Floating in Time

A loss has changed a girl for life.

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1. Floating in Time

Russell Rufus was a balloon contortionist. He would craft the most elaborate models and figures from balloons. Whenever he invented something with his nimble fingers he would always bring sunny smiles on children's faces. His notorious balloon animals and buildings were quite the attraction, and they earned him a dazzling reputation in the amusement park he worked for.

    His ten-year-old daughter, Rise, had inherited his love for balloons. Every now and then, on arbitrary occasions, she would tag behind him to his workplace and spend her time munching on fuzzy swabs of cotton candy and crunching into caramel-coated candy apples, drizzled with roasted nuts and sprinkled with a pinch of sugar. She would participate in all the rides and play all the games, to the extent of memorizing the locations of each and every one in the entire amusement park. No matter how many times she achieved these feats, the thrills of attending these activities never wore off.

    Rise strove to produce famous balloon masterpieces like her father, but at the time, her fingers were too stubby and short to do so. She was too young to be taught the skills it took to be at Russell's level; however, she was able to perform the basics, and that was all that mattered for now.

    One day, on a stormy night, Russell didn't come home for dinner. His wife, Sera, was on edge. He had never been out this late from work before. She dialed his number several times, but he didn't pick up any of her calls.

    After setting up the table, Rise asked her mother, "Where's Dad?"

    Sera offered her a tight smile. "He'll be back soon."

    Despite her words, a hint of worry was etched in her features.

    After a brief session of small talk, the two dined on their tuna casserole. No words were exchanged, and only the sounds of forks scraping against plates and chewing occupied the air. When all was consumed and stomachs were satisfied, Sera dismissed Rise to bed and continued to await Russell's return.

    But on that dark, murky night, with thunder roaring and winds screeching, with gray clouds brewing in the sky like a witch's frothy cauldron, he never came home.

    News of his disappearance erupted. He was gone, taken by a construction accident on the way back. He would never be able to present his amazing balloons to the public. And he would never be able to smile and laugh and sing and dance and celebrate and do anything and everything else a beloved father and husband could do with his family ever again.

    With Russell ripped out from their lives, Rise and Sera's worlds turned blue, tainted with spells of depression.

    On his funeral, it rained a downpour. It was like the world was mourning for him. Tears were spilled and sobs were broken. Sera, overwhelmed by grief, had shattered after delivering a heartrending eulogy. After hours of lament, everyone bid their farewells and made their departures. Final condolences were shared. Before she could leave, Rise placed a blue balloon giraffe beside Russell's headstone. She knew he would want this.

    A decade has passed since then, and the world was no longer blue anymore. Every now and then, on arbitrary occasions, Rise would visit the amusement park Russell used to work for. She would bask in the childhood memories she made there, reminiscing the times she would always cherish. Her admiration for balloon animals had not deteriorated one bit.

    And neither did her love for Russell.

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