Hiraeth is originally a Welsh word. It was too beautiful not to use.
I hope you enjoy! Thank you!
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Rip Van Winkle
Hiraeth (n): homesickness for a place you cannot return to; grief for the lost places of your past
7 and a half years.
And he would never get that time back. It was like sand, already fallen through the hourglass of his life.
Before, he had barely started his thirties.
Now, he was already 40.
There was no rewind button. There was no return to previous save point. There was no do-overs.
There was no returning.
The world he had known no longer existed.
Ella was still sleeping. He had awoken before her. He could see her now, surrounded by the various tubes keeping her alive.
He was truly alone in this.
His memories floated around him in a nebulous cloud. Some parts were foggy, some were absent. It felt like a thin layer of dust coated all of them.
There was a knock at the door. Muffled words trickled in from the other side of the solid door. “It’s May.”
His voice was still hoarse from disuse. It ached as he spoke. Moving his limbs felt even odder. Jarring and awkward. Like they didn’t really belong to his body anymore.
Or at least not the body he remembered.
Nathan didn’t know if he would have been able to recognize her if she hadn’t introduced herself outside the door.
She looked older.
She was in her thirties now, Nathan reminded himself. Older than he had been when he had gotten into the accident.
And wasn’t that a strange thought?
They talked for over an hour. May talked rapidly, as if she was trying to compress years into 60 minutes of dialogue.
His father had passed away 4 years ago. His mother, two.
Emilia and Noah had gotten married.
Maybelline had met someone too. She would introduce them later.
It was too much. He felt the gap more acutely. The lost 8 years.
The opportunities he had missed, the people who had passed, all the songs he would probably never hear, the movies he may never find the time to catch up on, the technology that seemed so foreign, so overwhelming.
And most of all, the most important thing stolen from him.
She was only halfway through 9 when the accident had happened. Still in her princess phase. Young enough to blow puffs of dandelion seeds and catch lightning bugs in her hands. To splash around in puddles and craft paper boats for the slippery, evanescent streams that formed in the street gutters only when it rained.
Now, she was 17. Already a teenager. Starting to think about colleges, about her own future.
God, it was too much. Too much had happened. Too much had changed.
For one tiny, shameful moment, he had wished he had never woken up.
Then, the moment passed.
“They’re here,” Maybelline announced softly, watching him carefully for any sign of exhaustion.
“Em and Zoe.” The latter name was said so warmly on May’s lips.
He didn’t recall May being that comfortable around Zoey before…
“Noah thought you might need to be eased into this a little more, so he’ll probably meet you tomorrow or day after,” May explained.
Nathan didn’t really care either way. He was too nervous.
“Can we come in?” The voice belonged to his other sister, Emilia.
He nodded, unable to speak.
“Yeah,” May responded, translating his nod.
She stood up.
“We’ll give you some time with Zoe…”
Nathan could hardly breathe.
Nervous footsteps. He looked up.
There were two parallel images in front of him.
The daughter he remembered. Tiny with long, messy dark hair. Her chubby cheeks and wide eyes that seemed to be constantly gazing upon the world in awe. Her scraped knees; bandages had been a permanent fixture.
The person he saw now. Her dark, wavy hair was cut short, down to her shoulders. She was wearing dark jeans and a beige military jacket over a cream-colored shirt. Ella’s light pink scarf was wrapped securely around her neck.
She halted uncertainly.
“Zoebug?” he whispered. Not quite a question, not quite a statement.
And then they were hugging and sobbing and speaking over each other and trying to make up for every single one of those lost seconds.
“You look like your mother.”
Zoey smiled bright like the sun.
“Did you make this for me?” he asked, brandishing the little paper boat he had found beside his bedside.
“Yes, though it was quite a while back. I thought it would help bring you back home…”
But wasn’t home 7 and a half years ago? A tiny house nestled just the right distance from the beach? White walls gilded with the mild impression of seashells?
He remembered now.
Home was Zoey and Ella.
Home was Bell and Lia.
He still had a home.
Because he still had all of this.
7 and a half years was a long time. He was never going to get that time back.
But the future still lay ahead of him…
The two images merged into one. This was his daughter now.
Somethings would never change.
All he had to do was wait for Ella.