(Inspired by the song Radio Ballet by Eluvium)
She smiled with tears in her eyes, and so did he. The crowd around them was silent with watching. The lights dimmed and the world faded away as the new bride strode onto the floor, a beacon of light in the growing darkness. The wheelchair holding her father rolled out to meet her, guided by the loving hands of her mother. The IV stand joined them and remained when her mother left, a strange chaperone from the medical community. Susanne knelt down next to her father, already crying.
“Are you comfortable?” she asked in a soft whisper. He only nodded and moved a trembling hand, a motion that would have been a disregarding wave under normal circumstances. She looked him in the eyes, brushing his graying hair away. He smiled at her touch and tried to say something, but the words were too quiet.
Their song began to play. It was a simple piece comprising of only piano. The notes floated up and down through the ranges, a delicate work of beautiful sound. Susanne took both of her fathers hands, kneeling in front of his wheel chair, and laid her head on his legs and began to weep. “I love you, daddy,” she said, struggling to dispatch the words effectively. He coughed and began to shift his body with displeasure. She sat up again, wiping the streams from her eyes. She saw that he was shaking his head.
“I thought you hated this song,” he said softly.
She smiled, continuing to wipe at ever-flowing tears. “I did,” she said. “I got so sick of practicing it. All I wanted to do was play it flawlessly so I could never play it again.”
He looked at her with serene eyes, eyes that knew and accepted a coming fate. “So why play it now?”
She attempted a smile, but the expression soured in an instant into the folds and wrinkles of a person in fresh mourning.
Her father looked at her, and as she cried, the woman before him disappeared and became the young girl that he always knew as his daughter. He could still see the pigtails on her head, a toothless grin, and muddy overalls with holes worn through by an eager tomboy. He patted her hand, the pad of one finger rapping against her diamond ring. “Can you still play it?” he asked.
She nodded, unable to verbalize any more responses.
He smiled. “Good.” He took her hand in his, and she squeezed tight. They sat in the middle of the dance floor, lights dimmed and the world gone for a few precious moments, together. “It’s such a beautiful song,” he said as the piano neared its conclusion. Susanne, on the verge of regaining control of herself, gave a strained smile of agreement.
On the edge of the floor, where the darkness of the room mixed with the lone light shining on their moment, Bob could see her new husband, a man with whom he found a great deal of approval. He rubbed at her hand with his thumb. “I’m not going back to the hospital,” he said. “Your mother told you?”
He gave her hand as much of a squeeze as he could. “I love you, Susie-girl,” he said with a peaceful smile. “I’m glad I made it this far.” The piano keys danced to a close and the room remained darkened for a few moments longer while the two enjoyed the embrace that always concludes a father-daughter dance.
Not long after, Susanne played the same song at her father’s funeral. She did so without use of the sheet music, playing it by heart.