“Sophie. Sophie, IS THAT YOU? Sophie, WHERE ARE YOU?”
“Sophie, you weren’t home when I got home,” you yelled while scurrying across the house. “Why weren’t you here to meet me?”
There you were, staring at me from across the hall in your favorite formal gown that was completely drenched in mud. Dirt lingered across your eyebrows and your cheeks were still wet from Mama’s attempt at cleaning you up. Today, she took you to a wedding on the farm of a family friend. You chose to wear the whitest and fanciest outfit in your wardrobe, and then proceeded to play in it as hard as you could.
I kneeled down to your height, gently brushing the wispy hairs covering your bright, hazel eyes. You were welling up with tears.
“I’m so sorry, honey,” I replied while taking your left hand. “Next week, I promise I’ll be here when your dad drops you off.”
“Every time,” you cried. “Every time I come back to Mama’s house, you need to be here. I need you to always be here when I am, Sophie. I don’t feel safe without you.”
You started to trace an invisible outline of my hands with your fingers. Carefully, cautiously, you mapped the distance between the tip of my index finger and the bottom of my wrist.
“I promise to always be home when you come home,” I spoke while squeezing your tiny hands. “But even when we are apart, I am still with you. And you’re always with me. Always.”
The tears started to slow. You couldn’t look at me still, not yet, but your eyes were clinging on to every word.
“But what if you die?” you asked. “Will I still be with you then?”
“Even when I die,” I replied.
“Even if you got shot by machine guns?”
“Even then.” I placed my hand on my heart. “You’re still right here.”
You slipped away to your room that was conveniently nearby, but only for what felt like a split second. When you reappeared, both of your small hands quickly grabbed ahold of my right index finger. There you started to tie a small, white piece of string around the bend until the ends could made a baby knot together.
“This is for when we are separated, so you’ll never forget me.”
You took the one remaining purple clawclip in your hair and clipped it onto the string, then wrapped yourself around my legs that perfectly fit just you. I couldn’t move at all. In the light of that hallway, the clip glistened like a beautiful amethyst stone ring.
I suppose it was your promise ring to me, or maybe my promise ring to you.
This short story will be featured in its entirety in The Resilience Anthology, scheduled to print in 2017 through Wormbook Press