I am on deadline. The kids go back to school tomorrow after a two week break. It has been hard to find uninterrupted focus during this school vacation. But I have just tucked them in, and I am determined to refocus. It is 10:30 PM and I am looking forward to a few more hours of solid writing time. I begin to work and then sense footsteps.
"Mommy, will you tickle me?"
"Go back to bed. I'll be in soon."
I go to her bedroom. She is so beautiful there in the dark, cocooned in her blanket, the light from outside accenting her cheeks and delicate nose. She offers me her back. Then, she turns over. She likes her stomach tickled. She also likes it when I put my hand over her heart and just rest it there. The weight of my palm seems to ease her.
Every now and again she opens her eyes and just looks up at me quietly. Lovingly. The sassy daytime back-talker who thinks she knows everything is under my evening spell and I can feel her disarmed devotion. She seems so young and innocent to me right now.
My hand wanders up to her hair. She covers my hand with hers and pulls it to her cheek for a moment. She lets it go and I continue. All of a sudden she shudders out of her initial sleep. She opens her eyes wide, looks at me, then closes them. I continue to smooth back her hair slowly, methodically until I hear breathing that tells me she is fully relaxed and that my job is done.
I don't want to leave her now. I don't want to go back to work. I just want to curl up beside her. That would be the ultimate bliss. But I can't go there. Not tonight.