She stretches the length of the couch, her nose buried in a book. I want to cuddle her up, nibble on her toes, kiss her neck right under her chin. She looks like a miniature woman with her long muscular legs and artist fingers. It is only her little baby belly poking out in that adorable, perfect, unself-conscious way of a four year old, that reminds me how little she is. I feel like I missed two years of her life, the ones sandwiched between Lucy's death and right at this moment. We exchange smiles.
She throws her book aside, and opens her arms. I forget sometimes that she wants me to hold her as much as I want to hold her. I feel like I am always touching her. Put her hair behind her ear. Tickle her belly. Hold her hand. Rub her back. Brush the dirt off her knees. I lie next to her. We kiss and giggle and snuggle, just under the secretary that houses her sister's ashes. We find comfort there.
"Sometimes I get sad that Lucy died, Mama."
"Me too, love."
She had an imaginary friend. On Lucy's first birthday, Beatrice's imaginary friend came for a tea party. Her name was the Other Beatrice. She looked exactly like Beatrice, she told me, except she was littler. The coincidence freaked me out.
"The Other Beatrice just kissed you, Mama," Beatrice told me. I believed her. But for whatever reason, the Other Beatrice stopped coming over to our house to play. I asked her too many questions, Beatrice told me. Her new imaginary friend started showing up a few months later for three or four day stretches.
Her name is Snowflake. She lives in China on Number One Street. She has a sister named Apple, and another named Fork. "Snowflake's sisters don't die," Beatrice explains. Snowflake sleeps over all the time. I mean for days and days at a time, because "China is very far away and her mommy doesn't mind at all." It used to be that Snowflake was her sister, but had a different mother and father. One day, she was just her friend. She talks to Snowflake, pushes her in the swing in our dining room, runs with her like they are holding hands. She tells me stories of Snowflake. And I ask, "What does Snowflake look like?"
"I cannot tell you, Mama, because she is my imaginary friend."
I made a promise to Lucy that I wouldn't look for her in the wind, in the ordinary, in the imaginary friends, but I want her there. In that which I know exists, but I cannot hold.