An American Cinderella:A Royal Love Story(5)

By: Krista Lakes

* * *

“Daddy, why is it two different colors?”

My father turned and smiled at eight-year old me. “You noticed that, Sweet-pea?”

I nodded solemnly. “It looks...” I fidgeted, not wanting to get someone in trouble, but needing to point out the flaw. “It looks like they messed up.”

My father chuckled, his smile bright in the sunshine.

“It wasn't planned that way,” my father informed me. He squinted up at the white pillar of marble for a moment before looking back at me. He was so tall and smart. My father was the best person in the entire world. I knew it was true because he was a senator and millions of people had voted for him. Millions of people thought he was the best, too.

“Did someone mess up?” I asked, sure that whoever had done it probably ended up cleaning something as punishment like I did the time I put the paints away messily in art class.

“Well, they wanted to honor George Washington. You know who he was, right?” my father asked. I nodded.

“The first president of the United States,” I recited. My father smiled.

“Yes. The government wanted to build this to honor him. They started building, but then they ran out of money. The Civil War was more important than building monuments,” my father explained. “When the war was over and they could start again, they couldn't get the original stone. They had to use a different kind. That's why it's two different colors.”

I stared up at the white obelisk, unsure of what the point of my father's story was.

“Why didn't they just start over? Or do something else?” I asked.

“Because that wasn't the plan,” he replied. He knelt before me with his knees in the damp grass. He put his hands on my small shoulders, our eyes at the same height. I loved it when he looked at me like this. I felt important. I was an equal.

“There's a lesson, isn't there?” I asked, a small smile on my face. My father always had some sort of lesson he wanted me to learn.

My father laughed and squeezed my shoulders. “Yes, Sweet-pea, there is.” His dark eyes found mine again. “The lesson is not to give up. Even if it isn't going to work out perfectly, don't give up. The builders of this monument didn't, and even though it isn't perfect, it's still beautiful. It's still amazing.”

I looked up at the different hues of white stone and thought about my father's words. “Things don't have to be perfect to be good,” I said.

“Exactly.” My father grinned and pulled me into a hug before rising to his feet. The knees of his suit pants were dark with grass water, but he didn't care. “That's it exactly, Sweet-pea.”

* * *

I could remember that day with crystal clarity, just as I could every time my father brought me here. We'd visit the monument at least once a year and I'd always ask the question of why it was two different shades of white. I knew the answer, but I loved having him explain it to me. It became a ritual between us for me to ask and him to answer.

I was sixteen the last time we'd both been here. It was the last place I'd seen him really alive. Being here was as close to being with my father as I could get.

“I could really use you today,” I whispered up at the monument. My father would know what to do about my job. He would know how to fix what my stepmother had done.

He would make things better, just by being there. My heart ached with missing him. I closed my eyes and wished for a sign. Something to tell me he was still here, just invisible.

A soft breeze across my face was all I got.

That, and someone crashing into me, knocking onto my butt in the grass and forcing me to go down.

Chapter 3

I was just standing there, minding my own business, reminiscing about my father, when a body came hurtling out of nowhere and knocked me over.

I sat on the grass, dazed and confused as to how I went from standing to sitting without meaning to. I tried to move, but my legs were tangled up with someone else's feet.

“Are you all right?” the person tangled up with me asked. He had a slight European accent to his words, making him sound educated, even if he was clumsy.

“I think so,” I said slowly, pulling my legs out from under his. Nothing seemed to be broken or too badly bruised. “Are you okay?”