Story read, Othello pressed his lips softly to his daughter’s forehead. He moved away slowly, nose brushing hers in an Eskimo kiss and turned. The floorboards creaked softly under foot. He switched off the main light leaving the room lit only by the warm glow of the fire in its grate. Opening the door he looked back and said in a low whisper “until tomorrow little one.” He stepped backwards out of the door, closing it as he did.
Othello paused, hand resting on the smoothed doorknob, for a fraction of a second after the door quietly thumped its closing. Lilith would only be his little one for so many more tomorrows. His fingers lingered on the door, brushing it lightly and reluctant to move away. Move away he did, sock covered feet padding lightly across the hall to the kitchen. He filled the small copper kettle and lit the stove. For a moment he paused, arms around himself, looking back towards the closed wooden door. Lilith was eleven now. Soon she wouldn’t spend all her nights here with him. Soon she wouldn’t need him to tuck her in. Soon. But for now she was still his little one.
He rubbed his face, crossed their small kitchen pulled their cast iron teapot from where it was nestled amongst the washing up without a sound. He lifted the lid of a little black jar and fished out a teabag. Camomile, it was past eight. Dropping it into the teapot he leant back against the much stained wooden sideboard and his eyes once again settled on Lilith’s door as he waited for the kettle to boil. He traced the love heart shape cut into the doors panelling. The hours he had spent sanding it, smoothing out perfect curves while his tiny daughter slept back when his aunt Rosa had first let the move into the flat above the bookshop. It didn’t matter that for nearly the first year of her life Lilith had slept in a Moses basket beside his bed, that room had always been hers and he had wanted every bit of it to be beautiful.
The kettle whistled, a thin stream of steam issuing from its spout. Othello took it off the stove and made the tea. Carrying the kettle he crept back across the landing, pausing just for a moment outside that door to listen to the soft shuffling of sheets, the sounds of his daughter reading silently beneath the blankets. A slow smile curved his lips and he gently nudged open the door into his own small room. Edging through the narrow gap between bookshelf and bed, he set the teapot down on his desk, drew back his cushioned chair and sat. His sky blue mug, reasonably clean if slightly tea stained, was waiting beside the scrawled lists and neatly printed order forms.
He poured himself tea and took a slow sip. He wanted to at least make a start on the order forms for the shop before he picked up his own book and curled up with it in the inglenook for a few hours before bed. He drew the papers towards him and inked a pen setting his steaming mug back down. He cast a glance at the cracked open door, a habit from when Lilith had been younger and didn’t always sleep through the night. Tonight there was no shadow across the hall, no hesitant patter of feet and no quiet whisper of “daddy”. Othello sighed, now that she was older Lilith would read to herself for hours into the night rather than disturbing him for company. Soon she wouldn’t be his little one anymore.
Scratching his signature at the foot of an order form, he stretched, arching his back then topped up his camomile. He gathered mug and book in hand and crossed the room, making for their small sitting room and the warmth of the fire. Again he paused outside Lilith’s door, but this time the only sound that met his ears were her soft, snuffling breaths. She was coming down with another cold. He made a mental note to add blackcurrant juice to the shopping list knowing that as she coughed and sniffled her way through the next few days it would be all she wanted. For a while, when Lilith was a baby, he had been on edge, afraid to take his eyes off her every time her temperature rose a point of a degree too high or her tiny chest juddered with a cough. He’d waited on tenterhooks half expecting Michelle to come back, realising her mistake and take her daughter, hisdaughter, away. But she hadn’t and Lilith had been fine and Othello had learned that colds just meant blackcurrant juice, warm blankets and extra cuddles, nothing more.
Breaking his reverie, Othello carried on into the sitting room and picked his way around piles of stray books to climb into the cushioned inglenook beside the burner. Setting his mug down beside him and tucking his knees under himself in a manner he shared with his daughter, Othello opened his book and began to read.
He turned the page, absorbing the words hungrily, thinking that this would be another book he could pass on to Lilith. To share stories with her, stories he liked now, not just those he remembered from his childhood, was the best part of her growing up. The familiar sounds of crackling of the fire, his own slow breathing and the faint ticking of the clock on the far wall surrounded him. These were the sounds of his nights, this was the quiet of his alone time. The morning would bring with it creaking floorboards and whistling kettles, opening doors and quiet thoughtful words, the ringing of the shop bell and the thump of books on a counter, but for now all was peaceful. He turned another page. He wanted to know what Lilith would make of this story, but that would have to wait. Until tomorrow.