It is 4:00 pm in the afternoon. A work-weary father opens the front door to greet a six year old little girl. Her enthusiasm is infectious and he scoops her up and gives her a kiss.
“I missed you, Daddy! Come in your office and see the sunrays! Come, hurry!”
“Oh, must we do this now?” he grumbles as he puts his coat away. “Can't Daddy relax?”
Jonathan follows Dana into his office but soon he tunes her out. He has other things on his mind. A sudden mood change; his eyes turn cold as they cross over the pile of important papers he must attend to today.
“See the sunrays darting all over the wall in yellows, reds and blues, Daddy?” Dana says as she points to the traveling prisms of light flowing through the window.
“I don't have time for games, Dana. Go, now and let me be.”
“Come on, Daddy, just take a peek. It's fun. Don't you like the colors?”
Jonathan stands up, impatient, takes Dana by the hand and leads her to the door. He pats her on the head and bends down, whispering, “Daddy is busy now, child. Later. Later, I'll look.”
“That's what you said yesterday. It is never later. You keep forgetting me.”
Jonathan walks over to his desk. A pile of papers whooshes off the desk like a flurry of snow. He chases each piece like gold.
Why don't you care about me as much as you care about those dumb papers? Dana thinks to herself, bending down to tie her shoe. Just a little bit of time, is that too much to ask? Look at me, Daddy. Don't turn away!
She runs ahead of him, quickly storming into the pile of papers, kicking them here and there, and watching them get tossed up into the air. The papers make a sound almost like fingers snapping. But when she turns around to see her father's face, bright red and angry, her smile fades. Fear rises up into her throat and she backs up to the wall.
“I want you to pick up every single one of these papers, and I want them in the correct order, young lady!”
“How am I going to know that?” she whispers fearfully.
“You just have to figure it out. Daddy needs those papers for work, and you just kick them around like trash. Life isn't a game, girl. I need you to learn that now. Pick them up!”
She runs over to the window and opens it wide. The papers fly out the window, swirl around in the wind like little flags. The very sight of this makes her happy and she laughs. No more papers! “See, see the papers fly. Let's go chase them.”
“Get out. Get out of my sight!”
He takes her hand and he drags her out of the room. The door is slammed and locked shut.
Things would never be the same again, now that he closed the door on her.
Dana flies up the stairs to her room and buries her face in her pillow as rejection fills her heart.
Suddenly, a thought pops into her mind. Dana sits up and wipes her face. The tear-stained pillow tells the story of heartbreak. Just a moment it would take to dry her tears; could there be rescue from sorrow?
Getting off her bed, she shuffles to her dresser. With trembling hands, she picks up a picture of her Daddy.
“You have kind eyes. I will give you one more chance. Please don't let me down.”
She gazes in the mirror and smiles weakly. Taking a deep breath, she walks to her door and opens it once again. Step by step, she descends the stairway.
Silence. She shuffles further down and knocks at his door. Knocks. And knocks.
Silence. Pressing her face to the keyhole, she tries to listen but hears nothing. She peeks in and sees Daddy with his head on his desk, crying.
Inside the room, Jonathan's face is pressed against the cool surface of his desk. My company is going bankrupt. I don't have time for these silly games she plays. Doesn't she know how much stress I am under? What an important man I am? Why doesn't she just leave me alone? Stop that knocking!
He covers his ears with his hands. A soft knock on the door; he ignores it once again.
The surface of the desk is moist from the tears on his face. I have to stop it. I am a man. I have work to do.
Reaching in his pocket, he retrieves a handkerchief. He curses the tear that runs down his cheek. Blasted little girl! The world doesn't revolve around you, Dana!
He gets up from his chair and walks over to the liquor cabinet and pours himself a whiskey, gulping down enough to save face.
“Daddy, can I come in?”
Silence. Sitting at the door, hoping for an answer that won't come, Dana is rejected again just like she was yesterday and the day before.
“I won't be here tomorrow, Daddy!” she shouts through the keyhole. “I am running away. You are a cruel man. I don't care about your papers. And I don't love you anymore. Ever!”
She leaves out the front door with the clothes on her back, into the woods, and keeps walking until day turns into night.
Jonathan throws back the whiskey, hoping for a quick fix. He pauses and listens for knocking.
Silence. He carefully steps over to the door and unlocks it. “Dana, Daddy can see you now. Come in child. It's okay.”
“Oh, come on. Are you playing one of your hide-and-seek games again? Okay, Daddy is game. But remember, I've got more work to do since you messed up my papers.”
Jonathan heads toward the living room curtains, one of Dana's favorite hiding places. He quickly draws them back.
“Here you– oh, wrong again. You are clever, Dana. I have to be more creative, like you.”
He searches the whole downstairs, calling out her name but hears nothing. Climbing the stairs to Dana's room, he silently opens the door.
“Dana, I know you are in here,” Jonathan whispers. He bends down and turns up the quilt. “Are you under the bed? Where are you?”
He hurries down the stairs and out the front door. Checking the swings, he finds nothing. Running around the house, there is no sign of Dana.
“Dana! For crying out loud, this is not funny! I don't have time for your games. Come out!”
Panic grips him and he goes inside to call the police. “911 emergency, can we help you?
“Yes! My daughter Dana is missing. I cannot find her anywhere. Can you send the police to 958 Hanover Street immediately?”
“Yes, sir. We will send a squad car right away.”
Jonathan waits on the steps with his face in his hands. A million thoughts go through his mind. Calm down, Jonathan. The police will find Dana. It isn't your fault. You have deadlines to meet. She was being a pest.
A few minutes later, a police car arrives and two officers get out of the car and approach him. Jonathan shakes their hands. “Can you help me? My daughter Dana is missing. I have a picture of her in my wallet. Here it is.”
Looking at Dana's photo, one officers says, “Don't you worry, we will search the surrounding area completely. Just stay put and wait for our call. She might just come back home if she is simply playing somewhere.”
“I didn't think of that,” Jonathan sighs.
“Just leave it to us,” the policeman says as they walk back to their squad car.
The police find the little girl two days later, drowned in the river, a note pinned to her coat: I waited for you, Daddy, but you told me to go away. So I am going away. Forever. Goodbye, Daddy. You had your chance.
The father cries for all the times he was cold and bitter. He put his work ahead of his love for his daughter. He looks up at the sky. “I let you down; I was not there for you. I am contemptible. I should have been there for you, my darling. I hate myself for being so selfish. Oh, God, what have I done?”
Silence is his answer.