A dedicated teacher is shocked to learn that the runaway girl he found sleeping on a bench is the estranged daughter of one of his best former students – a man obsessed with money.
What is there to gain that would be worth losing the love of your only child? Brian was a man who loved success, and he loved money because after all, that’s how the world measures success.
Being a caring father was secondary. His own father had been a workaholic and had spent even less time with Brian than he had with his daughter, Daphne. He grew up well. He was happy wasn’t he?
But what Brian didn’t know was that while he was negotiating and amassing another fortune in Tokyo, his only daughter was taking the bus to the small town where he grew up.
Daphne had run away from the exclusive and expensive private school Brian had sent her to. She slept on a bench under the stars instead of under a silk duvet.
It was just getting dark when Daphne arrived in the small town she remembered well from summers spent with her late grandmother. She got off the bus in front of City Hall and crossed the street.
Remind yourself of what is really important to you, what you cannot live without.
The whole town was dead still and fast asleep. Tired Daphne had nowhere to go, so she found a bench in the small park and lay down with her head on her backpack.
She just wanted to rest a little, but she fell into a deep sleep. She woke up when a gentle hand was placed on her shoulder. “Sorry,” said a male voice. “Are you all right?”
Daphne sat up. In front of her was a friendly older man who looked at her with concern. “Can I call someone for you?”
Daphne burst into tears. The kindness was like balm to her heart. “There’s no one I can call,” she sobbed. “My grandma is dead. I don’t even know why I came here!”
“But, my dear,” said the man. “What’s your name?”
“Daphne Jardel,” she said, wiping her tear-smeared cheeks. “Hannah Jardel was my grandma.”
“And Tom is your father!” said the man smiling. “He was my best student then. I’m Mr. Adams…”
“Mr. Adams?” Daphne asked. “He talked about you all the time – back when he was still talking to me.”
“Daphne,” he asked softly. “Are you running away? I’ll call your father now and he’ll come and take you home!”
“Don’t do it…” said Daphne. “Please…”
Mr. Adams winced at the desperation in Daphne’s voice. “Very well,” said Mr. Adams. “You will stay with me and my wife until we sort this out.”
“I don’t want to see him,” Daphne cried. “Never again!”
Mr Adams decided to take matters into his own hands and called Tom’s company. “Mr. Jardel doesn’t take calls,” the secretary told him coldly.
“Not even when it comes to his daughter?” Mr Adams asked. “I think she’s gone.” Mr. Adams waited a long, long time on the line.
Finally, an annoyed male voice barked, “I hope you’re not kidding! What’s the point of my daughter being missing?”
“Tom,” said the old teacher. “This is Mr. Adams, your old teacher. I found your daughter asleep on a park bench this morning. She ran away. Didn’t you know?”
Sounding even more angry, Tom said, “I just got back from Tokyo yesterday morning! How was I supposed to know? Send her back, please.”
“I’m afraid she doesn’t want to come back,” Mr Adams said. “She doesn’t want to see you. If you don’t want to lose your daughter, Tom, you better come here.”
Tom was angry. He would lose at least a day’s work just cleaning up this mess! He hopped on his private jet and flew to his hometown.
He knocked on Mr Adams’ door and Daphne answered. “What are you doing here?” she asked angrily.
“I came to take you home, Daphne,” said Tom. “Stop this nonsense…”
“Nonsense?” Daphne asked. “Really? Do you even know why I left, father?”
“No!” said Tom. “I don’t understand you at all. I assume it’s the teenage hormones…”
“Saturday was my birthday,” Daphne said quietly. “And I heard you tell your secretary to book the trip to Tokyo for the weekend because you don’t have important social events. Do you remember that, father?”
Tom gasped. “I… I’m sure… So many appointments… I forgot…”
“That’s all right, father,” said Daphne. “Just stay away from me!” She turned her back on Tom and slammed the door in his face. He stood there for a long time and then walked away. He had an idea!
The next morning he was again at Mr. Adams’s door. “Daphne,” he called happily. “Come and see what I got you for your birthday!” He gestured triumphantly to a sleek red convertible. “You’ve got your driver’s license, now you’ve got a car!”
“I don’t want it,” said Daphne. “I don’t need expensive presents from you.”
Tom was angry. He drove the car back to the hotel where he was staying. “Why can’t she forgive me for a little forgetfulness?” he wondered. “It’s the first time…”
But was that it? Tom tried to remember what he and Daphne had done for her birthday the year before and the year before. Nothing. He had only told his secretary to buy her a present.
In fact, he had pretty much ignored his daughter since his wife died four years ago. “Oh Daphne,” he whispered. “I am so sorry!”
He went back to Mr. Adams’ house and knocked on the door. “Daphne!” he shouted. “I’m sorry, I’m an idiot. I promise everything will be different!”
Daphne opened the door and looked at him. “No, it won’t, father. I will always come second to your business! Please go away!”
Tom walked away but he had an idea and was determined to get his daughter back. When he returned three days later, he had a bouquet of wild daisies with him.
“Daphne,” he said as she opened the door. “Remember how we used to pick daisies together when you were little? We’re going to do that again now. I sold my business, honey. I’m buying a house here in town and I’m going to be a stay-at-home dad! ”
Daphne started crying and Tom wrapped his arms around his little girl. He said. “Honey, I almost lost the most important thing in my life and I’ll never risk that again!”
What can we learn from this story?
Remind yourself of what is really important to you, what you cannot do without. Tom was so busy making money that he forgot to be a good father to his only child.
Gifts cannot make up for a lack of love and attention. Like so many rich parents, Tom figured a new convertible would make Daphne forget how badly he had hurt her.
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