became blurry.
Was I suddenly going blind too? The tears that had blurred my vision began trickling down my face in small droplets and in no time, it became a stream of waters.
His arms wrapped around me, consoling me, rocking me back and forth. He shouldn’t be the one consoling me, I should be taking care of him.
“Is that why you have been avoiding me? I managed to ask without choking on my words.
He nodded. “I didn’t know how to tell you, I didn’t want to see you hurt and I was undergoing chemo, it took a toll on me”
It broke my heart even more to think that he went through that all alone.
“How long have you known?”
“A long time”
“You should have told me dad. You didn’t have to do that on your own” I broke down.
“Isla Mae, look at me” he said cupping my face. I looked up at him “There’s no need for you to cry, l don’t want you feeling sorry for me because I’m happy. I have lived a good life with the most wonderful gift a father could ask for. A perfect daughter.”
“Don’t talk like that dad, you sound like you’re already giving up.” I wiped the tears from my eyes.
“Anyway, that wasn’t the only reason I called you here today.” A strange look crossed his face as he backed away from me and averted his eyes from my face.
“What is going on?” I asked feeling quite uneasy but took solace in the fact that no news, no matter how bad it was could beat ‘I have cancer'
“First of all, I want you to know that, everything I do for you, is done out of love and to give you a better life than I had”
“What is it dad?” I didn’t like the was this sounded already
“I have fixed your marriage” he said in a rush
I stared at my dad in shock. Surely I didn’t hear him right.
“You should hear me out first Isla” he said softly. I couldn’t believe my ears.
“Wait, you did what!” I shouted louder this time, standing on my feet.
He winced and I regretted shouting immediately, I sat down next to him.
“Dad please tell me you’re joking” I took his lean hands and pleaded.
“It’s for your own good Isla, I won’t be around much longer and I can’t leave you alone in this world, knowing there’s no one, no family to take care of you.” The tears began to fall from my eyes again
“The person I found for you is a wonderful man from a very loving family, you will have the love and support from loved ones when I’m gone and you will never have to worry about money because he’s from a wealthy home. You have to see that I’m doing this to take care of you even when I’m no more. God knows I will roll in my grave if any man ever dares maltreat you. I can’t let that happen”
I suddenly felt numb, this was too much to deal with in one day. I know learning my dad had a terminal disease was the worse news of the two but how was I supposed to deal with the latter. He made plans to take care of me after his death, even though it was the worst plan I’ve heard of, it was the best thing any father could do.
“Dad, do you even know me at all? What on earth made you think I’d want to marry a complete stranger?”
“Because it’s a wish from a sick father to his only child, let me do this for you, it will make me really happy to see that you’re being taken care of. I would never marry you off to a stranger or someone I don’t trust, his family approached me with the marriage proposal and I couldn’t imagine a better family for you.”
“Then who is it? Who is the sick psycho that wants to marry someone he’s never met” I asked, getting angry for the first time since I came here.
“The son of my friend, Alexander Aldridge. I don’t think you’ve met him, his name is Landon Aldridge”
My jaw hit the floor