A/N: Don't own anything
A lone man is sitting by his window sill watching the flakes fall softly to the earth, each unique droplet perfect in its own way, a beautiful reminder of what time of year it is.
He pulls the blanket at his feet to his lap, hugging it closer with wrinkling hands, an annoying reminder that he is getting old playing across his tired mind.
On his lap lies an old leather photo album, painful memories of the past that he used to hold so dear.
It's his ritual, each year when the children are out with friends and his wife goes on her last minute shopping spree he waits, seated silently by the fire place with the blanket thrown over his legs and the dog lying asleep at his feet. As the clock strikes 12 he slowly opens the album, reminding himself that he is only 2 years shy of sixty and not the elderly man he feels at this time of year.
The weight of his past ties him down, ages him beyond his years so that his children complain and his wife rolls her eyes. Yet they know, they know that it will pass when his ritual is complete. He's never told them what went on, what leads him to a state of despair every week before Christmas and what pulls him from it before the big day lands itself upon them so that he's back to the laughing playful father and husband they love so dearly. All they know is that it happens each year without fail, as it is now.
The first page
A glistening white sheet presents itself before him, the smooth paper feeling soft beneath his hand as he runs it from top to bottom, breathing in the scent of the past mingled with dust and damp. At the top of the page her name is written in golden curves, the beautiful calligraphy written by a young hand over 25 years ago.
He remembers the first time he heard it whispered to him, sweat had broken across her forehead, her own damp blonde curls sticking to her face as she hugged the tiny, screaming bundle of red and pink close to her chest.
"Katline" she had whispered and he was sure at that moment he had fallen in love. His gorgeous girl, her own blonde curls barely visible as startling green eyes stared out at him, catching his breathe with tears of joy and amazement.
"Katline" he whispers now, as if testing the word out might bring her closer to him once more. It has been so long since he has called that name, so long since he has seen her little golden head peer out from behind his study door to hop and whisper goodnight.
The second page
He stares down at the photo adorning the yellowing paper, father and daughter in their first moments of bonding. His little angel held near his face so that he could take in her every feature. She looked so small, so dwarfed against his gangly, shaking figure. The true mark of a first time father and the sheer terror that had encompassed him in those first few hours.
A lone tear rolls down his cheek and hits the plastic sleeve protecting his past, the salty droplet mixing with the hundreds gone before it, tears of years gone by.
He turned the page quickly, taking in the site of each new photograph, each moment in time, like it was his first time viewing them. Her first step, first words, first day of preschool with a Mickey Mouse backpack, first day of big girl school with a toothless grin and blonde pig tails pulled back with ribbons. Day's at the beach in summer and days in the snow in winter, a holiday with friends when she was 7 and a peaceful picnic by the river just the three of them. Moments of his life he wished forever to hold onto, moment she could never get back and dearly dreamt of.
The Last Page
With shaking hands he lifts the weightless paper to reveal a blank page, perfectly kept for a time when he can fill it with her smiling face. He often wonders what she'd look like now, age 28 and no doubt on top of the world. He prays that she's safe, pleads with god that she has found happiness and does not spend countless days thinking of her painful past. Though, sometimes he stops, when his youngest child smiles at him, the same smile as hers, or his other child says something so reminiscent of her voice that he falters; these are the times he wishes that she remembers him. Her father whom she has not seen in 20 years. Who loves her so dearly to this day that he cries each December at the thought of another year not knowing where she is, if she's safe, if she's happy.
He slams the folder shut but notices something, a hidden piece of paper that he has not seen before, something new amongst the familiar past. It's a folded, though untidily like a child who has rushed to get it done. Light purple paper, her favourite he remembers, holding it face down in his lap before turning it over slowly.
A childs drawing meets his eyes, blurred at the corners from the remains of his tears. A Christmas tree stands in the corner, next to it a fireplace is burning, the red and orange flames bursting with life and glitter that falls beneath his fingers. In front of it sits an old armchair and on it sits two people, a man of 40 years and a blonde haired girl of 8. She's snuggled against his chest as he wraps a blanket around her, holding her close as a bed time story is shared between the two. At the top of the page in messy hand writing a message is scribbled, Happy Birthday Daddy, in shades of green and red.
He opens the card slowly, keeping his eyes on the drawing for as long as he can before settling on the message inside.
I hope it's the best one ever!
You're the best daddy in the whole wide world
The mandatory scribbles of hugs and kisses are signed beneath her name as a tear rolls down his cheek, hitting the fresh paper with a splash and running down the page, turning the purple a shade darker where it meets. He can't help it but he is smiling, the first real smile he has smiled all day.
Without warning he picks up the paper lying by his side, shuffling his feet to kick of the blanket as the dog howls in annoyance.
"Shut up Sammy" he mumbles as he busily arranges the desk, setting the paper down so that he can write. He takes a chance to glance down at the card one last time before placing it back in its hiding spot, just peaking out so that he will find it again next year.
He places the pen against the paper with mild pressure, pausing for a moment before writing the word she has dreamt of for 20 years. He smiles, watching the snow fall gently by the window as the fireplace flickers excitedly behind him; it is Christmas after all, and miracles can happen.