“Oh, daddy! She’s beautiful!”
Chalmers welcomed the attacking hug. He closed his eyes as she threw her arms around his neck and tried to squeeze into him all her feelings of love and gratitude. He held her, guiltily trying to prolong the moment, feeling a smile come to his face that he couldn’t have stopped if he wanted to. These moments are fleeting, but these moments are payback in full for becoming a father.
It seemed unfair, that so much pure, sweet and honest goodness could be crammed into one solitary now seven year-old girl. It might be a case of fatherly pride, but he was certain that if stacked against other girls of her age, his would be a standout.
Paisley Elk’s seventh birthday was an event in itself. Not a week and a half ago, thanks to a hard case of the flu, there was talk of canceling the whole thing. Sentenced to the couch with swollen, watery red eyes, a determined fever and a horrific cough, the poor little thing lay in misery as marathon sessions of Gladys and the Happy Toads played over and over again on the T.V.
It was hard to tell what she was taking in through her glazed stare, but the sight of her pained him to the point where he pleaded to the powers to give it all to him and take away any suffering she may have to endure.
As she got better and party time drew closer, the plans seemed to expand. He spent more than he wanted to. A list of five friends grew to eleven and some family came. There was a bouncy house, a four-tiered cake from Haggerman’s bakery and his daughter’s favorite, Dandy’s strawberry ice cream, which she claimed was the perfect shade of pink. He spared no expense.
Of course Margie helped. The bouncy house was her idea. Chalmers pushed back on it a little, saying it was certain to kill the grass or something equally lame, but the truth was, they could swing it so he agreed to it. Looking at it all, it seemed a bit much for a seven year old. What would she expect when she turned sixteen?
Paisley released him from her hug, but not before placing a hard kiss firmly on his cheek. The she jumped back to focus on the new doll. She held it before her with both arms outstretched before bringing it in for a classic Paisley hug. “I love it,” she squealed. She held the doll out in front of her and looked deep into its eyes. “I love you!”
Chalmers knew very little about dolls. He knew Paisley wanted what she called a “big girl doll,” one with lots of clothes, with hair that you could fix into different styles and with eyes that opened and closed.
Clarrissa, came from the Bennington Toy company’s “Silver Edition” collection. He remembered seeing a commercial for it when watching cartoons with Paisley one rainy Saturday morning. She never asked for it directly, but he heard her “ooh,” when the ad hit the air.
She was a pretty doll with long dark hair, a delicate, childlike mouth, pudgy fingers and deep blue eyes the rolled closed when you laid her down for her nap.
She came with two outfits, and Chalmers sprang for two more, despite the unreasonable cost. Now, Paisley could dress her new friend up as a dancer, and artist, a student and a cowgirl. The cowgirl hat was even a little extra.
After declaring her love, Paisley snuggled Clarrissa, gathered up the various outfits ran to the end of the yard and plunged into her group of friends to show off her new present and allowing them the time to “ooo” and “ah” at the wonder of her new, “best friend in the world!”
As he watched, smiling that dopey smile again, Margie stepped up softly behind him. She put her hand on his shoulder and gave him a slight rub and a squeeze. “You’re a hero,” She said. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “Good job. Thank you.”