Jack West Jr. woke with a start. Small beads of sweat trickled from the top of his hairline down to his ears and eyebrows. He panted. His eyes flashed around the dark room only making out the silhouettes of the furniture in the dim moonlight. He struggled to calm his racing heart. He had one of his reoccurring nightmares; the ones when she was dead or hurt and he couldn't save her. Gradually his breathing slowed coming in steady, deep gulps of cool night air. He reached over and flicked on the lamp that stood on the bedside table. The soft yellow light barely covered the room throwing much of it into deep, disturbing shadows but it was better than nothing.
Rolling out of the double bed he slowly walked to the ensuite bathroom and turned on the ceiling light. The cream tiles shone with the reflected light, as did the clear, cold water now running into the sink. Splashing his face with the freezing water he lifted his head to his reflection. The man staring at him was shaken. Wiping his face he appraised himself. Dressed in long pyjama pants and a faded wife-beater singlet at forty-three his appearance was not that dissimilar to when he was thirty-three. In fact many had said he looked better with age. He remained extremely fit and prepared, old military habits die-hard. His piercing blue eyes were alert as ever and his hair still dark and cropped short. The only think that gave the slightest hint to age was a few creases on his forehead that had stuck over years of worry.
Cracking his neck and stretching his arms trying to loosen himself up admiring for a moment is bionic left arm he left the bathroom. He padded quietly out of his own master bedroom and down the hall until he came to the door he wanted. Creaking it open slightly he peaked inside and saw the peaceful scene he was secretly praying for. Lying soundly asleep under a layer of quilted blankets her long shiny black hair sprawled over the pillow was Lily West, Jack's daughter.
At sixteen she was Jack's life. She was his source of joy, of sadness, of worry, of anger, of love, of calm. She was everything. Nothing in the world came close to the love he felt for her, the need to protect her, to provide for her, to teach her, to be there for her always. He had never felt so close to anyone before, not even his own family. They were inseparable. Jack was Lily's best friend. However, at sixteen she was becoming a handful. Having matured from a young fiercely brave and intelligent girl who had put her life on the line for those she loved she began venturing into a period of her life where Jack worried everyday.
Knowing she was alright he quietly closed the door behind him and made his way back to his own bedroom. Flicking on the other lamp as he walked into the master bedroom and sat on the far side of the bed looking out the window. The view from the master bedroom was enchanting. Jack and Lily had chosen to spend the long summer holidays abroad travelling Europe, both feeling the urge for cold after living for six years in the scorching Northern Territory heat. Having spent two weeks travelling through Russia they were spending a two weeks in Prague visiting an old friend of Jacks before moving next onto Austria. They had been a day in Prague and Jack knew Lily would want to come back. Even though they were both ancient history fanatics he could see how taken Lily was as soon as they started exploring.
"Dad, dad, did you know that Prague comes from the old Slavic root, praga, which means ford? Another interpretation is that it comes from a modern Czech word práh, which means threshold. Some people say that there is so much magic in this city that it is the threshold into other worlds or dimensions," she said as they walked through the Old Town centre arms linked.
"Is that so kiddo? You know what I think?" he said looking at her sparkling eyes, "It is bloody cold!" Lily threw her head back in laughter. Jack admired her as she continued to prattle on about Prague. She had grown into a fine young woman. Lily at the age of sixteen looked about twenty-one, making Jack nervous for her modesty. She was tall, with long shapely legs that morphed into her rounded hips that swayed when she walked. Her waist was small and stomach flat, smoothed and toned after continual exercise courtesy of her father. She had grown perfect round breasts, that she never flaunted much to Jack's approval and had long lean arms and fingers that looked so soft and delicate. From her smooth defined collarbone stretched her long neck where her head rested. Lily had let her hair grow long over the years, letting it tumble in soft, shiny waves around her shoulders and back. Her smooth dark skin was like mocha over her defined cheekbones and jaw, her lips full and always had a playful grin on them. Yet her eyes were the most entrancing aspect about her. They were truthful and shone with joy and laughter; able to melt even the toughest characters. But to Jack even though she walked behind him a glowing, beautiful young woman laughing and talking with the maturity of someone closer to Jack's age he still saw her as his little girl; dark hair with big curious eyes eager to learn, hungry for knowledge.
A painful memory flashed in front of Jack's eyes to a time when he thought she was dead. Her small limp form was lying lifeless in a mound of gold with him calling her name, crawling to her aid, tears leaking from his eyes.
Suddenly Jack was aware he was in his hotel room looking out onto the city of Prague with a pair of slender arms wrapped around his shoulders. He was also aware of the fact that he was crying.
"Daddy, you dreaming again?" whispered Lily in his ear. She came and sat beside him whipping the tears from his cheeks. "Don't worry, you haven't lost me…yet," she said cheekily embracing him.
"Fuck, I worry about you way too much," he said exhaling sharply rubbing his forehead as she released him.
"Swear Jar!" she exclaimed laughing her black hair rippling down her back.
"You will never give that up will you kiddo?" Jack asked laughing. Lily loved making her father laugh.
"Nope, now off to bed! I booked an early table for breakfast in one of the cafes in the Old Town Square," she said standing up and pushing Jack to get under the covers. Jack slowly followed her instructions; a thought pulsing through his mind.
"Wait, breakfast is included in the hotel package. We don't have to go – " But Lily cut him off.
"Nope, sorry already done. I'll see you in the morning!" she said cheerily kissing her father's cheek. Jack rolled his eyes and switched off his lamp whilst Lily got the other. After calling goodnight to each other everything was dark again but Jack knew Lily left the doors open, just in case he had another dream and needed her touch to soothe him again.