“The world is full of monsters, darling,” he smiled as he tucked his three year old daughter under her soft Winnie-the-Pooh blanket.
“What kind of monsters?” She asked without looking at him. He watched as she carefully placed her stuffed elephant on the small pillow next to hers and arranged the blanket around him. She turned her black round eyes filled with questions on him and raised her small eyebrows in demand. He had not answered her question yet.
“All sorts of monsters,” he shrugged. “Some monsters are bad and the others much worse. They come in all shapes and sizes. They wear all sorts of clothes. The bad monsters; they look ugly. They are rude and mean and they scare little children away. But then you realize that they are the least of your fears. The really bad monsters, the worst kinds? They hide inside of people. They hide inside of the nicest of people. And when nobody is watching; they come out. Unannounced. Unsuspected. Which is what makes it so difficult to fight them. More than half the time you don’t even know who you are fighting and why.”
“I don’t like the really really bad monsters daddy,” she shook her head, her eyes wide with fear. He hadn’t meant to scare her. He had just gotten carried away with his thoughts. He wanted to reach out and console her. Tell her that it was all going to be ok. But how could he? He was not sure if and ever anything would be ok. He gave her a very watery smile and patted her hand.
Instantly she shed the blanket aside and threw herself at him; her tiny arms wrapped tight around his neck. He could smell faint baby soap and strawberry shampoo. She had just been bathed before bed. He knew if he hugged her, he would feel the softness of her young skin. He knew his touch would assure her. He knew her touch would trigger emotions in him he was not willing to face.
“It will be ok daddy,” she whispered in his ear, her soft breath dissipating against his cool skin. “I know you will be there whenever a monster comes.” She kneeled on the bed in front of him and held his face between her tiny hands. He winced invisibly. “Not matter how big or bad the monster is and no matter how deep he hides, you will save me from that monster.” It was not a request or a question. It was the most obvious thing in her life. “You will do it because you love me daddy!” She kissed the tip of his nose and wiggled back under the blankets. He watched her little body squirm as she struggled to regain her position on the bed.
“I love you too daddy!” She beamed at him. He smiled. He chucked her under her chin and mouthed and loving good night. He turned the lights off and watched the moonlight filter in through the partially opened window. The silver light settled like a halo around her sleeping form. He sighed heavily and closed the door as he walked out of the room.
He walked to his study and pulled out the file buried in his last drawer. He had a past. A gruesome, ugly past. This file was a reminder of that past. It was seven years ago. Sometimes those seven years stretched to cover a lifetime, sometimes it was as close as yesterday.
He had fallen in love with a five year old little girl.
He had been enchanted with her. He loved her touch, the feel of that soft skin under his fingers. He never wanted to stop touching her. When she was around him the need to just reach out and touch her was so physical that he hated himself for it.
Thankfully before the urge overpowered him, he had found his wife who had given him the strength to fight this flaw in she had. She had given him the courage to grow into a normal human being.
And she had given him a little daughter, just before she died during delivery.
Every night he prayed that tomorrow he would wake up to a grown up daughter, capable of looking after herself. Someone who did not think of him as the savior when he was the very monster she should be running from.
Every morning he woke up realizing that his battles had just begun.