I stand huddled with the other parents at the edge of the Astro-Turf, chatting and catching-up, our daughters' soccer game about to start. Chilly, we're well muffled-up in coats and scarves. I wish I'd had time to get coffee like some of the others, for its warmth between my hands.
My youngest daughter's small damp hand is inside mine. She's tugging on me.
"I want to show you something," she repeats.
She won't let me be, pulling and pleading. At six, she can wear me down till I feel threadbare, more stubborn than her older sister ever was.
When I can't take anymore, I let her lead me across the stadium, and up into the bleachers to show me her "special place." As we walk, I think about the groceries we need, laundry to be done, bills to be paid, my mind click, click, clicking.
My daughter points to a bench. "See, this is my special place."
It's just a bench.
"That's nice, sweetie, let's go back."
She doesn't want to go back.
Now it's my turn to pull and plead. "The soccer's about to start."
She doesn't care about her older sister's game. I threaten to confiscate her Nintendo DS for the day. That gets her cooperation. We turn around and I stop short. We're standing at the top of concrete stairs. There must be thirty steps.
"Did we come up this way?" I ask.
She looks up at me, registering surprise. "You don't remember?"
I didn't. No more than three minutes could have passed and yet I didn't remember climbing a single step. My stomach drops somewhere around my knees. I look down into my daughter's tiny, anxious face. What else have I been missing?
Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Ethel Rohan now lives in San Francisco. She received her MFA in fiction from Mills College, CA. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Cantaraville, SUB-LIT, Word Riot, Miranda Literary Magazine, and Identity Theory, among others. Her blog is here.