If only all days could be like this—the sun shining, a slight breeze blowing, the sound of her daughter's musical laughter floating through the air—it was a perfect day. If all days could be like this, the world would be a better, happier place.
"Do you see him yet?"
Phyllis smiled as she gently gave the swing another push. "Not yet, baby, but it's still a little bit early. He'll be here. He always is, right?"
"Uh huh," Aly grinned, nodding her head excitedly as she pumped her legs for the swing to go even higher. Phyllis sighed contentedly; it was hard to feel bad about anything with those eyes staring back at you. Those big brown eyes could break her heart, change her mind, and lift her spirits in mere seconds without so much as a word. She had so much of her Daddy in her, not only in looks but in her personality.
It was evident in the smallest things—in the way she smiled her sweetest little smile when she knew she was in trouble, how she loved to be the center of attention, how, even at the age of three, she could knew how to make you laugh and she took such joy in doing it.
Her greatest fear had been costing her daughter that kind of joy. It had taken far too long for her to find her happiness with Billy. They had fought their feelings, fought their love, fought their attraction for months before finally admitting that they were the only thing standing in their way. Her pregnancy hadn't been the reason for the wedding, it had simply hurried things along a bit. In retrospect, maybe that was it—maybe it wasn't about whether they should or shouldn't have got married. Maybe it wasn't about whether they made a mistake or not. Maybe it was about the timing of it all. Maybe it was about the scars the both bore. Maybe it was the baggage they both brought with them and the fact that at some point, it just became too heavy to carry. They loved each other too much to keep hurting each other.
In the end it was the fights, the words said in anger that could never be taken back—that was what had decided it. That had been the final blow. It ended the day they had hurt each other enough to stop it—when they loved each other too much to keep fighting.
"Daddy!" Aly squealed with delight as she jumped from the swing and took off towards him.
Billy smiled as he kneeled down on the ground to hug her, not worrying at all about his clothes or the dirt. He relished the feeling of his daughter rushing into his arms. He cherished these moments. As he wrapped his arms around her and lifted her high up on his shoulders, he took a few steps across the park to the swing where Phyllis stood.
"Hey." His eyes met hers, his voice immediately softening. It was hard not to react to her. Even though it had been nearly eight months since the divorce had been finalized, even though he'd seemingly moved on, he still found himself occasionally forgetting that he didn't come home to her. That she wasn't in his life in that way anymore. If he was honest with himself he always believed that when they got married—it would be forever.
She forced a smile, not wanting to let him see how much it really hurt her to see him looking so well. Did she want to see him miserable, in pain, destitute? Of course not—well not really. It just killed her to think that she might less to him than he was to her. Did he not spend nights wondering if it could have been different? Did he not wonder if they made a mistake? If they gave up too quickly? If they should have tried harder?
Apparently not. He'd moved on—really moved on.
"She missed you," she said cheerfully, tickling her daughter's side as she smiled up at her.
"I missed her too," Billy said. "It's good to be back." He shifted his weight, the awkwardness of the moment weighing heavily on him now.
"Did uh…Did the two of you have a nice time…a nice trip?" She didn't care and she didn't want to know, but this is what friends did, right? They asked the polite questions about the things that they were supposed to care about.
"Yeah, the weather was great. The ship was great. It was nice."
"Where's Heather?" Aly chirped, inserting herself into the conversation at the first lull.
Phyllis sighed in relief at the distraction. This was one of the benefits to having a toddler around—never a dull moment.
"Heather's in the car actually," Billy stammered, glancing at Phyllis a bit awkwardly, "So we better get a move on." He reached down for the bag that sat beside her feet. "Is this everything?"
She nodded. "Yeah, that's it. I'll pick her up Sunday afternoon if that works for you or you can bring her by my place…whatever works."
"We'll figure it out. I'll call you and let you know." Silence settled over them again. He took a slow breath. "Uh, Aly, why don't you come down and give your Mom a hug and kiss goodbye."
Billy carefully brought the little girl down to her feet and smiled as he watched Phyllis wrap her arms around her.
"Bye Mommy," she whispered.
"Bye sweet girl. I'll call you tonight okay?"
Aly nodded sweetly as she reached back to take Billy's hand.
"I'll see you later," Billy said softly as he walked away, taking a quick moment to glance back over his shoulder as he made his way to the car.
Phyllis watched them until they were out of sight. Slowly she walked over to the bench and sat down. The sun was still shining. The breeze was still blowing. She could still hear the laughter of children floating through the air in the park, but it was no longer a perfect day.