I can't see a single storm cloud in the sky
But I sure can smell the rain
Kid glanced across the table at his fourteen-year-old daughter. As he studied her actions over the brim of his coffee cup, he thought back to all the long conversations they used to have each morning over breakfast. But that was before.
There wasn't anything she wouldn't tell him, even things that he'd never dreamed she would feel comfortable telling him but they'd had an open relationship from day one and it had carried over into her teen years. But that was before.
She'd still say "I Love You" if I ask
Sitting in the silent kitchen, Kid agonized over what to say to get her to reply to him. How he wished she would start a conversation, just one, but it didn't seem like that was going to happen anymore. There was a time when he used to playfully place his finger over her lips just so he could get a word in edgewise. But that was before.
"Here's some more coffee, Pa."
Kid glanced up, her words bringing him out of his deep thoughts. "Thank you, sweetie." He moved his mouth into a grin but by the time he'd done it, she'd already stood up and moved toward the sink. He frowned as he watched her scrape the leftovers into the bucket.
"You know you don't have to do this every meal. I can cook," he reminded her, something he found himself doing more and more as the weeks went by.
"I know and it's alright; I don't mind." That was always the same answer she would give him so he nodded his head, knowing that 'conversation' was over with until the next time he brought it up.
He stood up, bringing his cup over to the sink. He moved to look down into her beautiful face that mirrored her mother's features, all except for his blue eyes that her mother said she'd been blessed with, when she quickly turned away from him. Kid's heart broke; it was as if the sight of him made her sick. It used to be that she'd hug him as soon as she woke up then again just before she left for school. But that was before.
"I love you, Emma Louise."
"I love you too, Pa."
He heard the words but the fact that she wouldn't look at him or that she said the words as easily as 'pass the milk pitcher' confirmed for him that they didn't mean anything to her anymore - either to be told them or to say them. And that was all his fault, even if she wouldn't say it was.
How he wished she would yell at him, blame him for ruining everything; but all she did was walk around as if an empty shell of her being had replaced the lively child she used to be. But then sometimes silence spoke louder than words and in this case they spoke volumes.
Four months ago they had been the happiest family of three. Emma Louise's mother had had a hard time delivering her, had almost died in fact, so the doctor had suggested that they not have any more children. Well, they had Emma Louise so Kid had assumed that was enough for both of them but he'd been wrong. When his wife got a notion in her mind there was no clearing it no matter what; all she'd wanted was to give him a son, something he'd told her a thousand times he didn't care about but would she listen? No! There had been no talk about another baby until Emma Louise was thirteen then it was as if there was no more child in the house and the talk had begun again. A baby would make them feel young again - they were only thirty-three and thirty-one, how could she think that was old?! And then he still needed a son to carry on his name - he didn't even use his real name so did she really think that mattered to him?!
Well, no matter the reason and whether it happened by accident or on purpose, Kid found out his wife was expecting. She was elated; he was scared to death. Emma Louise, of course, was thrilled with the prospect of being a big sister. Everything had gone alright for eight months and even Kid was beginning to think his worries were unjustified until that horrible night.
His world turned upside down as there was nothing the doctor could do to save either mother or child. It had been a boy, just like she'd wanted to present to him. Only there was no presenting and no anything anymore. The walk down those stairs had been the longest journey in his life as he'd had to go sit next to his daughter and explain how she didn't have a mother anymore. Emma Louise hadn't believed him and despite his protests, had rushed up the stairs to see for herself. She slept in her mother's lifeless arms that night and then spent every waking moment for weeks after at her gravesite. All Kid could do was stand by and watch his life deteriorating more as the only part of it that was left was quickly leaving him.
"I gotta leave now, Pa, or I'll be late for school."
Kid was brought out of his thoughts once again by her sweet voice, not realizing he had walked by her side to the front door. As she pulled on the old brown corduroy jacket she'd found in her mother's trunk a few months ago and hadn't taken off since, he asked the same question he'd been asking for months now, "Can I give you a lift into town?"
"No thanks; I'm fine on Lightnin'." And with that she actually glanced back at him ever so briefly before opening the door and heading toward the horse she knew would be saddled, hitched and waiting for her at the bottom of the steps. Kid stood on the porch as his daughter mirrored her mother with an expert mount.
Emma Louise had been taught to ride on Lightning as Kid had been too busy around the ranch to teach her so her mother had gladly taken on the job, saying she was the better one to teach the little girl than he was anyway. That had brought on some playful banter between the two of them as Kid wouldn't get anything done for hours as he watched the two girls in his life enjoy the passion of riding that the married couple had once considered as only a job. Their daughter had been given one of the black horse's foals as a birthday gift but ever since that fateful day, all she would ride was her mother's horse.
Every day I brace myself
He knew he could trust Lightning to bring her home safely each time she went out … if she wanted to come home anymore that is. Kid watched as his daughter turned the horse and began the walk away from the house, toward the road that led her to town and away from him. Now began the long agonizing wait as it did each time she left his sight. Would today be the day she decided she didn't need him in her life anymore? He'd been lucky so far that she always came home on time, letting him know she was there by bringing the horse into the barn before heading into the house to do all the chores her mother used to do around the house in her will and need to take care of her husband. Now his daughter was doing all that for him. It didn't seem right but he couldn't get her to stop. The thought that she would stop, meaning she wasn't there anymore, began to make him panic.
Kid nearly jumped down the steps as he called out her name.
The horse was halted slowly but it was halted. The dark brown head turned in his direction.
"I'll see you when you get home from school, alright, sweetie?" He couldn't keep the desperation out of his voice and he didn't even try. This was his life, his past, present and future all rolled into one and he couldn't lose her, he just couldn't.
Emma Louise raised her head and for the first time in nearly four months met her father's eyes and answered the new question he'd posed the only way she felt she could.
Author's note: This was written for the Head to Head Songfic Challenge 2 and was inspired by the lyrics from the song 'I Sure Can Smell the Rain' sung by Blackhawk