. . . Staring down in utter surprise, I watched as my daughter extracted her face from my hip and gazed up at me in excitement.
"Can we get some pastries, pleeeeeease?! They look so delishous!" Her eyes rolled to the back of her head as she dramatically leaned back to emphasize her point.
I couldn't help the laugh that escaped at her antics and, momentarily, I forgot where I was. Her face grew serious again. "You haven't seen them?!"
"I have, love, I have!" Chuckling, I squatted down so I could be closer to her height. "You're right. They do look delicious! We can get some in a bit. And,"
I leaned in conspiratorially and dropped my voice to a dramatic whisper. "Maybe we'll even get ice cream afterward!"
She let out a gasp and her eyes grew to the size of saucers as she looked from me to the person now behind me and squealed.
"We're going to get ice cream!"
It took me a moment to realize who she was talking to and then I froze, glancing across the street momentarily before I steeled myself and rose to face her once again.
I could feel my daughter bouncing excitedly next to me as I watched the shock contort into a strangled compassion as she plastered a smile on her face and looked away from me and down at my daughter.
She lowered herself to the little girl's level and I heard her release a breath before her features truly softened, seeming to give in to the adorable bundle of excitement in front of her.
"Ice cream and pastries, huh? That sounds like a ton of fun!" Her smile was genuine now and she spoke with such sweetness.
"You know, they have some delishous-" She imitated my daughter's pronunciation and I laughed. Grinning, she continued. "-croissants here. The chocolate ones are heavenly. But! Do you like strawberries?"
My daughter nodded her head vigorously. "Mmhm!"
"Well, then, you have to try the strawberry croissants. They are my absolute favorite!"
Squealing again, my daughter began to tug on my clothing, looking up at me expectantly. Laughing I ran my hand through her hair. "Yes, Rose, we can get whatever croissants you would like."
She cheered and resumed her bouncing before a question had the both of us pausing. "You're name is Rose?"
I closed my eyes and mentally scolded myself once again.
"Yeah! What's your name?"
"Well isn't that something. My name is Rose too!"
Her hand had come back to the medallion again and she only glanced my way briefly before focusing on my daughter again, smiling softly at the loud gasp and the drawled "Nooooo!"
I could see the revelation shook her and I had the sudden urge to launch into an explanatory rant of my own before I realized there's no easy way to explain that.
So I bit my tongue and watched as little Rose pulled herself completely away from me in order to grip Rose's shoulders.
"That's so awesome!" She yelled before looking back at me. "Isn't that awesome?! We have the. Same. Name!" Rose and I laughed and all I could do was nod in response.
"Tell you what," Rose began, regaining the attention of her namesake. "I want you to have something."
Confusion quickly gave way to surprise as she reached behind her neck and began to lift the medallion over her head. Before I could question her she started talking again.
"Someone very..." She hesitated, mulling over her choice of words. "Important to me gave this to me a long time ago." With ease, she slipped the chain over little Rose's head.
"They told me it would protect me and keep me safe. Always. No matter where I was." She glanced at me slyly.
With nimble fingers, Rose picked up the medallion to get a better look at it and stared awestruck. "What is it?" She questioned the older woman, turning it around in her hand.
"It's a St. Christopher medal. He... protects people on their journeys. And with such an awesome name like Rose I bet you are going to have a ton of adventures in your life!"
Not taking her eyes away from the pendant, little Rose cooed "So cool!" and turned toward me, thrusting it in my direction, seemingly too awestruck to say anything more.
Struggling against the lump beginning to form in my throat, all I could manage was "That is very cool, Rose. What do we say?"
Her eyes shot open wide before she rotated and launched herself into Rose's arms, squeezing tightly.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" She yelled excitedly, giggling as she pulled away and began admiring the pendant again.
I could feel tears begin to well up in my eyes and struggled to keep them at bay as I glanced back to the woman who once meant so much, I gave her the protective amulet right from around my neck.
Knowing that she kept it all these years, wore it all this time, imagining that implied that it meant just as much to her as it did me, if not even more.
The fact that she so willingly gave it to my daughter without even a single query for clarification. The gratitude and admiration that seized me felt almost too overwhelming.
When she finally stood and looked my way, smiling in understanding, I nearly broke.
"Hey, Rose," I croaked, turning my attention back to my daughter.
"Why don't you go back with Momma and when I'm done I'll come get you so we can get those pastries, okay?" She nodded in response and began to walk away. "Careful crossing the street, please!"
"Okayyyyyy!" She shouted, glancing at every corner before prancing back across the street.
I sighed, allowing my gaze to linger on the patient, understanding eyes of my wife, who was still waiting on the corner from which I had come.
She smiled reassuringly before her attention went back to our daughter, who seemed to be ecstatically presenting her new adornment.
"She is absolutely beautiful," Rose spoke softly behind me, breaking the silence that had settled between us.
I looked back at her hesitantly and opened my mouth to speak, but she threw her arms around me before I had the chance.
Caught off guard, my arms hung loosely at my sides as I tried to comprehend what was happening.
"Thank you," she whispered as she squeezed one last time before pulling away. Tears shone in her eyes again. "It was great to see you again."
And now she smiled and I felt that lump lodge itself firmly in my throat. "Take care of yourself. And your family."
Squeezing my arms, she turned and began walking away while my mind scrambled to catch up once again.
"Rose!" The declaration surprised us both. She stopped but did not turn to face me. "Thank you." I watched her shoulders tense. "I hope from now on...
You can continue to live your life for yourself." Her shoulders began to shake and I barely heard the stifled sob before she looked my way with watery gratitude.
"You bet your ass I will!"
And with that, she squared her shoulders and walked away, a confidence in her stride I'm not sure I had ever seen before, and emotional relief came over me in a strong wave as I laughed hard enough to double over.
When I felt a strong hand against the small of my back a few moments later, everything suddenly felt lighter and I turned so quickly to face my family they both stepped back in shock.
My face hurt from the size of my grin, which only made it grow wider.
"So!" I exclaimed, clapping my hands together. "How about some pastries!"
----- The End
----- (c) SabrinaS, 2020