God Only Knows by The Beach Boys
Someday in the future…
Matthijs’ footsteps treaded silently on the hallway as he made his way to his daughter’s bedroom. He cracked the door open and saw his baby girl still up.
At half past midnight.
She had her back against a mountain of pillows, a tiny dark-haired princess with an oversized pair of headphones plopped over her ears. He entered the room, and she seemed to sense his presence immediately as she stopped humming and turned her head towards his direction.
He smiled, and she beamed at him as the bed sank under his weight. He helped her take off the headphones and bent his head to receive a loud smack on his cheek. “Just because you’re being sweet doesn’t mean I’ll let you stay up late,” he said in mock warning, but this only had his little one giggling.
“But you always let me stay up late.”
Matthijs winced. “Don’t let your Mama hear that, will you?” He noticed the old iPhone on her bedside table as he spoke and asked curiously, “What are you listening to?”
“Grandpa’s favorite song.”
His heart clenched. “I see.”
“Do you know it?”
Instead of answering, he started to hum the song’s refrain, and Tilda’s eyes sparkled with delight. He kept on humming, and soon his daughter began half-singing, half-humming.
God only knows…mm..mm..mm..
“A for effort,” he told her with a grin. “I’d give you that at least.” And he was being generous at that, considering how she only knew a fraction of the lyrics.
Unfortunately, his nice deed only had big doe eyes blinking up at him. “Huh?”
“Err, never mind.” Tilda was such an amazing conversationalist that he occasionally forgot she was just four. Picking up the iPhone, he saw that she had the song on repeat and said gruffly, “Grandpa used to play it all the time, too.” Birthdays and wedding anniversaries, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, and just about any event that Matthijs’ father could get away with it.
And since the old man had been such a damn rascal, he had even taken the TMI route once, saying that Matthijs’ mother had played it on the morning after…
Remembering this had Matthijs gritting his teeth.
Damn old man.
Goddamn old man, to stop playing the song just so he could follow his wife—
“Papa? Did you hear me?”
“Sorry, kiddo.” He had to cough and clear his throat. Blink his eyes a few times, too, since they were itching like hell. But it was just an itch, Matthijs thought forcefully, and nothing else. He glanced at his daughter, now in the process of tucking herself in the bed. “What was that you were asking?”
“Tell me a story. Please?”
He grimaced, thinking he should’ve pretended he hadn’t heard anything instead. “You’re only asking me that to torture me,” he grumbled. The brat knew it was his least favorite fatherly duty, but just like her mother, it was also for that same reason she wanted Matthijs doing it for her every night.
“Papa, pleeeeeeeeease. Please, please, please—”
He scowled. “You think just because you’ve said please I’m going to tell you a story?”
“Uh huh.” And the manipulative kid resumed her plea right after. “Please, please, please. Papa, please, please, please—”
“Alright, alright.” Matthijs was torn between exasperation and pride, knowing that his daughter could have only inherited her cunning from him. “Move over then.” But he was already scooping her up as he spoke, causing Tilda to giggle as he deposited her on the other side of the bed and had her bouncing against the mattress.
Leaning against the headboard, he asked, “Any particular bedtime story you’d like me to ruin?”
In between giggles and twinkling dark eyes, she answered rather innocently, “Mama said one day she’d tell me how Grandpa went to heaven.”
“Do you know the story, Papa?”
“The question you should be asking is whether he really—”
“Matthijs.” A warning threaded with helpless amusement interrupted him, and father and daughter turned to see the lovely Mrs. de Graaf standing by the doorway, hands planted on her hips.
“It’s possible he could’ve stopped by a McDonald’s first,” he drawled. “That’s all I wanted to make clear.”
“Ye of little faith,” he mocked. “I’m starting to wonder why you agreed to be my wife when you keep thinking the worst of me.”
The words, however, only earned him an eye roll as Tilda’s mother retorted, “Loving you doesn’t make me blind—” Her words ended in a shriek as Matthijs suddenly yanked her down and caused her to fall onto his lap.
“Matthijs!” But her voice was breathless, and all the love in the world was shining in her eyes as she looked up at him.
He kissed her on the nose, saying under his breath, “I love you.”
Her expression softened, and she nuzzled up to him, a tactile response to his words. I love you, too. His chest eased, but there was still the slightest reluctance in him as he let his wife go and let her settle on the other side of the bed, their wide-eyed daughter sandwiched cozily between them.