“Daddy, why is Mommy crying? Did you make her sad again?”
Little Cammie startled her dad. He pushed his wife from the crux of his arm. Streaks of black mascara stained the sleeves of his polo.
“Cammie, honey, what are you doing out of bed?” His voice straddled the line of annoyance and anger.
Cammie snuck out of bed when Mommy’s sobbing soiled the quiet night. By her accounts, it wasn’t often, but she couldn’t recall the last time she slept a full night through.
Stuffed bear tucked in her mouth; she watched television from the second-floor overlook although she rarely understood the shows her parents watched from the first-floor couch, it made her feel grown up. Part of the family.
The good family.
Tonight was the first time Cammie ventured downstairs from her second floor perch since that night.
The bad family.
Her arm healed. Crooked for weeks, but the hospital said it would straighten in time. Dad said it would straighten faster if she’d mind her own business and stay in bed at night.
Cammie rubbed the jagged scar on her forearm where the bone poked through to the outside. The doctor gave it a name, but Cammie didn’t want to remember. She only wanted one thing.
“I wanna watch TV with you and Mommy.” Cammie bent her knee, twisted her foot on her toes, and batted her big blue eyes at her dad.
“It’s late, Cammie. We have a busy day tomorrow. You need to rest up.” Her dad nudged her with his open palms. “After some early morning fun, your Mom and I have a meeting. Miss Lily is gonna babysit. I know how much fun you two have together.”
Cammie stroked her stuffed pink teddy bear. “I need to make sure Mommy is okay.”
“I'm all right, Sweetie. Please go back to bed like your father asked,” Mom said through her Kleenex mustache.
“But why were you crying?”
“Just something from the movie.” Mom kept one eye on the screen.
Cammie stared at the fifty-inch screen as a boy placed his hand on a train window. She didn’t understand why her parents watched in black and white when the colors worked perfectly well.
“His mommy is going to be mad at him for getting fingerprints on the window.” Cammie remembered all the times her mother yelled at her for doing the same thing, “And now the girl is doing it on the other side of the window! Oh, they are going to be in so much trouble.”
Tears streamed from Mom’s cheek darkening the light brown pillow in her lap.
A moment later both the girl and the boy on television were crying and shouting words to each other through the window.
“Are you sad because they are getting handprints on the window, Mommy?” Cammie asked.
Mom wiped away the tears from her face and then inhaled what Cammie estimated to be about a gallon of snot, “No, Honey. They were best friends who realized they were in love with each other, but they waited too long to tell each other. He’s on a train about to leave to fight some bad guys and is probably going to die. Them putting their hands on the clear window like that is their way of telling each other they are soul mates and will be together forever in each other’s heart. It’s so beautiful.”
Dad gathered Cammie in his arms, “Alright Peanut, that’s enough love lessons for you tonight. Let’s get you back into bed, so your mother can finish her movie and her bottle of wine, and your dad can get some sleep of his own.”
“Does Mommy have a soul mate, Daddy?” Cammie rested her head on her father’s shoulder.
“I think so, Baby Doll.” Her dad squeezed her tight, “Maybe more than one, but she doesn’t realize it. I’ll be happy when she does. We’ll all be happy when she does.”
The second floor wasn’t as lonely now that her dad slept in the bedroom next to Cammie’s instead of with Mom downstairs. At least tonight, Cammie didn’t think there would be slamming doors waking her.
"Rise and shine, Peanut!”
Cammie rubbed her eyes as she dragged her tattered bear down the stairs.
“Eat up quick. We need to get you dressed and down to the pond before it gets too crowded.” Dad flew around the kitchen. He banged pots and pans for no reason while Mom sat with her forehead in one hand and a steaming cup of coffee in the other.
“God, you can be such an asshole sometimes, Pete,” Mom muttered between gulps of coffee. “I should thank you for killing any second thoughts I had about our meeting this afternoon.”
“You should really bitch to tea, you know.” Dad spun away from Cammie as he spoke.
“What did you say to me?” Mom slammed her mug on the counter. Waves of black crested the rim, dribbling onto the marbled granite.
“Switch to tea.” Dad frisbeed a coaster across the counter. “And use a coaster.”
Cammie prepared her breakfast these days and headed for the pantry to grab her favorite leprechaun adorned cereal box.
“Ow!” She screamed, hopping in chaotic circles holding her toe.
“What happened?” Dad asked.
“I kicked an empty bottle.” Cammie continued hopping on one foot certain she now held the Guinness record for length of time.
“Looks like someone’s Mom decided to stay up late last night and couldn’t get the empty into the recycling bin.”
“Stow it, Pete.” Mom held the coffee close to her mouth but didn’t drink. She popped two little white pills in her mouth and swallowed hard, “Can we just get going?”
Cammie loved ice skating with her parents, although she couldn’t understand why they didn’t all hold hands any longer. A small part of her didn’t mind. She would be eight in a few months and could skate without any help these days. Stopping presented a challenge at times, but in her opinion, that’s why there were other skaters on the pond. Dad called them bumper cars.
Her parents trailed behind her the first time around the pond. The only words spoken came from Dad who warned her to stay away from the thin ice sign.
After two laps, Cammie noticed a little boy in a red jacket holding hands with both his mother and his father.
“Skating alone isn’t any fun,” she muttered.
Cammie dropped back and grabbed Mom’s hand. On the next pass, she grabbed Dad's hand and refused to let go of Mom’s.
“Isn’t this fun?” Cammie smiled.
“Yes, Sweetie,” Mom raised one side of her mouth.
“Although, not as fun as an entire bottle of wine,” Dad smirked. “A good bottle too. I believe I brought that back from Sonoma last year too.”
“Seriously, Pete? You’re going to bring that shit up again.” Mom skidded to a halt while Dad continued. Cammie stretched like Gumby between them but held on tight until everyone tumbled to the ice.
“If it were just one time, then no, I wouldn’t bring it up. But come on Claire, that’s what, the fourth bottle this week? Not to mention the girl’s day out last Sunday. I’m sure you were good for a few drinks then.” Dad released Cammie’s hand.
Mom fired back, “Maybe if you paid as much attention to me as you paid to your new secretary we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Cammie found her hands dangling alone.
“Well, maybe if you didn’t live in a movie, spending your days pining to your online friends about finding a soul mate, I wouldn’t have to.” Dad crossed his arms and huffed steam from his nose. Cammie imagined him an ancient Chinese dragon defending a massive pile of gold from would-be marauders.
Mom’s defeated shoulders dropped.
Dad pressed on, “Yeah, that’s right. I read your email. All of them! By the way, Y-O-U apostrophe R-E means you are while Y-O-U-R shows possession.”
“Well Y-O-U apostrophe R-E an asshole and you can shove Y-O-U-R wine up Y-O-U-R A-S-S!” Mom shouted.
Cammie couldn’t follow what was happening, but she felt uncomfortable and skated away from the pair along with every other visitor to the pond. The only thing comforting her now was the dark pink Lily Pulitzer jacket her grandmother bought her last year. She missed her teddy bear.
Words and gestured flew between Mom and Dad as Cammie skated off.
A commotion louder than the couple’s insults commanded a temporary truce.
“Pete, where’s Cammie?”
All four eyes searched the worn ice.
Dad stopped an untalented skater as he hurried toward the entrance, “What happened?”
“Someone fell through the ice. A kid maybe.” He tried to pull away, but Dad restrained him.
“Boy or girl? What did they look like?”
“I don’t know man. Young kid. Wearing a red or pink jacket.”
Mom pushed Dad to the ice, “This is all your fault!” She bolted into the crowd.
Dad tried to stand, but his skate pick caught in the ice during the fall and he twisted his knee awkwardly, “Damn ACL!”
“Cammie, hang on honey, I’m coming! Mommy’s coming!”
Dad watched as Mom pushed her way through the crowd. Two skaters fell, and Dad heard the ice groan.
Mom’s shrill faded as the commotion escalated. Dad saw people plunging branches into the water. Folks frantically waved to the shore beckoning for help.
Dad pounded on the ice, sobbing with each hammer fist strike.
The screams became inaudible, and he couldn’t tell where one rescuer began and another ended. Mom escaped his vision in the sea of jackets.
Again and again, he attempted to stand without success. Inch by inch he dragged himself toward the crowd until he caught a glimpse of a little girl out of the corner of his eye. He looked left and saw a girl Cammie’s size kneeling on the ice with mittens removed and a hand pressed against the transparent sheet of ice staring intently into the frigid waters below.
“Cammie?” Dad hesitated, “Cammie, is that you?”
Cammie watched as Dad crawled across the ice in her direction, “Hey, Daddy. I lost my jacket. Please don’t be mad.”
“It’s okay.” Dad sighed and the pain in his leg no longer mattered. “Peanut, are you okay? What are you doing?”
Cammie smiled wide and looked away from the ice for only a second, “Come see, Daddy. You’ll be so happy. Mommy and I are soul mates.”