I am cleaning out the sink after dishes, and I turn to Michael.

“We need to take pictures of her tomorrow morning. It’s the last day she’ll look like a little girl.”

“Don’t do that,” he says.

“It’s true,” I say. “I’m just being real. Her mouth will look completely different tomorrow. And she’ll have those braces on until she’s 14.”

And I think I see the signs of tears rising in his eyes, and I wonder if I’ve gone too far, but it is true, and we are watching these days rush right past like a cartoon flurry of daily calendar pages.

“We’ll be sure to take lots of pictures in the morning,” he says.

I walk up the stairs, and Sici smiles big when I open the door — her sisters sleeping in their bunks, her own lamp’s light shining across the pages of a new library book.

I get right up close to her face, and her eyebrows rise in response to mine. “I’m studying every curve because you’ll look different tomorrow,” I say.

I am remembering this girl who mourned the loss of her first tooth and second because the change in her mouth and the letting go hurt more than the pulling of roots.

She’s looking at me now with the quizzical look she seems to reserve for me these days, laced with love and amused tolerance.

I turn her face sideways to remember just what her beautiful profile looks like tonight, and I pray that no amount of metal changes the mouth flashing freedom on the dance floor, spunk on the basketball court, knowing from behind the pages of a book.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says, smiling. “I wanted to read you this part a little ways back.”

And she reads me the line she’d marked with her finger, the one that made her laugh — its humor wry and sharp, just like hers — and I think she saved it for me, knowing I’d be coming in again.

We laugh at the line and then she lets me take an extra long time to run my palm across her cheeks, her chin, gently pulling her long hair toward me with both hands.

Holding on and letting go, over and over again.

Linking this morning with Imperfect Prose at Emily Wierenga’s.

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