Tread Lightly

One minute my girl is curled against me, listening to a bedtime story, her blond cowlick a stowaway under my chin. The next she is crouched forward, finger pressed to the page. “Where does it say ‘is’?” she asks. She wants to do it. She wants to tell me what Reggie said to Ira, and she does. Her smile, this exact one, is an undiscovered species: fragile but splendid. “Do you want to do it again?” I whisper. She does. Page after impossible page until, “The End.” She wriggles with pleasure, the folds of her pajamas twisting to contain her.

Her father tiptoes into the room and sits at our feet. She pretends not to notice him, as if that were even possible. She starts over and there’s that smile again, that cannot be pinned under glass. Her father and I share so many looks these days — about vegetables and saying please and holding hands in the street and no, don’t jump off that — but this? We have nothing to do with this. It’s like watching a chrysalis burst open in the cup of our hands.