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“Pa,” said Hosh. “I’m submitting another story for my school magazine. Can you read and check it please?”
“Sure,” said Rosh, walking out into the sunny garden. "But can't sit and read. You read it out loud to me as I prune the roses."
Hosh began to read …
The school bell rang to signal the end of the school day. Everybody rushed outside happily.
I could smell the fresh air of freedom. I wanted to fly home.
Waiting outside the school gates was a familiar, but unfamiliar, face.
“Dad?” I asked, confused and alarmed to see him here.
Confused, because I didn’t know what he was doing here, and alarmed to see him here at all.
But after a moment, resentment had replaced confusion and alarm. I turned away. The lines on my forehead deepened into a frown. My lips tightened into a straight thin line. My eyes felt hot.
“Aren’t you happy to see me Daniel?” he asked.
I turned to look at him again. His deep blue eyes still held the same openness. His golden skin showed no signs of age. The same thick crop of black hair - no signs of thinning, and his taut firm jaw that bespoke the strength of his will. He was casually dressed.
He offered me a white envelope. Hesitating, I took it and looked inside. Seeing a cheque with a large sum written on the paper inside, I threw the envelope back at his face.
“I don’t want your bribes,” I cried, torn with hurt and anger that suddenly rose in me like the bitter bile.
“It’s not a bribe. It’s my oblation. My penance. My present to you," he offered grimly.
"Too late now," I fumed. "I've learnt to exist without you."
"After I left you," he replied calmly, "I realized what I had forsaken. You were the best thing that happened to me in my life. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it like this when I was with you.”
“It took you six years to realize that? I don’t believe you. What do you want from me anyway?” I seethed.
“Your forgiveness. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to bribe you, I'm trying to right the terrible wrong I've done. I'm trying to give away the thing that took you away from me,” he said.
“Oh whatever. Just get lost!” I roared. "You made your choice. Now live with the consequences."
“I know you’re mad at me. And you have every right to be. Just give me a chance to make it up to you. Please Daniel,” he begged.
I stomped away in anger and started walking to home. I was beside myself. Conflicting emotions were tearing me apart, and an inferno bubbled up inside me stronger and stronger.
Home was not far from school. I usually liked walking home alone. It was a time when I thought about things. A variety of colorful flowers grew under the trees next to the footpath. Wild daisies mingled with the green grass. Wonderful fresh aromas of cooking drifted down the path from open windows.
I had known peace on this path every day, but today I saw nothing. Noticed nothing. Everything else was still the same, still at peace, but he had stolen my tranquility today. I hated him for that. I hated him for going. I hated him for coming back. I hated him for making me hate. I hated him for everything.
Almost in a trance, I walked around the corner into an alley, a shortcut to home. The alley was always relatively dark because tall buildings surrounded it. Some people were smoking outside their houses. Further away, shadows lurked in the darkness.
I had heard dreadful things about the alley, so I had never walked through it before. But I wanted to get home quickly. Away from him, and the torment and remembrance he brought back into my life.
I wanted to snuggle and hide in the comfort and serenity of my home, and I wanted to do it now. So urgently did I want to be safe, I risked the alley.
What entices you home? What lure, what comfort? What recharges you there, relaxing you and then rejuvenating you? I knew not, but it didn't matter.
I wanted to be home like I had never wanted anything else in my life. It didn't matter if one didn't know why home feels good, as long as one has a home that feels good. That is worth coming back to.
Danger! My mind shrieked suddenly, violently hurtling me back into the here and now. My senses were alert now. I saw stealthy movement in the darkness beyond, and then light bounced off a shiny sharp object. A knife!
Silhouetted against the light at the end of the alley, two menacing hoods slowly appeared, blocking my exit as they walked towards me. They wore black leather jackets with studs and carried guns. Silence reigned, and I could hear their determined footsteps as clearly as I could hear my heart thumping inside my chest.
I peered hard at the light behind them, subconsciously measuring the distance to light and safety and judging my chances if I made a break for it. Their dirty overgrown facial hair blurred my vision.
One dropped his burnt cigar on the ground and crushed it, slowly twisting his foot on it. I stumbled backwards, suddenly afraid at the slow deliberate act. My face turned white with fear.
I turned and began to sprint. But another hoon appeared at the far end. His sinister frame blocked the alley entrance. He looked like a pirate and was heavily armed.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Beads of sweat streamed down my forehead into my eyes, stinging and blinding me. Cold shivers ran down my body. I cried for help but ran on regardless.
It seemed like an eternity. As time stood still, everything happened around me in slow motion. I saw myself running - breathless, but unable to stop. Stopping was foolish, and fighting unthinkable. Flight offered the only hope.
I felt helpless and trapped. Behind the man at the alley entrance, somewhere in the sunny street behind him, was safety. But like a dark cloud engulfing the sun, it vanished as another huge torso materialized behind him.
A familiar face with a taut jaw, golden skin, deep blue eyes and thick black hair.
The hood sensed his powerful presence and quietly slipped back between the darkening shadows of the houses.
I ran unobstructed directly into his arms, shaking like a terrified puppy, sobbing unashamedly.
He just stood there, holding me quietly, letting me cry. His strength flowed through me, warm and comforting. Slowly, I stopped sobbing and was still, resting on his chest.
My eyes were still wet, but I knew something I hadn’t known before. I really loved him! I had missed him so much!
“I love you Dad,” I said, while I hugged him as tightly as I could.
Rosh had listened silently throughout the reading, his roses untouched.
"It is beautiful," he said finally. "With hate spent, fear reunited their spirits in danger. They knew love again."
Then he got up and walked back into the house wordlessly. He noticed his trembling hands as he put away the pruning shears.
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