This Isn’t The End
By Jason Costabile
Based on “This Isn’t The End” by Owl City
When she was eight years old, Emily’s father disappeared. She waited up all night for him to return, but he never showed. They had once been best buds, she and her dad. He was a good guy who everyone liked. She remembered every autumn, when they would go apple picking, and he would hold her in his arms up high so she could reach the golden orbs of fruit from the trees. She remembered how once when she was six, her dad had taken her go carting, and she sat in his lap and felt the wind rush past her face. She would giggle and squeal with delight as her father, her hero and role model, shared in adventures with her. She loved her father dearly.
But, Emily’s time with her father was short lived.
Her hero had abandoned her the night of August 7th, just two days after her eighth birthday. It was raining, a typical stormy Friday evening not far from normal. It was quiet as usual, the silence only broken by the crackling of the fireplace. Emily had noticed some strange behaviors from her father during the weeks prior. He seemed to not be around as much, and when he was home, he seemed to be irritable, never without a hard drink in hand. Emily wondered why daddy was angry, but as an eight-year-old girl, she didn’t bother asking. She just tried to do what she had always done, to win her dad over through the magic of laughter.
Just before Emily had gone to bed, she’d said goodnight to her dad. He scooped her up in his arms, and carried her to bed. She laughed and screamed as her dad dropped her in her bed and sat next to her. He’d grinned, and told his daughter that he loved her, and that she had a bright life ahead of her. He’d prompted her to sleep, kissed her on the forehead, and turned the lights off one last time. He had whispered “Sweet dreams,” and he’d closed the door.
She didn’t hear the gunshot that ended her father’s life that night. He had left the house and gone to a nearby park lined with trees dense enough to quiet the shouts of death. She knew something was wrong, though, when she awoke to the somber sobs of her mother. She slowly emerged from her room to see her mother crying on the couch.
“What’s wrong, Mommy?” she asked her mother.
Emily’s mother choked back a sob and hugged her daughter. “It’s Daddy, sweet pea. He… he left.”
“But Mommy, Daddy leaves every day! Why are you sad?”
“No, Honey. This time, Daddy won’t be coming home.”
Emily didn’t believe her mother at first. She waited up all night that night for her father to return, but as expected, he never came home. The tears hit Emily when she realized her mother was right, and Daddy wasn’t ever going to come home.
Emily’s mother had been on the emotional fringes recently, as she knew her husband was suffering from a severe case of depression, and things weren’t getting any better. Life just hadn’t been going his way, and for years he had been suppressing his demons. She spent nights in his arms, crying, asking him what they would do if he were gone. He said not to worry. He said they’d be alright without him. He said that he was dying inside, anyway.
The funeral was held a week following his death. Emily saw her dad, lost in perpetual sleep, for the last time. She missed him. She wished he would wake up and hug her one last time. She wished he would wake up and tell her one last time that he loves her.
But that dream fizzled out when his casket touched the bottom of the grave.
Years passed. Emily tried time and time again to pick up the pieces of herself and move forward in life. She tried to look happy in front of her friends, but she knew that something inside her was broken. She would never feel like her normal self again. She blossomed an unwilling flower in a field of ash as her world continued to cave in. Her mom supported her throughout her adolescence, but without her dad there, life seemed kind of empty. The depression she felt was not the same as the depression that killed her beloved father. The grief that tormented her kept her up at night, her heart gridlocked. There were nights when she cried until her eyes ran out of tears, and then she cried some more. A pet can be replaced; a father cannot.
Ten years later, Emily sat at her dad’s grave reminiscing over all she’s been through. She wanted him back just to say goodbye, just to tell him she loved him one last time. The light drizzle of rain sprinkled the ground, as Emily’s tears had for so long. But in thinking about the life she lived that her dad never got to be a part of, she decided that she was who she was because of him, directly or indirectly as it were. She finally, after ten years bleeding, forgave him and began to let her wounds heal.
As the months continued to pass, the future shined a little brighter, and the rain stopped. For the first time since her dad had left her, she smiled a genuine smile. A happy smile. She smiled the smile of a girl who was ready to face life for what it was. She wasn’t afraid anymore. She wasn’t sad anymore. After all, the future is a mystery, and anything could happen. And the thought of something new excited her and motivated her to push past the swampy part of her life. Life may be confusing, and love may linger or fade, but there’s so much of it that to dwell on the rough parts doesn’t make much sense.
Emily picked herself up and walked away from her dad’s grave. She’d made it this far, and if she could do that, she could go farther.
“This is just the beginning. This isn’t the end.”