Brooke is sitting in Luau’s SUV inside the garage, still bundled up. Luau and Katie have run into the house momentarily, grabbing what we will need before heading out to dinner. Brooke must have asked to stay in the car.
I’ve just come in from walking Winston. It’s Friday night and I have not seen my girls since the morning.
I am nearly trembling with anticipation.
I walk to the open car door, where Brooke is perched in her booster seat. I want to scoop her in my arms. I want to scream, “It’s Friday!” I want to tell her how desperately I’ve missed her. I want to jump for joy and attack her with hugs and kisses.
I approach her slowly. Silently. I watch for the signals.
There are no words, but there’s a hint of a smile.
I take it as an invitation and lean in just the slightest bit.
Brooke reaches out with one hand and smoothes my hair. Again and again, she strokes the side of my head. The gesture is almost painfully gentle, overwhelmingly sweet. I can FEEL the love in her touch.
She looks at me. Right AT me. Still, to this day, this full view of her face is an unexpected gift.
“Hi, baby,” I say softly. I’m mesmerized by her eyes. “I missed you so much today.”
She says nothing, but she pulls my head down and into her chest. I submit to my girl and let her hold me the way that she needs to.
Luau yells to me from the doorway. He’s telling me something about Katie’s upcoming skating competition. Details, changes, something I need to know. I hear the sounds but not the words. He’s asking a question. I muster a “Not now,” desperately afraid that even two small words might break the trance. Please God, I beg, don’t let this moment end yet. I’m not ready to lose this.
Brooke takes my face in her hands. She slowly traces the line of my nose. Then my chin. Then my forehead.
I watch her study my face. The connection is almost too intense to bear.
A single tear runs down my cheek. Brooke cocks her head, watching, then follows the tear’s path with a long, slender finger.
Luau and Katie make their way down and noisily pile into the car.
I kiss my baby girl and linger on her cheek. She is smiling – in her way. I tell her that I’m going to close her door now. I have to get into the car too. I’m stalling.
“I love you, baby,” I say as I finally, reluctantly pull away.
She is still looking at me. Into me. Somehow, the spell has not been broken.
She issues a single word. The only one that matters.
I get into the car, full.