A Million Years

Tiny hands shove old school assignments into the bottom of a new backpack to make room for supplies necessary for an overnight adventure. Clothes, some toys, a compact set of campfire cooking equipment. She had just gotten a new flashlight that could change colors. Her sisters are already buckeled into the truck outside, and she doesn’t want to miss putting up the tent.

On the way out her eyes meet with the open doorway of the master bedroom. She pulls her backpack more securely over her shoulder.

It always hurt her mother’s feelings on the days that she didn’t kiss her goodbye. There were just so many tubes, so many gloves, so many white blankets. The room didn’t look the way it did the year before. It had a funny smell now.

The sound of a car horn pushes her to peek her head around the corner, "Goodbye, Mommy! I’ll see you in the morning!"

Before anything else could delay her, she is running down the newly stained wooden porch steps, her little feet trying to move fast enough to miss her mother’s friends as they pulled into the driveway. They hugged too long. They asked too many questions about school.

She scrapes her shin pulling herself up into the seat. It hurts, but her backpack is perfect for covering up the blood during the ride.

Lying on her side with her gaze fixed through the tent window, she feels like the moon is out just for her. It was big, and full, and lit up all of heaven so beautifully that she feels like maybe the things she learned at church about talking to God are true. He heard her. He had to. The sky had never looked like that before.

She tries to count as many stars as she can and pretends they are angels. As she gets close to a hundred she thinks about the science video she watched with her dad a few weeks before that said they have existed for millions of years. She falls asleep hoping that maybe, a million years from now, she’ll get to be one, too.

Tiny hands shove old school assignments into the bottom of a new, blood-stained backpack to make room for the camping supplies she needs to take home. Some toys, a broken flashlight, an unused compact set of campfire cooking equipment. She and her siblings are loaded back into the truck earlier than expected and driven down the bumpy dirt road to their home. The driveway is lined with cars she’s never seen before, and there are clusters of people scattered throughout the yard. They part as she drags her feet up the newly stained porch steps. No one has questions about school.

They are met by her father in the doorway. As he takes a knee, he struggles to lift his head to look at her and her sisters. With her tiny hands in his, it almost feels as if he needs them in order to steady himself. Like he needs her to hold him up. The house is quiet, but full, and over his shoulder she can see people quickly walking away from them.

His voice is gentler than usual. And it shakes.

Her face feels warm. She runs for the master bedroom.

Tiny hands yank open a door that leads to an empty room. There is no hospital bed. No tubes. No gloves.

Tiny hands reach out for a single white blanket left on the chair in the corner.

Tiny hands knot themselves in messy brown hair. She thinks about a million years. She cries because she knows she doesn't understand how long that is.

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