On the eve of my mother's departure to Growing State for a business trip, I had tucked Pie in and was telling her an absurd bedtime story that involved my sister and the band One Direction working together to defeat a sorceress named Evileeni.
"And then," she interjected. "After we break the spell, Kelly Clarkson should fall off the stadium and be like, 'Hey, y'all, I broke my leg!'"
She dissolved into giggles and nuzzled her face into the pillow. She's small for nine but can make uncannily adult observations. It's a trait I like.
"BB, after this I'm going to go and get into Mommy's bed."
"You are not, Ding Bat. You're sleeping in your own bed tonight."
"But it's my last night with her!"
"Yeah, for one night," I rejoined. "Nice try, bum."
"There's no way I'm going to survive with only Dad here."
I restrained a smile.
"Pie, it's only for one day. And you know, Dad's not so bad."
The truth, of course, is that Dad is so bad, but I wasn't about to tell her something she'd figure out within a few years anyway.
"Yeah, well, I think he has like, problems."
I straightened up.
"What kind of problems?"
I didn't want to dismiss what she was saying but didn't want to suggest anything, either. I let her talk.
"Like, he just doesn't know how to take care of certain things."
Her face screwed up in the expression of faux alarm that only a nine-year-old can manage.
"Like, a child!"