Daddy and His Little Girl
By Clare Bautista

Jack signaled to the waiter to bring him another round of scotch on the rocks. The waiter saw this and acknowledged it.
As he waited for his drink, he observed the other restaurant patrons. At that moment, they all looked to him, at least, that they had no cares in the world whatsoever. Everyone seemed to be laughing, bantering, having a good time.
Jack felt like he was in a whole separate plane from all these people who surrounded him. Thankfully, just then the server brought him his scotch, reeling him back into reality.
Jack fought the urge to gulp the scotch all at once. But he knew to do so would be a very bad idea. No, today was too important --- he wasn't going to ruin today by getting drunk. His daughter deserved much better than that. Hell, she deserved a totally different father. She didn't deserve to have a father like him, a father who hasn't even thought of seeing her or visiting her in the last ---how many years was it now? Eight? Nine? She had been just a sophomore in high school the last time he saw her. And though he had the obligatory framed photo of her in his office, that was all he had of her.
After almost ten years, he was finally going to see his daughter again. Christine - who was now almost 25 years old -- a grown woman in Med school. He didn't know what to expect when she arrived. But he wouldn't be surprised if she only showed up long enough to tell him off --- to tell him what a terrible father he was and to throw his scotch on his face. He knew if she did do that, he wouldn't and couldn't blame her. He deserved every angry word, hell, he deserved her hate.
Damn. He wished Claire was with him right then. After all, this had been her idea, her doing. She had sensed his guilt and sadness after they had prosecuted a case where the victim's half-brother had killed him, when their father seemed to forget that he had another son alive.
At first, he hadn't wanted to tell Clare how he was feeling, but she had in the end, managed to drag it out of him. She did always have a way of getting things out of him.
She urged him then to give Christine a call. She had convinced him that it wasn't too late to bridge the gap between him and his daughter. She convinced him that after being absent from her life for almost ten years, Christine would welcome her long absent father.
With Claire watching over him, Jack put a call to his daughter at Harvard Medical School. Christine had been shocked to hear from her father and their conversation had been strained. But despite the awkwardness, Jack had been able to get out his invitation to dinner. It was a shock to him that she was talking to him and it was another and even bigger shock when she accepted. They set a day and time and hung up.
Claire had been so proud of him and told him so. Jack had been beside himself with excitement. But a few moments later, doubts started to creep in. And no matter how much Claire reassured him he wasn't making a big mistake, he was convinced he was. He had asked Claire to come with him, but she absolutely refused. It was private moment for him and Christine alone. She could meet Christine some other time. Jack couldn't dissuade her from her decision and finally acquiesced to it.
And thus, here he was now, waiting for Christine alone. He could feel his heart beating fast and the noise around him seemed to be doubly loud as he sat there, staring at his drink. Suddenly, Jack felt a sensation of --- he didn't know --- something that told him to look up --- and he adhered to it. As he looked up, he saw Christine at the entrance of the restaurant, talking to the maitre'd. The maitre'd pointed in Jack's direction.
Christine thanked the maitre'd and started to walk towards him. Jack's heart started beating even faster. This was it. This was the moment of truth. He took a last sip of his Scotch and stood up, smoothening his tie. He kept his eyes at Christine as she got nearer and nearer. God, how could this young woman be Christine? He had missed so much, he regretfully realized.
Christine was also looking at him directly, her eyes never diverting. Jack could feel his hands grow cold in anticipation and nervousness. And he was almost trembling, too. If she rejected him now, he wouldn't blame her. But he would make sure before she left, that he was sorry, that he missed her, and most of all that he loved her.
Finally, Christine was right in front of him. She didn't say a word, she only looked at him. Jack gazed back at this beautiful young woman that was his daughter, desperately searching for a sign that she hated him.
A tear trickled down Christine's cheek and all of a sudden, she threw her arms around her father and embraced him tightly.
As he felt his daughter's embrace, Jack felt his throat begin to tighten with tears and he embraced her back, stroking her silky hair.
For a few moments, they just stood there, embracing and then just as suddenly Christine, pulled away. She looked at her father, her eyes still bright with tears and in a quivering voice, told him, "Dad. You don't know how long I've waited for this." She smiled through her tears.
Jack couldn't say a word. He didn't need to say a word. He just embraced her once more. He had his daughter back. That was all that mattered.


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