Warm. Patient. Home.

Those were the adjectives her father embodied, present even in the earliest memories she had of him. 

A pleasant, yet bitter feeling always followed when she reminisced about their time together, on the rare occasion in which she allowed herself to drown in the past, sometimes hoping to never wake. For the solace that was once there, concrete and seemingly ever-lasting, was, in reality, flitting and temporary; he slipped out of her life the way sand slipped through the space between your fingers, leaving you grasping nothing before you even realised it. A magic trick, where in the blink of an eye, the man that was once there had disappeared, leaving her to wonder if he was ever real in the first place.

The only evidence she had of him was her memories of their time together, tucked somewhere deep in the alcove of her mind and surfacing only when she felt at her lowest.

They were a double-edged sword. A gift and a curse, depending on her mental state.

At that moment, it was both.

“One step at a time, kiddo. Just take one step at a time.”

Snow drifted down around the central neighbourhood park, encasing the land in a peaceful, almost hypnotising atmosphere as the sprinkles of frost gently swayed along with the wind in a timeless dance. With the long winter season taking its toll on the town, the once grassy ground was now enveloped in a soft blanket of white, thick enough to sink the soles of your shoes and leave footprints in the wake of anyone that threads across it. Even now, in the early hours of the morning when the sun has yet to ascend, the tracks of two pedestrians can be clearly seen in the carpet of snow. Their steps led to the heart of the park, where a large lake had been frozen over with a layer of ice and where a tall, burly man stood at the centre of it all.

Cecil’s father was staring at her shivering form at the edge of the lake with a softness in his eyes that drastically contradicted the childish grin on his face.

“Nothing’s going to jump and bite you, kiddo,” he called out to her, gesturing at the frozen water beneath him. “If anything was swimming down there, they would have gotten you by now.”

His attempt to console her was met with a glare by the seven-year-old. “That’s because I’m not on the ice yet,” Cecil argued, struggling to balance herself on the blades of her ice skates. The snow was helping to provide a bit of support, but her ankles were already feeling tired and she hadn’t been prepared for this exertion.

“Well, they haven’t gotten me yet,” her father retorted back, skating a few tiny circles around the surface.

“No fish would want to eat you, Daddy. You’re too big for them.”

“Did you just call me fat?”

“You know that’s not what I meant.” She wasn’t looking at him anymore, her gaze too focused on making sure her feet weren’t bent at odd angles, but she could hear him pretend to sulk. “Why are we doing this anyway? It’s too early!”

“Well, would you prefer it if other people were here with us?”

That got her to pause for a moment.

“No…,” she whispered softly. Thinking about the neighbourhood kids making fun of her for not being able to skate when they could do it easily was something she didn’t want to experience. They didn’t have to know how incompetent she was.

Her father must have seen something in her expression. He skated closer to her and gently nudged her chin up. When her eyes met his, the expression he wore on his face was one of understanding, but there was something else too; perseverance. 

“Hey now. You got this,” he said, patting her softly on the head before returning to his initial position at the centre of the lake. “Just don’t think too much about it.”

“H-how?” She stuttered, already missing his closeness. Cecil tried to take a small step forward, but when the tip of her skates touched the ice, she knew she would slip if she moved again. “I-It’s too scary…”

“There’s nothing to be scared off,” he assured her. “It’s just another space for us to walk on, the way we walked here.”

“I doubt it.” Peering at the ice, she could make out the water hidden beneath, which made her question the thickness of the layer. There didn’t seem to be anything swimming there, but a habit of watching horror films conjured up silhouettes of mermaids and sharks in her mind. “It looks too thin. What if I fall in?”

The sound of her father laughing, a joyous melody that seemed to rumble the earth, distracted her from her fear for a moment. “If ice this thin can hold a person my size, then you would be a light spirit for it,” he countered. 

His comment got her to smile, but not enough to get her going. “Maybe we live in a world where the bigger you are, the lighter you weigh.”

“Guess that makes me a giant balloon then.”

Cecil giggled at that as she imagined her father floating up into the sky; he would probably perform some sort of theatrics while in the air. She watched as he continued to skate around gracefully. The ice didn’t seem to budge even when he made leaps on it.

Maybe it really wasn’t that thin.

Or maybe she was right about the weight thing.

‘Okay. I can do this. Time to take a leap of faith.’

Taking a deep breath, Cecil willed herself to put one leg forward.

She immediately realised that was a mistake.

Her skates suddenly felt too heavy, she didn’t seem to have control over them. The moment her foot made contact with the ice, she felt herself slipping forward at a fast speed.

“Help!” She screamed as she flailed her arms, trying to find something to grasp onto except there was nothing around. Her other leg had been forced forward, but it only helped her to slide further in front.

Cecil felt as though she had been shifting her feet and swinging her arms around for eternity until her body finally gave up and she found herself about to topple face-first into the ground.

‘So much for my bravery.’

However, the impact of the fall never came and, instead, she felt the wind on her face as a pair of big hands scooped her up and spun her around, a familiar laugh ringing in her ears.

She hadn’t realised she had closed her eyes. When she opened them, she was met with the sight of her father’s grinning expression. Mischievous. Playful.

And proud.

“Hey!” Cecil yelled, but there was no trace of anger in her tone as her giggles made the words bubble; she felt light and ticklish as the wind rushed around her, pushing all her fears and worries away. They continued to spin around, their laughter filling the air as father and daughter embraced the little joy of just being together on a cold winter morning that felt warm in each other’s presence.

She wanted to stay in that moment forever. She never wanted to leave.

“There’s my little one,” she heard her father whisper softly as he slowly spun to a stop and settled her gently on the ice, hands holding her shoulders to keep her steady. “Always so brave.”

His compliment made her feel bashful. “It wasn’t that big of a deal,” she mumbled, pouting. “I just stepped on the ice. I haven’t even skated yet.”

“But it was a big deal to you, was it not?” 


“Last year, you refused to even take a step. We ended up just going home. But look at you now.” His gaze was so proud, as if she had just lifted the world with her bare hands. “My brave girl.”

She felt her face flush from embarrassment; she knew some of her classmates who had climbed mountains and skydived without even batting an eye, recounting the event in class with arrogant pride. What she did didn’t even hold a candle to that, yet the words of her father made her feel courageous nonetheless. 

“You coddle me too much,” she muttered, avoiding his eyes.

“What kind of father would I be if I didn’t,” he replied as he released her shoulder and held one of her tiny hands in his large ones.

They skated hand in hand together for a while, twirling in circles and drawing foreign animals and objects with their skates on the surface of the ice. In the midst of that, her father started whistling a familiar tune and they started belting the words to ‘A Holly Jolly Christmas’, loud and out of pitch. It was at moments like this, enjoying the winter weather and holding her father’s hand, that Cecil felt the most safe.

But then, he let her go.

“Time to be on your own now,” she heard him say as he started to move away from her. His tone was light, but there was something hidden in his words. She would have asked him about it had her mind not immediately gone into panic mode at the loss of support by her side.

“W-wait! Daddy, come back!” Cecil tried to reach for him, but her feet were starting to slide again and she had to stop moving in order to stabilise herself, knees wobbling at the effort. “I-I can’t move.”

“Yes, you can,” he said gently. “Just move the way I taught you and make your way over to me.”


“I’ll be here to catch you, kiddo.”

His warm tone got her attention. When she looked back up at him, she could see a sort of fondness in his eyes. That love and trust he had for her made her feel warm inside. She had always been weak and a coward, crying at the littlest of things. Yet he always seemed so utterly sure that she could do anything. It made it impossible for her to give up.

With her eyes watching him, she took her first step.

She made it three steps forward before she slipped and fell, but he was there to catch her as he had promised.

Again, she tried.

And the results were the same.

Over and over, she attempted to skate. And every time, she would topple and fall into her father’s arms.

Cecil didn’t know how long they had been at it, but the sun had now risen and she could hear the distant footsteps of people approaching; families that had finally awakened and were taking their children to come skate on the ice as well. Once they got close, they would be greeted with the sight of a child flailing in her father’s arms, goofy smiles adorning their faces. 

“One more time, kiddo,” her father whispered, skating a few metres into the distance again. There were a few people there with them now, but their presence didn’t bother her as much as she thought.

This time, she steadied her breathing, the fear seeming to slip out of her. She had a certainty now that, no matter what, she wouldn’t get hurt. Even if she fell, she would be safe.

Because he would always be there to catch her.

She took a step.

And then another.

Soon, she was gliding with both feet on the icy surface towards her father. Not gracefully, but it was still something.

“I did it!” Cecil exclaimed as she met her father’s open arms on the other side, the both of them giggling at her triumph.

“Yes, darling,” he whispered, placing a soft kiss on her forehead. “You did it, as you always do.”

For a moment, she let herself feel his warmth. Then, she pushed herself away from him. She skated away, making a full circle before coming back, a grin adorning her face. “Guess I can do it by myself now,” she said, cheekily.

Her father’s expression seemed surprised, then morphed into something softer; affection, and something else. Something sadder.

“Yes,” she managed to hear him say before she drifted off to make another round. “You can be on your own now.”

It was only a few years later that she realised his words carried a different meaning.


Her father left her when she was eleven years old. A heart attack; apparently it ran in the family.

Cecil wondered if it would get her, too, one day.

‘I hope it does.’

Sprinkles of snow descended around her, vibrant and visible against the dark backdrop of the night sky. During winter, night times were darker and lasted a lot longer than day time, the temperature outside cold and merciless. As she sat on the railing of the bridge overlooking the lake of the park, she pondered how the scenery appeared different in her memory despite it being the same place and season. Then again, the answer was obvious. Time changes a lot of things, including people. And memories aren’t the most reliable form of recollection.

Maybe her mind exaggerated the happiness of the event to cope with the tough day she was experiencing.

Did she make it all up?

‘No. It definitely happened.’

The bruise on her right eye started stinging, snapping her back to her present predicament. She grazed her fingers on the skin and realised it had grown swollen, though it didn’t hurt as much as before. The cooling temperature must have been providing some form of relief.

Her younger self probably wouldn’t have imagined sitting in the park alone after being punched by an aggressive customer at her part-time job when she reached eighteen years old.

Even if she did, she would have imagined that her father would be there beside her, guiding her through these rough times.

But that wasn’t the case.

‘Damn, I need to stop thinking about him.’

A vibration in her pocket startled her from her train of thought. Looking at the caller ID, she let out a frustrated groan at her aunt’s name. After her father passed away, his older sister had taken Cecil into her care. She and her husband had no children of their own and they were more than happy to raise her up.

But it just wasn’t the same.

“Hello?” She answered. 

“Cecil? Where are you? It’s really late,” the static voice of her aunt sounded worried.

“I… just got done with my part-time job,” she answered. A half lie. Her shift ended an hour ago.

“Oh, so late? Why do these places force their workers to work at this hour?”

“It’s a 24-hour cafe. It’s normal.”

“Well, get home soon, okay? You’ll get a cold if you stay out too long in this weather.”


With a sigh, Cecil hung up the call. She knew her aunt’s temper would go off the moment she saw the black eye on her face; she had always been adamant about Cecil not working at her age, especially in customer service. She would probably use this incident to force her to quit.

“You don’t need money!” She remembered her aunt yelling at her when she told her about her job. “We already have enough for your education.”

But it never seemed right to her. Cecil wasn’t their daughter. It wasn’t right for them to be paying for her university fees.

Her father was supposed to be responsible for that.

However, that wasn’t possible anymore.

“I miss you,” she found herself whispering out loud. She imagined him skating on the ice, looking the same as that day eleven years ago. The grin on his face, the fondness in his eyes.

‘Time to be on your own now,’ he’d said.

“But it’s so lonely,” she answered.

‘I’ll be here to catch you, kiddo.’

“But you’re gone.”

‘Hey now. You got this.’

These imaginary conversations didn’t happen often, but when they did, she always felt a little better than before. His voice in her head was what kept her sane. The memories of him were what kept her going.

‘Always so brave.’

Cecil let out a deep breath before swinging her legs back onto the surface of the bridge and picking up her bag. She would go home and convince her aunt to allow her to continue to work. She would call up her employer and ask for a raise for all the overtime she had been putting in. She would be able to save enough money to pay for her education fees on her own.

She would be able to do all those things.

Because, even in death, she knew that he would always believe in her. That she could do it. That she could achieve anything.

‘As you always do.’

“One step at a time,” she whispered to herself as she made her way home. “Just take one step at a time.”

Written By: Zi Yi

Edited By: Ashely

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