An angled column of sun selects the courtyard as its resting place, quivering in among a dapple of leaves and students and lushing out the thick green lawn. She stands right in the centre, separate and anointed, her hair fairly aflame with light, her green shirt matching the grass, still and upright. He calls her name happily, waiting expectantly for the smooth, peach hued grace of her smile. He’s been surprised how much he’s missed her these last few months.
But when she turns to him, her face is broken like a mirror, shattered with some grief he feels the stab of instantly. He moves forward to embrace her, his strides lengthening, his arms reaching, almost staggering to catch her, as if she will fall also like a mirror, a jag of pieces puncturing the lawn, and reflecting his own torn face in fragments.
“It’s okay.” He croons into the hair beneath his chin. “It’s okay. Whatever it is, we’ll figure it out.”
Her eyes, when she lifts her face, are those of a stranger. They are oddly cold, imprinted somehow with marble,
“I’m going to stay here,” she whispers hoarsely. “I am chosen by God. I must stay or the decision will be harder. I can’t come on that holiday with you. Not yet.”
He stares at her. She stares back. There’s a longish pause.
“Okay.” He says. It comes out quite loudly and a few students nearby hear him. “Okay. Well, if you don’t mind, I want to get back. It’s quite a long drive and there’s no point in paying the dog walker if we’re not going to take that little holiday we talked about. Take care and write when you find time.” He kisses her forehead and turns to walk away.
She grabs his arm and he’s secretly pleased to see the marble sheen gone from her eyes, replaced by anger. “Is that all?” she demands.
“Well, it’s not like I will change your mind. I’m a mere human.” He counters in a reasonable tone. “I can only hug you and empathize with you as a member of the same species. I guess you preferring God to real people is like me preferring Simmo.”
“What on earth? Simmo is a dog! That’s a pretty weird comparison, Dad. Do you have any idea how much this means to me?”
“No, I don’t, to be quite honest. But that’s okay. I never have understood your thing about God. It seems to me like you’re living to die. Anyway, mate, if you want to devote your life to this stuff, don’t let me stop you. I just wish that when I arrived just now, and I saw you, you’d looked happy. But you didn’t. You looked shattered. That’s why I ran to hug you. I thought you’d got some really awful news. Turns out that you were feeling awful because this God that you believe in is apparently demanding that you spend your whole life idolising Him. That is pretty shattering. I mean, if it were any other kind of life partner making the same demands, I’d deck him. But I can’t do that so all I can say is, I’m still here. You know how to contact me. I love ya, mate. I’ll see ya later, I hope.”
“Shshsh! Dad! You’re being so disrespectful!”
“Am I? Or is it more disrespectful to let me drive eight hours to come and pick you up for a nice father/daughter holiday and then tell me you had no plans to ever come with me?”
Her head drops at that, and he sees her cheeks go pink. He takes her head between his hands and kisses her again, right on her crown. “Take care, okay? And try and keep it between you and God. Don’t let these other nutters interfere, you hear me? I don’t trust them. No other marriage I know of has groupies. I’ll see you whenever you want. Bye, mate. I’m going back to Simmo. You know he hates it when I leave him.”