Five years later...
“Happy birthday Lily!” I shout. Lily is five years old today and I can't stop crying!
Lily was still sleeping when I barged into her room with her birthday cake. She jumped up when she heard my booming voice and I saw her eyes light up when she saw the strawberry cake all fiery with several sparkling candles.
“Daddy!” she says with a huge grin showing her missing tooth in the corner of her mouth. She leaps out of bed and comes to stand in front of me as I kneel down for her to blow out the candles.
She blows and some of the sparks kiss my face but I don't care. She looks so happy. Happier than I've ever seen her on her birthday.
Today I'm going to give her the letter.
I made sure she could read it as early as possible. She's very smart and caught on quickly and she understands things I didn't even I understood yet. She scared me sometimes. She is such an old soul I sometimes forget that I'm talking to a five-year-old.
I give her the letter I've kept in my nightstand for so many years.
“What's this?” she says licking her finger where she scooped of some icing. She loves strawberry just like Rosa did. And I had to fight to keep from tearing.
“It's a letter.” I say.
She raises her eyebrows questioningly.
Her mouth falls open and she turns away from me to open the letter.
I wait for her to finish, which seems like forever.
She folds the letter and tucks it in a little pocket inher nightgown.
She looks... indifferent.
“What is it, Musume?” I ask. Mori would travel down to town every now and then for a few months. He taught Lily Japanese. I picked up a few words but I'm sure my Japanese is very bad.
“She told me to never let you read it.” she laughs.
I laugh with her even though I feel hurt.
More secrets kept from me?
I never found out why she lied to me about her parents but I had forgiven her on that and moved on. But Lily too? Why get her to keep secrets from me?
“Come on,” I say, taking her hand I lead her to the kitchen so we can have cake. It is Saturday and I plan spending the whole day with her at the park and the movies and maybe with her grandfather. Mrs. Mori left Mr. Mori when she found out he was helping me. I thought that was the most ridiculous reason for divorce I had ever heard. Lily had never met her grandmother and I'm that she isn't interested in meeting Lily. Sato moved out of her home nextdoor and went to live with Mrs. Mori somewhere in India. Or at least that's Mori told me. I'm glad Sato is gone. I wouldn't have wanted that ridiculous woman around my daughter.
It was around five o'clock when we arrived at the park. People were watchingus with blazing animosity but Lily didn't notice and I ignore them. We play together for hours until John shows up. After five years he still babysits Lily for me. His brother knows and he doesn't speak to me anymore, he ignores his younger brother as well, but John stayed loyal to me and watches over Lily when I need him.
Lily's face lit up when she saw him.
“Johnny!” she shouts clapping and jumping around. She is so happy I never want to leave the park.
“Hey birthday girl!” shouts back and scoops her up like she weighs nothing. He's fifteen and taller than me now. Bigger too. He plays linebacker on Tuckman High's football team. He was more like a brother to me than his brother ever was, and I'm glad to have him around in Lily's life.
I let them play together and relax myself on a bench. The park was beautiful with its lights and gardens. So much beauty. It was November and a little chilly for Florida weather. I could almost see my breath in the air each time I exhaled.
I see Lily running at me with something in her hand..
Itake it gently from her
“Isnnit pretty!” she is so excited to have found a rose. And I don't blame her. There were hardly any rose bushes in the garden and where there were the roses didn't look as healthy as this one.
“It's beautiful, Musume.” I say, “Your mother would've loved this.”
“Mommy told me to find you a rose,” she squeals, “and I did! And it's perfect!”
My heart flips when she tells me this, and my eyes start to well.
She is jumping up and down clapping. John is staring at me. He's seen me cry before and he put his hand on my shoulder.
“Thank you, Musume.” I say, a tear had escaped my eye.
She stops jumping.
“Are you okay, daddy?” she looks just like Rosa when she worries.
“I'm just happy,” I say. And that is the full truth. “Come on lets go play and find some more roses.”
She grins so big I thought her cheeks must hurt but she only grabs my hand and we run off into the garden together with John right behind us.