“And they lived happily ever after”, I read out from the book. I closed the book and checked if Rhea was asleep. She hadn’t said a word for a while, and that’s unusal for her if she is awake. Today, however, she was wide awake and silent. She looked back at me with infinite sadness in her eyes.
“Pa, why do fairy tales always have happy endings?”
That’s because, I wanted to say, what would we look forward to if even fairy tales started being realistic? But then trouble is, even at her tender age, Rhea would have known exactly what I meant.
“That’s because”, I said, “the story uncle has to move on to tell other tales”
“You mean, the story uncle lies about the end?”
“No dear. The story uncle just doesn’t know what’s going to happen in the end. He sees the happy princess and he thinks she’s going to be happy always”
“Pa, why you and mommy not living happily every after?”
Ah, the dreaded question. Not because it’s the first time she’s asked this, but because everytime I have to be consistent. Any sign of inconsistency with previous versions, and she’ll give me that look!
“We are! It’s just that we’re not living together”
“Is mommy happy?”
“She is trying to find happiness, dear”, you cannot lie to kids. They’ll catch you sooner or later. And then they stop believing even in your truths.
“And what about you, Pa?”
“I’m happy, too!”, didn’t I say you cannot lie to kids? “I have you with me. That’s all I need”
“But you would be happier if Mommy was here”
“Of course dear! But we must manage, just two of us. We agreed about that, didn’t we?”
“But Pa why doesn’t mommy love me?”
“How could you even say that? Of course she loves you”
“Then why did she leave me”
“No Rhea, She didn’t leave you, she left me. When the story uncle leaves, things start to change a little. Mommy and I realized way after story uncle left, that it was by his mistake that we had met each other. You know dear, when story uncle makes mistakes, we have to correct them”
For a while she stared at the ceiling.
“But Pa, didn’t she want to live with me?”
“She did, but both of us agreed that I needed you more than she did. And she roams all around the world, na?”
“But she never writes to me, never calls me!”
“We can’t make it more difficult for her, na? She is trying to rewrite all the story pages where the story uncle made mistakes”
“I hate story uncle!”, she said finally.
“So do I, dear”
“When you write stories, Pa, promise me you wouldn’t make mistakes”
“I can’t promise beta. But I promise I’ll try very hard”
That made her happy. A faint smile crossed her lips as she said, “I love you, Pa”
“I love you, my princess…”, I said very softly, because the princess was already ruling the kingdom of dreams.