She’ll come back to you, the girl sitting opposite me said. And nearly stood up when she said it. For she was absolutely certain.
You’re wrong I thought.
This dark haired pixie faced child whisperer had promoted herself. To daughter predictor. Mine.
You can’t possibly be that sure. You don’t know her it me or her mother. Perhaps you’re just saying that to be nice. Maybe you’re even right. Not bloody likely.
It was Ekka day 2003. Where everyone in Brisbane participates in their annual super spreader event. The show.
The usual super spreader event. Although it was only flu then. The entire population of Brisbane young and old was at the show aka the Ekka.
Except for me. I’d was working. I was seeking a shelter from home.
By now the yelling had become intolerable and was wearing me down. Although there was worse to come.
But for me the worst thing had already happened. My daughter had joined Team Mother. And her silence alternated with and underlined her mother’s words. And she didn’t look like coming back.
All of this I tried to hide as I took the train home at Brisbane Central keeping myself unobtrusive.
Until the Roma Street station crowd boarded. Showbags, children and parents: the mixed up remnants of too long a day at the show.
And the child opposite me: she had done her overtime; first tired, frustrated then utterly inconsolable.
Until the girl opposite me caught that child’s eye and held it. She made a joke. Then the little tear stained face lit up. As did mine.
And I couldn’t help myself. I joined in. It was then I showed up as a bad parent. I’m sure I taught that little girl how to cheat at peek a boo. Which I still think is the hardest part of adulting.
But by then once a parent, always a parent I was. Except for my daughter.
But afterwards when the crowd cleared, we spoke. The kid whisperer turned out to be a couple of years old than my daughter. And somehow reluctantly she managed to wheedle out of me that I had a daughter too. But I didn’t say the rest.
Then without any prompting from me, unbidden she described how she had been estranged from her dad. And had returned to her heart. And him.
Quietly, I said, my daughter isn’t talking to me. She’s on her mothers side: that bit I left out.
Thats when she nearly stood up and said, she’ll come back, I know it. And the conversation paused for a minute. I didn’t know what to say. And then it was our stop. And that was goodbye to Leil for good.
Three and a half months later, I was chucked out. Found a place. Now Separated. Happy actually. With everything legal and not so legal thrown at me.
While I kept my nerve so I could see my children. Eventually. But still Except my daughter.
The only times I spoke to her was when the divorce or child support negotiations broke down. Being my ex’s lawyer wasn’t fun: as the real one found out. Still If we could’ve negotiated…
And on and off I waited and hoped. I left my daughter alone. No visits, phone calls, just Christmas and Birthdays.
And my aunt counselled me not to hope. And my new partner advised me that this was not uncommon. Children taking sides. Yeah whatever. Not mine. Not for me.
And occasionally I thought back: saw and heard that girl on the train and wondered.
Maybe just maybe. Then of course when I was thinking about it…mid morning at work, my phone rang.
Her. Chucked out in the street by her mum. Staying with friends. But needing help to shift to a new place.
So I says yes.
My partner when I told her said, she might be taking advantage of you, Andrew.
My reply was, And the problem with that is?
Because the real problem was the girl on the train was right. She knew.
I wasn’t a leftover father anymore. Not even a reheated one. I was reloved.