He smiled as he finished wrapping the gift. It hadn’t been as hard as he feared. Satisfied, he brought out his pen and wrote.
Amanda received the first latticework animal the morning before her sixth birthday. It was sitting on the kitchen table in a package wrapped in brown paper. In her excitement, she nearly missed the letter sitting on top.
“Dear Amanda,” she read aloud, sounding out each word. “I’m sorry I’ll miss your birthday. I wish I could be there. Don’t be sad though. I have a new friend who’ll tell me all about it. Keep her near and it’ll be like I’m there. With you always, Dad.”
Amanda’s sadness lasted until she unwrapped the box. Inside was the most beautiful object she’d ever seen: a hummingbird, artfully crafted in a latticework style. Fine metal wires crossed each other like tiny hairs, creating shapes within shapes. Stars and moons were intricately woven next to flowers and blossoms, all on a body smaller than her fist. Amanda reached into the box to stroke the blue-grey bird.
As soon as she touched it, the latticework hummingbird fluttered to life, flying around the kitchen in excited circles. Amanda giggled as the small bird landed on her shoulder. She raced out of the kitchen to find her mother, the disappointment of the letter already forgotten.
At her party, surrounded by friends and presents, Amanda barely noticed her absent father. Her only thought of him came as she blew out her candles, wishing he was there. The whole time, the hummingbird hovered over her shoulder.
His skill grew; it only took two weeks to complete the next animal.
The second latticework animal arrived a year later, before Amanda’s first violin recital. A brown package, more worn than the first, waited on the kitchen table. Her reading had improved; she no longer needed to sound out the words her father had written.
“Dear Amanda,” it began. “I am more proud of you than anything in my life. You don’t know how much it hurts knowing I can’t be there. In this box is another friend. He’s had more time to grow and is even nicer than my first gift. Keep him close, won’t you? With you always, Dad.”
Tears blurring her vision, Amanda set the letter down and opened the box. In it was a latticework lizard. The details were more magnificent, more real, than the hummingbird’s. Swirls and starbursts covered its metal hide. The lizard ran up her hand, circling her arm when she reached into the box. Its metal toes tickled as it scurried over her, and Amanda couldn’t stop the smile from spreading over her face.
That night Amanda strode out onto the stage. The bright spotlights made it hard to see the crowd as she readied herself but they weren’t what caused her eyes to water. Through the lights she could see her mother sitting in the front row. The seat next to her was empty, save for two latticework animals. Amanda’s eyes stung as she began to play.
His fingers moved on their own — folding and bending the wire, creating new life. Each one took a part of him, but that was fine. There was little left of him anymore.
Over time, Amanda’s latticework collection grew, each one more lifelike and natural than the last. The morning of her first track meet she woke to find a package containing a latticework wolf sitting on her bed. A latticework tiger greeted her prom date at the door. Graduation brought a latticework owl into her menagerie. On Amanda’s wedding day, a latticework dragon walked her down the aisle. Each animal came with an aged letter and each letter always ended with the same four word lie. “With you always, Dad.”
Amanda received the final latticework animal the morning before her twenty-sixth birthday. Her husband had taken their daughter to the zoo, leaving the house empty. She left the bedroom, nearly missing the large brown package standing next to the bed. It was taller than her, wrapped in the same brown paper she had come to know so well. She walked over and tore the letter off the package’s side.
“Dear Amanda,” the ink had faded with age, but Amanda could still make out the words. Disease had reduced the once-fine penmanship to a child’s scribbling, but her father’s writing was clear enough. “What can I write that I haven’t written before? You’ve been the light of my life since the moment you were born. When I held you in my arms that first time, I promised that I’d never miss a second of your life. You think I broke that promise long ago, but I didn’t. Each of those friends I sent you, each animal, contained a piece of me inside, each one growing more from my love over the years. Every time they were with you, I was too. It’s taken time, Amanda, but my final gift is ready and I have one last friend for you. Keep him near and think of me. With you always, Dad.”
Amanda put down the letter and opened the package. Inside, more finely crafted than any other gift, was a latticework man. The carvings and designs that produced shapes and patterns on the other animals now created the face she had seen so long ago. Hesitantly she reached out and touched her father’s latticework image. The latticework man moved and Amanda found herself enveloped in the embrace she had almost forgotten.
It hurt to complete his masterpiece. His fingers shook as he placed the final wires, disturbing the structure. Finished, he focused his thoughts on his daughter, on his love for her. He felt a stirring in the latticework, a soft heat growing. It would take years before it was ready, but at least it would last that long. On trembling legs he turned to the cradle behind him, picked up Amanda and held her close.
When not creating new worlds, Patrick Lind works on completing his Masters in Zoology.
This story is sponsored by
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