Matilda’s body shook in David’s arms as the tears poured down her cheeks. He felt them soak the shoulder of his shirt, and his heart broke as she sobbed harder.
They sat like that, father and daughter, for a long time. David refused to let go first. He had promised he would always be there for her, especially when the pain was this great.
This time, he didn’t know what sparked the tears. He had gotten home and found Matilda sobbing on the couch. Without a word he sat down and wrapped his arms around her.
Her tears always frightened him. He was reminded too much of Agnes’s tears. Of her mood swings, her temper, her raw emotions. He feared the day Matilda’s emotional breakdowns would blossom into something reminiscent of her mother’s.
After a while, Matilda’s tears subsided into gentle hiccups and he felt her relax away from him. He released her and they sat side by side, David listening as she steadied her breathing. He would not ask any questions, but was hopeful she would give him an explanation without prompting.
Finally, her soft voice broke the silence.
“He broke up with me.”
David was thrown off for a moment. Here he was, thinking she was upset about her mother, but he had been completely wrong. Of course. She was talking about her boyfriend of two months, Jeremiah. She was upset about something perfectly normal for a girl of sixteen. He caught himself smiling with relief, thankful she wasn’t looking at his face.
But he was relieved. He always was when she made it clear to him that she was not the clone of her emotionally broken mother.
He put his arm around Matilda again and she rested her head on his shoulder.
“I should have known, dad. I really should have. He was so immature, skipping classes and not even caring about his grades. He was obviously not right for me, dad. I was just too stupid to notice.”
“You aren’t stupid,” David said watching her strong face out of the corner of his eye. “You were just misguided. Love will do that do you.”
She shook her head forcefully, “No. That wasn’t love. I didn’t love Jeremiah. I just wanted a boyfriend, like Delia and Amy. I know it wasn’t love. But why does it still hurt so bad?”
David shook his head and stared out the picture window into what used to be Agnes’s beloved garden, “I don’t know Mattie. I just don’t know.”
Read more about Agnes, David and Matilda under Finding Agnes.