He couldn’t help but feel proud, watching his little girl cut the man’s purse from his belt. She nearly bounced her way through the crowd, no one any the wiser. She could barely keep her smile from her face as she stopped in front of him.
He placed his hand on her head, patting it while trying his hardest not to muss up her hair. “Good job, girlie.”
He shook his head. “We’ll look through it later, keep it in your pocket right now. We’ll see what you’ve earned yourself later.”
Sliding his hand to her shoulder, they walked side by side away from their mark and toward home, where he would be able to see the spoils she would keep.
The taste hit her tongue like an anvil dropping on an egg. She pulled her head back in shock.
She pried her tongue from the roof of her mouth. “Bitter.”
“I told you.”
Then the five year old’s father took back his coffee.
If there was someone she had looked up to since she was a child, it was her father. That wasn’t to say literally, the moment she realized she was going to be taller than him. He shrugged it off.
“Well, not everyone can pull off the short look like me, kid.”
She should have enjoyed it, growing up. There was something that told her that some of the other people she knew who hadn’t gotten as tall would have enjoyed her height. But all she could do was look down on her father and remember the days he could pick her up. Those memories were becoming more and more vague in her mind.
She didn’t like realizing the things she hadn’t noticed as a child. She didn’t like hearing some of the things her father said to her now, that she knew he never would have told her before.
“I’ve taught you some bad habits. Ah, well. I guess we’ll both have to work on those.”
If there was someone she admired, that time tried to take from her, it was her father.
While the memories of implicit belief became more and more nostalgic, the admiration stayed the same.
Then the admiration grew.
“Have fun at grandpa’s?” he asked his daughter as she ran up and hugged him.
Considering how long it had taken him to get along with his father, he admitted to being a bit jealous how quickly she had taken to him. “What did you do?”
“We made cookies!”
He almost blanched. “You… you what?”
“Cookies!” She gave him a look as though she expected better of him. “I brought you some! We can eat them now. You don’t think mom will be jealous, do you?”
“Mom knows she’s not the only person to bake cookies.” However, the realization that his father could bake would probably give his wife pause too. “Are they any good?”
“Dad!” his daughter protested. Shaking her head, she pulled a plastic bag filled with cookies out of her backpack and handed him one. “I made them too.”
“Of course.” He chuckled, taking it. “You save just about everything.”
“Did grandpa not bake with you?”
He took a bite from the cookie. It tasted surprising, he couldn’t recognize what type it was at all. He wouldn’t compare it to his wife’s baking, but that was for his own safety. “Must be a new hobby.” Then the kick came in. “What is it?”
“Zucchini and jalapeño.”
He coughed. “Pretty good.”
She smiled. While he was glad for her, he wondered if his father had decided to make this with the express knowledge that his granddaughter would not hesitate with giving plenty of them to her father.
“I’m back. Did you both survive without me?”
He opened his eyes, glancing over at his wife as she reentered the house. “Yeah, we’ve been good.”
Which was when he realized that was only mostly true. He was fine. Their daughter had been fine, last he had seen her. Which had been on the couch next to him, right before he had dozed off. The fact the toddler wasn’t there now meant he had no idea of her survival rate.
Babies had a very low survival rate without supervision.
“Glad to hear it,” his wife was saying as she headed into the kitchen.
Yes, he had as long as it took her to put the groceries away to find his child. Why hadn’t he stayed awake long enough for her to come home and watch the little brat too? He left the living room to creep to each room and stare inside. One wouldn’t think that a three year old could be that stealthy. Or not leave a trail of destruction, as she occasionally was wont to do.
He found her in his study, under his desk, eating some of his candy.
He picked her up and extracted the rest from her. She pouted at him.
“Look. You don’t tell mom, I won’t tell mom.”
In this way, they bribed each other to get away with something.
She smelled it coming from the kitchen. The child ran her tongue over her teeth and crept forward. Her sister was upstairs. Her mother was cleaning the living room. Therefore, there was no one who could stop her from the kitchen.
Her steps were almost exaggerated as she entered the kitchen. It took no time at all for her to spot the cake on the counter. She grabbed a chair and scooted it toward that direction. The screech of the feet scraping against the ground made her stop. Grimacing, she slowly started to push it again, trying to go as slow as possible.
It made it there and she pulled herself up. Happily, she reached forward for the cake.
“I don’t think so, kiddo.”
Startled, she looked over at her father. He plucked her up off the chair. She reached uselessly back for the cake.
“We’ll keep this between you and me, but that means we’ve both got to behave until mom says it’s okay. Got it?”
She wasn’t happy with this new development, but there wasn’t really a choice now. Sadly, she nodded. “’Kay.”
He took her away from the sweet cake. She watched it from over his shoulder and licked her lips.
He looked into the room. She was asleep, oddly enough. As difficult as it was to get her to sleep when the sun went down, he was afraid to ruin it by coming closer. Yet he never did as he thought he should and he crept across the room, the light in the hallway obscured enough by the door not to light up the room.
In the dark, he looked down at her prone form. So small. He reached down, smoothing the fine hair at the top of her skull back, relishing in the touch.
She slept on, thankfully. He leaned down and kissed her nose, which wrinkled slightly. Still asleep. He grinned, reaching out with a hand.
Only to be stopped by the sound of someone standing in the doorway, darkening the room further. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the disapproval on his wife’s face.
Don’t wake her up, she mouthed at him.
Of course, he mouthed back. However, playtime was over. He left his daughter alone and went to put himself to bed.