I think it was my idea, to name our daughter Cariad. Aw, the Welsh word for love; it’s so pretty and a hat tip to my girlfriend’s Welsh heritage. We never stopped to think what would happen if we moved to Wales. Imagine for a moment there was a kid in your English speaking school whose parents had named her Love.
But that’s not why she’s mad at me. She’s thirteen years old, and that’s not why she’s mad either. I don’t think it’s the car, my eighteen-year-old Ford Escort, that I parked pretty much out in the country and then walked the two streets back to the school.
She lives here in this tiny village in North Wales with her mother and her mother’s lame new boyfriend. Each morning she wakes and pulls back the curtains on a vista of green hillside cloaked in mist. She can walk to school past fields of lowing cows and rainbow flower meadows. After I drop her home I don’t head back to my one bed-flat in town right away. No matter the weather I always detour down to the river, to find the spot where the river is on three sides and you can hear nothing the music of babbling water. It’s what sold the village to me; go down there with my kids, teach them to hop stones.
McDonalds in the car doesn’t raise a smile. The look she gives me, at this hint of what her life could have been like if me and her mum hadn’t split. Driving back through the village we pass an old man with a wheelbarrow, and I’m treated to a devil scowl when I tell the X25 bus is late again.
It starts to rain, this weak drizzle that obscures the windscreen but isn’t enough to stop the wipers from squealing. That gets me an eye roll. I bet her stepdad’s car doesn’t make a sound.
I’ve practiced so many things to say to her but now it feels as though my whole body is wrapped in corsets. One word squeaks out – glaw. That’s Welsh for rain, and I’m proud that I manage to get that out.
It gets me a raised eyebrow and an eyeroll.
Despite the broken heater and despite the winter’s day I’m feeling hot under the dismissive gaze of mine own child mocking my weak attempts to learn her new language. She’s already getting her things together; can’t wait to be out of her Dad’s shit car and me out of her life for another month. I slow for the turning into her road, but don’t stop.
I ask her what the Welsh word is for rainbow. It’s raining, there must be rainbows, right? And she looks at me, this hint of a smile. Okay. Not a hint, but a smidge, this barest sliver of a flicker of warmth, some memory of those times when this car was merely ten years old and we chased rainbows together.
I make the tyres squeal but it’s nothing to the squeal she makes as I pull a U-turn and floor it.
My Cariad and me, chasing rainbows again.