Her voice is scratchy, a forceful whisper as she says, “Mama, I don’t want you to go on a trip again. Ok? With Finley? Don’t go to the airport again. Stay here with me and Briar and Daddy and Finley. Always, ok?” Her dark hair tickles my skin, thick ringlets, lash-teasing bangs and sticky flyaways all conspire to engulf my face. Her cheeks are cool and her plump lips twist to and fro against my jaw as her hands clutch my neck and her body presses into mine.

There is no impetus, no declaration of an approaching trip, no reaching for keys or packing of bags. These requests come unbidden and with them memories of my own childhood, “Mom, promise me you won’t die. Ok? I just, I know that you aren’t, but don’t. I don’t want you to die.” I can remember so clearly how in the brightest moments, the happiest of times, the fear of losing her would clutch me, leaving me desperate to say something for fear that my silence would invite a loss.

I don’t believe Avery has that same panic, in fact I think she is playing me to some extent, but every so often there is a catch in her voice and I know. I wrap her in my arms and murmur in her ear, as much for her as for myself, “I won’t, baby. I won’t go on any more trips until we go somewhere together,” and then we rock, holding one another and letting our worries slip away.

As the minutes pass and as new days dawn I find myself, along with the swirling wisps of little girl within, clinging to the words a gypsy spoke in a whisper,Ā 

“Awww, it’s you. I been thinkin’ ’bout you. You know dis mean? You gonna live a long time. Oh, so long. Sweet, very sweet with daughters.”

I hope so, sweet woman, I hope so.