When I got to their modest two-story house that first night, I used my binoculars to peek into their window from my car. For the first time, I saw the face of my beautiful raven-haired little girl. Even though she had Evangeline’s long, thick hair, her facial features were all me. It was like looking into a mirror. I couldn’t believe it. She was slightly chubby, had long bangs that nearly covered her eyes and was wearing pig tails. She reminded me a little of the character Boo from Monsters, Inc. This was my daughter. Holy shit.
Slowly dropping my binoculars, I wiped the tears from my eyes and tried to regain my composure. She was watching something on television with her sisters and belly laughing. Suddenly, my plan to barge through their door and stake claim on her didn’t seem like such a bright idea. It seemed asinine, in fact. I didn’t want to scare her. So, I put everything off and just enjoyed this beautiful child from afar for a while. Every trip, I’d go with the intention of making my presence known, and each time, I’d decide against it.
The more I acted as a spectator, the clearer it became that Rose had a good life. She was a happy little girl, well-cared for and genuinely loved. The realization of that made it even harder to reveal myself.
So, I became The Invisible Dad.
Evangeline had no idea what I was up to on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Our relationship was temporarily at a standstill. We were giving each other space. She spent her days with Addy, helping to reorganize the shop for the reopening. Evangeline probably thought I was avoiding her for other reasons, but it was mainly my needing to focus on the situation with Rose for a while that kept me away.
While Lance and Olga knew that Evangeline was getting divorced and living with Addy, no one had yet told Lance that he had a granddaughter. Certainly, no one told him who the father of said granddaughter was. For the time being, it was better that way.
Evangeline knew I had gone to see Rose that first time, but she had no clue that I returned to Spearville twice a week after work. She made it clear that she was opposed to the idea of my disrupting Rose’s life in any way. But I just needed to see my daughter. Rose’s games were my own private time with her. So private, the poor little girl didn’t even know about it. No one got hurt this way.
Until the one day I slipped and unintentionally revealed myself.
It started out just like any other Thursday. It was late in the afternoon, and the sun was starting to go down over the grassy field that was filled with five and six-year-old T-ball players and their parents. Some people set up folding chairs while others hung out on the bleachers.
I assumed my spot on the top row with my travel mug of coffee. There was so much waiting involved with that sport. I’d spend every second of it watching her, whether she was just staring into space, giggling with the other kids or actually playing. Whenever she’d step up to the plate, my heart would do flips. Filled with pride, I’d always stand up so that I could see her better. It was amazing what she could do with one arm. She’d whack the ball with her one right arm and run to first base. She’d hit it on the first try almost every time. The cheers for her were always the loudest. I had to give the Simonsens credit for putting her in a sport that would defy her disability. They could have stuck to soccer or something where she didn’t have to use her arm, but clearly they wanted to show her that she could do anything if she put her mind to it.
A stray ball made its way to the corner of the field near where I was sitting. For some reason, Rose separated from everyone to go after it. A rush of adrenaline hit me. My heart was pounding faster with every step she took toward me. She’d never travelled in my direction before. The ball ended up rolling toward the bleachers. She went in search of it.
Unsure of whether it was the right thing to do, I walked down the bleachers and made my way behind them to where she was looking for the ball. She was tiny. She shouldn’t have been back there by herself. What if I were a bad person? And why hadn’t anyone noticed her leave the game?
“Do you need help?”
“I’m looking for a ball.”
I closed my eyes briefly, cherishing the moment of hearing the sound of her sweet little voice clearly for the first time. It travelled through me and squeezed at my heart.
“I’ll help you find it.”
She followed me around behind the bleachers. There was no sign of any ball.
“I’m sorry. I don’t think it’s back here.”
She started to walk away.
I wasn’t ready to let her go. “Wait.”
She stopped and turned around.
I took a long look at her confused little doe eyes. I smiled upon realizing that even though she was the spitting image of me, her eyes were actually brown like Evangeline’s.
“Do me a favor, okay? Don’t wander away like that anymore. And don’t talk to strangers. I’m a good guy, but not everybody is. You should never follow anyone anywhere, especially when there are no other adults around.”
“It’s alright. Just don’t do that again, okay?”
She started to walk away again. I was struggling with my emotions because I didn’t want to let her go. My eyes wandered to the left and suddenly landed on a bright white softball sitting on the grass.
“Rose!” I called out.
She turned around.
“I found the ball! It’s over here.” I ran over to pick it up then walked over to where she was waiting, knelt down and handed it to her.