“More, mama!” Leila said as she adjusted the ruffle of her 3T floral print dress.
“Ladybug, if I pull your strings any tighter, your dress will rip,” I reminded her for the umpteenth time. “Remember what happened to your white princess dress?”
Here it comes. Here it comes. Here it…“Humph!”
There it is. I used to give into her pleas until I realized this was the source of her recurring tummy aches. Leila loved dresses that tied at the waist and they had to open like an umbrella when she twirled. Each performance concluded with an intended fall so that her dress puffed up when it came to rest on the floor.
Leila had deep brown eyes and chestnut strands that cascaded the entire length of her back. If I failed to run a brush through it, come bedtime it was a nightmare to untangle.
“Ladybug, let mama do your hair pretty for you.”
“I don’t wanna.”
“You can wear my high heels and really be like a princess.”
“um…um…okay, but don’t do it like this…” Leila swept her hair up into a mock ponytail; a braid it often was.
“Mama, listen. Watch me, Mama!” Leila walked with the heels onto the unyielding kitchen tiles. “Clack. Clack. Clack. Clack…”
“You’re such a big girl, Ladybug.”
“Uh huh,” she grinned until both dimples appeared. “I’m huuungry. Can I have macaroni and cheese with ketchup?” Leila asked while she seated herself at the kitchen table.
“God is good. God is great. Lettuce thank you for my food and my Baby Alive and the Berenstain Bears. Amen.”
Leila adored the Berenstain Bears. They were a favorite bedtime read. She owned nearly every book they had. Her most prized; The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby. Oh, yes. They came to the rescue countless times. For them, Leila would take her bath, put on her jammies and lay down for the night.
Bath time. A time for little wet feet to traipse to and fro, in search for that one forgotten toy, now remembered.
“Bug, you’re getting the floor all wet. You have enough toys.”
“One more, that’s all. Okay, Mama?” Leila mounted the side of the tub, her body sudsy.
I remain seated on the toilet for her return.
“Five more minutes, baby girl.”
Funny how I struggle to get her into the bath and once she’s in it, she doesn’t want to get out.
“Stand up so I can put this towel around you.”
“Five more minutes, Mama.”
“If you want me to read the Berenstain Bears, you have to get your jammies on now.”
The dimmer switch in the bedroom was set just right for our story time. Leila was tucked into my frayed quilt as I read her favorite book beside her. After a few telling yawns, she drifted off to sleep and I was quick to follow suit. Sometime during the night and in spite of my ability to sleep heavily, I was aroused. Leila was coughing and her movements erratic. I maxed the light to observe Leila.
The quilting thread, like a fishing line, detached from my old quilt and was wrapped around Leila’s neck not less than seven times. I scrambled around the house for the scissors and made my way back to her. The thread was bound so tight around her neck that I could narrowly feed the scissors between her skin and the line, to make the cut.
What if I didn’t fall asleep beside her? What if I didn’t wake up?
Yes, Leila, God is great.
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