Brandon holds up his hands defensively, bracing himself for the barrage Lana is eager to give. “I just want to see her for a minute, please,” He almost begs to her.
Lana puts her hands on her hips and leans slightly forward, “There’s only 10 minutes until it starts, and if you make her cry she’s going to RUIN her makeup!”
The dance is worn-in and familiar. It’s the same one they’d started over 30 years ago. It didn’t take long for Brandon to figure out her defenses. Placate her with defensive gestures, begging a question, almost. Sucker! Give her final say and she can’t say no, Brandon thinks as he smiles inwardly.
I know what he’s doing, Lana almost screams with frustration. He’s so pathetic, could I ever say no to him? “5 minutes,” she says, stepping close to her husband, putting both hands on his chest, then her head on top of them. Brandon wraps his own arms around his wife, setting his cheek down on top of her head, “Can you believe it? Where did all the time go?”
She pulls back, breaking their hug, lightly slapping his chest with her right hand, “Don’t you dare make me cry right now!” She turns away briefly, touching the back of her left hand to her eye, pulling it away and looking at it to make sure her eyeliner didn’t run. “Go on,” she waves her hand towards the door.
He stands up to the white door with the gold knob and sets his shaking hand on it, knocking with his left. “Sweetheart, may I come in?”
“Yes Daddy,” Sharon’s muffled voice responds. Brandon turns the knob and walks in. His daughter is standing across the room, various clothing items littering the floor and chairs in the small dressing room. He looks at her and sees the little girl with the gap toothed smile, freckles peppered across her nose, legs and arms too long for her little body. He sighs with a tear, realizing that’s how she’ll always look to him. “How do I look?” She asks expectantly, holding up the ruffles and material of her white wedding dress.
“You look absolutely beautiful, sweetheart. Jeff is a lucky man.”
She blushes and lets the material drop out of her hands, “Thank you, Daddy.” She crosses the room and throws her arms around his neck, squeezing tightly. “I love you so much, Daddy.”
He knows she’s standing on her tip toes, even though he can’t see it. He knows it just like he knows that she hates peanut butter, or that she’s still somewhat afraid of the dark, or that she wants a daughter and will name her Beth. His thoughts come to him, freezing him for a few seconds as tears well up in his eyes.
He realizes this will be their last moment they truly share as Father and Daughter. He’s known it from the moment she took her first steps, adventuring out into the world at his and Lana’s encouragement. It moves him to action, hugging her back in response. “I know Mom told you not to make me cry,” her chin moves across his chest, muffling out her words. “If you cry, then I’m going to cry, and the wedding is about to start!” Brandon exhales laughingly, wiping his hand across his nose and breathing in.
“Don’t cry, Daddy,” Lana tells him. He pulls back from his own thoughts and in an instant the wedding dress fades and swirls, a hospital gown replacing it. It has little bears with band-aids on them scattered across it. The wall of machines booping and beeping cheerily away, oblivious to the family packed into the tiny hospital room. Lana is standing up behind him, her cheek pressed against his back, her sobs making her head heave up and down against it. “Don’t cry, Daddy. You’re going to make me cry.”
Her little face, freckles splashed across the nose, the various tubes making her long arms unable to reach out and hold him, her long legs tucked away underneath the hospital blanket. Lana pulls her head off of Brandon’s back, resting her chin on his shoulder to look at their daughter. “I’m sorry sweetheart, I’m trying not to cry,” Brandon says as his chin trembles, stifling an open sob. Lana smiles through the tears falling off her face, soaking Brandon’s shirt in yet another spot.
“You’ll just go to sleep, and when you wake up, everything will be better. I promise,” Lana tells her daughter, moving to sit on the bed next to her. “Do you want me to sing to you?”
Sharon looks down, then asks very quietly, “Is it, would it be okay if Daddy did it?”
Lana, desperately trying to not show the hurt on her face, “Of course, sweetheart. Of course it’s okay.”
Brandon’s entire body is shaking. He’s angry. He’s sad. He’s hurt. He knows the world will never be the same again. He knows this will be the last time he sings to his daughter. He knows it every bit as much as the look of the mangled car the paramedics pulled them from. He knows because the words the doctor spoke to him simply didn’t make sense, so much so that they caused him to faint, to try to escape the broken reality that was now his life; this ugly thing that was now his world.
He steels himself, breathing deeply, and begins to sing, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine….”
The world turns black. He doesn’t know what he’s saying. Am I singing? Are there words? Am I dead? Nothing makes sense, there’s no up or down, no left or right, only the dark and the knowledge that he, simply, is. He becomes immersed in the dead world, cast as a zombie in the remainder of the play, a mindless thing searching endlessly for a long forgotten wanting. It’s forced on him as he falls down into it.
“…so please don’t take, my sunshine, away.”