By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: The One-Minute Writer Flash Fiction Friday, in which writers receive a prompt and must complete it within 1000 words. The first paragraph below is the prompt, and story I wrote follows it. The title of today’s prompt: “Long Lost Dad”
The train whistle jolted Hannah awake. Only two more stops, and she would be facing the father she had not seen in fifteen years. She rubbed her arms and anxiously thought about all she had to say. Would he even be there?
Just tell him the truth, Han, she thought. If he accepts it, fine. If he doesn’t, then at least you’ll know you’ve tried your best. And then you just go home and deal with whatever comes next.
The landscape had shifted in subtle ways. Hannah’s home faced acres of cornfields in the heart of Illinois. If she stepped out of her front door and looked toward the horizon, she could almost see where the sky touched the earth. Nothing interrupted her view, providing her the daily illusion that life had no limits.
As the train rolled toward downtown Chicago, tall buildings began appearing and reminding her of reality. But even before she received the tangible reminder, Hannah had received a more personal one and she no longer held any illusions. She no longer believed in infinite possibilities. She didn’t know if her decision to come to the city today would restore any of her faith in the prospect of optimism.
He said to get off the train and walk to L’Appetito in the John Hancock center, Hannah mused. If he gave me such specific directions, he must really be showing up. Oh, please, God, let him show up. What else am I going to do if he doesn’t?
She took a deep breath when the automated voice announced her stop and she got off. She hadn’t taken a break since boarding the Amtrak early that morning and then switching to the L later to get to the John Hancock center. Once she’d begun on her journey, Hannah wanted to see it all the way to the end in the hope that her forward motion would guarantee a positive outcome.
“Here we go,” she murmured as she gently pushed through the pockets of people dotting the streets. She thought about the events that had brought her to this moment, this time in her life. When had everything gone so wrong? Why had everyone let everything get so bad? What would happen now when she needed them all the most? Would they be able to forget their differences?
Hannah walked up to the famous tower and looked at it for a few minutes before descending to the garden plaza level. For a crazy moment she wished that her father hadn’t arrived, that he actually would leave her hanging. Despite the difficulties waiting for her back home, suddenly Hannah had an overwhelming urge to avoid her father altogether. The complications that would arise from his help could have long-reaching consequences, longer than what the help might last. Were Hannah—and everyone else for that matter—prepared for those consequences?
She blinked once or twice. When had she walked to the entrance of the café?
Her father engulfed her in a hug before she could even fully register his presence, and his scent overwhelmed her. He still wore the same aftershave, and under that she could smell his shaving cream. Nothing had changed, it seemed—and yet everything had.
“Hannie, it’s so good to see you,” he said into her shoulder, his words wavering with emotion. “I can’t believe I’m seeing you all grown up. The last time I saw you, you were my gorgeous 15-year-old. And now look at you—a parent yourself.”
The shock of his sudden presence had made Hannah tense, but as he spoke she found herself melting in that familiar spot in his arms that had belonged to her and her alone: his only daughter.
“I missed you, Daddy,” she said, using the name for the first time in 15 years. “I’m so sorry about…everything.”
“I’m not thinking about any of that right now, Hannie,” he said. “Let’s talk about Connor.”
Just hearing her son’s name made something crack inside of Hannah. She didn’t realize just how desperately she had held on to her emotions until she heard her father say Connor’s name. Before she could stop herself, tears began slipping down Hannah’s cheeks.
“He’s going to die, Daddy,” she sobbed against his chest. “If we don’t do something, he’s going to die. Please, Daddy, help Connor. Please say you’ll donate some of your marrow.”
Her father tightened his hold on her, and Hannah knew in that moment that she would bear the consequences. Her mother had asked her father to leave 15 years ago because her father had always put his career first, but her mother never understood that despite the out-of-balance priorities her father had always loved his family. Hannah had known, but in her teens she had had no power to make a decision for their family.
Her mother had never forgiven her father; now that Hannah had begun the process of involving her father, Hannah’s mother had found it difficult to talk to Hannah. Hannah’s siblings had chosen their sides as well. And yet Hannah knew she would continue on this path. If she wanted to exhaust every single option to help Connor, she would continue.
Hannah fought to gain control of herself and dug in her purse for a tissue. “Come on, Daddy. I’ll treat you to a cup of coffee and tell you everything. It’s a long story.
Father and daughter held hands as they did when Hannah was young. They walked to the coffee shop in silence. Just before entering, however, Hannah’s father took her hand in his own.