Monday 3 October 2022

I Loved Her First by Tony Domaille, large brandy

 

‘I was enough for her not long ago, I was her number one, she told me so.

And she still means the world to me, just so you know’

 

There’s been a robbery, but one I can never report to the police. God, I’m not even sure how much has been taken. All I know is I had it, and now it’s gone. Someone stole time.

She’s getting married today. How did that happen? As I walk her up the aisle, my smile hides a pain inside. Was it really so long ago I held my baby daughter moments after her birth? Right now, I desperately want those moments back. To be able to hear her first cry, smell her new-born smell, hold her close. But the baby is long gone.

Now, as she stands beside the man to whom I must give her away, I realise it’s not time that’s been stolen. Time itself is the thief. So many perfect moments replay in my head, and it feels they were in my hands all too briefly. I wasn’t allowed to keep them. The perpetually smiling toddler with the tousled hair is gone. The tomboy in the baseball cap and football boots disappeared all too soon, and the teenager with too much make-up and too short a skirt followed just as quickly.

For a moment, I’m overwhelmed. Why didn’t I find a way to hold on to the three-year-old who followed me into the bathroom every morning to make the same conversation.

‘Daddy, what are you doing?’

‘Getting ready for work.’

‘Why?’

‘To get some money to buy you things.’

‘Oh. Can I have my breakfast now?’

Why didn’t I spend more time with her as she grew? Why didn’t I realise the thief that is time was taking it all away from me?

The wedding service is over in a blur and my father of the bride speech comes and goes. Did I say all I planned? Say all I should have said? She looks so happy, and I feel guilty that I’d give anything to go back before this day and do it all again. Hold on to the moments. Do it better. But there is no time machine, and no policeman is going to take my report or get back what has been taken.

Now it’s time for their first dance. I watch my daughter and my new son-in-law gazing into each other’s eyes, and I remind myself that it can never be about me. Today is about them. The future is about them. Time will steal from them both, just as it has stolen from me, but they won’t realise that for a long while yet. They’re young, and they have too little past to be concerned with. The present is what matters, and there’s so much future for them to fill.

One day I will warn them, ‘Don’t dare blink, or you’ll miss it.’ But today isn’t the day for that. And today isn’t for me to lament the time that has gone, but to be as happy as my daughter is about all that is to come. He’s a good man. He’ll give her the life and happiness I know she deserves.

We all applaud as we join them on the dance floor, and my feeling of having been robbed is suddenly gone. What have I been thinking? While I love her more than life itself, my time of being the most important man in her life is rightly gone. And though time may have stolen her from me, it will give back to me too as I watch her build a life, perhaps a family of her own.

The music changes and the DJ calls out for me to dance with my daughter. He plays Heartland’s ‘I loved her first,’ and finally I know my place in her life and in time. 

About the author


Tony has had stories published in a number of anthologies as well as People’s Friend, Your Cat Magazine and Café Lit. His award-winning plays are published by Lazy Bee Scripts and and have been performed across the world. You can follow him here - https://www.facebook.com/tonydomaillewriting/ 

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