And here, dear readers, is a snippet of an epilogue. I hope you enjoy. Thank you for all your lovely reviews and comments - the response was…unexpected but so appreciated!
The youngster scrutinized the sea of faces carefully. Mama said not to get any hopes up because there were some things that Daddy couldn't control. But that wasn't true. Daddy could do anything. One time he made a mean kid stop being mean by just looking at him. One time he mysteriously healed two scrapes that occurred after a bike accident. He saved her mother when she fell off the step stool in the kitchen that time. She had even watched while Daddy gave Mama mouth-to-mouth resuscitation once (it was after bedtime and the child hadn't been able to sleep and she saw them on the couch and Mama must have stopped breathing or something). He could even control the weather –he was actually able to make an extra scary storm with loud thunder and lightning go away. Not just any parent could do that. So a simple matter of getting home in time from that work conference thing in Vancouver shouldn't be a problem.
Keen blue eyes picked out Mama in the crowd and the youngster waved enthusiastically. Mama waved back with a big smile. She looked so pretty. She always did. But the seat next to her was empty and the child felt a sinking disappointment. He was probably just late. That was something that did happen from time to time. Besides, there were still some parents coming in, so it couldn't be that late.
The little girl looked toward her teacher from her position in the middle of the first row. She liked her teacher a lot. Mrs. Fickett was the nicest lady in the world…except for that one time when she made her go into time-out for five minutes because that creep Isabella had asked if Daddy was her Grandpa and she'd gotten mad and told her to "sod off." She didn't really know what that meant but Daddy used it a lot so it must have been a good one. But Isabella didn't know what it meant either and neither did Mrs. Fickett. She'd just said the sentiment didn't sound very nice. Eliza forgave her because Eliza was just like Mama, at least that's what Daddy said all the time.
Lights in the multi-purpose room were starting to dim and the little girl was definitely alarmed. What if he didn't make it back in time to see her? Mama would be recording and he'd be able to see it later but it wouldn't be the same!
She squinted into the darkness, only distantly aware of her teacher speaking through the microphone to the audience. Phrases like "delighted to have you all here tonight" and "the children worked so hard" floated around her but she wished they didn't. Mrs. Fickett needed to wait just a little longer!
All the kindergarteners on stage were instructed to rise as Miss Sweeney started to play the piano. The little girl reluctantly followed suit. Her best friend Jamie gave her a sideways look and reached for her hand.
Tears were beginning to sting her eyes and Eliza bit her lip, willing them not to fall. She was a big girl. She was almost five and a half and five and a half-year-olds didn't behave like crybabies.
Seventeen tiny voices began to sing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" under twinkling lights hanging from above and Eliza didn't want to. Since Mama was in the second row, she knew that she could see her face clearly, see how sad she was because that's what Mama and Daddy did. They saw everything. Mama gave her a reassuring smile and that made her feel a tiny bit better. But just a tiny bit.
They were now on the third day of Christmas but Eliza barely sang along. She currently didn't care about French Hens and Turtle Doves or the bloody Partridge. It could go sod off.
The sound of a door opening and closing echoed in the big room and the little girl swept her eyes back and forth as a tiny bit of hope flickered through her. It was hard to see all the way to the back but a moment later, a figure with a familiar swagger strode up the middle aisle. He gave her his big crooked grin and a little wave before sitting next to Mama and giving her a quick kiss. Mama touched his face, smiled, and initiated another sweet kiss. Eliza loved seeing them like that.
The children had started on the Fourth Day of Christmas and the little girl now beamed as she sang. Her big moment was almost here and as she watched her parents watch her, she felt so happy that she just might pop.
"On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me…" All her classmates sang enthusiastically, if not in tune.
And here goes nothing... Eliza held her hand up, took a deep breath and wriggled her fingers with all five sparkly rings. "…FIIIVVVE…GOLDENNN…RINNNGS…!"
After the assembly, all the teachers led their respective classes back into the multi-purpose room for parental pick up.
Eliza watched carefully and as soon as she saw Daddy and Mama coming forward, she darted out of line. She knew that it wasn't the right thing to do and that she might get in trouble for it but she didn't care.
"DADDY!" She ran straight at him and he immediately caught her and swooped her up into his strong arms. His short beard tickled her as he kissed her cheek.
"How's my girl?" Cal held his youngest daughter tightly as she happily filled him in on all the events that had occurred in her life over the last 72 hours. A kindergartner's life was just a hubbub of activity and it made his head spin. But that was okay. He was just happy to be home. The little one had been rehearsing for weeks, to the point of almost making his ears bleed, and he had been so worried that he'd wind of disappointing her. It had been touch and go with the weather there for a bit but it had all worked out.
He set her back down gently on her sparkly red Mary Jane's and reached into the pocket of his coat. Gillian's eyes were on his with that gentle light of hers and he gave her a quick wink as he addressed their daughter. "You know darlin', it's customary for a lady to receive a gift after a stage performance."
The little girl's eyes widened. "Really?"
"Yup." Cal pulled three pink roses wrapped in snowflake embossed plastic from his inner pocket, hoping they weren't completely squished. The thorns had been snipped away as a precaution, the florist smiling in amusement as she did it. A tiny stuffed teddy bear clutched the stalks possessively. "The leadin' lady always receives flowers. It's kinda tradition, say Mum?"
"Absolutely." Relaxed and happy, Gillian's eyes flicked from her husband to her daughter. She absently reached out and smoothed dark blond hair back from Eliza's face and tucked it behind one ear.
The little girl squealed and clutched the flowers to her chest, unmindful of the one or two petals that fell. An exuberant "thank you" slipped out somewhere between more squeaks and squeals.
"Well, donne know 'bout anyone else, but I'm starvin'. Who's up for ditchin' this place and gettin' some food?"
He cocked his head as he stared down at his daughter. "I was referring to the rest of your mates."
"DADDY!" She huffed at him and he saw her mother as he always did.
"Fine then. Just the three of us tonight and big sis comes in tomorrow."
The youngster squealed again, her smile huge.
Cal reached out and Eliza immediately sank her tiny hand into his. His other arm slid around Gillian's waist and he brought her closer, his lips against her ear. "See, I made it. After all, I can control the weather you know."