Am I Beautiful?
“Am I beautiful?”
He answered without hesitating, watching as Amelión continued to trace a finger along the horizon where rock met sand.
“Not like that. Look at me, please before you answer, so that I know you are truthful in-the-now. It’s important to me.”
Shifting where he sat, Henning relinquished his stone backrest and faced the girl. So like her mother, it frightened him and restored him more than he could admit.
“You are my life; my zoe; my brightest of moon. The most precious thing I ever had the privilege to love me. You are kind to your brother, even when he brings his dirty shoes to your half of the room because he forgets to take them off. You see things in the world I would not notice if I looked one hundred times. And you bring me sweets even when Oma hides them.”
He grinned as Amelión laughed, her voice bouncing off the walls of their cave. He watched as she tucked her short brown hair behind her ear and leant in to kiss his nose, which wrinkled in reply.
“I shall always bring you sweets, Pappa! Oma has begun now to hide them from me too, but Danny spies on her and tells me where. Shh! I never told you that!”
Henning smiled seriously, “Lioness, do you think your mother beautiful?”
The girl thought before answering, leaning her head to one side and staring away into the bright blue outside the cave entrance, allowing her mind free with the wispy clouds.
“Mother was strong. Her arms were skinny like Daneel’s but she could have held up the sky if she needed. And she moved quietly like a forest animal, sometimes the only thing you could hear were her skirts rustling together like leaves in November. And her humming a tune while she worked something that she liked. I think she was definitely elegant.”
Henning watched her wide eyes sadden as she spoke.
“What else, my lieveke?”
“She wasn’t very tall, but she wasn’t short. When I hugged her around her waist, I knew that I could do anything and try anything and she would make sure I had an apple in my bag and socks that were clean and she would fix my shirt if it tore. And she would let me tease Danny but never bully him. And she would let him break the rules I always had to keep, but when nobody was looking, she’d let me break a different rule. Like letting me accidentally see where she hid the cakes.”
“And her skin was dark like Danny, but her eyes were green like mine and her hair was her own. Her cheeks were always wrinkled from smiling and her smile was always truthful. Yes, Pappa. Mother was beautiful. Definitely.”
“I think so too, Amelión. I think your mother was one of the most beautiful. Actually, until I met you I did not believe I would love anything else as much. It is not only her eyes that you share though; have you noticed that you can always surprise Daneel when you play hiding games? You carry yourself the same way like your mother, like you are part of what you walk through. And your nose wrinkles when you are happy, which is why I like to kiss it.”
“And what about me? Do you think me beautiful, mimischka?”
Amelión looked back from the ocean, letting her eyes readjust to the light in the cave to study the face of the man in front of her. His beard was ragged with more grey than black now, some small white scars visible through it in contrast to his reddened skin toughened from decades of work. The lines aside his eyes betrayed worries as well as laughter and it was like this, when he was pretending to be serious, that she felt closest to him.
“You are an old man now, Henning von Hek. And your hairs and your beard need a cut like a buffalo. You are a big man with big arms for holding me and Danny safely, and you stand like an oak when the wind tries to blow at us. You speak the truth to me, always. And you do what you are able, to make the truth kind. I think that you are maybe the most beautiful man I will ever meet. Mother thought you the most beautiful that she ever did.”
The afternoon sun lowered and the shadow inside their cave retreated further into its depths. And as Henning packed away their picnic, Amelión arranged the picked flowers into a half-circle on her mother’s stone.
Then, when her father had his back to her, she blew a kiss into the wind and whispered “He thinks I’m beautiful too, mother.”