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A new day has always given a chance for hope in the life of a pilot, but today was like any ordinary day as Joe walked into the terminal with his blue jeans and colored shirt, hoping to receive his new flight schedule for the next month or so. Life as he knew it, couldn’t have been better at this point; he was reacquainted with the love of his life and his long lost daughter, he had his health and of course his minions which he endearingly called friends. How could it have been just a few days that all his happiness had blossomed to its full extent?
“Knock knock” his knuckles banging on the commissioner’s office sounded.
“Come in,” the commissioner called out. “Ah there is my number one aviator!”
“You wanted to talk to me about this month’s flight schedule?” Joe quickly asked as he took a seat. “What’s the problem?”
The commissioner sighed a bit before he continued. “Joe, I need you to take that flight to London on the 24th of this month. You have quite a load ahead of you but it’s going to be a weekend ordeal so it’s nothing big. Nobody seems to be able to do it, but I know my number one won’t disappoint me, right?”
“The 24th? What’s on the 24th?” Joe asked quizzically.
“Everybody seems to attending some school function for their kids,” the commissioner scoffed, rolling his eyes.
“Seems like every pilot I have is being dragged into it. You’re the only one without a child of your own so I’m asking you to do it for the team. C’mon slugger, I need you on this one.”
“W-wait, talent show?” Joe stuttered, remembering his promise to Kris just a few days ago. Didn’t she say that she was in a talent show? “But I promised-
“Don’t tell me you suddenly popped out a few of your own within these last couple of months within hire?” the commissioner laughed. “Surely you don’t think I’d believe that do you?”
“Sir, I’m afraid I won’t be able to make that flight either. I promised a friend that I would go,” Joe restrained his frustration. For once can life just be a bit more perfect for a little while longer? “It would really mean a lot to her if I went.”
“Joe,” the commissioner sighed once again, rubbing his temple. “As your commissioner I suggest you think wisely about your decision. Just think of this as your gift to the fathers of the terminal. Letting the other pilots see their children in a talent show would mean the world to them, for only reasons that a father would have. You’re only missing a weekend. They’d be missing a lifetime of memories.”
As if what his commissioner couldn’t have dug Joe’s coffin deeper into the soil, he had to add that tid bit in there. That’s what he gets for being a hero when he came back from Moscow. That’s what he gets for trying to make his first promise to his only daughter. That’s what he gets for being a good man. Failure.
“Ok. I’ll do it.”
Within the last few moments of stepping out of the terminal, Joe couldn’t help but feel the pounding headache he was receiving. Would Kris understand that it was his job to put things aside and leave for a few days? Could she forgive him for missing out on her first performance on stage?
What more was he’d be missing so much more than she would be. She had a mother who would more than likely give her all the support she ever needed. She had the eyes of every individual who would be at the talent show to cheer her on. But for him, he’d be stuck inside a cold lonely hotel room for a weekend. He would miss his daughter’s first performance…among all the other “firsts” of her life that he had missed before. It’s not like he could back out. To ensure that the flight would pan through, he was the only unfortunate one who “didn’t have children.”
“Joe?” sounded a sudden voice from above as Joe’s thoughts dissipated. “Hey Joe? I thought you took me here to fish!”
Snapping out of his day dream, Joe was back into his reality. Kris was at the border of the river, with a poorly made fishing pole at hand, whipping away at the waters trying to get a bite as Joe stood near a tree pondering to himself about the days revelations. He looked up at her from afar and only nodded with a faint smile as she called him out.
“Looks like you won’t be catching much with that rod of yours,” Joe laughed. “Here, take mine.”
Walking over the river bank, Joe holds onto his fishing rod and stands near Kris but far enough to get a full swing out of the rod so the reed was far enough to reach the fish. He then levels the rod close enough for Kris to hold onto with her small hands and stays in back of her with his own hands on Kris’ arms just in case she gets pulled into the river.
“See, this is better right?” he nudged her softly on the arm. “Whoever told you you could fish with a tree branch with a string tied at the end probably never ate fish in their lives.”
“I’ve eaten a few, thank you very much!” she growled at him with a pout of her own. “This is just a fancy tree branch with fancy string.”
After a while of waiting by the river, they still didn’t get a catch but it didn’t matter since both of them were very patient for the fish. They waited in silence, listening to the calming waters trickle upon the small pebbles of the river and gently crash onto the sides of the bank. With the tree branches and leaves swaying their music so lightly with the breeze, tranquility ran through the atmosphere for only a daughter and father to feel.
“This is nice, right Joe?” Kris smiled widely as she raised her head high enough for him to see.
“Don’t look at me,” he laughed. “Control your arms and be ready for a catch. If you let your guard down the fish will go away.”
“I wo- WHOA!” Kris suddenly screamed as she felt the other end of her pole tug at her body forcefully. She almost tripped into the water if not for Joe holding tightly around her arms.
“Hey!” Joe yelled back as he dragged Kris away from the deeper ends of the water. The fish were getting rough, so Joe had to lift Kris off her feet and pulled her further and further away. “Looks like you caught a live one! Keep your grip on it, Kris. Reel it back in now.”
Struggling to walk backwards and pull Kris out of the water, Joe managed to walk up 20 feet before the fish caught in his reed started flapping and bouncing on land.
“I caught it!” Kris yelped in his arms. Quickly she made her way to the fish and unhooked the specimen from her pole.
“Ew! It’s dying. Can I throw it back in?”
Joe gave the okay, and Kris tossed the fish back into the bank with a swift throw. She took a deep breathe to take in the country and air and wiped the slime from the catch on her pants.
“That was fun, let’s do it again!” she called out to him.
“Come here first, let me talk to you for a second,” he said calmly with a heavy heart.
“What you wanna talk about?” Kris asked with a carefree disposition as she made her way back up to Joe.
“How do I say this?” Joe asked himself before turning to Kris. “If someone were to break a promise, would you forgive them?”
“Momma always says that I should keep my promises no matter what,” Kris recited. “But be smart about the ones you make.”
“That’s great, but would you forgive someone for breaking a promise?” Joe continued to ask.
“What kind of promise?” Kris probed eagerly.
“Does it matter?” Joe shrugged.
“…if you lied to me, I’d forgive you. Lying is bad too. But…mommy always tells me to give people a second chance.
So…if you break a promise, I would forgive you.”
He thought about it and sure that was enough for him to tell her but he knew better than to trust Kris’ words. Her feelings would overpower anything she said before. Maybe he was making too much out of this. He was the one who would be missing out on something more. She didn’t even know he was her father. He was just another face that she will forget in a couple months if he were to suddenly disappear. In the midst of his thoughts, Kris looked down at her shoes with an abrupt cringe.
“You’re not going to give me any good news, huh?” she softly said. “What is it?”
He couldn’t look at her as he said it. “…I have a flight to London in a couple weeks…”
“You’re leaving again?” she asked with those wide eyes of hers. “How long?”
“Just a few days,” he quickly answered.
“Ok, good,” she sighed in relief.
“It’s a very important flight because no one can make it. I’m the only one that they can count on to do the task,” he continued.
“Ha! Cause only Superman can get the job done, right?” she gloated for him.
Right…Superman. How much of a Superman would he be if she found out he’s not going to be there at her performance?
“It’s on the 24th so its coming up soon and I’ll be back the next Monday,” he quietly cringed inside letting the truth come out. “So, I won’t be able to make it to your show.”
Slowly the softness in her smile dropped to a dull frown. She looked almost confused instead of angry. All in one minute her face portrayed more expressions of fear and of loss than he thought he would see upon her innocent face. He thought this wouldn’t hurt her as much as it hurt him but at that moment where he was looking at his torn daughter, he couldn’t help but want to take back his words.
“But you promised,” were the only words she uttered in between her deep quick breathes. “You promised you would be there.”
“I know but I can’t cancel this flight. No one else can do it,” he reiterated for her. “I’m sorry Kris. You understand right?”
“But…no! You were supposed to go. You said you would. How could you do this?” she refused to believe as she began to whine.
“Kris, this is my job, I have to do this,” he kept on trying to persuade. “No one else can make it.”
“Robbie’s parents are going to be there; both of them. Everybody’s parents are going to be there. Abe and Sally are going to go. Mommy’s even taking the day off so she could be with me. Calvin and Yi Yi are taking the night off too. How come you’re the only one that can’t make it?” she asked weary of the answer she was about to recieve.
Kneeling down to her level, Joe took her by her trembling hands that were wiping away the snot from her nose. He gently rubbed her hands with his thumb and looked her right in her tear soaked eyes.
“I’m so sorry Kris,” he earnestly said.
He was wrong. To Kris, she wasn’t just losing just another face in her life but someone who lost his chance to see her more times than anyone else in her life. He was the most important person in her life besides her mother because he was her Superman. But what kind of Superman was he if he can’t even do a simple task such as being there for her. She knew he had other important things to do; saving the world wasn’t easy. Everyone knows that Superman is the hero. He’s the one who’s worth talking about; the one who’s loved by all. Call her selfish, because she didn’t care. She had already been called worse but all she wanted was her father to know how special she was and to show him that she was worthy of being his daughter. He was the only one who mattered.
“I don’t forgive you,” she sharply replied with tears barely escaping her eyes.
“Kris,” Joe frowned at her sudden tone.
“I don’t need you,” she gulped in. “I don’t need a Superman no more.”
Whipping her hands out of his grasp, she stood up straight in front of her and continued to spew her anger as she wiped away any trace of faint tears running from her face. So what if she was all alone once again. She didn’t need a father, she never did. All the love she needed was already given to her from her mother, Yi Zhen , her friends…who needed a Superman who can’t even seem to do anything right?
“I don’t need you!” she spat. “I never needed someone who was never there for me in the first place. So go. Go on your dumb trip and I hope you never come back again.”
“Kris, you don’t mean that,” Joe sternly said as he still knelt in front of her. “Listen to me, I really wanted to be there but things came up out of the blue.”
“That’s what I get for having a Superman huh?” she continued to let her anger get the best of her. “You have to save the world. I get it. But when will you come to save me huh? You told me that you would save me. Was that just another broken promise?”
“Kris, that is unfair,” Joe continued to argue. “This is my job, I can’t always be there waiting to save you.”
“Why not!” she screamed. “I’ve waited long enough haven’t I?! Why am I the only one you never save?”
“Look at me,” he quietly ushered her face over to his with his palm. “If there were only one person that I had to take care of it would be you. But life doesn’t work out that way. You talk about not having a Superman to save you but who is there to save me? I get scared, I’m afraid of things, I have weaknesses. But who do I go to? Myself? Superman isn’t who you think he is. If you don’t need him anymore I can deal with it. But I can’t take it if you say that you don’t need me in your life anymore. Just like you, my heart can feel pain. So don’t say things that would hurt me if you don’t mean them. I know this is hurting you and I’m sorry. But…but is there anything I can do to make you forgive me?”
Upon seeing his broken daughter crying so openly in front of him, Joe just wanted to tell her everything. From the time she was gone to the time he found her all he wanted to do was cry. All he wanted to do was tell her that he never once thought about leaving her, not wanting her. All he wanted to do was hold her and love her the way that only he knew how.
“…why is it that everyone can have you but me?” she cried, quietly letting her tears flow without any humiliation.
“Give me back my Superman. I just want him back. Everybody else gets a second chance but me. Why? I know I can be a pain but don’t I deserve a second chance? I forgive him. I forgive him for not being there for me. So why won’t he come back for me?”
Maybe it was the large boulder trapped in throat or that sudden feeling of only wanting to kill himself for making Kris feel the way she felt. But after listening to her, he couldn’t bare his secret any longer. If she knew then perhaps she would know that she’s had him wrapped around her finger for longer than she can imagine. Perhaps this way she wouldn’t feel so alone. After selfishly crying to himself for so many years, it just never occurred to him that she’d be deeply hurt by someone whom she never met.
“Have fun on your trip,” she quietly sniffled as she walked away from him and left him in his own misery.
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