On a crisp fall day, I wake up to the sound of dead leaves crushing into the ground. My father is raking in the backyard and is wearing his warmest coat, a coat he bought on his trip to Europe. As an international lawyer, he gets to travel the world and even brings me souvenirs. I open my curtains and wave to him from my room on the second floor, and he beckons for me to come rake with him with a convincing smile.My father doesn’t come to visit often, so I know I should cherish the few moments we get to spend together.

I sluggishly put on my clothes and wrap my bright red scarf around my neck. Walking downstairs towards the back door, I remember that I haven’t had breakfast yet and take a small detour to the kitchen. I prepare myself some hot chocolate using cocoa mix from Belgium – you guessed it – my dad bought, and end up pouring half in my cup and half in his. Bringing the cups out to him, he takes the warm drink in his bare hands and his face immediately lights up.”Thanks, hon. How’d you know I was freezing out here?””Maybe I’m psychic. Who knows?”We stop for a hot chocolate break and sit together on the enormous pile of leaves my father made. I’m about to say something when I spy my mother, watching us from the window of her bedroom upstairs.

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Unsurprisingly, she’s painting us in an attempt to make these rare moments last for as long as they can. When she knows she’s been spotted, she blushes and signals for us to wait for her to come downstairs. By the time she comes, we’ve savored our drinks to the very last drop.”Good morning!””Hey Mom, we’re just having some hot chocolate.”Dad adds, “Elizabeth is so fascinating, she distracted me from my raking.

“”It might seem that way, but I’m really boring once you get to know me. I like pressing flower petals and listening to the wind on a windy day, so I’m the textbook definition of boring.” “Not at all.

Far from it, actually,” Dad murmurs with a hint of a smile, though I’ve noticed that it doesn’t spread to his eyes like it used to. “In fact, I admire your love of nature.”I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to catch up, since he only visits us once every two months. Still, something feels off. He’s more quiet than he was the last time I saw him… I wonder if it has to do with his job. That’s the most logical explanation, at least. When he’s caught up in a difficult case, he starts to think about it constantly and distances himself emotionally.

I can imagine how tough it must be to not see his daughter or wife for months, with a complicated job on top of that.I’m overcome with theories regarding Dad’s sudden sadness when my mother’s familiar voice breaks through my thoughts and poses a question. “Elizabeth, honey, could you give me a moment with your father?””Alone?””Well, yes. Alone.

“Internally I’m saying, No, you may not have a moment with Dad. How dare you take this long-awaited privilege away from me? I am bursting with frustration at this point, but I know this will anger Mom, so I silence my inner angsty teen and respond blankly.

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