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Rated: E · Short Story · Emotional · #2257451
a dad and his daughter
Disclaimer: the original story I had in mind was supposed to be longer but my emotions couldn't handle it

Eason Gray pulled at the straps of his sweatshirt as he watched the elevator numbers go up. His heart thumped against his chest like a train. The lump in his throat grew bigger by the minute.

The elevator dinged for floor eight and Eason stepped out, a rush of cool air from the vent right above him feeling good on his hot forehead. He turned left and started jogging down the long hallway. This wasn’t his first time here. Straight in front of him were the doors to the NICU.

He stopped outside the doors and drew another hard breath. He clenched his shaking hands and swallowed again. This was the last place he wanted to be and yet, at the same time, the place he knew he needed to be.

He slipped his hand under the sanitizer and made sure to thoroughly clean his hands. He took his mask out of his pocket and placed it on his face. Now, he was at least somewhat ready to face what he already knew was waiting for him.

The nurse standing right next to the door looked up from her clipboard when he came in. A small smile etched over her features at the sight of him.

“She’s awake now. She’ll be able to go home soon.”

The seventeen-year-old gave her a small smile before making his way to his baby’s room.

For the last two months, he’d been coming here to visit his baby daughter, Hope. His girlfriend, Ariel, had given birth to her three weeks early, and had sadly died not long after birth. This is now where Eason spent most of his time. Every day Hope grew stronger, and he knew he was one day closer to taking her home.

He turned the corner into Hope’s room and couldn’t help the tear that fell down his cheek at the sight of her. Hope had been only four pounds at birth, but doctors and nurses were now saying she was ten pounds.

Eason was relieved to see that Hope hadn’t returned to being on the ventilator. The first month that she was in the NICU she’d needed it, but now she could breathe just fine on her own.

He gently touched the top of her foot and smiled as she squirmed at his touch. Hope’s eyes were the color of emeralds, the same as her mothers. If only she was here to see Hope now!

“Hi, princess.”

He knelt down at her side and let her latch her hand onto his finger.

When his girlfriend first told him about the pregnancy, all Eason felt was terror. How could they, young as they were, take care of a baby? How could they ever provide for her? Once Eason got the job at Taco Bell, however, and started doing his classes at home, he realized that his baby needed him. If he was old enough and mature enough to make a baby, he was old enough and mature enough to take care of that baby.

In this moment, Eason’s emotions were on a titter-totter. On one hand, Eason celebrated the life in front of him, the life he’d helped create, the life that was his daughter. On the other hand, Eason grieved the loss of his girlfriend, the mother of his child. They’d had so many plans for a life together, and those plans were now no longer a reality.

Still, as he gazed at his wonderful, beautiful baby girl, he realized that she’d left him with a gift. A girl who looked like her mother. His princess, just like her mother.
Eason glanced into the stands behind him and smiled at Hope, currently being held by his mother, Annette. Although Hope still had some issues breathing, at a year old, she was doing great! She hadn’t said her first word yet, but she babbled all the time. Doctors had told Eason not to worry, so he hadn’t.

He turned back to the stage, where the principal of his high school, a short man with gray hair and some tattoos from the military, was standing, looking around the crowded gym. Eason, like 150 other seniors, would be getting their high school diplomas.

“I would like to congratulate all of our seniors. During these past four years, I’ve seen you grow from children to adults with bright futures. Each and every one of you deserves to be here today.”

A small shake in the man’s voice let Eason know that he was thinking of the one senior that wasn’t here: Ariel, Eason’s girlfriend, who’d died not long after the birth of Hope.

Eason swiped at his eyes to try and stop the tears. Not a day went by where he didn’t think about Ariel. They’d met in kindergarten and were friends for years, until Eason asked her out when they were fourteen.

He knew that Ariel was watching the celebration from her very own cloud, in her best dress, her hair back in a braid.

“…She is dearly missed.”

Eason silently agreed with his principal’s statement and sat up straighter in his chair. Ariel always scolded Eason for not sitting up straight, and on today of all days, he had to honor her memory.

Finishing his last year of high school was the hardest thing he’d ever done. He’d almost had a few mental breakdowns between the stress of the several hospital visits Hope had to make, the stress of his many exams, and his grief at losing Ariel.

He almost lost it all, but kept going. Hope made him strong. He had to show her how to overcome obstacles. Annette always taught Eason that parents are the first teachers of their children, and with Ariel not here to do her part, Eason had to play both roles.

“Eason Gray!”

As Eason walked up the stage to the cheers of his classmates and family, a single word, spoken by the youngest person in the room, pierced the din.


The entire room froze, as if everyone was holding their breath. Eason’s heart pounded harder and louder than ever. He didn’t even bother trying to stop his shaking hands as he turned to look into the stands.

In Annette’s arms, wearing her little white dress with pink shoes, a white flower crown around her head of red curly hair, was Hope, her hands waving in Eason’s direction.


Time stood still as Eason received his diploma, took a picture with the principal, and stumbled his way back to his seat. As happy as he was to graduate, nothing else in the world mattered but that one word.

Eason couldn’t be bothered to wipe away his tears as he took Hope from Annette’s arms. Here was his reason for graduating high school. This little human that shared his last name.

“Yes,” he whispered as Hope laid her head against his shoulder, “Dada is here.”
Ariel glanced up from the soup she was attempting to eat as Eason entered the front door. The rain pouring right outside her window had soaked Eason to the core. He didn’t appear to bothered by it.

“I got the job, angel.”

Ariel grinned as Eason made his way over to her. He’d applied for a position at Taco Bell two weeks earlier, to make money for their future and the future of their child. She wasn’t all that surprised to hear he’d gotten the position.

“That’s good, babe. Now we can start saving up for this little one’s future!”

Eason rested his hand on Ariel’s belly. She wasn’t showing yet, but still, there was a life growing inside her. A life that he’d helped her create.

“I still can’t believe it,” he whispered, resting his forehead against Ariel’s.

“Our own child, Eason.”

Tears threated to spill down Ariel’s cheeks as she rested her hand over Eason’s. She wasn’t sure if Eason knew she loved him more than she ever had before.

“Hope, don’t run, sweetie. It’s icy.”

Eason looked out of the corner of his eye at two-year-old Hope, who was attempting to run on the sidewalk next to him. The night before, they’d gotten about five inches of snow, so Eason was outside with Hope, cleaning their driveway and sidewalk.

Although Hope was at the age of “terrible twos”, she was a relatively well- behaved girl. Of course, she had her moment like most toddlers do, but a few stern warnings were usually all that was needed to get her back on track. Eason also found that explaining why helped Hope become better-behaved.

Eason learned that simple trick from his mother, Annette. She explained that kids understood a little more than people thought they did, and having explanations for things helped them understand the word better.

Hope slowed down her running and grabbed onto Eason’s pant leg. Her cheeks were red from the cold but she was grinning from ear to ear.

“You haveded fun, daddy?”

Eason chuckled and reached down to pat Hope’s head.

“Always with you, princess.”

He looked up towards the heavens with one eye while the other one was kept on Hope, who was walking in circles around him.

Ariel had to be watching them from her spot on the cloud. Eason wondered if she was talking about what she was observing to the angels he was sure surrounded her.

He knew there would come a time where Hope would ask about her mother. He’d shown Hope a few pictures of Ariel. She was looking like her a little more every day.

A loud cry broke Eason out of his thoughts and he turned to see Hope lying on the ground, a small bruise forming on her cheek.

“What happened, honey?”

He scooped up Hope and carried her back into the house. The driveway could wait.

“I falled down.”

He set Hope up onto the counter and helped her remove her outer clothing.

“You weren’t running, were you?”

Hope shook her head, still crying, and reached for Eason as he placed her little jacket over the kitchen chair.

Eason picked her up and started rubbing her back to help hush her cries.
“Oh Ariel, honey, how do you feel?”

Ariel gave Annette a warm smile and hugged her.

“Just fine, ma’am. I had a little morning sickness this morning but I’m not getting them as often as I used too.”

Before Annette could say anything more, Eason, his hair still wet from a shower, hopped into the room, grinning from ear to ear.

“Ah, there’s the lady of the hour! How are you feeling, momma?”

Ariel giggled as Eason kissed her cheek.

“Just fine, babe!”

Eason took Ariel’s hand and led her down the hallway to his bedroom. He sensed that Ariel had something important to tell him.

He helped Ariel sit on the bed and then closed the door behind him.

“Has she kicked at all today?”

Eason had become obsessed with feeling his baby kicking in the womb. To him, it was magical proof that a life growing inside of Ariel. Like sure, he’d known for months that Ariel was pregnant, but feeling the kicks stirred up an emotion he couldn’t quite explain.

Ariel shook her head and smiled as Eason’s hand went to her stomach.

“Not yet. I guess she got worn out from all the kicking she was doing last night.”

Eason let out a hum and kissed Ariel’s cheek again.

“She might be a dancer just like her momma.”

Ariel laughed and leaned her head against Eason’s shoulder.

“That she might.”

Hope spun herself around in her little ballet outfit and looked up at her father. The now four-year-old had just started taking ballet classes and couldn’t be more excited about it.


Eason finished pulling the hoodie over his shoulders and grinned down at his daughter.

“Yes, sweetie?”

Hope attached herself to Eason’s leg and giggled.

“You is taken me to da dance cwasses, right?”

Eason swung Hope up into his arms, much to the little girl’s delight.

“Of course I am. I’m not passing up an opportunity to watch my little girl dance.”

Eason still had a hard time believing that four years had passed since Hope had come into the world. That four years had passed since his life changed forever. How was Hope already one year away from starting kindergarten, the same age he was when he’d met her mother? It was impossible, but Hope really needed to stop growing up.

He gulped back tears as he helped Hope buckle her car seat. He prayed that she didn’t notice his shaking hands. He didn’t like crying in front of her.


The hesitant tone in Hope’s voice made Eason frown as he started the car. He hadn’t heard that from her before.

“What’s wrong, Hope?”

The little girl fiddled with her fingers and locked eyes with him in the rearview mirror.

“Where’s mommy?”

Eason’s heart dropped into his stomach and he had to jerk the wheel to keep his car from swerving into another lane. He knew that question was coming. He’d been trying to mentally prepare himself for this moment but now that it was here, everything, including time itself, froze.

He didn’t really want to answer his daughter’s question, but perhaps he should. He couldn’t keep it from her forever.

“Sweetheart, momma’s in heaven.”

He watched as Hope stiffened in her seat and then his heart dropped again when a single tear fell from her eye.

“In heaven, daddy?”

Eason pulled into the parking lot of the dance studio and turned to look at her. This might make Hope late for her class, but this was more important.

“Yes, honey, she’s in heaven.”

Hope titled her head as a few more tears dripped down her cheeks.


Eason had been asking himself the same question for years but suddenly he could feel Ariel tapping on his shoulder and whispering something into his ear. He closed his eyes and let a few tears come down his cheeks.

“Because, honey, she’s your guardian angel. She helps me protect you. She’s protecting you from heaven and I’m protecting you here. She loves you very much. She always has.”

As soon as he said the words, a soft gust of wind blew into the open window of the car. He knew it was Ariel sending him a message of approval.
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