As he moved the last of his pawns, he looked out the white wooden window again.
“No way, Nat. Don’t tell me you still think she’ll come, mate!”
“It’s been snowing, Joey. She gets irritated when it’s snowing. You hear the forecast, mate? I heard it’ll stop by tonight. She’ll come then, I tell you. She must be sneezing her wits out right now.” He said in a reassuring tone. “You know her nose turns red when it’s cold outside. Me and Bree used to call her our little reindeer when she was a kid.” He said with a laughter.
Joey re-positioned himself on the chair, looking at Nat’s hopeful face one more time, not believing his eyes, one more time.
“Are you going to skip the session again, Nat?”
“I don’t need no session. Look at me, I’m perfectly fine, man!!”
“She won’t like it when she hears that. Y’know that, dontchya?”
“Nah, mate. She’ll love to see her old man being his old cheerful self again. Y’know, when she was in middle school, I’d tell her off to sleep with my jokes. She loved them. Haha.” He answered back, merrily. Still looking out the window.
It wasn’t a huge nursing home.
Nathan and Bree White were the loveliest of the couples of their times. Soon after their daughter Taniya got married, they met an accident. The accident left nothing of Nathan. Bree lost her life succumbing to the wounds and Nathan remembered just bits of the recent times. He didn’t remember Taniya’s wedding, for instance. He had to rely on the pictures to believe it happened. He remembered the car crash, though. All the details. Everything. He also remembered Bree. All of her. Lots of her.
Joey hated being Nat’s best-friend sometimes. It meant that he had to break all the news to him. The good ones, he didn’t have a problem breaking, but there weren’t a lot of them. The bad ones, he loathed breaking, and there was lots of them.
A year after the accident, Jamie, Taniya’s husband couldn’t tolerate Nat in their home. He couldn’t tolerate the sound of his coughing and neither did Taniya seem too fond of it. Together they decided the retirement home in the nearest town was the only solution.
Nat, obviously didn’t agree. He had lost too much to lose more but they told him they’ll come to meet him everyday. They did. For the first two and a half weeks. Then, it became a yearly visit. It had been three years since nobody had come to visit him this time. Phone calls were regular, though. Taniya had surely called last two weeks back.
He had once retaliated. Reminded her of her promises. She had arranged weekly psychiatrist meetings for him as a result, after telling him he needed to pull himself together. He had attended just one.
He snuggled with Taniya in her warm pink blanket. She squealed with joy. Hugging Daddy was ‘the best part of her day’, as she’d say often.
“Daddy!” She looked at him with what he’d call the ‘kitten eyes’, “I got something for you!”. She looked at Bree who was setting the study table and after getting her approval pulled out a rose from under the bed.
“Oh dear!” Nat shrieked with joy. It was a luscious white rose with red spots.
“This one too!” She pulled out another one. Then another. And another. She pulled out exactly thirty five. Which is what Nat turned that day.
At the end, she hugged him tight and wished him the happiest of birthdays.
Then it became a custom. Every year she’d arrange roses for him, corresponding to what he was turning.
“You know Daddy, I’ll start sending you pansies from your 70th birthday onward. Ask me why!”
“Why so, darling?” He inquired with his intrigue spilling right through his eyes.
“Because first, what if I’m jobless and not able to afford seventy roses. And second, because pansies signify ‘remembrance’. I’d want you to know that you’ll always be a part of me!” She said in the most innocent of tones.
It warmed his and Bree’s heart. Taniya was ‘Daddy’s little princess’ in the truest sense.
Today, he turned 70. It was 9 in the night and he was still staring out the window, into the dark.
“She won’t come, Nat.” Joey finally said, holding Nat’s shoulder from behind. “Like always!”
“She must’ve caught flu, y’know. She catches flu too quickly” He said, with his head drooping down. “Silly girl, never takes care of herself.”
He said as a tear fell down on the wooden floor. Somewhere inside, he knew the seventy pansies were never supposed to come. He knew his Taniya had grown too big.
“She must be sneezing her wits out!” He said, laughing a guttural laughter, “Silly girl.”