The first time

And when I saw her, my world just stopped. The air around me had gone completely still. I felt no pulse. I felt no beat. My heart was robbed yet again right at that very moment. I didn’t care that it felt like I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t care that I started to tear up a bit. I just didn’t care at all. The only thing I cared about was her. Crestienne Nicole Darston. My beautiful baby girl.

I love to celebrate almost everything. Something new, if it’s a first or what, hell I’m sure we’re all like that. The first (and only – well for me, at least) time you propose and get married, you have a party. The first time you have a baby. Your friend gets a new pair of shoes, you go and step on it when you get the chance to. May it be big or small, it’s worth celebrating. I would have loved to celebrate the birth of my first born child. But. The day Crestienne came into my life, was the same day my wife was forced to leave. I can’t think of any other moment more bitter-sweet than this. It was going to be the happiest day of our lives, until it wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Crestienne at all. I wouldn’t take back the fact that she was born. No. If anything, I love her even more. She’s my little angel. She reminds me so much of my wife. They look so much alike. Just because my wife died that day, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t celebrate it. It’s also Crestienne’s birthday after all. I won’t stop celebrating little Crestienne’s feats, however big or small.

I remember the first time she smiled at me, the first time she crawled, the first time she pulled herself up and took her first ever step. Yeap. As little as she was, she was able to restore my willingness to celebrate every little firsts. That’s just who I am. I was lucky enough to catch on tape all those small achievements of hers. The first time she laughed, and by God, when she spoke. There she was walking around the living room, me with my video recorder just filming her run and laugh. Then she said it, “dada.”  I dropped my camera, ran towards Crestienne, and, filled with joy, I hugged her and laughed. I couldn’t believe it, my little Crestienne is talking.

They grow up so fast. What a big understatement. It feels like magic actually. Right in front of your eyes, without you even noticing, they grow up. One moment she’s this diaper wearing, bottle drinking baby, and the next she’s a little kid running around your backyard playing with her toys. I noticed her favourite toy to play with is Lego. She likes to just stack the pieces on top of each other. I love watching her do this because it is heartwarming. It is one other thing that reminds me of my wife. You see, my wife was an architect. Except, my wife never picked up a building she helped create and started throwing it around and laughing.

I feel so blessed to be able to see little Crestienne grow up. Even before she was born, I was a stay-at-home. My wife would go to work at her architecture firm, and me, well, I would work on my writing. So, when Crestienne came into my life, I had the time to be there for her. Sure there were times when it was hard to pay the bills, but that didn’t stop me. You see, I found a new source of inspiration. My baby girl. A lot of what I wrote were inspired from the firsts of Crestienne. The first time she got a wound and came running to me.  I didn’t know if I should be happy or sad. On one hand, my baby girl is hurt and is crying! But on the other hand, she made me feel something no one else can ever make me feel. She made me feel like her superhero.

Things just kept going uphill from there. I was her go to guy when she needed help with her math homework. Whenever there was something she couldn’t understand, I’d be there to help her out. Basically, whenever she would fall, I would always be there to help her get back up. Always.

Don’t get me wrong now, I didn’t make her too dependent. I still tried my best to give her a sense of independence. She doesn’t run to me when she gets scratched. I taught her how to clean up her wound, add a thin film of ointment, and finally put on a bandaid if needed. She can ace the rest of her homework (really, its just math. Ugh, math). I like to think that as Crestienne continued to grow up I taught her just enough to be an independent girl but at the same time, to know when to ask for help. There’s no shame in asking for help after all.

I’ll never forget this one time, she was with a couple of her friends and they were biking in the street in front of the house. I was inside, working on a writing project. When Crestienne went inside the house, I could already tell something was off. Usually she’d run to me tell me about her day, ask about how my writing is going, and then we’d play a bit more. This time was different. She just ran straight to her room. So I asked her, “Everything alright, sweetheart?” She didn’t answer immediately right after but then I hear a feint “yes,” that sounded very unsure. I thought maybe it was just puberty. Maybe the days of when my little girl would come to me after play time were over. Nope. After I said okay and that I was just down the hall if ever she needed something I heard her call back, “Dad? Could you come in for a minute. I gotta ask you something.” I asked myself what she could possibly want to ask me. I wondered if she was okay. Maybe she had a crush? I had no idea what was going on inside that head of hers. So I went in and it was the first time I saw her since she got back to the house. I freaked out a bit. Apparently she was going downhill, hit a gutter, and then flew from her bike straight into the pavement. Her hands had scratches, her torso and legs were bruised, and her one foot was bleeding. “I thought I could clean myself up alright. My foot hurts too much. I can’t do it myself,” she said to me as I was looking through her wounds. I looked into her eyes and simply said, “Honey, its alright to ask for help you know. You don’t have to be so big all of the sudden. You’re still my baby girl.” I noticed that a small stone was protruding out of her foot. The wound wasn’t big and the stone looked really small, it seemed to just pierce through the skin a little bit. I told her to grab my hand and squeeze it as hard as she can, “if it hurts, squeeze my hand as tight as you can okay?” She hugged me tight, grabbed my one hand, and then I pulled out the stone. After the stone was pulled out and her wounds cleaned up and treated she told me, “Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, Dad. I just wanted to be like you. You don’t seem to need any help and always know what to do. I want to be like that.” She looks up to me but I needed to teach her a lesson, let her know its okay to ask for help. I told her, “That’s okay sweetheart. It’s okay to ask for help. Actually right now, dad needs some help with his book. How about you help me out huh?”

We got even closer as we grew older, as family, and as friends. Like I said though, they grow up way too fast. Before I knew it, she was having sleepovers and crushes and entering high school.

Highschool was pretty tough. I guess I just got too used to having her around the place. I remember spending a lot of time with her late in the afternoon and early in the night but then it was starting to be common practice for her to arrive pretty late. It’s okay though, she was enjoying making new friends. I would worry so much whenever I wouldn’t get an update text from her though. Where she is and how she’s doing. I know, it’s weird or whatever, maybe its even borderline psycho dad, but you gotta understand me, I’m still adjusting to this. Even though my little girl is not so little anymore and is out there in the real world, she’s still my baby girl. I’d just die if anything happened to her.

Yup, her highschool days were tough for me. That teenage angst was kicking in full time. Come her senior year I would hear more, “you just don’t understand, dad! Okay?” and less, “I love you, Dad.” There was this one time, she got home really late, smelled like alcohol, and scratched up the car real good. we got into such a big argument. It lasted for a couple of days, and they were pretty intense. She’d hardly be home, and whenever we’d talk, there’d be a lot of shouting. Ultimately though, I was just glad she was able to get home okay that night. Thats being a teenager for you. Hell I remember when I went through that angsty phase. Wearing hoodies during summer and walking to my friends house for band practice.

I don’t know what it was, maybe it was the high school graduation, or maybe she just got tired of all our arguments, but towards the end of her high school days, she started to become more mature. The arguments significantly lessened, and we would talk things out. It was… nice. I’ll always remember that day she called me her superhero again. It was a day before going to college and we decided to throw her a little party. We had two celebrations: her getting into college, and a late graduation celebration with the extended family and friends. Sure it was sad that she was leaving, but I couldn’t help but be happy for her. Her smile had never been wider. She was so excited to go into the course she wanted.

After the little party, on the way to drop her off at college, she said, “I’m sorry for the trouble I put you through, Dad.” I knew what she meant, about all the petty fights we got into. You see, I’m kind of a joker, so I told her, “So, what is it you want now?” We laughed a bit, she told me she was being serious, and I told her I knew. “I know sweetheart. It’s okay. You know I was like that too when I was younger. I was pretty rowdy and rebellious myself.”  She seemed genuinely interested, she asked, “Really? I don’t think you ever told me this! What’d you do?” So I told her about the time my friends and I were driving around this parking lot, drifting the car of our friends dad, and tumbling it over when we lost control of the steering wheel. “OH MY GOD,” she interrupted. “-yeah. we all got out, pushed the car back up and drove home,” I said. I also told her about the time a group of guys wanted to fight us. “We were driving my car and this group of bullies tried to chase us so when we were along this one street, my one friend picked up a baseball bat I had in the back, rolled down the window, and aimed it like a gun at the other car. They stepped on the break so hard, I swear I heard the tires screech. We were laughing so hard after that.” Crestienne sounded so worried, “Oh my God, Dad! What if they had real gun?” That was true though, we were pretty stupid back then. What if they actually had a gun. I just told her, “Exactly why you should never do such a thing alright?” We both laughed and I said, “You know, your mom told me the same thing when I told her that story.” Crestienne was quiet. She asked about her mom before and I also told her the story of how we met but she never really got to meet her mom so she would be sad about that. I could tell Crestienne would have died to meet her mother. Who wouldn’t? She was awesome. “Well, that’s coz, mom’s right! Oh, and I’m sure mom was just as awesome as I am” Crestienne finally said. We finally arrived and before leaving the car she said, “Thanks for everything, Dad.” Gave me a tight hug and continued, “Keep your cellphone near you okay? I’m going to call you every night! You’re still my superhero and I’ll still need your help with stuff.” She kissed me on the cheek, opened the car door, said “I love you, Dad,” and brought her small duffle bag up with her to her dorm.

The older she got, the more she looked and acted like her mom. I could totally see very similar qualities between the two of them. The way they’d assert themselves in a heated conversation. I always loved that about my wife and I’m glad that it was passed on to Crestienne. She would always speak her mind and be firm about her decisions. Firm, yet polite. That was the beauty of the two of them you know. They knew how to assert themselves, they knew how to stand up for what they believed in, they knew how to step down when they were in the wrong, and they knew how to respect others the same way they wanted to be respected.

My little baby girl who would once run around the house playing with her lego, who was once this angsty teen who swore I never ‘understood her’ is now this grown lady. I am very proud of the kind of woman she has become.

I don’t remember how many boy she introduced me to, it wasn’t a lot, there were just none worth remembering. Until one time during her senior year, she introduced me to Theodore. A real stand up guy. I remember after having dinner with him and Crestienne this one time, I thought to myself, “finally someone I approve of.” Crestienne was about to graduate with a degree in Accountancy, and had already been accepted into one of the countries most prestigious law school. Theodore was also about to graduate but with a degree in Business Management. This one time when Crestienne was home for the weekend, just a couple of months before graduation she asked me what I thought of about Theodore. My brain just went on full stop. “Please don’t talk about marriage. Please don’t talk about marriage. Oh God, please don’t talk about marriage!” I wasn’t ready for Crestienne to get married yet. Sure she’s a woman now, but she’s still my baby girl! “Uh Dad? You kinda blanked out there. So, how do you feel Theodore,” Crestienne asked again. I didn’t know what to say. I just came out and told her what I was thinking. “Listen, Honey, I think it’s too early to be thinking about marriage. I mean you have law school and your whole life ahead of you. Are you sure about this” I asked. What’d she say? Well, stupid over thinking me, she wasn’t even thinking about that! She laughed and said, “Jeez Dad! You’re so funny! We’re not even thinking about that! I just wanted to know if you liked him, if I get your approval. I really like this guy and I think it could get serious. But. I want to know what you think first.” What’d I think? I think it’s sweet my daughter still looks for my approval. I told her, “Honey, Theodore is a great guy. I’m sure even your mom would approve of him. You’re happy, Crestienne, I can see it. Follow your happiness. It will take you places.”

Crestienne graduating college, her standing on stage, holding that diploma, definitely passes as one of the happiest days of my life. Theodore and his family invited the two of us for dinner that night. It was splendid. I met the parents of Theodore, his younger brother, and all of us got a long very well. Really though, I was excited to go home. Not because I wanted to leave Theodore’s place, but because I couldn’t wait to be with Crestienne again at home. The two of us enjoying a night at home. After dinner, we said our goodbyes and made plans for a trip one of these days during the summer. We planned on going to Rabbit Beach in Italy. Both Crestienne and I were very excited since we didn’t really travel out of the country. The ride home, Crestienne couldn’t stop talking about the different opportunities she was given days before her graduation. She also kept talking about how her friends had told her about these different organisations that are set out on basically helping those who need help. “Want some dessert,” I asked her. She told me about this cupcake place that she always wanted to try. It was supposed to be good and it was on the way home anyway. So she told me how to get to the place. We parked the car and walked towards Tastries – the cupcake place Crestienne was talking about.

Inside the store, it was just the two of us. Place was packed but by the time we got our food, the people had left already. I couldn’t stop telling her how proud I was of her, and how I knew her mom would be even more proud. I don’t even know if she got annoyed by it, I didn’t care. While eating, I pulled something out of my pocket. “Crestienne, this is for you. I wanted to give it to you when we were alone. Couldn’t wait anymore till we got to the house,” I said as I showed her a necklace. “This was your mothers. Her parents gave it to her when she graduated college as well. I know she’d want you to have it.” Crestienne was awestruck, “Dad… it’s beautiful. Thank you.” She turned around and asked me to put it on her. After I did, she turned back and asked, “Well, how do I look?” She looked beautiful. We just kept eating and talking and after awhile we lost track of time and ended up having to leave because the place was closing.

I mentioned earlier on that I love to celebrate. You may have noticed that as Crestienne and I continued to grow older, we kept celebrating our accomplishments, our firsts, anything we could be happy about. As a father, I continued to look for that first. I wanted to see if I still had any firsts with my daughter.

But.

You’d be surprised how the best day of your life can quickly turn into your worst. That night, I realised that although there are firsts that are worth celebrating, there are some that you wish never even happened.

The first time you get mugged.

The first time you get into a fight in front of your daughter.

The first time you fear for your daughter’s life.

The first time your daughter needs you and you can’t fucking help her.

The first time her own personal superhero can’t do shit.

The first time you hear a gunshot.

The first time you hold her in your arms, hoping, praying, telling her that everything is okay when they don’t look okay.

They were too many. We gave them the money but they kept wanting more. Then they wanted her. We tried fighting back. Then someone pulled a gun. She was shot and they ran away. I hugged her and stayed with her. She wasn’t breathing properly. “The ambulance is near. Just hold on sweetheart.” I was pressing down on her wound. I was freaking out, I didn’t know what to do. Then I hear her voice, “I love you, dad. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be okay. At least I’ll get to see mom.”

The first time you hear her voice… for the last time.

It should have been me that got shot. I was her superhero. I was supposed to take care of her. It was supposed to be my job.

It was supposed to be the happiest day of my life – until it wasn’t.


For anyone wondering, this isn’t a true story. This is my just a crack at a short story. Hope you liked it. All that is written here is original material. I reserve all rights I have over this 🙂

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