No, sorry Dad, I can’t. Not now, Sophia wanted to say, but she knew even one word would release a torrent of emotion. The brisk winter morning and the flecks of salt water whipped into the air had already moistened her eyes and loosened her tear ducts.
“Show me” he cajoled, but to no avail.
Sophia’s parents and her eldest sister were the only people permitted to see her off from the terminal. Friends, family and colleagues had farewelled her at the dinner two nights earlier where her mother had told the large crowd,
“Sophia’s work brings joy and hope, plus opportunity to so many people. We wish that for once she would focus more on herself and find…
but before her mother went there, Sophia shot her a look which said ‘not now mum, not now’ at which her mother changed tack,
…or at least that she could do this work closer to home.”
“You’ll do great things” is all her father could manage, lest he cry endlessly in front of his friends and family. That was not the done thing for an ex boxing and wrestling champion.
His little girl was departing, again, but this time there was no scheduled return date and a much greater risk which no one wanted to acknowledge verbally.
As Sophia felt the familiar warmth of her mother’s embrace, she found herself contemplating which melancholic musical score would best accompany this moment. The girl who eschewed modernity, who chose sailing over flying, paperbacks over kindles and letter writing over messaging, thumbed mentally through her vintage record collection searching for an appropriate title, until she switched her attention to her big sister.
The longest hug was reserved for her father. She was the baby of the family, and even when her work thrust her into battles with world leaders, corporate heavyweights and, on one occasion, a feared local warlord, she was still Daddy’s little girl.
The ship hauled itself from the dock, and once Sophia had finished waving, she slid her chilly hands into her coat pockets. There she felt a piece of paper. Unfolding the paper, she saw a stamp pasted in its centre. The stamp featured a koala, and it was the stamp which had sat proudly on the first letter she had sent to her father, all the way from her nextdoor neighbour’s house where she had embarked with boastful pride on her first epic adventure – a sleep over.
Her father had even sprinkled glitter on his letter in honour of Sophia’s insistence upon decorating her letters well into adulthood. She imagined her burly father hunched over his work bench surrounded by power tools and trophies, adding glitter ever so delicately to her parting gift.
The letter comprised of four words. Four words which always elicited a smile from Sophia, even in her darkest days. Four words her father had used to slice through her despair and sadness, her anguish and tantrums.
“Show me your teeth.”