By K. de Barratt
We were there, together, in the big crowded room, I, all sweaty and nervous, Maddy as cool and contented as always. What would Simon say? I wondered. Would he be rude? Condescending? And if he was, what would I do? Not for the first time I wished Maddy had chosen a different god to worship. What she saw in the man, was beyond me. But she truly admired him. More importantly, she respected him. She respected him enough to put her dreams in his hands, to accept he’s learned opinion as law to her future. That much I had learned about my daughter. And after all that had happened, I was not going to question her.
I wish I could say that me and my daughter were the best of friends, but it would be a lie. We were not the worst of enemies, and I guess that was good –up to a point. Enmity would suggest some sort of relationship, a love gone wrong some how. Not that I didn’t love Maddy. On the contrary. She was my sun and my moon and my stars. She was my early mornings and my late nights, my strength, my force, my inspiration. I would have given my life for her, without winking. And I tried. Hard work, extra hours, dreary days in front of a computer meant nothing, if it took Maddy to the places she deserved to be in and go to: the best school in town; the additional classes, the tutors; tennis, ballet, French; the ski trip; the summer in the Loire; the coach trip to Rome. Travel opens the mind, everyone knows it.
Sunday nights were our time together. Quality time, they call it. Sometimes we would talk about her school, her friends, her classes. Sometimes she would gently ask me to take it easy, in that soft way of hers that some how reminded me of the purr of a kitten. Most times, however we would sit in front the TV set, me too tired to really watch anything, she just being, filling me with the warmth of her presence, with the silkiness of her straight hair against my cheek a we sat, head to head, convincing me, I told myself later, that everything was worth it.
I cannot remember exactly when did I find the video. I do remember the cold, however. How each muscle from my head to my toe shivered sequentially. Like a slow, lazy wave from the Artic freezing my heart with fear. What would a fourteen-year old be doing filming herself? Why? For what? With WHOM? Dammed celebrities, I muttered as I turned on the DVD player. Dammed gossip magazines, and paparazis and editors and everyone that thought that girls exposing themselves for the camera was funny and an affirmative action for free speech. As if life was not bad enough! As if I had not gone through enough with that girl, cry enough, suffered enough, now this! When would all stop, dear God. When would You let me be and forget about me? Hadn’t you have more than enough fun with my existence? I pushed the play button. And there she was. My Maddy. My bright eyed, beautiful daughter. Singing.
And what a song she sang!
The same shivers that had turned my soul into stone now brought me back to life, electrifying every atom in my body, like if I had become a universe of Big Bangs.
Maddy’s voice was honey and drums and violins in crecendos and roses blooming and children playing in the park and lovers walking in Paris and little babes laying their sweet smelling heads (melted caramel and toffee) against the palpitating, warm breast of their mothers. It was life and perfection and youth and hope and joy. And love. Maddy did not sing about love. She was Love, somehow, singing.
The recording was some sort of visual journal. She had asked for a camcorder the Christmas before. It took me a bit by surprise. Maddy had always asked for more modest gifts, gifts easily affordable. I felt the slash of irritation against the back of my head. One would hope that the child, in full knowledge of my sacrifices for her, would be more considerate. But I yielded. Mercifully she had asked with enough anticipation for me to join a Christmas Club and pay in monthly instalments. I had never seen use the gadget and for the first month after the holidays, I dropped a few sarcastic commentaries on the subject. All I got were shy smiles and excuses about school work. Then eventually I forgot the whole thing. Maddy, obviously, didn’t.
Parts of the DVD were her practicing, comparing her voice against the background sounds of another singer. Some were messages to herself: what she though she needed to do to improve, pet talk to lift her spirits, dreams and aspirations. And Simon. The apparent driving force behind her efforts. Then there were scenes of her singing, for pure, sheer joy. And then there were the messages. Her imaginary talks to me: her worries about me, her thankfulness for the way I pushed myself to assure her education; her fear that I would no understand her desires to be a singer. There were advices to me also; from shoes to Ray, the neighbour who, according to her, was mad about me and I should start paying attention to. The hardest commentary to hear most have being recorded in a bad day. She basically said that she would had been perfectly happy if, instead of the expensive school and all the extras, she had time to share with her Mum. Actually, she thought, she would have had been more happy.
All this I told Simon, when he asked why I was there, standing on the X. I also told him about the accident, of course. The car, the street, the dead child. And I also asked him to be honest; to say whatever he thought about Maddy’s voice. It was what she had expected of him and the least he could do for her. And me.
I suppose could have told him about the ragging, maddening, tormenting pain. About the overwhelming, overbearing, unsupportable loneliness of the empty house and empty room and empty life. Of my days without sun and moons and stars. Of my Maddy, lost, gone, forever. But it did not feel appropriate to say it on camera, in a singing contest. And more importantly, it was no longer true. No after the DVD. No after hearing God in my child’s voice.
Maddy’s song taught me that love was eternal. That in a way I may never come to fully understand we were still connected; that she was and would be with me, always. And that there were many things that I could do for my beloved daughter. This one of this. Make her dream come true and have her judge by the one she respected. Find peace and joy in my life was another. For she sees every little flower I stop to admire. She inspires every little friendly gesture I give those around me. She reminds me what is significant and what is transitory. She walks with me, with her Mum. For ever and a day.
Simon pushed the play button. There was a second or two of silence. And then the voice of my Maddy was heard again.