We'd just finished a book about using your imagination, being a dreamer, the whole "you can do anything if you believe in yourself" kind of thing. It was already past her bedtime, but, in a move a bit unlike me, I took a moment to ask about her dreams. When she seemed puzzled by the question, I rephrased. "Have you ever thought about what you want to be when you grow up?"
She hesitated. "Well, there is one thing." Another pause. "I want to be an animal doctor."
"A veterinarian," I supplied the word for her. Then, "How come?"
If I'd never understood the idea of an expression flickering across someone's face, I would have fully grasped it then, as I watched her brow furrow and her lips purse for just a fraction of a second. It was almost as if her whole face was crumpling up to cry. And then, just like that, she collected herself, her face returning to its previous calm demeanor, and answered softly. "So I can take care of Sharla when she gets sick."
I knew an answer like that was coming; I'd read it in that look that shimmered across her face. "You still feel sad about Sasha and Ivan sometimes, huh?"
When she nodded, I tucked my arm around her. "Me too."
I was out on an errand tonight when Ari went through her bedtime routine; she'd been in bed at least half an hour when I got home. I slipped silently into her room to say good night.
She didn't stir as I entered, so I assumed she was asleep. But as soon as I placed a delicate kiss on her forehead, she startled awake, blurting a sharp "Huh?", the cry of one who doesn't know what woke them up.
"Shh, it's just me," I soothed.
And her tone melted in familiarity as she crooned "Mama," that single word so infused with affection that I nearly melted myself.
I stroked her hair aside to give her another kiss, whispering my good night and telling her to go back to sleep.
I'd just reached the door when she called out to me. "Mama? Can you tell Daddy that I love him?"
"Of course. Good night."
"Oh, and I love you too. By the way."
And then I stepped into our bedroom and taped to the wall above our bed (right in the middle and therefore obviously meant for both of us) was a sheet of notebook paper, with these words written in pen and highlighted in yellow (or perhaps vice versa):
Remember I'll always love you.
Your child, Ari