As the last of those words rang clearly through the air, Violet began to move forward. There had been quite some distance between her and the lake, but in the blink of an eye, she had already passed before Oscar’s. She seemed to quite literally be moving as fast as the wind.
At her final step before meeting the lake’s edge, the fleet-footed Auto Memories Doll kicked off with great force, gouging out marks in the earth where she had made this final escape from land. Her powerful legs lifted her unbelievably high into the air, and for a moment, it seemed as if she might just continue on her way up the stairway to heaven. Oscar's mouth fell open as he observed her unworldly movements. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion.
On reaching the peak of her great leap, Violet raised her hand and the umbrella it had been holding high above her head. The canopy sprang open suddenly, like a flower blooming in the sky. The frills along its edge wavered enchantingly.
As if on cue, the wind picked up again and swept Violet and her umbrella across the sky.
The umbrella–and Violet’s skirt–billowed gently while drifting downward. Here and there were flashes of white petticoat. At long last, the tip of Violet’s personal, meticulously kept lace-up boot touched gently against one leaf floating on the water.
That moment. That instant. That single frame. The clear image burned into Oscar’s retinae with such precision it was as if he’dsnapped a photograph after all. The arc of the umbrella, the fluttering of the skirt, the girl with her foot arched against the face of the lake. It was the work of a sorceress. To Oscar's mind came the fateful day which had stopped his daughter’s heart, and the words his daughter had spoken to him then:
Someday I’ll dance for you. On the lake, by our home now far away. When the leaves drift across the water in autumn.
Someday I’ll dance for you.
That voice. Her voice. He thought he’d lost it long ago, but there it was, echoing through his mind. You never knew it, but I’d wanted so badly to hear you call out to me. Another thousand times wouldn’t have been enough.
“Someday I’ll dance for you.”
“Father,” you’d say.
In that sweet, frail voice.
“Someday I’ll dance for you, Father.”
Your voice was more soothing to my ears than any music.
“Someday I’ll dance for you.”
Yes, that’s just how it was. Just like that. With that voice. Trying in perfect innocence to bring a smile to my face. That’s how you said it.
I’d forgotten your promise. I’d forgotten all about it. It's been a long time–so very, very long–since I've been able to remember you. I’m so happy to see you again. To see you again… even if only as a dream. My darling. My daughter. My… My… …My one and only treasure, shared between my love and me.
You must have known that you could never keep it. And yet you made your promise to me. That promise… your death… it withered me away into what I am now, and yet it let me live on. It stretched my life out this far. I stumbled onward, searching for a trace of you. And though I did so always full of regret, I have been granted this one instant. It is not you. But in that one instant, for me, she was you.
One fleeting moment of serendipity, of reunion, of embrace. I’d wanted so badly to see this moment. Perhaps that is what kept me alive.
You, whose name I had not even been able to mournfully whisper. I’d waited so long to see you. One more time, my darling. The last family left to me. Oh, how I’d waited. So long I had missed you. I loved you.
Heavy with joy, he wanted to smile.
“...Ohh… Ohh…” Only sobs escaped his lips.
Tears streamed down Oscar’s face as if pushing themselves back into motion after having been frozen to a standstill.
“...Ahhh… I can’t…”
The tick-tock sound of a clock’s hands came to his ears. His newly thawed heart drummed loudly.
“...so much… so much…”
He raised his hands to cover his face and flinched when he found them to be full of wrinkles. How long had time been stopped for him since those two passed?
“Oh, how I wish you hadn’t died…”
He whispered in a voice mixed with sobs, his face a twisted mess.
“That you’d stayed alive… stayed alive and grown up to be big…”
I wanted to see you, grown into a beautiful young woman. I wanted to see you like that. I wanted to see it with my own eyes. Then I should have been the one to die first. Before you. In the end cared for by you. That’s how I should have wanted to die. Not me caring for you at your end. Not how we had it.
“Oh, how I miss you…!”
Oscar’s eyes overflowed with tears. They rolled down his cheeks before falling to the ground in large drops.
And into this tear-streaked world tore the crashing sound of Violet sinking into the lake.
Oscar’s brief, glittering moment went dark; just as quickly as it had returned, the sound of his daughter’s voice was lost to him once more.
The image of her smile, too, fled from his mind like a soap bubble suddenly burst.
Oscar had blocked out the world with the palms of his hands. Now he squeezed his eyes shut in further refusal. He tried desperately to cut off this world in which she was lost.
Ah, it would be better for me to die here and now. No matter how long I mourn, they will never return. My heart, my breath, I beg of you to stop. My wife and my daughter are dead, and since they have left, life has been as death for me, too. So now, in this moment, I should like to have a bullet pierce me through.
Like a flower, which can no longer live on once stripped of its petals. But this prayer repeated a hundred million times yet does not come true. I know, for already have I prayed a hundred million times.