The laughter of three children running amok in the yard drew Paul outside.
The day was warm, a Pacific Northwest day of mountain forest hues against a bright and perfect blue sky. He should already have been outside.
The three children were as different as different could be. The oldest was a young man, really, to call him a child was simply an admission that Paul wanted him to stop growing so fast. He flicked the frisbee quick and hard out of self-defense rather than any feelings of superiority.
The middle child was tall and lanky, but clearly caught between older boy and young man. Here, he was running his inner boy for all he was worth, as if recognizing that in a eye-blink he would be dancing with girls on Friday nights.
The youngest, though, she was pure girl. She wore a dress, some yellow cotton thing that if she twirled around in place, it would flair out. On the porch, Paul noticed her white tights left in an afterthought on top of her sandals. She was making up for her short stature with the application of a butterfly net. Her shrieks of laughter and that wonderful little girl grin declared to all that she thought herself a clever child. She waved the net like a weapon, as if contemplating smacking an offending brother with it when she missed.
Paul stood and watched, the sunlight warming his face. He should join them but he simply stood and basked in it all. It was beautiful.
Suddenly the sky grew dark. Clouds didn’t roll in, it was as if they sun had never been up. It wasn’t even a black sky, it was the absence of everything including color.
The two boys disappeared.
The little girl dropped her net. She looked around confused.
Paul strode to her. Big steps, and he snatched the little girl in his arms.
“No, Daddy, no,” she whispered, “please.”
“Hold on to me. Hold on to me. Hold on.”
“I wanted to live,” she said, “I would have loved this.”‘
The little girl looked in to his eyes, hers a mirror of his own.
“I would have loved you,” she said, and then was gone. It was a lingering fade. It seemed to go on forever.
Paul woke up.
He turned off the alarm clock.
In the dim, he looked over at the feminine lump snuggled under the covers. She was facing away. Paul was suddenly glad of that. Her face would simply be the older version of what never was.
He got up. The house was quiet.
He checked in on his two sleeping boys. He stared at his oldest, burning in the memory of his real face. His child face. His boy look.
Paul left for work.
He avoided the coffee shop where older girls served coffee. He did not want to see any girls today. Instead, he stopped at the gas station and made his own coffee.
Driving, he squinted at the rising sun. He should put on his sunglasses, but he didn’t.
He wanted to feel and see the sky as it really was. It was beautiful, really.
But it was also a reminder, that sky.
A reminder that some little girls, were never meant to be.