“Mommy, I love you.”
“I love you, too, Sweetheart.”
Lying here in the dark, her warm cheek pressed against mine, we both stare into the dark watching the shadows of her butterflies float in the dark and the nightlight’s pink flecks twinkle across the wall. She is afraid of the dark. Afraid of what the nighttime takes away. Someday she will understand that she is not alone. I’m afraid, too.
I love the night, and I hate it with equal measure. In the early years he would call me during a lull in his shift, a few minutes of stolen intimacy when we would share our days and dare to dream about the future. And when he was called away, whispers in the dark.
But time has its way of slipping away unnoticed and youthful dreams were replaced by the fulfillment of family. Night shifts became day shifts and late night phone calls became feet wrapped together under the covers in a good night embrace. Side by side, fingers laced together as each day disappeared into slumber. And still we whispered in the dark.
But the dark deceived me, stealing the warm comfort and replacing it with a lonely chill. In one night, everything changed and the last whisper ricochets inside my memory. Words that had once gently closed each day slammed the door on a lifetime.
I love you.