A/N I wrote these three following stories about three years ago and have been too afraid to look at them since (for long complicated reasons) and it has taken me all this time to get over it and finally post these (it's silly really). The stories are connected but they were originally written to standalone and the connections were added later so they can easily be read by themselves. If you don't want to read this one and want to read one of the others by all means go ahead. Of course thank you if you read any and I would love to know what you think.
It is a simple thing to wrap your hands around a child's neck, to hold them as the child lacks effort to move, to watch as feeling leaves the eyes.
There's a woman watching her daughter play, a little girl, just a baby. She's reaching out for the hand of her mother every now and then, grabbing it, tugging on it. The mother smiles, reaching for her baby. They spin together, the arms roaming round to allow the extension of her hands to be whisked away in flight. The baby smiles. It's that smile, that catches the mother's eye. She sees it, stops the twirling, just continues to stare. That's my beautiful daughter, she wants to say, but doesn't. She wants to keep this moment to herself, not share it with the open world. Instead she touches the cheek, feeling its softness. Oh you are glorious, but still she doesn't speak, no; she lets it rest in her mind, catching with the thought of the smile.
Suspended in the air, the baby's legs begin to dangle. She doesn't like being so high. It begins with the smile fading, the eyes growing weak, squinting. It's the scream that comes next.
Oh hush, hush my darling, but the mother says no thing. She puts her down, stretches to tickle her tummy. She wants to see that smile again, yearns to see that smile, to hear it. The crying lessens, but still the sobs continue. She pulls her into a hug, jiggles her around a bit. Gradually, the whimpering subsides, but the smile is not there.
"Why won't you smile?" She voices this one, letting it hang in the air. She reaches to a nearby toy, places it in her daughter's hand. The smile returns.
There are two smiles now.
"My pretty darling."
She turns at the voice of her husband. She needn't change the smile on her face. He sees her smile and so smiles himself; a domino reaction. One smiles, then another, and finally a third face lights up.
He comes to sit beside her, stroking the space on his daughter's head.
"Isn't she gorgeous?" she tells him.
"Well, my pretty darling, she's ours."
And when something's yours, you can do with it as you please.
The woman and the man continue to sit on the grass with their child. They look at her, just as she looks at them. She smiles, they smile. The woman doesn't know her husband is smiling at her instead of their child. She thinks he smiles at the joy before them; it's what makes her smile, so the delight must be shared by him. She can't understand how anyone could not smile at it, she finds something so miraculous about the light on her face.
It's her daughter's smile that enthrals her; it's her daughter's smile that she wants to always see.
The woman spends a day without her husband now. They wave him off at the airport as he takes the plane to another state. She doesn't mind that it would just be her and her child, she was never lonely anymore.
She puts her daughter to bed, goes to stand over her. She wonders what dreams are going through her mind and when a small smile comes across the face, she pities that she will not remember the sweetness she held. The wonderful innocence of the young would be forgotten as both mother and daughter age indifferently. The woman stares down at her child's sleeping face, the smile painted across it. If only a child could remain in that blessed peace forever. The woman liked the thought; her daughter's happiness was really greater than her own. She wishes she could sleep forever, just to eternally keep the peace she held in those few moments. She hopes there would be no bad dreams; she doubts there will be. If there were, she would be ready to fend them off.
"It is a pity you'll forget this moment." But she hopes that she never will.
The woman and man sit together on their front lawn. Neither liked the shadows their backyard threw around. She lounges across the front steps with a book, casting glances over to her husband and daughter. She hears a giggle and was sure she could hear the smile. She was never really reading the book, it was not long till she puts it down. Her voice she wants to share, but does not want to take away the charm of father and child. For a topic her eyes wander.
"The fence looks good already, and you're not even done."
He turns to her, still holding the tiny hand. "Well, if we're going to be living here for a while, it sure should look good."
"The neighbours' will envy us. No matter how messy our yard is, it will never look like a scrapyard with a fence like that." Here's hoping.
"And it never will. Fixing the fence will be right up there, just after you and this little girl," he touches her head. "We'll always have a nice fence, my pretty darling."
The mother walks through the streets with the pram just a step ahead.
"And that's where you'll go to school one day," she says as they pass the school's playground. That's where I'll stand and watch as you run out, she thinks, but does not say it; knowing there was more affection in her mind that would die if spread by speech.
"And that's where maybe you'll do dance one day. Or soccer, or softball. Whichever sport you want."
A noise comes from the pram.
"What's that, is it dance you want to do?"
Hockey almost slips from her mouth, quickly it is pulled back. It is believed too vicious for a mother to watch. "Soccer?"
There is a small noise, a jingle. The woman wonders what it could be and pauses to bend down. A little toy of a yellow frog comes into view. The child is smiling. She wraps her hand over her daughter's and shakes, the sound comes again, as does the smile. Again she repeats, and this time the smile is there; she knows it will stay for a while. It is with easy steps that she will return to walking in the languid breeze.
They arrive home, stepping through the proud fence and as she takes her daughter from the pram, she sees her face. There is no smile. The toy returns to her hand, rapping out a jingle. There is only a yawn in reply. She takes her to her arms, holds her tight to her chest, bopping her around. There is a twitch, but no smile. Perhaps she is too tired to care, so in the cot she is placed.
There she is seen to stand til sleep comes to the closing eyes. Down she settles to wait for that smile.
Whilst it is late afternoon, it is still early when her husband returns home. He finds his wife sitting by their daughter. He does not know how long she has been waiting for a smile to come. He smiles as he enters, and it is returned by her. There is something though, that is not the same. His smile is broad and loving, but it is tired, it is weak. It does not touch her heart. It is not the smile of innocence. It is not a smile to be reciprocated.
He shares his day with her, she shares hers with him.
"Let's go make some dinner."
The words sound striking in her ears, but she continues to stare at their child. That would mean leaving her. She knows a smile must come, and does not want to miss it. It will come she tells herself, any moment, any moment it will be now.
He touches her hand. "Nothing's going to happen to her."
Her mind is rapt on the face, waiting all she can last. She cannot miss it. She looks back to her husband, he's smiling, but it's not the smile she's looking for. He's waiting, expectant.
Surrender comes, she pries herself away from her daughter, leaving the room alone.
They move about in the kitchen; she keeps catching glances up the staircase to where their baby sleeps in their room. Her ears are tuned for if she cries, but she cannot hear a smile.
There is hurried eating, as she longs to return. Further hurried steps as her feet crumples over the stairs. She peers into the cot; there for her eyes to see, a smile covers her daughter's face. She sighs, there is relaxation throughout the room. The smile sits so delicately below the eyes. What does my dear dream? But she dares not speak and tempt sleep to leave the mind. One foot she moves round, then the other, sneaking quieter than before. She goes to the chair.
Slowly, as she watches, she finds the smile disappearing. Her own face turns to a frown. There must a dream in her mind that disrupts the balance. She looks around, as if something nearby is disturbing her, or if searching for something to come to her aid. There is a nightmare rupturing the peace. Her hand is placed on the cot, hoping her sole presence is enough to dispel the dreams.
The footsteps of her husband arrives, he spies an ounce of worry on her face, there, just right there. It makes him wonder if something is wrong with his daughter.
For a moment she is lost, not wanting to let her husband know her fear. She plants a smile on her face. "She's so beautiful." It is the most common thing to say, and she knows that as it comes from her lips. Some adoration sounds better when left to the mind.
He agrees, and they stand together to watch their daughter. There is one face of sleep, another that yearns, and a last that does not see.
The husband exits soon, calling his wife to follow. She knows she cannot stay and look forever, but she knows that she must find that smile. A touch of fear grips her; there is not peace in the innocent mind she stares at. The peace is something she must return, but she does not know how. Fear is gripping her mind, it will move to her heart soon. Down her fingers reach, gently shaking the shoulder.
There is an attempt of a grunt. She shakes firmer, the eyes flutter. Then, the lids open, a wail on the lips. In her arms she snatches her, comforting her, knowing that now there were at least no bad dreams; but there was no smile either. She rocks her, and the wailing subsides. Eventually, a smile is gained, and the mother returns a smile to her own lips. She once again rests her head against the pillow, pleased that the smile did not leave, and with a final look, she leaves the room herself.
This woman now she dreams of the smile. It is not her daughter's face she sees, just the smile. She can hear it, just there, right before her. Out her hand reaches, as if to grab it, to feel it. She wants it to seep through her, to be in her grasp where it can never leave. Her hand returns empty . Where is that smile? and her anticipation grows. She needs that smile, she hungers for it. In sleep her brow furrows, the eyelids flutter as if wanting to let a tear fall.
She wakes when the night is only just leaving, and finds fear there. She must rush to her child. She calms for a moment when she sees the small smile, but one does not come across her own face. She knows the smile will leave. She wants this smile, she needs this smile, for it to last forever. The smile is right before her; the one that she so yearns to keep. It was within her reach, if only she knew how to catch it. In her daughter's sleep, innocence would always remain, she would always be happy. The smile would always be there.
She feels no fear as she moves her hands down to her child's neck. There is nothing there in her heart, as she watches as the breath escapes in a final lapse. There the smile, the smile that she had longed for. She had caught it. A smile comes against her own face, this was where she was truly happy, and she had given her daughter eternal happiness.
We shall smile forever.
Then, with a small wave, the smile on the child begins to leave. The woman reaches out, hungry, as if to catch the smile. It was still there, the lips did not move, but where could she find it? Hands roaming wide, she snatches at the air, the smile was slipping through. She does not catch it, she could not catch it. The body of her daughter is within the woman's sight. It was only ever the sight of her that could dispel the fear. The smile could never be held in the clutch of her hands; but the smile had gone. She did not know, she did not know. Eyes roamed, lips twitched.
A smile could never be fully retained within one's memory. Fear never taken away. It enters her body now, as she crumples to the floor.
Leaving the smile behind.