I got home early from work to find Laney, our six year-old, alone in the den. “Hey princess, how you feeling?” I felt her brow. “Mom called and said she kept you home from school.”
“You can’t see me.”
“Oh, of course; I’m sorry.” I sat down next to her, noticing an open book on the coffee table: Black Beauty. She’d picked it out on her own last weekend as we browsed a local bookstore. Leafing through it, I looked around. “Gee, I wonder where Laney is?”
“It’s not easy being invisible, you know.”
“Who said that?”
“Especially when you have to tell people you are.”
“Maybe I need to see a doctor. I’m hearing voices.”
“I'm right here.”
I turned to her. “You said you were invisible.”
“I am; and quit looking at me.”
“You get more like your mother everyday. Speaking of which, where is your mom?”
“In the backyard picking up dog poop. She said that should be your job; and you promised to do it this morning.”
“Oops,” is all I could think to say.
“She looked like when I forget to clean my room.”
“Think I’m in trouble?”
I glanced out the patio window to see Ann, my very pregnant wife. She was sitting on a swing, playing fetch with Gabby. The baby was to be our second and was due in two months. Ann was beautiful, glowing with life. Lost for a moment, I heard Laney sigh. I turned to her. “So, why are you invisible?”
She shrugged. “Just because.”
“Does mom know you’re invisible?”
“I probably should tell her. I wouldn’t want her to walk in and see me talking to the coffee table.” There was silence, no giggle, no acknowledgment. I prodded a bit further, asking about our dog. “Can Gabby see you?”
She sighed “Gabby can’t help but not see me.”
Double negatives always throw me for a loop. I glanced at her and said, “I can’t even pretend to understand that.” I heard Ann laughing from the swing and calling out Gabby’s name. “Sounds like they’re having a good time out there.”
Without missing a beat, Laney asked, “Before I was born, was I invisible?”
Ann and I had grown accustomed to these kinds of questions coming from our daughter. However, we never seemed prepared to answer them. “Did you ask your mom?”
“You always say that.”
“I don't... Do I?"
I shrugged. “Sorry.” I paused. “Black Beauty was one of my favorite books when I was your age. Did you know that?” She shook her head. “It made me believe horses could talk; and most of all, had feelings.”
“I know; me, too.” She curled up on her legs, listening.
“So many times I felt sorry for Beauty. Wanted to yell out to him, be careful…runaway. But you know what? He never listened. I guess I was sort of like you were before you were born, invisible to him.” Laney’s eyes grew large. “But it didn’t mean I didn’t care for him. In fact, I loved him.”
“But did he love you back?”
“You mean because I was invisible to him?” She nodded and I answered, “Then yes, a thousand times yes, Laney. By all the wonderful memories and things he taught me.
“But he didn’t even know you were there.”
“I like to believe he did; why else would he have shared his story? And besides, that is what real love is all about – loving someone without really knowing if they're there or not.” We heard Ann’s laughter from the backyard again, followed by Gabby’s playful bark. Laney bowed her head, her bottom lip trembling. I studied her then lifted her chin. “But in real life, we can’t be invisible, you know that?”
“Yes,” she mumbled.
“But sometimes we feel that way.” She nodded and I went on. “And that’s when we have to remember what real love is all about. We’re loved even when it seems no one knows we’re around.”
I smiled. “Exactly, just like Beauty. And it’s the kind of love that stays with you for ever – it can never be taken away because it stays locked in your heart.”
Just that moment Ann came in from the yard, radiant, smiling and sharing her own ongoing story with a simple kiss on both our cheeks. Gabby followed with a bounce and a lick. After all, Gabby had her own story to tell as well.
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