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Submitted on
April 28, 2013
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"I can't feel the unfurling of my wings, Daddy."

I was not her father. I had entered her life when she was two years old, and she called me Daddy since she never knew her real father.  Her mother's death two years ago made me the sole, living parent of an thirteen year-old, and I never felt like I was the right person for the job.

"What do you mean, Asrin?"

"Mom always said that when puberty started I would be the swan that emerged from the ugly duckling. She said I would be able to fly gracefully towards my dreams.  But, I don't feel it."

As much of a woman as she was becoming, she was still a child. I wanted to answer her question, but I really had a hard time discussing her blossoming womanhood in the middle of a laundromat.  Her pretty eyes were pleading with me, but I told her we'd talk later.

Janet had told Asrin a lot of things before she succumbed to the cancer. The last week or so of Janet's life were morphine-induced fantasy, I think.

Janet and I had met during cancer treatment. She had developed ovarian cancer while pregnant with Asrin, and the doctors felt it was a miracle she'd carried full term. My cancer had left me unable to have children, and I had bonded with Janet over the treatments and the second chance at life we'd been given.  By Asrin's second birthday we were both in remission, and we were married right after her third.

Asrin complained of being cold from the time she could speak, but the doctors could find nothing wrong with her. Her body temperature showed as normal, and she was always healthy. They theorized that it was a nervous condition, possibly brought on by the cancer in her mother’s body during the pregnancy, or by the minimal treatment of the cancer they performed while Janet was still pregnant.

So, we left Ohio for the warmer climes of Florida. This did not seem to help much, though.  She would tell us that summers were better for her, but she always wore pants and a long sleeved shirt.  November through March, even in Florida, she would sit around with a hooded sweatshirt on.  When we were at home, she’d be sitting, snuggled up to one of us on the couch if she could be.

Times were good for us in Florida until Asrin was eight. The subprime mortgage market collapsed, and Janet's job in the timeshare industry was gone. The next year, I was forced to take a pay cut. The next year, we lost our house and Janet's cancer resurfaced. The next year, Janet was gone.  It was just Asrin and I, living in an apartment and trying to make the best of it with our parakeet, Louie.

The night of the question of the unfurling in the laundromat, I felt tired and did not revisit the issue.  Janet had tried to have “the talk” with Asrin before she died, but I don’t know how lucid and clear it was.  I’d had my sister in Ohio answer some questions over the phone for Asrin once, and that seemed to help, but this one was more about her own perception of herself. How could I help a girl find her way to being a woman? I had no idea, and that night I really just rushed her to bed so that I could get some sleep.

The weeks went by, and we were very, very busy. Asrin had her chorus performance, her dance recital and her state exams all within a two week period.  My parents came to stay for two weeks for the dance recital and chorus performance, and that meant I slept on the couch while they took my room.  I woke up tired every day, and Asrin even tried to convince me to sleep in her bed.  I wasn’t going to let her stay up in front of the TV all night, so I suffered the couch.

At the dance recital, another parent asked me if the girl with the pretty green eyes was mine and how I had named her Asrin.  I had to explain, politely, that Asrin’s birth father had named her, and that I really didn't know the origin of the name.  

Janet had told me about the cruise ship tryst with the tall, dark stranger with the even stranger accent that had resulted in Asrin. When they were done, he had said only two things to her. He said “Name the child Asrin” and “I’m sorry.”

Now, why she would follow his wishes, I don’t know. I guess we were both young and foolish before we got cancer, and I’d had my share of impulsive evenings before I got sick.  If she chose to name her child based on the wish of the father, who was I to judge?

I had thought that after my parents went back to Ohio that my sleep would get back to normal.  After three days in my own bed again, I was still tired.  Two weeks later, I feel asleep at the wheel of the car after dropping Asrin off at school and drove off the road.  I didn't hit anyone, I just put our car in a ditch and managed to get away with a few bumps and bruises.

At least, that’s what I’d thought I’d gotten away with.  When I was brought to the hospital after the accident, the physician talked to me about the fatigue and my past medical history. Next thing I knew, I was admitted to the hospital for testing.

My cancer was back, and it was apparently in my lymphatic system.  It had spread widely, and I hadn't even realized it.  Asrin stayed with a neighbor until my parents came back, and they stayed in our apartment with her while I was in the hospital.

I’d like to tell you that I felt hope, but every test and every treatment brought nothing but murmurs of “radical therapy” and “alternative treatments” and “we’ll have to wait and see.”

If the hospital staff would let her do so, Asrin would spend time curled up in my hospital bed with me. She didn't feel cold to me, but I knew she was. I didn't know what to say to her. Her radiant green eyes were still pleading with me, but she didn't ask any questions.

Finally, I was brought home to die.  The hospice team was there to help me transition, and the lawyers had made sure that my parents would get custody of Asrin.  We didn't have much else left in the world, but whatever material possessions and money I had went to them to help pay for her upbringing. All I really wanted was pain killers and for it all to be over.

For the first few nights, Asrin slept in my bed with me. She had always been a skinny, almost frail, child, and she was that way as a teenager. She could still fit her frame in the bed next to me. It actually hurt to have her there, snuggled up against me.  But, I was too weak to put the energy into denying her the last bit of warmth I could ever give her.

On the fourth night, I expected her to be there.  As I opened my eyes from a pain-killer induced sleep, I saw her standing over me in the night, her green eyes visible inside her hooded sweatshirt.

“Cold?”  It was all I could say and then I opened one arm to welcome her in the bed.

“I’ll always be cold, Daddy. I understand now that when you’re gone, I’ll always be cold and I’ll always be alone.”

I was pushing the edges of mortal consciousness then, but I realized something was different about her.  Her eyes didn't seem to have that puppy-dog, pleading look anymore.

“My parents. They will be with you.” Sentences were hard for me at that point.

“I know, Daddy. They’ll raise me, but I alone will take care of them soon.”

I didn't know what she meant just quite yet.

“Let me take care of you, Daddy.  I love you.”

It was then I saw her wings unfurl, and her eyes were strong inside that hood.  She reached out gently, and used two fingers close my eyes.
As always, it started with the first sentence popping in my head while I was doing something mundane today, and the rest of story just popped in my head later while sitting at a traffic light...  

Yes, she should have been named "Azrin" (derivative of "Azrael", the Angel of Death) but her mother wasn't told how to spell it.  :) I was trying to not hit the reader over the head with the fact that her real father was the angel of death, and then I had her wearing a hood at the end like grim reaper, but now I'm afraid I was too subtle with the name thing. Is that making sense? Is anyone getting that?

Comment and Feedback welcome. I am staying up late to write again, so I am sure I missed something in my proofreading.
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Daily Deviation

Given 2013-05-22
Every Angel Deserves a Child by ~enigmaticsmile Suggester Writes: there's a world of mythology lurking just below the surface. ( Suggested by disrhythmic and Featured by Beccalicious )
I think you should have gone with Azrael, as it was a bit too subtle.

This may be a diamond in the rough; there's some really good stuff here, but your treatment of the dialogue brings it down quite a bit, and there's still a lot to improve.

As a minor nitpick:

The cancer that took away his ability to have children, I assume, was testicular- if that's the case, it's a little tough to imagine the same cancer coming back after so long; given that that's one of the most treatable. Unless it had already spread (although, in which case, I think it would have been closer to a death sentence the first time than implied)? It's not impossible, but some more implied details might help there, because while I could see it was coming, it seemed a little strange that you would use that again (particularly after the mother went with the same resurgence).

The story as a whole rings as if a true account, which is hard to do, but the dialogue is both too precise, and doesn't feel in character.
Perhaps you could try having him simply recall what was said in a more vague way. e.g. "she said something like .... and I told her..."

Where you have to use direct quotes- really memorable stuff- be really careful about word use. I'm pretty sure that, at the end, you make the girl's words intentionally bizarre to present a sense of timeless wisdom, but it really just comes off sounding wrong rather than chilling IMO.
With something short like this, I'd say stick to ambiguity if you can; leave the reader wondering if it's a hallucination or not by retaining the plausibility of a realistic explanation (including plausible dialogue).

Great start though, I was quite captivated up until very near the end (when, as it was wrapping up, the plot felt a bit more forced).

Are you going to keep refining this?
I hope you do :)

I hope that was helpful.
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33 out of 35 deviants thought this was fair.

You have a cool concept here. I think with a little work and more detail you'd have yourself an excellent story. The main problem that I have with it right now is that it feels like you're trying to cram a lot of time into much too little space.

I had trouble figuring out where and when I was. For example, you start the story off with a line of dialogue, then jump into backstory for a paragraph, then there's more dialogue. It's not until halfway through the fourth paragraph that I know the dialogue is taking place in a laundromat. Even then, I'm experiencing that scene through a filter of the narrator's thoughts.

If I were writing this piece, I would take some time to introduce the living characters (Asrin and her father) and let the reader get to know them before going into backstory about her mother or the cancer and stuff. You don't need to tell the story in a completely linear fashion, but I think it would really help if the scenes had more concrete details so I could tell better where I was in time.

I think your ending would work better if I felt like I knew the characters more, but with a story this short, the dialogue does feel forced and a little hackneyed.

(I hope this is constructive. I'd give more detailed suggestions, but I've got a bad arm right now and it's hard to type a lot. I really did like your story though and I wanted to critique it.)
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kattire Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2014
Loved it, very beautiful!
enigmaticsmile Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
kattire Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2014
you're welcome!!
delicatemagic Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2013
I didn't quite get the reference with Asrin's name, but honestly if you'd named her Azreal I still wouldn't have understood because I'm not much of a bible-reader.  I got it once I read your comment, though - if you could somehow work it into the story, like maybe in a prayer that the protagonist said over his wife at their funeral, that would help a bit.  I felt like it was rushed and while the matter-of-fact tone was refreshingly devoid of pity-parties, I also felt like it kept you from exploring the emotional depth of the characters.  Even so, the pacing was pretty good and the story was a pleasant read.  I really hope you expand on this in the future.  I don't think it needs to be that much longer, just more developed, since the storyline is really excellent.  And now I'm off to read more of your stuff, since you've gotten me hooked on your work! :D
enigmaticsmile Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I'd like to recommend the stories "Noticed in Committing" and "Auditor of the Ashes" if you're into my work.

I will take your feedback into consideration, thank you.  :)
delicatemagic Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2013
Will do!  Thanks!
oOItoeOo Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2013
This is awesome =D I have to admit that I didn't get the angel of death thing before I read the description =)
enigmaticsmile Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
pinballwitch Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2013

Love the detail of Louie the parakeet :) just do.


the tiny stuff: "The last week or so of Janet's life were morphine-induced fantasy, I think" -- would it be "was" not "were" since the conjunction is "or" and "week" & "so" (I think) are each singular?
enigmaticsmile Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2013  Hobbyist Writer

(yes, you are correct. That story was written in one sitting without any proofreading. I'm surprised that's all I have to correct).

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