The house waits in darkness while I'm cast in the glow of the Wal-Mart lamp, gore-deep in a literary gem (if zombie fiction can be called 'gem') and I hear her plodding gait against the carpeted stairs, not unlike the main character wooing me towards bedtime. Her feet shuffle heavy - all bent down with the weight of the world on those wee four year shoulders, breathing hard like a chain-gang captive with her heart on the sleeve of a bright orange jump suit.
She comes right to me. Trying to keep her heart pieces together. Trying. Trying. Failing.
I reach out for her and brush sleep hair back from her face. "What's wrong, baby? You can't sleep?"
She takes a breath that exerts her whole body - shudders through like pain - and a huge tear leaks down her cheek, eyes shining like the moon and lip trembling furious. "I dust...I dust...I'm dust going to miss you when I'm at stool to-mow-woah." And it all lets loose - this torrent of momma-need, salty and broken, and I gather her up and kiss her tears and band-aid her heart with my momma-love and take her back to bed where she takes not but a moment to fall back to sleep.