I peered through the car window at the dark outline of the road ahead, trying to find my way through the shadows, with just the "swish, swish" of the window wipers to keep me company. Once more I cursed the fact I was out on a night like this, when even the car radio had given up and decided enough was enough.
It had all started from the phone call that had come out of the blue, just as I was settling down with a film I had wanted to see for ages, a cozy log fire, and a glass of good whiskey. All of which now lay many miles behind me, film over, fire out, and whiskey left still in its glass.
When I answered the phone it was a voice I knew so well, yet was the voice of the last person I would have expected to call me.
"Hi Dad, it's me Marie."
I did not know what to say. Hearing the voice of my daughter brought so much flooding back to me. Like a cinema reel flicking through frame after frame, visions of the past few years filled my mind.
It had started with the death of my wife, trying to get over it and look after my family at the same time. The constant arguments with my daughter had driven her away, leaving me devastated, both of us vowing to never speak to the other again. So many harsh words had been said in the heat of the moment. So much hurt given and received from both sides.
After she had gone, my son David, had simply looked at me.
"You've done it now, Dad." He had said.
Like a knife pearcing my heart, the realization that I had lost another member of my family cut right through me.
Like the stubborn people we are, neither my daughter nor I had talked from that moment forward. David passed on the odd pieces of news from his random contact with Marie, how she had found a place to live with a group of friends, and how she was doing ok. But now David was away defending our country, and I was alone.
"Dad, are you there?" Marie's voice brought me back from my memories.
"Hi Marie, I'm here. Sorry. I was miles away. What do you want"
Half of me was glad that my daughter had called; the other half wondered what she was after.
"Dad..." I thought I heard a sob.
"Dad, please Dad, I need your help."
At once all the anger and doubt left me. My daughter needed me, she was in trouble.
"Marie love, what's wrong?"
This time I know I heard sobs, and my heart lurched and all the pain came back to me.
"Dad," she whispered through the tears I knew were falling. "Dad, I need you. Please Dad, I need you"
That had been several hours ago, and here I was traveling through the worst weather that this December night could throw at me to a place I only had a vague idea of its location, to a daughter whom I thought I had lost and who was in trouble.
The miles came and went, and signposts seemed to be as common as the other cars on the road, "namely none". I came to a crossroads totally unsure of which direction to go, when suddenly a flash of something caught the corner of my eye. I looked up into the dark skies. I had forgotten the morning news', reports of space debris entering the atmosphere this evening and burning up. As I looked, several more small sparks lit the night heavens. OK, I thought, follow the star. I turned towards the first light I had seen and started driving once more through the night.
After a few miles, out of nowhere a sign appeared at the side of the road, a sign naming the very town I was looking for, and it took little time after that find the café my daughter had called me from.
I walked into the smoky, warm room, and immediately saw my daughter sitting head bowed at a table. "Marie" I called softly. She looked up, tears still filling her eyes, dark rings from lack of sleep surrounding the red rimmed gaze that looked up at me.
"Dad, oh Dad, I am so glad to see you"
Without thinking I rushed to hug her, and as she stood up, I realized that my daughter was not as I had last seen her; she was in fact very, very pregnant.
She filled my arms, and I gently hugged her, so much going through my mind.
"Dad" she whispered in my ear "Dad, please take me home"
We drove back through the dark, neither of us saying much, until the soft sound of her sleeping left me alone in my thoughts as to what was going on, and what had happened to my little girl that now slept in the car seat next to me.
Many hours later we arrived home, and I helped her out the car and into the house. I made Marie comfortable, and made us both some tea, before sitting down with her, waiting for her to talk.
After a while she seemed ready, and started to tell me what had happened. She was, as I had thought, nine months pregnant, her boyfriend of some time, whom I had known nothing about, was away. I was going to ask where, but bit my tongue and let her carry on. She had been trying to make it to a friend's house, when her car had broken down. She had been lost and alone, worried about the baby. Not knowing what else to do, she had called me. She tried to tell me how sorry she was and what an idiot she had been, but I did not hear the words as my own were tumbling from my lips until we both started crying and once more hugged each other.
I tucked my little girl into bed that night not knowing what I was to do, trying to get all that had gone on that night into some form of order.
About four in the morning, a tap on my shoulder woke me, my sleep filled eyes seeing the face of my daughter. "Dad," she said, "The baby is coming. We need to get to the hospital"
I jumped out of bed, thinking about hot water and overnight bags and such.
"It's ok Dad, breath deeply. You'll be alright." She smiled, and I knew how much I had missed my daughter.
That was the start of a hectic seven hours that saw me go into the hospital as a Dad, and come out a doting Grandfather of a beautiful baby boy.
I looked up, holding the baby in my arms, as the door bell rang a week later. My daughter went and answered the door, and I heard whoops of joy and laughter before bursting into the room came my son, David, with his arm around Marie.
"Hi Dad," he said "Did you think we would miss this moment?"
I smiled, then realized he had said we, and for the first time I noticed another man next to David, his hand clasped around that of my daughter.
Marie smiled, she looked from the man and then at me.
"Dad, this is Andy, Andy Carpenter, my fiancé and the baby's father."
I must have looked shocked, because a worried look crossed Marie's face.
"Dad, I told you Andy was away, but as he was on a secret assignment, I could not tell you where"
I sat down trying to work it all out; somehow what had gone on seemed to have a vague ring to it.
My daughter Marie being pregnant, alone with nowhere to go, a guiding star, the birth of a baby and now a Carpenter.
I smiled; it couldn't be, could it?
No matter what, I had my daughter back. But more than that, I had a family, which now included my new son and grandson, and there were still three more days until Christmas.
© Barry Eva November 2003
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