Never Grow Up

"Do you think you're more worried about our little girl growing up?"

At first, his hazel eyes harden and he opens his mouth to protest, his shoulders hunched up in a way that's very reminiscent of a cat in a fight. But then his shoulders slump, his head hanging low as his gaze softens and mists over with tears. He gives a slight nod of the head.

Her little hand is wrapped around his finger, which is all the small palm can grasp. Her eyelids flutter as she dreams of who-knows-what, and her father's gentle smile is filled with contentment. It's quiet in the world tonight, as the man tucks his second child and only daughter into bed. He turns on the nightlight in the corner, then makes his way across the room to the door. Just before he shuts it, he catches one last glimpse of his little girl, lying peacefully in bed. He smiles again, and is happy.

"She is growing up," he manages to choke out, shaking his head and finally looking up to meet his wife's gaze. A frown is tugging at the corners of his lips as he reminisces, and realizes that things are changing ... ending.

Her bright laughter fills the air, seemingly a colorful match for her eccentric costume - a fairy dress, bright leggings, a crazy headband with strange protrusions, a glowing sword, and a pair of huge glasses. She dashes across the house, chasing her older brother. It's unclear to her parents just why she's doing this, but they smile and laugh along nonetheless, always pleased to simply know that their children are happy.

"I know it's hard, sweetie, but no matter how mature she gets, she'll always be our little girl," the dark-haired, dark-eyed woman offers consolingly, patting her husband's arm in a comforting way.

"Da-a-ad," she complains, rolling her dark eyes. He feels a pang in his heart as she throws open her door, unlocking her seatbelt and hopping out of the car a block away from the theater. She's embarrassed to be seen with him, and he knows the reason why, but he refuses to even let himself think it. She can't be ... she's too young. She's still his little girl.

He seats himself at the counter, watching his wife pad across the cool, tiled kitchen floor as she prepares to cook dinner. Usually, he would be helping her, but tonight is the exception. He's feeling far too nostalgic to do much other than stare off into the distance, recalling the not-so-distant past.

He knocks on the door, sparing a glance at the watch on his wrist. He calls through the door and stays and listens for a moment, and is rewarded with a mumbled response and several thumpings, which he does wonder about but never quite discovers the source of. He strolls casually, as loud music begins to play in her bedroom, to the kitchen, where he flips his special blue-berry pancakes right onto her favorite purple plate. Then he returns to her bedroom to knock on the door once more, this time to summon her to breakfast. However, he can't be heard over the music, so he opens the door and peers inside before grinning. She's dancing around in her pajamas, grabbing various articles off clothing from around the room as she bounces and waves her arms in an unco-ordinated fashion.

It feels like, since his little ones have been born, time's been a handfull of sand in a hourglass, and it's slowly slipping through. He knows that this hourglass can't be turned over, can't be started again, and he regrets that he can't go back to a time when everything is simple and she was still just his little girl, unhurt by anything worse than a scraped knee, though that too he always wished he could protect her from. He heaves a sigh, slipping back into memories, this time less specific and more of a series of flashbacks, of random instances that aren't enough to recall clearly, but are enough to make an impact on him.

Her bedrooms, as she grew older - first, as a baby, the lavender purple walls and the pink butterflies hung above the white crib. Then, later, the room with the pink walls and the stuffed unicorns strewn about. And later still, the red walls with the strange mirrors, and the white desk, and the black canopy above the bed.

Getting home from work when she was younger, and how she would always greet him by attacking his legs with a strangling hug of epic proportions.

The footsteps, like paths burned into his mind, traces across the house,

The words said. From "Daddy," to "Dad" to "Da-a-ad!"

The way she so fiercely antagonized her brothers, and the way she so fiercely protected them both to the best of her ability. The way she sang her younger brother's favorite song to that dance routine she made up, spinning across the living room, dark hair flying.

"I just realized ... everything I have is someday gonna be gone," he chokes out after a long time. It's nearly dinner-time, he realizes. He just can't seem to snap out of it. "She's going to be off to college in not too long, off to her new apartment ... without us." He imagines her, alone in the big city, and immediately begins to fret. He doesn't want her to grow up, not ever. But it's a little late for that.

"Everything you have is not going to be gone," His wife's tone is firm. "Because I promise you, no matter how old she gets, she'll never grow up so much that she won't be our little girl."

Inspired by Taylor Swift's 'Never Grow Up', as well as Wizards of Waverly Place's season one, episode six, 'You Can't Always Get What You Carpet'.