"Do you think we should get the lilac or the baby blue," she says, peering in through the window. She's glowing, just like the first time I saw her - glowing and golden and bright, but even then, in the half way point between being and beyond, I could see that she was unfinished; like the leaves on a tree just turning at Fall's command, just waiting for their big moment… and then a mean cold snap rushes in and cuts them off right before they're into full-on glory.
"Or maybe Moss Green would be better." She puts a finger to her mouth as she mulls it over. There's this light about her that has her almost vibrating, and her eyes are dancing - they have been all afternoon and she's almost glorious.
"What?" She's frowning up at me, curious, and even though she's frowning, she's smiling, and even her smile is free…free of the hesitation that's almost always there at the corners that don't quite fully curve upwards.
Her eyes are dancing again as she steps towards me.
Dancing, golden and warm and light. Yeah… like the lightning bugs me and Little John used to catch in jars on the back porch when we were kids. I'd just about get hypnotized, watching them spark and glow, bouncing around the inside of the glass. Little John always wanted to keep them, and I'd convince him they'd be much happier flying free and when his mouth turned down and he'd get looking sadder than a kid who'd just found the bottom of the cookie jar, I'd always promise him we could catch more the next night - that always had him smiling again.
Even her voice vibrates - though it's a whisper. I can hear the carefree giggle, beneath the surface, that just wants to be. I want her to be like this always, just free. She deserves to be free and it just about tears me up that I can't give it to her.
"What are you thinking about?" Her arm snakes around my waist and she's behind me. Her chin presses into my shoulder and she hugs around my middle. "Where did you go to?"
I'd give her heaven if I could.
"Nowhere," I reply. "Why don't you buy all of them?"
She hugs me tighter, and then lets go. She disappears into the store and I watch as she passes a table of hats and tiny knitted shoes, picks a set up, turns them over in her hands as if they might hold the keys to, well, everything. My mother used to look this way, as she held her beads and prayed: peaceful, connected, complete.
She decides on the tiny little shoes, and a hat, takes a step away and then turns back, picking out another three sets, nods in satisfaction, and continues on towards the clerk who's hanging back because she can see she's going to get a great sale out of the woman who's just entered. I know the assumptions she's making – who wouldn't? She has that radiant new mother thing going on - and I hope she doesn't open her mouth and let any of them out.
With each step my wife discovers more items that beckon to her, and with each discovery her whole body seems to vibrate more, each step more like how I imagine she would look as a child; skipping along without any thought beyond her getting to the corner store and digging her hands into a jar of butter candy.
She's almost to the counter now, and she passes a display of soft toys. She looks down at her arms, at the items threatening to burst out from her grasp, looks back at the toys, shuffles around, shoulders working as she squeezes her loot into one arm. A rattle falls to the floor, bouncing away and under a table. The store clerk rushes forward, loading the small mountain into her own arms, freeing Rosalie's to explore and touch and coo over.
She picks up something that looks like a headband with a red bow attached to it, and I half expect her to start dancing around. I wish she'd let Alice come with us; Alice would be the extra push needed to kick this into a high octane, unstoppable, free-flying ride of exhilaration.
The store clerk returns, carrying a velvet and lace dress so small I can't imagine it fitting the child for more than a day or two. She's smiling brightly, and then she opens her mouth.
"I'm guessing this is your first?"
I have only a second left and I take every bit of her in that I can, I don't trust my photographic mind to remember this: the lightness, the vibrating, the smile that's free, and the dance in her eyes. I'm holding my breath, as if I can somehow prevent it all from fading, but then it's gone. I see it drain away from her, like the way a catch slowly slips into death.
And she smiles, those corners not quite turning up, and shakes her head saying that it's her sister in laws baby.
The store clerk fails to pick up on the change in mood, and to a human it's probably indiscernible. She takes Rosalie's hand and leads her further into the store. The two walk towards the back of the place, the clerk pointing out item after item, Rosalie mutely following; it's all there in the way she carries herself, the way her hips sway with each step, the angle in her shoulders, heck it even translates into the swing of her hair: graceful, beautiful, unfinished.
I love her, all of her. I want to be that last bit of summer, just enough warmth so the leaves can give their all and birth themselves into one last, amazing act…
"You're there again." She's standing at the window again, hands full of bags stuffed with polka dotted tissue paper.
She tilts her head, smiles that almost smile. I reach forward, taking the bags from her. She wraps her arm around my waist, squeezing a little harder and a little longer than usual.
I kiss the top of her head.
We walk along the street, huddled together as if we needed the extra warmth, silent because we both know where the other is.
At the corner we stop, waiting for traffic. She tips her head; the streetlights glint in her eyes as she looks skyward.
"It's early for snow," she says. "Wasn't it October last year?"
I watch as flakes start to fall.
She sighs. "I wanted to show her the leaves turning."
I kiss her once more on her forehead, just as the crossing turns to green.
"Maybe next year," I say.