From the lap of her cousin, her sleepy eyes flash open as I walk down the stairs. I sit next to her and hold her hand, wanting to comfort her with familiarity. Her helpless arms reach as she struggles to sit up. She lets out an animalistic and drawn out “EEEeee” as she kicks her legs to establish balance.
“She wants you,” Michael says.
I’m happy that she prefers my arms as her crib, honored that I was the one she reached for; But as a pick her up, happiness is overshadowed by responsibility. I take her pillow, and position her as she was before: seated facing forward with her puppy pillow on her lap.
Her curly brown hair is flattened against my chest, where her head is nestled. I’m hoping my heart’s beating will hush her to sleep. Her puppy pillow serves as a blanket. Her right hand mimics mine, slowly grazing over the stuffed puppy’s soft fur. Her left hand reaches over her shoulder and plays with my hair. Before long, the petting stops and the hand that held my hair drops down so awkwardly that I imagine it would be uncomfortable if she were awake.