By: Sawyer Bennett

Chapter 1


It all seems to happen at once.

The washing machine starts shaking hard during the spin cycle, and while I’m able to easily ignore the way it bangs up against the dryer while I braid Violet’s hair, I can’t help the full body cringe when I hear the liquid laundry detergent that I had sitting on the top fall and hit the tile floor.

Yup…that resounding splat was the sound of the plastic splitting open, and I can clearly see in my mind the slick blue detergent leaking out onto the floor. I can imagine it vividly because I did the same damn thing last week. Overloaded the machine because I’m too lazy to do two loads when I can cram it all into one, causing the machine to tip off balance and dislodge all the crap I had sitting on top.

My fingers, however, never miss a beat. They keep grasping and crossing over the thick, dark locks of Violet’s hair while she quietly hums a song to herself, swinging her little legs back and forth happily while she sits on the kitchen chair. At age seven, she’s the quiet one…the dreamer. I don’t have to see her face at this moment to know that there will be a tiny smile and a faraway look in her gray eyes as she spins another epic fantasy story she’s creating in her beautiful head.

“D-a-a-a-d,” Ruby shrieks from upstairs.

It’s a sound that once used to cause all the hair to stand up on my arms and on more than one occasion caused me to go tearing after the call of my youngest daughter thinking she was being murdered by an intruder. I’ve since come to recognize that particular shrill cry as one of excitement and wonder, and I can’t help but grin over what Ruby is possibly into now. At almost five years old, she refuses to accept the concept of a well-mannered, indoor voice and goes balls to the wall in everything she does.

“Is the house on fire, Rubes?” I call out.

Her little voice shouts back to me in a squawk. “No.”

“Have aliens landed?” I keep my voice just loud enough to carry up the stairs but still decibels below her own.

“No,” she yells, and there…right there…that’s a little giggle from her.

“Did Timmy fall down the well?”

“No, Dad…but you have to come here,” she yells, and, to give her credit, it’s toned down just a bit. When I don’t answer her right away, she calls down in a sweet voice that makes my heart pitter-patter. “Please, Dad.”

Brilliant, little brat. Throwing in some manners to throw me off my game.

“I’ll be right there,” I tell her as I finish the last of Violet’s braid and manage to efficiently bind it with a hair elastic. Leaning over, I place a kiss on her head. “All done, dreamy dwarf.”

Violet leans her head back and gives me an upside-down grin. I love the sprinkle of freckles on her nose and it compels me to kiss her again.

“Do me a favor,” I tell her as I turn toward the living room. “Get the cereal and milk out for me while I go see what your sister needs?”

I don’t bother waiting to see what she does, because Violet has become my metaphorical right hand over the last few months. While she still loves for me to braid her hair and help with her homework, she’s also relished taking on a bit of a caretaker role since the girls moved in with me permanently this past summer.

They’ve been here almost six months and I actually feel like I know what the hell I’m doing now. It wasn’t always like that, and thank God for Kate’s help or I would have gone insane in those first few months of becoming a single parent of two little girls. Kate patiently helped me establish a routine and taught me how to braid hair, distinguish excited shrieks from cries of pain, and most important…how to conduct the perfect princess tea party.