Blonde pigtails bounced with each jump the little girl took. She stopped suddenly, knees bent, prepared to spring. Glancing up at the camera, she flashed the holder a large smile, and leaped. The rainwater splashed around her, her bright pink boots having disrupted the surface of the puddle.
"Aida, sweetheart, please don't get your new dress all dirty," a young woman, with the same light blonde hair, said as she placed a hand on her husband. He turned his head to give her a quick kiss on her lips, before pulling away at his daughters shrieks of amusement.
"Daddy!" she called out from where she was kneeling, "Daddy! Look!"
The man gave his wife an apologetic look before looping the camera strap around his wrist and crouching down next to his excited daughter. She gestured wildly at the ground, narrowly missing her father's face.
"Look, look, look! What is it?" she asked, pointing to the pinkish colored blob that would wiggle every now and then. As she spoke, her finger prodded the strange thing, but it quickly withdrew when she felt it's sliminess. "Eww! Daddy, it's squishy and icky!" she exclaimed to her father, who still hadn't had the time to answer her question.
He chuckled to himself, and scooped the blob up in the palm of his hand, "it's a worm," he showed his daughter, "when it rains, they come up out of the ground and we can see them."
Her eyes widened with the new information, "so it lives underground?" when he nodded, she continued, "but then they must get all dirty. Do they have to take baths too, or eat their vegetables?"
"Hayden!" the man dropped the worm and stood up so suddenly it unbalanced his daughter, whose hands had been resting on his knees, sending her to the ground with a splash. He reached for his wife, who clutched at her swollen stomach. "I think it's time," she hissed through clenched teeth. He could only nod as he left his daughter and wife to get the hospital bag.
All this, the little girl saw, as she sat awkwardly in the cold puddle, her boots slowly filling with the rainwater. She watched her dad rush out of the house, cellphone resting between his ear and shoulder, clenching a bright blue bag in his hand. He made his way to the car, and unlocked it with his other hand, which held the car keys. Wrenching open the passenger door, he threw the bag inside, before turning to his wife and gesturing for her to get in.
Finishing his conversation, he closed the phone, and placed it back into his pocket, then turned to his daughter, who was still sitting in the puddle. "Aidalynn, mommy and I are going to go get your new baby brother, okay? Liza's going to watch you until we get back, okay?" he repeated.
She nodded, not understanding what he was saying. Sure, she knew that her mommy and daddy wanted another baby, but why did they have to go get the baby now? Why couldn't they wait until after she was done playing in the puddles?
"Hey there, little tyke, long time no see!" a booming voice called out, as two thick arms wrapped themselves around the little girl's body. Swinging her up so she rested on the large woman's hip, the woman continued, "how 'bout you and I go pop in The Little Mermaid and grab a bowl of popcorn while your mom and dad get the baby?"
"Ok," the girl nodded, the confused expression disappearing to reveal a bright smile. She was getting a baby brother and got to watch The Little Mermaid, it was the best day of her life.
- - - - - - - -
It was only twenty minutes into the movie when the phone rang. Liza stood up, and gave Aida's head a pat before leaving to pick it up. She reentered the living room, her face pale, her gaze focused only on the little girl giggling on the couch.
"Aida, sweetheart, come here for a second," she murmered as she plopped down on the couch and paused the movie.
Aida crawled over and upon seeing the dazed look in her caretaker's eyes, she wrapped her thin arms around her neck and gave her a big hug and sloppy kiss. "It's ok Liza, it's ok," she crooned, stroking Liza's head like her mommy did when she was upset.
Liza shook her head, as if waking herself up, "Aida, honey, everything's not ok. That was your father, on the phone. There was an accident, pumpkin, a-and y-your mom and brother, they didn't m-make it." Large, fat tears slid down Liza's cheeks, leaving shiny paths.
Aida's brow furrowed as she thought, "are they ok? Maybe a band-aide will make them feel better?"
Liza gulped back a fresh wave of tears, "Darling, your mommy and brother are dead, they're gone, they're not coming back. A-and your daddy, he's in the hospital, and the only reason he called was because he didn't want to go into surgery without telling me first what had happened."
Aida pushed herself away from Liza, "what do you mean 'not coming back'?" she asked, her voice low, but shaking.
Liza couldn't help it, more tears fell at the sight of the little girl's confusion, "Baby, you're never going to see them again, they're up in heaven now."
Any color on Aida's face vanished at those last words. She understood perfectly. A long time ago, her daddy had told her about heaven, and how that's where people went when they died. How they couldn't come back once they got there. How both her grandparents lived there now. If her mommy and new baby brother were in heaven, then she would never see them again. Never be held by her mommy when she was sad, or rocked to sleep when she couldn't sleep. Never have her boo-boo kissed when she cried, or play dress-up when they got bored. And she would never meet her baby brother.
Tears slid from her eyes, but she rubbed her hand across them, "what about daddy?"
Liza reached to hold her, but Aida pushed her away again, "honey, your daddy might go to heaven too. The chances of you seeing him again aren't that high, baby."
Finally, Aida allowed Liza to hold her, and the two cried. They cried for the loss of the unborn child, and the loss of her mom and dad.