I quietly took a breath, unsure what was to come next, and looked up from the latest spreadsheet of joy I'd received from the office.
'Hey Naomi, whats up kiddo?'
8am, and we'd already had three tantrums today about God only knows what - I think one of them may have had something to do with ketchup on her eggs but the only response I could get was tears and grunts. I'd promised her that I'd not use my empathic abilities with her but some days I really wished I could see what was going on under that dark wavy hair.
'I'm making a coffee, want one?' Followed by a smile.
Ah yes, the light switch mood change. If anyone tells you raising kids is easy then either they have never had children of their own or they are delusional. Especially if they tell you raising daughters is easy. Especially if that daughter has reached the pre-teen phase. Especially if you have never been a young woman, or any kind of woman come to think of it! If an eleven year old is this tricky, then it is going to take a miracle to get through fifteen!
Don't get me wrong, she's a great kid but... I nodded affirmation to the coffee and off she went to the kitchen, singing some garbage pop song off the radio. Back to the spreadsheet.
A shout from the kitchen 'Dad, your phone. Unknown number'
'Ok, thanks. If its important they can leave a message, it's my day off after all.'
A derisive snort, followed by 'Tell that to the computer Dad.'
She was right, numbers could wait. I shut the lid just in time for the coffee delivery.
'You know kid, you might be a pain in the butt sometimes but you make a good coffee...' That brought a smile, '...OK so no work it is, how about our phones and the computers and everything but the bank card gets left here and we get out of here for the day?'
Another smile. 'Where to?'
'I have no idea, what do you fancy?'
She thought for a minute then spun on her heels and walked back into the kitchen. A cupboard door opened, a few seconds rustling followed by the wooden clank of closure then she reappeared. I put my coffee down just in time to intercept the bike helmet that had been launched in my direction.
'Sunshine and Ice Cream. You decide the rest!'
By the time we'd got tyres inflated, sun cream applied and day packs ready the sun was well into its meander through the morning. I nipped back inside to visit the facilities before we left, and checked the phone on the way out the door. There were 3 missed calls on the phone, all saying 'unknown number' and it looked like there was a message too. I got half way through entering my code to check when...
'Dad, come on! No phone remember.'
We'd been cycling for about an hour, about due our first cake and brew of the morning when Naomi pulled alongside me.
'Somethings up Dad, we need to go back.'
'The cafe is just round the next bend Naomi, lets get a coffee and see if we can fix whatever it is there?'
'No Dad, we need to go back.' She dropped back rapidly, the squeal brake blocks on wheel rims puncturing the peace of the trail we'd been riding. I rolled to a halt and turned to ride back to her.
Her bike was lain in the long grass next to the trail before I reached her. She stood, facing away from me, in the middle of the trail looking towards home. As I rolled past her I took a breath to ask what was up when I saw her face. Something was wrong. Apprehension where minutes before had been joy. She was staring intently at her hands.
'What's happening Daddy?'
I threw my bike down in the grass next to hers and walked over to her. I could feel her confusion, her fear and something else. Something I'd not seen in her since she first came into my life eight years previously. Now I was concerned.
'I don't know Naomi, we'll work it out together though.'
I reached out to try and reassure her, gently taking her hands....
Something surged around us, overwhelming our surroundings with light. A noise that seemed to be more of a feeling than a sound.
The energy began to dissipate, Naomi's hands were still in mine but she had flopped to her knees. The chaos had rescinded but there was a new sense of worry, surrounded by intrigue and exhaustion. Whatever had just happened had taken a lot out of her, but seemed to have awoken something else too.
'OK. whatever it is I've got you.'
She looked up at me as the reality around us seemed to reestablish itself, when a voice I'd not heard for years broke into the moment.
'Engels, where the hell did you come from?'