"Can mommy read my story, daddy?"
I look down at her from across the yard. Shestandsat the edge of the pool in the shade of a large bush, curious eyes wandering. "She's busy, honey," I tell her, softness in my voice.
Damia lets her gaze settle on thesky, watching the clouds roll across the blue. "But she can make exceptions for me," she has a smile on her face, a smile that tells me she's wishing, "becauseI'm special, right?"
"Of course you are. You're very special," I say, making an act of peering over the high fence. "But mommy's across the street."
Her eyes grow fierce. "No." Her voice is raised and angry. "She's right there." Damia runs over to the large glass door and peers inside with her hands cuppedagainstthe sides of her face."Why doesn't she want to read my story?" she asks, locking eyes with me, holding up a thin stack of paper.
"She does. She just can't," I whisper. Then, "I can read it if you like."
With a small shake of her head she retreats back into the shade, balancing on the edge of the pool.
"Are you sure? I'm very good at reading," I tell her hopefully.
Damia shakes her head again. "I need mommy to read it first."
I tilt my head to the side questioningly. "Why is that?" I ask.
I close my eyes and think of something to say. "You can show it to her later," I suggest.
"No," Damia demands. "Now."
A gust of wind blows the papers from her hand. They spiral through the air and land delicately in the pool. Without a second thought she jumps in after them.
Water surrounds her tiny body and she struggles with the weight of her clothes to reach the surface. My feet take me to her side and I reach into the pool to grab her hand. Fingers tightening around her wrist, I pull her from the water. Damia hauls herself onto the ground on the side of the pool, soaked.
"Are you okay?" I ask, but my question isn't heard over her cry. "Get my story!" Dread fills her voice.
I run to the other side of the pool where the most of the papers had sailed in the wind. They are dripping and water logged. Ink runs down each page, the wordsunrecognizable. I lay them on the sun scorched bricks to dry and turn my attention to the paper that had gotten loose from it's crowd.
This one isn't as wet as the others. It had managed to get to avoid the wind's worst. Most of the words are smudged or running but there's asentenceat the end of the page that I can make out.
and this little girl's mommy loved her more than anything.
I collapse onto the ground, tears welling in my eyes. Iwatchas Damia makes her way towards me, leaving a trail of water on the ground.
"What's wrong, daddy?" she asks me.
Trying to wipe the tears away I smile a tired smile. "Nothing," I say.
Damia shakes her head. "Don't lie to me. I can tell when you do."
Then she sits on my lap, wetting my clothes but I don't care. I wrap my arms around her and lay my forehead on her shoulder.
"Without her, Damia, I wouldn't have you," I whisper in her ear.