Spotted: A perfect world.
"When's daddy going to be home?"
The child was but six, blonde ringlets bouncing as she thrust her head forward to gaze up at her mother. Her lips were pulled into a pout, her eyes, one hazel and one blue, wide as lakes.
Her own blonde hair tucked into a bun, the child's mother ruffled the girl's hair. "I don't know, Lilypad." She scooped the little girl into her arms and pressed a kiss to her feathery hair.
The little girl giggled and squirmed in Serena's grip. "My nameis Naomi," she corrected matter-of-factly. Serena stared with wonder at her daughter; she surely got her brains from her father. At six, Serena was barely formulating full sentences. Naomi was already reading See Spot Run.
"I know, baby." Serena discretely rolled her eyes. In honor of Lily's cancerous death a few years ago, Serena's first-born was named Naomi Lillian. "Daddy's going to be home soon. He's back from his book tour, finally."
"Good!" Naomi wriggled out of Serena's arms and jumped to the floor, rubbing her forehead where Serena had left the slightest hint of pink lipstick. "It's been so long," she complained, tears dribbling from the corners of her eyes. Serena couldn't help the tiniest twinge of jealousy. Naomi had always shown such warmth towards her father, always crying profusely whenever he left for a book signing.
"I miss him too, Lilypad." This much was true. It was hard enough to raise a daughter while simultaneously spending every night on webcam with the father. "Why don't you go get your picture?"
Naomi brightened at that, scurrying into her room to grab her drawing she'd done for her daddy's return. "Do you like it, mommy?" Naomi called, the worry clear in her tiny voice. Serena gazed fervently at the etched lines and smiled.
It was at that perfect moment that the click of a lock heralded the imminent arrival of Dan, his suitcases thumping down on the hallway. Naomi's eyes widened and she abandoned the paper, allowing it to flutter to the carpet, before screeching in glee and rushing into her father's arms.
"Woah, there, Nay." Dan was chuckling and twirling his daughter high in the air with flourish, kissing her forehead.
"Horses go 'Nay'!" Naomi argued, frowning. No matter how many nicknames they gave her, she always shrugged them away and pointed out their flaws. "My name is Naomi."
"She said the same thing when I tried to call her Lilypad again." Serena appeared at the hallway with a subtle roll of her eyes and a wry smile, her cobalt eyes betraying her excitement to see Dan. As always, Dan stared mesmerized at the image of his wife, still unable to comprehend this drastic turn of events that ended in them.
Dropping Naomi with a quick squeeze, Dan murmured, "Go get washed up and show me what you're working on in school." With the single order, Naomi was skidding past Serena and hurrying up the stairs.
Serena giggled in her own outburst of euphoria, running right into his arms and pressing her head into his chest. "God, I've missed you so much."
"I know," Dan laughed into her ear, burying his nose into her blonde hair and inhaling the vanilla scent. "You've told me every night for the past month." He pulled back and kissed her tenderly, chastely, before smiling again. "I don't think you missed me for the first week."
"You were out touring!" Serena protested, tucking her lips into an adorable pout. "I was trying to be supportive, even if I was dying inside."
Dan chuckled and brushed past her into the kitchen, spotting the paper lying unused on the carpet. Picking it up, he cast a rapid glance over it, grinning widely, before placing it on the counter.
"She missed you more than I did." Serena nodded towards the stairs, where Naomi was singing her ABCs as she scrubbed her teeth for bed.
"Oh, I doubt that."
The comfortable silence stretched on for only a minute more; Naomi came scurrying down the stairs and interrupting the peace, thrusting a paper full of printed letters, neat and in a thin line, into his arms. "I can write, now, just like you."
Dan raised an eyebrow to Serena, affirming what she already knew: the girl was crazy about her father.
"Well let's get you to bed, then." Dan heaved the little girl into his arms, pressing yet another kiss into her hair. "Need to have that bright little brain of yours get some sleep."
As Dan trudged up the stairs with Naomi in his arms, Serena could hear him ask, "If you don't want us to call you Nay, or Lilypad, what are we supposed to call you?"
Serena could almost hear the rolling of the little girl's eyes. "My name is Naomi."