She Believed in Angels

“I believe in angels.”
She proclaimed by the swing set,
Afternoon sun setting her golden curls aglow,
Her face was set in grim determination.
The purple star she had drawn on her elbow,
Ink smearing on her shirt,
Was staring me crookedly in the eye,
And I remembered how much I had wanted one too,
But how I was too afraid to touch the marker to my skin,
So I set my own face,
And furrowed my brow the way my father did when he was being brave,
And said,
“So do I.”
And I can still remember the way her face split wide open into a grin,
The gap between her two front teeth,
And the dimple on her chin,
And how she said,
“Good.”
And pulled me toward the teeter-totter.

“I believe in angels.”
She said again,
As she had so many years before.
I blinked in confusion,
Watching as she leaned against the doorframe,
Her nose ring picking up light and throwing it back into my face.
I didn’t know what to say,
With her watching me so intently,
So I said the words as they came to me unscripted,
Sure and confident rolling off my tongue,
Even though I, of course, was not.
“So do I.”
And she smiled and fled to Math.

“I believe in angels.”
She said as she showed me the first bruise.
A purple and blue smudge disfiguring her right knee.
She showed me two more,
Her fingers quivering as they pushed back her sleeves.
And when she was done she leaned back in exhaustion,
Sweat pooling on her nose as if she had just fought a great battle,
And she asked me,
“Do you?”
“Of course,”
I said hastily,
Brushing away my tears before they could gather on my lashes,
And I turned my head so she wouldn’t see.

I held her in my arms,
Her head pressed into my shoulder,
Tears trickling their way down her cheeks.
When she spoke she spoke deliberately.
Whispering her secret into my palm,
“Daddy went to jail today.”
Her voice the sound of smothered sobs.
I held her tightly to my chest,
Cradled her like a child.
Then I whispered,
So she could barely hear.
“Do you still believe in angels?”
She lifted her head,
Locked eyes with me,
And said,
“No, but I believe in you.”





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