Ashley is taller now with thick shining brown hair that hangs all the way down her back. I was having a good day anyway, an easy day at work so I wasn't driven to terse bitchiness, but when I see this kid I just soften. Can't help it. I think of her being knocked across the room by electricity last year and I think of her hand and I think of how it all worked out just right. Like magic. She lives with her dad now, everything's better for her. She's less afraid to keep a grin on. It radiates in waves you can feel.

I said Ashley, just look at this stuff. You're Rapunzel.

She said, I know. I'm going to give it to the cancer kids. Only two inches to go. She kept smiling.

I held it together long enough. It was the end of the day, I could go to my car. A year ago we were so afraid, for days. She didn't lose any pieces of herself after all. And here she is, eager, happy. Does she know she's paying a debt?


Yesterday, the other one. I like to sit next to her when she's drawing because she's quiet and interesting and hugs me and tells me about her day and likes to touch my face and tell me I'm pretty like a princess. Be jealous.

All of this is of course deepened by gratitude at how well everything turned out. It's different than what her parents must feel, because they never saw that face covered in blood. I held her in my lap and rocked her until she stopped whimpering and I was so fucking afraid and now she draws me bunnies and beams at me and all that terror has been shrunk down to the tiniest, most beautiful scar right between her eyes.

I was dorking it up to make her laugh and she was enjoying it but also looking at me like I was the weirdest ever. I said, I know, I know, what's the matter with me.

She looked at me very carefully, thought about it, then said, I think it's just that you want to be goofy, all day long.


A six-year-old knows the score on me and I'm in love and I'm moving to a place that feels good and my teeth work again and it's scarf weather and words work again and I'm in love and it's a-ok to be here. Hi.