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Saturday, November 27, 2010

He stood in her doorway, quietly poised so as not to wake her. His eyes drifted over his daughter's sprawled body, sleeping deeply. His baby girl had turned three today. Olivia.
He watched her breathing, inhales and exhales so delicate, like a light breeze on a summer's eve. Her tiny limbs, outstretched in dream, appeared so frail, so breakable. The light from the hall basked her face in an ethereal glow, and from his vantage point, it appeared there was a light halo around her head. For him, it wasn't hard to believe this true.
His baby girl meant the world to him, and yet he had let so many things come in between himself and her. Work, work, and more work. Where as his wife worked to live, he lived to work. How he regretted it as he stood in that doorway.
He wiped the tears from his eyes before they could fall as he recalled the memories he did not have: her first step had been taken when he was abroad, negotiating a contract with a company which had gotten him his promotion. Her first lock of hair taken from her crown while he was in Chicago, attending a meeting that had the potential to make or break his career. Her first word, "daddy", spoken with such enthusiasm while he was on the phone, right outside on the patio, furiously arguing with a contractor. Staring at his angel of a daughter sleeping, he could not believe he had missed her cherubim face, bright with happiness, speaking his name.
No matter how many times his wife told him that the photo albums did no justice, he did not listen. How he wished he had taken in one ounce of understanding when Marie had said that! He remembered it clearly; it had been right after he had missed Olivia's first dance recital. He had intended to be home for it, but he ran late at work, stuck in a meeting with his superiors. When he returned home, he found Marie, teary-eyed and exhausted not from a long day's work, but from his incompetence at being a father. At first he had been furious, yelling that Olivia wouldn't even remember he wasn't there. Looking back on it, he wished he had never said those words; the look on his wife's face, such a beautiful face, contorted into such painful anguish, stated in such a defeated, disgusted tone, "You're probably right. But I'll remember it forever. And she will, too, once she is old enough to look at the pictures from this, and you're not in them. You just don't get it, Will. You think you can get all you need from photographs, but you're wrong. Photographs cannot capture the joy I felt, and what you would have felt had you seen that little girl dance her heart out. Or how she felt when her teacher handed her that pink rose in that vase." She gestured toward the island, where a solitary rose stood, perfect in all ways, just like his daughter.
She turned away from him. "But I'll have those emotions, those feelings and memories forever. I just wish you did, too."
He saw her start to walk away, tried to open his mouth with some logical argument, some rational to show why he wasn't there, but couldn't. The next thing he knew, the bedroom door had slammed, and he was left to stand in the kitchen, silently mulling over what his wife had just said.

As he stood outside of Olivia's room, the birthday girl quite exhausted from the influx of guests and family that had been in and out of the house all day, he realized his wife was right. Quietly, he closed her door but a crack (lest bad dreams should awaken his child; he wanted to hear her so he would be able to comfort her) and headed to his bedroom.
Tip-toeing to the bed where he slipped out of his slippers, he climbed under the covers, looking at his gorgeous wife, basked in sleep. God, Olivia had gotten Marie's good looks: her poetic collarbones, her wavy brown hair... He gently caressed Marie's side, and after a few moments, she rolled lightly into his arms, where he buried his head in the crook of her neck and said, "I love you, Marie. And Olivia. Very much. I say that too much but don't seem to back it up. I've not only missed her birthday, but yours as well, too often. One time is too often. It's time for a change."
With that, he kissed her neck which appeared to glimmer in the moonlight, her skin so supple to the touch. His wife nuzzled closer to his body, rolled to face him. He had not known she had been awoken. She lightly touched his face, graced with straying stubble and said, "Thank you". Marie took his hand into hers and rolled onto her side, pulling his body close to hers, as husbands and wives sleep. Dreams wove their ways into the house, and the world was still if but for a moment.

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