"Do you understand?"
Devan was silent, seated next to Patrick on the sofa. She was staring at the frozen image of her mother on the TV; her face bearing the expression of contemplation. At least that's what Patrick thought.
"I don't know," she finally responded quietly.
"Do you want to watch it again?" Patrick gently asked, watching his dark haired daughter closely; the little girl who would grow up to look just her mother.
His heart was beating wildly in his chest as Devan nodded.
Patrick stopped the tape and pressed rewind. The room was silent save the gears of the VCR spooling the tape back to the beginning. Patrick absently wondered why Robin hadn't done this on a CD-then cursed himself for the thought. Since her death, Patrick had elevated Robin to saintly status; and he wondered if he had done irreversible damage to his daughter by painting such a picture of her mother. He couldn't help but wonder if Devan was trying to make the two images match up in her mind; the image of Robin that Patrick told her stories about and that scattered their house with images of the happy couple, or the image of Robin pale in a hospital bed, talking about a history that Devan might not be able to understand for a long time to come.
The tape stopped rewinding.
Patrick pressed play and watched Devan as the tape played for the second time. Her eyes were wide and her lips pressed close together. Patrick reached out and pulled her to him. Devan let him, snuggling in closer as the image of Robin came into focus and the sound of a door shut behind the camera.
"This message is for you, Devan, my beautiful daughter and the joy of my life. I wanted you from the beginning. And by that I mean from the beginning of time. Since I was myself a little girl playing with dolls I knew I wanted to be a mother. I wanted you."
Robin was sitting up in her hospital bed. Patrick guessed she had taped this right after the infection first appeared. She was pale, but looked happy. Her dark hair was cut short, and fell softly around her face, she was beautiful. Patrick's heart ached to hold her once more. Instead, he pulled his daughter to him and kissed the top of her head. He had a piece of Robin in Devan, and that was enough.
"I love you, Devan. Know that. I have loved you from before you came, and I will love you forever as long as you live and then even longer. And if you are watching this, then I'm not with you anymore and I know that's a sad and painful thought. I want to explain some things to you. So you can hopefully understand why I couldn't stay with you. Maybe your father has already talked about this with you, but I need to tell you myself. Even if it is on a tape,"
Patrick felt Devan's tiny hand grasp his larger one.
"When I was a young girl I fell in love with a boy. It was my first love. And sometimes a person's first love isn't their one and only love-remember that. My first love was a boy named Stone. He was sweet, and strong, and very special. He also made some mistakes in his life, before I met him. Because of these mistakes he was sick with a disease that he didn't know about. That disease was called AIDS. But I loved Stone anyway, even after we found out he was sick, and even after he started to get weaker. I loved him even after I found out that I was HIV positive. That's when you know it is true love; when the worst has happened and still all you want is to be with that person. Stone died only 6 months after finding out he was sick. And I was so very sad. But I was alive, and I did everything I could to stay that way. I took medicine to fight the virus in my body, and the medicine worked. I stayed healthy and eventually grew to be happy again. I went to college, then to medical school and I became a doctor. I wanted to help people like I had been helped. That's when I met your father."
Devan looked up at Patrick then and smiled.
"We didn't get along at first, but that happens more often then not. It took us a long time to be honest about our feelings with each other, and even longer to finally decide we wanted to be together forever. And then we had you. Our beautiful daughter. You are still just a baby, but I can see Patrick in you; and I can see myself. I have been so blessed to have met you."
Robin paused on the screen and Patrick braced himself. This was the part of the tape that had pained him to watch.
"Things might not be going so well now, though. I was just told a little while ago that I have a staph infection. And that's not good; especially for someone with a virus in the body that can destroy the immune system rapidly and effectively. I have faith that the doctors can make me better, but I wanted you to know some things, just in case. Know that if I don't make it, I died loving you so much; know that it's no one's fault. Know that true love can appear in the unlikeliest of forms and places. Know that I want you to live life to the fullest. Be brave and take on challenges. Know that no matter where you are and what you are doing I am watching over you and taking care of you. I am always with you."
Patrick could tell that Robin was tearing up and in response he felt his chest tighten. Fighting back tears Patrick glanced back down to Devan. There was one tear trailing down her lightly freckled cheek. Patrick smoothed it away and gave her another squeeze.
"You are the miracle of my life and because of that, I am not afraid. I know you will be loved and cared for and that your father will never leave you. It hurts me to know I might. Because I would do anything to stay with you."
"Talk to your father, talk to your grandma Anna, talk to Uncle Mac, talk to any of my friends. Ask them any question you want. I give you permission. Get to know me through them. I want you to know that I did everything I could to have you and stay with you, but sometimes everything is still not enough."
"Baby girl. Devan Roberta Scorpio Drake. You were named for all the important people in my life. And they will all be there for you, too. I love you."
The screen held on Robin's fragile frame for a few more moments before the door behind camera opened and the recording ended, the screen black.
Devan sat for a moment, then slowly stood. Patrick watched her with deep concern.
"Can I go to my room?" she asked quietly.
"Sure," Patrick responded, worried he might have handled the situation wrongly. "Do you want to talk about what you just saw?" He added as Devan neared the staircase.
She just shook her head as she bounded up the stairs.
Patrick cursed under his breath as he took out the tape and slid it back into its dustcover. There had been a second tape labeled with Patrick's name; but he didn't have the strength to watch it just yet.
It was nearing dinner time before Devan came back downstairs. She was clutching a photo of Robin from the hospital, the one with her holding Devan as a newborn. She was also clutching Lolly, her stuffed giraffe that had been her coming home from the hospital gift; the giraffe had sat on Devan's bookcase for years untouched. Patrick smiled sadly at the sight of her.
Patrick stopped cutting vegetables for the stew he was making for dinner.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Yes. You can ask me anything, sweetie," Patrick wiped his hands on the dishtowel and abandoned the dinner making. The conversation he was about to have with his daughter was much more important.
"What was my mom like?" Devan sat at the table and set the photograph in front of her, staring at it longingly.
Patrick moved and sat next to her. He knew exactly what he wanted to tell Devan.
"She was amazing," Patrick began, and he didn't stop for nearly an hour. It was the best conversation he'd ever had with his daughter, and he hoped there'd be many more like it.
And with that, the part of Patrick that had been raw and wounded, slowly began to heal.