She had aged beyond belief since he had seen her last. Her skin was grey, her eyes hollow. A shudder passed through him as he remembered she had turned twenty-seven just a month ago. This was not his baby girl.
Where was the goldenhaired child whose eyes shined with such hope, such life, such love- for him?
And as he stood watching her an understanding came upon him. A deep primal instinct awoke with the knowledge that he could not survive in the same world as this broken and empty shell, this hideous caricature of what he loved most in the world. Every moment he was in her presence would be a reminder of his unforgivable failures. Of the sins of this unworthy world; to be given the most beautiful, faultless child and to be able to reduce it to this miserable hateful shadow.
"Hello Papa." The lines at the corner of her mouth, beaten in by years of anxiety and fear, gave her a permanent frown. She stepped foreward and put her arms around him. He stood motionless for a moment, a dazed look on his face. He slowly raised his arms and embraced her softly, then tightly.
He held on long after her legs stopped kicking.