The moment Arthur saw his beautiful baby girl for the first time, she became his world. He and his wife, Briana, shared a moment of pure bliss as they held the newborn in their arms.
Arthur had always wanted a girl, and had thought of a name years before Briana was pregnant. “Charlotte,” he called her and watched her eyes follow his voice.
Arthur and Briana found themselves enjoying the simple divine pleasures of parenthood. Of course, there were also challenges. Some nights, Briana was too tired to care for Charlotte, while Arthur worked overtime as sheriff at the local police station.
They spent three happy years, three birthdays, three vacations and three Christmases in their new world. That was all the time Briana was able to be near her daughter.
Shortly after Charlotte’s third birthday, Briana suffered a cardiac arrest and breathed her last without waking her husband or daughter to say goodbye….
Arthur’s world had crumbled around him, and in the middle of all its pieces was his little motherless angel, Charlotte. She was too little to understand that she no longer had her mother. But Arthur was determined to prepare her to live with the void left in her life that she would soon realize.
And he knew that coddling her wasn’t going to help. He had to toughen her up, make her strong to face the curves that life would present to her.
“Charlotte, remember, you’re strong, you’re smart, you’re, you’re fierce!”. That was the slogan Arthur imprinted in his daughter’s mind every morning, rain or shine.
Arthur taught his daughter to be untamed by the world and to be disciplined in the smallest things in life, like making her bed and polishing her shoes.
He taught her to try to solve her own problems.
“Remember: strong, kind and fierce, girl. I won’t always be around to fix things for you just because I’m the sheriff. Listen to the voice Mom left in your heart and follow it.”
For many years, Charlotte had known Arthur as a man who was stricter at home than he was at work as sheriff. But she had also seen the tenderness in his heart.
He was there too, stroking her hair and singing to her during the nights when she was sick. Hugging her when she cried, missing her mother and, finally, waiting up for her to make sure she got home safely from an appointment or a delay in her work shift.
Arthur’s little daughter wasn’t so little anymore, and she was the most terrified the day she brought home the man she wanted to marry….
“Daddy, meet Antony!” she said and quickly excused herself to go to the bathroom.
“I hope Dad likes him! I hope Dad doesn’t hate me for… growing up all of a sudden. I hope he’s not sad that I’ll be leaving him soon, or sad that he might live a lonely life within these walls after I’m gone….” Before Charlotte knew it, she had been in the bathroom for almost an hour.
Her father finally knocked on the door.
“Charlotte! You can stop hiding now, honey. Your boy and I are done talking!”.
Charlotte opened the door with trembling hands, not knowing what to expect.
And found Antony kneeling in the living room, waiting to propose.
“What happened Dad?” asked Charlotte, barely able to speak through the overwhelming emotions.
“He said yes!” added Antony, smiling and making her laugh.
The date was set and Arthur was too excited about his daughter’s big day to hide it. He had told all his colleagues at his workplace and sometimes managed to tell distant friends and strangers on the street:
“My beautiful daughter is getting married!”.
“I did everything I could to raise you right, Charlotte,” Arthur said, holding his daughter’s hand in church a week before the wedding. “You’re far from perfect, but you have your mother’s honesty and her loving heart. And she would have been proud of the woman you’ve become! I’m sorry if I was too strict with you at times….”.
“You have nothing to apologize for. You’re the man who raised me to be a woman in a man’s world, Dad. I know you put your blood, sweat and tears into raising me. And I know you sacrificed a lot to be with me. I love you for all of that, Dad. And I will always be your little girl!”.
They sat in the empty pew, talking their hearts out for hours. Thank God they did.
Because later that day, Arthur and his team were in the middle of a shootout on the outskirts of town, trying to catch a wanted criminal. They caught the guy, but Arthur took a bullet in the chest and passed away doing the job he loved.
“Charlotte, honey, let’s postpone the wedding if you need time to grieve. People will understand…,” Antony said, trying to comfort his fiancée, two days before they were to be married.
“That’s not what Dad would want,” Charlotte specified and wiped away tears. “He was so excited about this wedding…”.
Every time Charlotte wanted to break down and cry, she remembered her father’s catchphrase.
“You’re strong, you’re smart, you’re fierce!”.
So, on her wedding day, she didn’t cry when she got dressed up and couldn’t ask her father how she looked. She didn’t cry when she walked down the aisle of the church down the aisle with a framed photo of her father. But when it came time for the father-daughter dance, she couldn’t hold back the tears.
“This is so silly!” She laughed through her tears, as she held the microphone with trembling hands.
“I promised you I was going to be strong today, and now I’m crying like a little girl, I wish you were here, Dad! And I know you miss me terribly. You spent a whole month trying to find the perfect song and I know what this dance meant to you.”
The beautiful bride could not stand it and began to cry and all the guests present also shed tears. Suddenly they saw a crowd of unexpected men and women burst into the party.
It was a group of 12 policemen in uniform, walking with serious faces directly towards the bride.
“What’s going on, did someone do something wrong, are we in some kind of trouble?” asked Charlotte nervously.
“Hi, Charlotte – congratulations on your wedding day! Sorry to barge in like this, but we have a request,” said the man who appeared to be in charge, looking at a confused Charlotte.
One by one, the policemen explained that they were Arthur’s former colleagues and he had told them all about the wedding.
“Especially about the father-daughter dance! He wouldn’t shut up! Just like he wouldn’t stop talking about you and how proud he was of his daughter every day,” a colleague revealed.
“You’ll always be your daddy’s little girl, even after his death!” said another elderly policeman with tears in his eyes.
“It’s okay to cry, kiddo – today, of all days, you can be brave and vulnerable at the same time!” the senior man in the troop added, grabbing her hand.
“And since our Arthur isn’t here to dance that special song for you, I thought I’d ask you on his behalf: can I have this dance with you, young lady?” the chief consulted, putting his hand forward.
Charlotte was in tears and it took her a minute to be able to say “Yes!”.
As she danced with the men who knew her father as the best sheriff and mentor, she saw something in their eyes: it was a glimpse of her father’s love for her in each of them.