Thoughts rammed Roy’s mind. He leaned to rest his forehead against the kitchen window. The glass cooled the fire that raged through his head. Reality is here and now.
Reality was the girls’ laughter heard from beyond a sheer pane of glass. What about the children? Roy stood at the window and watched his daughters skip about the yard. Annie darted in and out from behind the weathered garage, her fist balled tight. Hidden within was found treasure- a smooth stone, a feather, or some lost bits of nature. Waving her fist, she teased Madeline, tempted her to join in a game of tag- winner take all. Of course, Madeline ignored the bait, choosing instead to pause and wonder at the creature she had discovered crawling along the bark of the cherry tree.
Earlier that morning, Jacqueline had asked, ” The old man wants to know. When are you painting the garage?”
“I’ll paint it on the first sunny day,” he had said. And why does she always refer to her father as The Old Man?
Here it was. Full sun. The old man had already scraped the cedar boards and replaced the rot.
There was work to do. Instead, he paused and watched Madeline pick a wriggling caterpillar from the cherry tree and dangle it in front of her nose. Gently, she placed the creature back onto the trunk. Madeline’s cat like eyes followed the caterpillar’s journey until it had roamed beyond reach. Annoyed, she crossed her arms tightly about her chest and lowered her head.
Birds flit everywhere. Robins, chickadees, and swallows glided to rest upon the tree’s branches. Lifting their wings just a bit, each bird let the sun’s warmth kiss their feathers. It was the season of transformation and just as spring announces change, he too, was in flux.
Annie skipped across the lawn like an inbound storm. Her arms reached for the branches of the tree, her fingers batting blossoms. Pure joy shone from her face. “Pink snow, pink snow!” He watched her pick the fallen blossoms from Madeline’s hair.
It was enough to witness Annie’s bewitching charm. She blew kisses to the clouds, danced with ghosts, her arms outstretched as she spun. He worried that her imagination was getting out of hand; she lived in her head.
“You need to reign her in,” he had told Jacqueline. “All this talk of fairies and-“
“Leave her be.” “Imagination is a gift.”
He had watched as Jacqueline resumed her painting. Roses, their petals drooped cloud white, spilled overtop a round, golden vase. This morning, she had added leaves, tucked them in between the buds. He marvelled at her talent.
“She needs to play with other children-,“ he had said.
Jacqueline froze mid brush stroke. “Enough. There are kids from one end of the block to the other.” The brush, loaded with bluish paint, dropped to the pallet. Her fingers reached for a cigarette.
“There’s a private nursery school up the street, ” he said. “I think- ”
Jacqueline lit her smoke and paused to exhale. “It costs money, Roy. You paying?”
The loaded question she left hanging in air, suggested that her father was the all time giver, the reason they weren’t renting some basement suite on the east side. Her tone certain; Jacqueline had a limited interest in the opinion of someone who had just married into the family.