"Daddy, Daddy!" you called as you skipped off the big yellow bus and onto the sidewalk, running over to your red haired father.
"There's me bonnie lass!" your father cried, scooping you up in his arms and twirling you around.
"Did you miss me when I was at school today, Daddy?" You asked him, tugging on his iron earring.
"Of course! Now, let's get home. I made you an after school snack."
"Yay!" You hugged him around the neck, "You're the best papa ever."
"Aye, lass. And don't you forget it."
Your father, Allistor, was sitting in his big leather armchair, enjoying his usual evening cigar. You were on the ground playing with your toys when a question popped into your head.
"Why do you smoke so much? Isn't it bad for you?"
"I smoke because it relaxes me. And who ever told you that it was bad?"
"My teacher says that smoking makes your lungs get all black and icky. She says that if you smoke for enough time you can get…. You can get can… canceh… cancer." You struggled with the word, it being new to your vocabulary and still a bit confusing to you. You paused for a minute and then: "Daddy, what's cancer?"
"Cancer is a disease. It can make you very sick."
"Oh…." You stopped again, absorbing the new information, "What's a disease?"
"It's when you get sick. Remember when you had the flu last month?"
"That's a disease."
"Oh…. But what's-"
Your father interrupted you, standing up and snuffing out his cigar in the ashtray on the little table beside his armchair. "I think it's time for you to go to bed, angel."
"But I'm not sleepy yet."
"Mhmm…" He picked you up from the floor and you wrapped your arms around your neck as he carried you up the stairs and into your bedroom. He set you down on the bed, pulling the covers up to your chin. "Do you want a bedtime story tonight?"
"No…" You were finding it hard to keep your eyes open now that you were beneath the warm, cozy covers.
"Alright then. Goodnight, darlin'." Your papa kissed you on the forehead, walking over to the door and switching off the light.
"Daddy?" you called.
"Please don't get cancer… I don't want you to be sick."
"I promise I won't get sick, princess."
"If you insist." Allistor rolled his eyes, walking back over to your bed and kneeling down beside you, holding out his pinkie. You wrapped yours around it, biting your thumb. Your daddy bit down on his and you shook your entwined hands up and down.
"There." You pronounced triumphantly, "Now you can't break my promise."
Your father chuckled, "I wouldn't dream of it, darlin'." He ruffled your hair, "Now good night."
Allistor sat in his armchair, studying one of his fancy Cuban cigars, swirling a glass of bourbon in his hand. He began to put the cigar to his lips then stopped, glaring at it and chucking it across the room to land on the floor next to one of _____'s toys. Allistor let out a frustrated sigh.
"I told her I wouldn't get sick… So I can't smoke." He nodded firmly, sipping on the bourbon. "But smoking doesn't necessarily mean I'll get sick…" He began to stand, walking over to the Cuban.
"No!" He stamped his foot, sitting back down in the chair. "I promised…" Allistor fell back into his chair with a groan, "That lass'll drive me downright bonkers one day…"
"____! I said to pick up your toys!" Your father yelled, face turning red and an ugly scowl marring his features.
"I'm sorry, daddy!" you cried, "I'll pick them up now…" You ran over to your dolls on the living room floor, scooping them up into your arms quickly and running them upstairs to your room, tears streaming down your cheeks.
"Damn it!" Allistor stomped his foot on the ground, "That's the second time today I've yelled at her!" He rubbed his forehead, "Maybe if I had a smoke to calm me down…" He reached for the pack of cigars he kept beside the ashtray and balked as his fingers grasped only air, "What the- Oh…" He sighed, "Right. I threw them away…"
Allistor looked guiltily up the stairs to your room where he could hear your wails flowing down to him. "I should go talk to her…" He sighed, beginning the trudge up the stairs.
"Go away! I don't want to talk to you!"
"I know, darlin'… Just listen."
You sniffled but said nothing.
"I'm sorry I yelled at you but Daddy's going through a very hard time right now."
You popped out from under your covers, peering at your father with tear reddened eyes, "What's wrong, Daddy?"
"I'm trying to keep my promise to you, darlin'… It's not as easy as I made it sound." He grinned sheepishly at you, walking to your bedside and sitting down.
"It's okay, Daddy… I forgive you." You reached your short arms out for a hug.
"Thank you." Your Daddy whispered, enveloping you in a big bear hug.
"If it's that hard you don't have to try and keep your promise anymore. I don't want you to be unhappy, Daddy."
"No…" your father sighed, "No, I can do it. I can keep my promise for you, darlin'. I will do anything for you."