David gets Penny ready for their morning walk. After bundling her up against the early spring chill, he settles her into the stroller with the giant polka-dots. She waves her arms with joy, already a person who likes to be pushed in her stroller around their neighborhood.
Already a person. This recognition catches in his throat. His daughter is already a person her mother will never meet. He turns his face away from Penny, toward the wall, trying to compose himself.
Penny gurgles and coos, as if coaxing him back into her presence.
“All right, little goofball, you’re right as rain. Time to get moving!” David puts on a stocking cap and grabs his warm gloves – the wind looks brisk – and steers the stroller through the front door, bounces it carefully down the few steps, and onto the sidewalk.
The morning air braces him. It’s warm in the sun, cold in the shade. The air smells a bit metallic, as if a storm might find its way to this valley by lunch time.
Birdsong carries over the breeze. David lets the tears come, knowing he can blame them on the chill if he sees anyone he knows.
And, of course, he does. Turns a corner, headed for a sunny stretch of sidewalk, and heading toward him is Leo.
They exchange waves and greetings, staying distant, despite being outside. What they saw during the worst of the pandemic keeps them cautious, although both can feel the change in the air.
“How’s Penny? How’s our girl?” Leo coos, kneeling down to be at eye level with the baby and the giant polka dots.
Our girl. David is overwhelmed by a surge of gratitude, followed immediately by the vacuum of grief.
Gratitude that his friends remind him he is not alone.
Grief that he and Penny are, in fact, completely alone without Sasha.