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Tears in the Rain

by steve 

Posted: 19 July 2005
Word Count: 1590
Summary: A father giving up his child, simple and straight.

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Tom Baxter gently brought his car to a stop. He applied the handbrake, put the car in neutral and switched off the engine; with it died the song he had been listening to on the CD player: Daddy Don’t Cry, by Elvis. The song was appropriate – his eyes misted for the second time that afternoon.
Outside his sealed world the rain continued to beat down, hammering off the roof, drumming heavily. He stared at the windscreen watching tears of the sky course down the smooth glass, a sombre sight that matched his mood.
“What’s wrong, Daddy?”
Baxter turned to face his little girl; he looked down at her. She sat back in the seat with her feet dangling over the edge. An overwhelming sense of profound love engulfed him. No one really understood a father’s love for his child, especially the courts it seemed. If he could have given birth to her, he would have, but God had made him a man, and so hence, his link with her was not as strong as a woman’s, or so her mother’s solicitors said.
Sexual equality in a family court didn’t exist. He was a man, and men don’t have feelings, do they? He was nothing more than mere walking-wallet, to be robbed and exploited; bled dry for every available penny that he had.
“I’m fine, Sarah,” he said, trying to stop his voice from breaking.
She smiled, uncertainly. “Okay.”
He had this impulse to sweep her up and hold tight, never to let go. The anguish he felt stabbed him once more. Turning away from her, he stared at the stone clock tower. It appeared blurred, distorted, made so by the raindrops striking his window. He hated that clock tower; he detested every inch of its smooth, grey-stone surface. Over the past two months it had become a symbol of pain, an object that tortured him, cleaving his soul and once more he had to visit it. Stand beneath its towering height, weak and defeated.
Baxter didn’t want to go. He’d rather walk through a minefield than venture across that road.
He didn’t want to get out of the car, taking those dreaded steps to the clock’s base. It made him feel nauseous, as if he was standing on the edge of a cliff, unsteady on his feet peering down, with the sea crashing and boiling against the dark, jagged rocks below.
He gasped involuntary at the thought.
The anguish rising.
“Daddy?” She sounded worried.
“I’m all right, sweatie. Daddy isn’t feeling very well - that’s all.” He forced a smile to try and reassure her.
“Are you poorly?” Her voice sounded beautiful. She reached out and put her hand on his. Gulping, fighting back the threatening swell, he looked at her hand: she still had dimples on the knuckles. He closed his fingers round hers, inhaling deeply.
“I think I’ve got a bad throat coming,” he said, lying. He didn’t want her to see his pain. She was too small, and too young to witness her father breaking up. How he had howled when she was first taken from him. Wailing like a banshee, he’d sat, hugging himself, sobbing floods; since that day, the battle against hurt had intensified beyond all belief. His bitterness ran deep and thoughts of revenge, on her mother, dominated his thoughts daily.
“Is it nearly time to go?” she asked, wiggling her feet.
He looked at his watch: he’d five minutes left with her. “Nearly.”
“Yes, honey.”
“I don’t want you to die.”
Baxter snapped his head round shocked. Had he heard right? “Pardon?”
“I don’t want you to die.”
“Why – why did you say that?” he stammered, frowning. “Where did that come from?” She was only six for God’s sake; she shouldn’t be thinking of such things.
She seemed sheepish, like she didn’t want to answer him.
“Honey,” he pressed gently. “Tell me - please.”
“Mummy said she wants you to die when you go on the plane. She wants it to crash and kill you.”
My God! Were there no limits to his wife’s hatred? How could any parent say such wicked things to a small child? He detested his wife with absolute passion, but he made a point of not bad-mouthing her in front of Sarah.
“I’m not going to die. I promise. I will always be around for you, and your mother shouldn’t say such things, she’s being naughty.” He again took her soft hand in his, squeezing it lovingly.
She smiled at him, seemingly happy with his answer. “Okay.”
Bitch, he silently cursed, bloody bitch!
It was nearly five.
Baxter sighed, releasing her hand; he opened his door. The downpour had stopped, leaving an irritating drizzle that swept across his face. He walked round the front the car, and opened his daughter’s door, unclipping her seat belt. His actions were deliberate, slow. Each minute that he spent with her was precious, and he wanted to savour what time he had left. Reaching in, he picked her up. She threw her arms around his neck, and nuzzled deep.
“I don’t want to go, Daddy,” she said.
He shut her door and activated the central locking. “I know but it won’t be long until I see you again. I’ll get you something nice from Germany, and I will send you a postcard, promise.”
He held her tight. She responded by drawing her tiny arms closer round him, kissed him lightly on the cheek.
On the other side of the road he saw a blue estate come to a halt. The driver stopped the car on the far side of the tower.
It was five, and time to hand is daughter over once more.
Making sure the road was clear of oncoming traffic, he began to walk with heavy feet towards the meeting place. There were thirty paces from his spot to the tower, he’d counted them previously; they were the worst steps of his life. Each one drew him agonisingly closer to more distress.
And then he saw her, dressed in a purple windbreaker, looking manly as normal in straight, dark coloured jeans and hiking boots. She looked pale and hideous. He wanted to rip into her, tear her down, and then punch her lights out for causing his daughter needless worry and him so much grief.
As he closed on her, she smiled. “Did you have a nice time, Sarah?” She put out a hand, and touched her head.
“We went to see a film,” Sarah answered, happily. “And I had popcorn.”
“Which one?”
“The new Disney film.”
His wife glared at him. “That’s lovely – now, come to me.”
Baxter fought the urge to tear her heart out, and stamp on her face. It took all his resolve not to lash out.
“Kiss,” he said, pursing his lips.
Sarah kissed him, wet and soppy, but he loved it. “Bye, Daddy.”
“Bye, honey.” This was the bit he couldn’t stand. It felt as if he was handing his little angle over to a monster.
His wife took hold of her, placing her on the side of her hip. “We’ll watch a film tonight. We’ll go to the video shop and you can choose what you want to see.”
“There’s no need to compete,” he said, curling his lip.
“I’m not.”
He snorted. “Don’t forget what I said, Sarah.”
“Oh yeah, and what was that?” his wife spat.
“That I will be safe on the plane next week.” He narrowed his eyes, letting her know that she’d been rumbled. “So sleep well at night.”
His wife’s expression visibly dropped and she reddened. He could see her shaking with rage. “We’re going now,” she snapped, turning.
“Please don’t say anything bad about me again,” he blurted out.
She laughed, and then growled. “Don’t you ever take her to a movie, not without asking me first, got it?”
Before he could answer, she stormed off. Sarah peered over her shoulder and blew him a kiss. He blew one in return. He felt himself begin to tremble, watching as she was placed into the rear of the estate. The door was slammed, and then his wife got into the front passenger’s seat. He didn’t see the driver, he didn’t have to; he knew who it was, her new boyfriend. As the car pulled away, his legs weakened. The pain swelled in his chest, rising quickly. Tears flooded, blinding him. He rested his forehead on the tower’s damp surface. Sobs grew in intensity, forcing a pitiful cry from his throat.
Gradually the ball of twisting pain in his chest dissipated, and the sobbing eased to low moans. Drenched, he struggled to his feet. He hadn’t noticed that the drizzle and turned to pelting rain once more, nor did he care. Weighted down by grief, for that’s what it felt like at losing his daughter once more, he stumbled to his car and got in. He sat, listening to his pathetic sounds, casting his mind back over the day spent with Sarah. He gazed to the front passenger’s seat forlornly, and touched the spot where she’d sat.
He could feel her.
The tears came again. Wiping his eyes with a sodden sleeve, he stared at the clock tower. How he hated it. He hated the road it stood in, and the city that gave it a home.
Still trembling, he started the car and drove off, leaving behind the tower, at least for another two weeks, and then the turmoil would begin again.

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Comments by other Members

Deborah at 22:34 on 19 July 2005  Report this post
Agonisingly beautiful and brilliantly writtten. Straight from the heart. The bit where he touches the still-warm seat where Sarah sat actually made me cry - and I'm a big girl I am!
I know exactly where you're coming from - being a single mother myself - not from first hand but second-hand experience and I know only too well how I would feel if roles were reversed and I only saw MY daughter every fortnight - I still have a hard enough job adjusting to watching her go every fortnight for a weekend and that's six years on... I don't know how 'absent fathers' cope - the ones who truly want to be there... broken relationships are bastards especially when kids are involved - it's cruel and hearbreaking. You captured it well.
All hail to the guy in the Batman suit and Fathers for Justice.
Deborah x

Dee at 08:33 on 20 July 2005  Report this post
Very moving, Steve. And well written. I like the way his feelings veer between bitterness when he’s thinking about his wife, and anguish over his daughter.

I wonder why you refer to him as Baxter, rather than Tom? It’s rather business-like and tends to distance him.

Spotted a couple of typos:

sweatie ~ sweetie

little angle ~ angel

And there’s an ‘is’ somewhere instead of ‘his’ but I can’t find it now.

It’s a terrible situation that so many fathers find themselves in. I used to know a man who only saw his son once a fortnight, and each parting tore him to shreds.


steve at 15:40 on 20 July 2005  Report this post
I made it 'gutting' for that's how it feels when a kid you love is torn from you. The use of the rain was deliberate to match his mood. I used 'Baxter' more out of habit with characters in novels, and that's the only reason, but I will concede that using 'Tom, would soften the text further.

As for typos, doh!

Cheers, Steve

for what's its worth, I cried writing the piece. Keyboard kept sparking ;o)

joolsk at 13:20 on 21 July 2005  Report this post
What an extraordinary piece of writing - you definitely got me wiping the odd tear away.

The emotion came through so strongly, not in dialogue, but in action which is what I particularly liked about this piece.

I loved 'she still had dimples on the knuckles', it's the kind of phrase that really adds authenticity to the man's character, noticing every tiny thing about his daughter.

Thanks for a thought provoking read.


steve at 16:18 on 21 July 2005  Report this post
You're welcome; it was very hard piece to write.


Stonerayven at 23:38 on 04 February 2010  Report this post
I came across this in the 'Random Read' and I am so glad I clicked that button. What a fabulous, heartbreaking piece of writing.

For me it is the way it is all so normal, no twists in the tail. Baxter doesn't win the day, kidnap his daughter or meet an untimely death. This could be anyone's experience and the normallity of it makes it even more poignant. It takes real skill to write emotion as well as this - and experience I suspect!

I actually like the use of Baxter rather than Tom. I think the piece is well written enough to draw the reader in and there is no question of us not empathising with him. I feel the use of Baxter also subtlely highlights the views about men being 'walking wallets' and not having the same feelings towards their off spring. We have in this character the expectation and the reality.

Very thought (and emotion) provoking. I look forward to reading more of your work and thank you for sharing this.

One other typo to add to the list I'm afraid
...drizzle and turned...

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