h o p e.

She asked him about time, her wide sea-green eyes and twisty child’s tongue forming questions that philosophers had been wrestling with since she was nothing but–

there’s her first question.

“What was I before I was born?”

“You were a wish,” he smiled, crouching down so that their noses almost touched.

“A wish?”

“Yep. A wish, a hope, a desire; you were stardust, floating around in the milky way, just waiting for someone to wish hard enough.”

“Oh.” Her eyebrows crinkled together as she thought about this. “So my mom and dad wished for me?”

“Exactly.” He stood up.

“Wait!”

He waited, crossing his arms and raising his eyebrows. “Yes?”

“Well…” she chewed her lip, trying to think of the right words. “What’s yesterday?”

“Yesterday? Yesterday you followed me and Mouse to Starbucks and no one knew you left and I didn’t know you were with me and there was a big huge hullabaloo, remember?” He poked her nose and she giggled.

“I know that,” she said, rolling her eyes. “But what’s yesterday? What does it mean?”

“It’s the day that happened before today.”

No,” she crossed her arms and looked at him earnestly. “You don’t get it. I know what it is. But what does it mean?”

“It means…” he blew his bangs out of his eyes and plopped down on the floor. “It means childhood. It means experiences and laughter and bare feet and regrets and hazy old Polaroid memories. And for some people maybe it means things that are better left forgotten.”

She smiled, looking more satisfied with this answer. “I get it,” she said happily. Then she paused. “Well, wait; so then… what’s tomorrow?”

“Always a day away.”

“What?”

“You’ve never seen Annie?” his eyes widened dramatically, and she giggled, shaking her head. “My God, you’re so deprived. We’ll need to rectify this.”

“I don’t know what that means,” she said. Seeing him open his mouth, she quickly continued, “Never mind. Tell me what tomorrow is.”

“Well,” he sighed, scratching his nose, “tomorrow is hope. And happiness. And a chance to make things better. And…” he paused, watching her eyes travel toward the faded scars on his wrists.

“You didn’t used to want a tomorrow,” she mumbled.

He put his fingers under her chin, tilting her head so she was looking at him again. “That was a long time ago. It was before I met you, before I met Mouse, and I just… my life was a lot different then. A lot different.” He smiled reassuringly. “That’s all.”

“Are you…” she spoke quietly, her tongue stumbling over the words. “Are you gonna do it again?”

Again?” he laughed loudly. “Nah, once was enough.”

She looked down, the frown not leaving her face. He stopped laughing.

“Hey,” he murmured, cupping her small face in his hands. “I’ll never do it again. I can’t imagine doing it again. I want all my tomorrows.”

“Promise?”

“I promise. You’re stuck with me, kidlet.”

She grinned crookedly, showing off her missing front tooth. “Good.”

There was a brief silence, and then she looked up at him. “So what’s now?”

He grinned and shook his head, glancing at his watch. “Now is when I go pick up Mouse. I wish that girl would get over her fear of driving, already.”

“Are you going out?”

“Yep,” he said, standing up and grabbing his bag.

“Where?”

“Movies.”

“Can I come?”

“No.”

Please?”

“No.”

“I’ll follow you again!”

“You better not!” he exclaimed, quickly shutting the front door so that he could hear nothing but her muffled complaining.

He chuckled and walked down the front steps to his car. Then he paused, looking around – the summer wind ruffled his hair, and the early-evening sunlight cast a warm golden glow on the trees. A bee buzzed serenely somewhere among the flowers.

He smiled and got in the car, singing softly to himself.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow…

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