Last night as I carried Lydia upstairs and laid her down to sleep I noticed she was watching me with intense pondering eyes. So, I leaned towards her as she sat there on the edge of her bed. I leaned slowly closer and closer until her face went out of focus and hovered in front of me as a soft blur. Her bright eyes narrowed as she patiently watched me as I gradually backed away, centimeter by centimeter, until her vaporous form drifted slowly back into focus. We sat there like that for several seconds, watching each other at the very limits of human focus. Mapping each other’s faces like satellites hovering above the surface of a delicate and beautiful alien moon.
Finally I spoke, “Lydia, did you know that you have very pretty eyes?” She smirked, but said nothing, her eyes suddenly darting around the room nervously.
“I’m serious. Look up at the ceiling for a second and let me see your eye lashes.” She tilted her head back and watched me warily down the bridge of her nose.
“And your cheeks!” I said poking at them with my index fingers. “You have the cutest little cheeks when you smile.” Her smile broke into a full grin showing two rows of evenly spaced white teeth. Perfect squares with short gaps between each of them, and soft pink gums on top and bottom.
“And do you know something about my cheeks?” She asked, suddenly turning her head to look at me sideways.
I shook my head. “What’s that?”
Still smiling she whispered, “They glow.”
I struggled for a moment to figure out what she was talking about. “What glows? Your cheeks glow?”
“Uh huh.” She nodded dramatically and I flinched away to keep from being hit. “They glow.” She opened her eyes wide and her jaw dropped open as if she were surprised to hear her own revelation.
I studied her face searching for signs that would indicate that she was joking. Some secret twinkle in her eye or a laugh hidden deep in her throat struggling to stay hidden. But her poker face was solid. She sat there, a statue of a surprised little girl.
“Like Rudolph’s nose.” She said finally, as if she could sense my disbelief.
“Lydia, how do you know your cheeks glow?” I asked.
Her eyes slowly rolled around the room in reply. To the walls and then the window, and the closet and the door. “Just look.” She said softly. “…light…” The word stretched out slowly like a spool of string being unrolled into the wind.
I hesitated and then leaned back against the edge of her sister’s bed, “Lydia, you know the lights are on, right?” I pointed up at the ceiling. “You know, electricity heats up filaments in the bulbs and they react by giving off light and heat. Did you know that?”
Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. She started to say something, caught herself and then finally said, “No.” Either in answer to my question or in defiance of its implications. And then she bent to lay her head on her pink flowered pillow and closed her eyes.
I stood over her for a second and then kissed her on the forehead, pulled the covers up next to her chin, and quietly left the room. When I checked back in on her a few minutes later she was sleeping quietly, still smiling to herself, head on a pillow in a dark room. I can’t remember if I turned the light off or not.