teddy & red roses

a teddy and a bouquet of red roses, in hand
palms sweating, heart racing,
he walked up to the front door
hesitated and rang the bell.

it's him, he heard a voice
and group giggling after a while.
beads of sweat appeared on his forehead
he wiped them with back of his hand.

the door opened and
before him stood the girl he had come to meet
her face radiant and an ear-to-ear smile
mesmerized, he stood at the door without saying a word
and group of girls giggled from inside the living room.

the girl asked her friends to shut up
and pointing to the teddy and red roses,
to the man she asked, are these for me?
of course they are for you, he said.
and the girl took the gifts from him.
he stood at the door and watched the girl
he had seen her photo -
but was meeting her for the first time.

come in, the girl shouted from inside
he stepped in the house -
to come face to face with a group of girls
they stared at him as if he was an alien
and, he felt like one, until -
the girl took his hand in hers
and to her friends she said -
"meet my papa, doesn't he look handsome in uniform?"
and the girls giggled again.

he'd never been a part of her life,
but she'd made him a part of hers
her mother, it seems, had told her stories
of how her daddy fought the bad guys.

tears gathered in his eyes
as he bent down to kiss the little girl
i love you, he said
i love you too, said she
and -
a woman standing amidst the group of girls, mouthed
thank you
she thanked the stranger for making her little girl smile
for being the fatherly figure in her daughter's life -
or rather what was left of it.