Dan was shaking as he opened the door to his 15 year-old daughter’s hospital room. The girl in the bed was covered in purple bruises. Tubes were connected to every part of her body. The ventilator was breathing for her.
Dan leaned in for a closer look, he couldn’t tell if this was his daughter or not. His eyes scanned her face; he caught sight of the familiar birthmark just below her ear and slumped into a nearby chair.
As Dan sat next to his daughter his mind whirled. Why did Tracy run away to begin with? Where had she been these last 4 months? He shook his head; only Tracy would be able to answer these questions and from the look of her banged up body, it was quite possible that she might never wake up again. Tears streaked down his tired, wrinkled face.
A doctor entered the room and shook Dan’s hand. “Your daughter has a severe head injury. She’s in a coma for now. We’re waiting for the blood tests to come back. It does appear that she’s been raped. Hopefully, she’ll wake up in a day or two; but there's no way to know for certain. It’s important that you talk to her. I know she has IVs and bruises on her arm, but I would encourage you to hold her hand and massage her limbs. It’s quite likely she’ll recognize your voice and your touch, she’ll know you are here.”
After the doctor left the room, Dan reached out to rub his daughter’s arm; but he jerked his hand back before it reached her. He sank back into the chair and buried his face in his hands. His whole body shook as he sobbed.
Gradually Dan’s snores kept rhythm with the humming of the machines that were keeping his daughter alive. He felt his mind rushing back through time.
Suddenly, he was no longer a tired, worried father, but a brand-new Daddy.
The nurse tried to hand baby Tracey to him. Dan stepped back and shook his head. “No, she’s too little. I’ll hold her when she’s older.”
His vision flashed forward a few years. Dan walked through the front door. Tracey toddled toward him with her arms outstretched. But Dan stepped around her. “What’s for dinner?”
Once again he felt dizzy as the years rushed by. “Daddy, Daddy, look what I made in school today.”
Dan made a beeline to his chair. “Later, Daddy is tired from work. I just want to read the paper.” Tracey stopped smiling; her shoulders slumped down in defeat. Dan just looked down and read the sport's scores.
The next vision took place at a softball came. Dan found his wife; she wife hissed, “Where have you been? The game is almost over.”
Tracey ran to the sidelines, “Daddy, I just hit a homerun!” She tried to high-five her dad, but the fence blocked her hand.
Dan shifted in the chair as time marched on. Tracy was getting ready for her first homecoming dance. She twirled around, eager for her father’s approval. “That dress is too low-cut. It makes you look like a little tramp.” Dan saw the tears in his daughter’s eyes before he turned around and stomped out of the room.
The last scene was in Tracey’s bedroom. Dan was reading the note that Tracey left him before she ran away. In his sleep he murmured “Why God, why did my baby leave me?”
A beautiful voice whispered into Dan’s ear. “All of her life, Tracey has been searching for your approval. A daughter needs to be hugged and loved by her father. When her own Daddy refused to pick her up, give her a hug, or pat her back she went looking for affection from others. Your daughter hungered for the touch of another male. You could’ve been her role model but you chose to be selfish.”
Dan woke up with a jerk. He jumped out of the chair and rushed to Tracey’s side. This time he didn’t hesitate to pick up her battered hand. He massaged her arm. “Please come back to me Tracey. I promise I’ll be there for you. Please baby, please.”
The only response was the beeping of the monitors and the whooshing from the ventilator.
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