You watch her from a distance. A young girl crouched on the ground, toying with fallen leaves of crimson and gold. Her face a mask of shadows rippling with the ghost of sunlight now muted behind scattered clouds. She smiles and focuses on a single leaf, a thin flash of gold floating with the swirl of water. Headed toward the street sewer. A young girl, so innocent, rushing to catch water as it slipped through her fingers. Her musical laugh echoes in your ears and you wonder for the hundredth time how, with all of your flaws, you created something so magical. A life, boundless and beautiful.
The leaf bounces and bobs, dips and flounders before resurfacing. Still you watch. She moves to stem the flow of water to capture the leaf in her fingertips, to save it from the depth and darkness of the sewer. She reaches out, snatches the leaf and moves it to the rest of her pile.
The water moves on, no longer diverted by her hands and you pretend you can hear the rush of water, a never-ending stream intertwining your life with her own. She tilts her face to the sky with arms outstretched. Leaves encase her in a red and gold cocoon.
She stands in a field of sunflowers and places her hand in yours.
Why do the flowers face the sun?
Chubby arms raise above her head. She stretches, reaching to touch the giant’s leaves. A giggle turns to a huff. The stalks sway in the breeze, petals just out of reach. Defiant blue eyes meet your own and without a word, you hoist her into the air. Laughter brushes against your cheek. Soft chestnut hair, so like your own, covers one eye. You hoist her up higher. She smiles and hugs the sun.
You stand at the door. No words leave your lips. You have no platitudes to give. The order of time holds no weight. Snapshots fade into memory. An imagine of a child, playing in the rain. Smiling at the sun. Fragments of your little girl, captured in days, months, years.
Your mind replays two memories, relives two snippets in time as you process his words. Drunk driver.
As though such words could ease your pain. As though you should have been grateful. Your little girl, now forever a young woman, didn’t suffer in the end.
But as the cop rattled on, still standing in your doorway, you hear the faint whisper of a child’s laughter. See the vague outline of a young girl chasing leaves in a rainstorm. Feel the river connected to you and her, once so vibrant and full of life, evaporate into a stream until nothing remains of her running water.
Standing there in the dark precipice of a dried river bed you feel a subtle brush of air, two small hands reaching for your own. A delicate touch in the rain.