“Who is this?”
I looked up from my computer and blinked.
The Princess was working on a collage for art class and had asked if she could go through some of my old pictures. She stood there, hand on hip, eyes narrowed, brandishing a an old photo of a man, accusation thick in her voice.
I looked up and blinked, mouth sort of slack, like one of the white-tailed does in our yard when she gets a whiff of the dog.
“Is this him?” she accused. “Is this the G-man?”
While she’s never met the man my friends refer to as the G-man, she’s heard stories about him. The FBI agent I dated before her dad was just a ghost to her, kind of like Racer X—a nameless, faceless legend. Until she’d found the picture.
I’m not a big fan of lying to The Steps, but I also know that they, like me when I was young, think their parents, grandparents, teachers and every other ancillary adult in their lives showed up whole and fully formed, like Lady GaGa, stepping out of her egg for a performance.
“Yes,” I said.
She studied the photo, her face puzzling it out, on the verge of tears and I wasn’t sure what to do. I remembered the time I asked my grandmother why she and my grandfather didn’t sleep together. I was stunned when Nana said, “We do—he knocks on my door at least once a week.”
I was horrified. Of course, I knew, in some amorphous, undefined way that my grandparents were once young and in love, but it was a cleaned up, Disney-fied love, with meadows and flowers and long, loving gazes, complete with a sappy soundtrack. I knew they still loved each other, but the actual fact that they had lives outside of the context of me threw me for a loop.
The Princess stood, staring at me. “Did you love him?” she said finally.
Again I sighed. “Yes.”
She stood, staring at the photo, and I could practically hear the gears in her pretty little head grinding, trying to figure our how this could happen—how it was that I had a life before she popped into it.
She looked up at me then, brows furrowed, eyes wide. “But what about Soul Mates? Aren’t you and my dad Soul Mates?”
Oh jeez. Why don’t they teach this class before you wind up with step kids?
“Sit down,” I said, and scootched out the chair next to mine and went and poured her a glass of iced tea.
Then I thought about it and said, “You know how your mom and dad were married when she had you and your brother”
Her eyes narrowed. “Yeah?”
“You think your mom and dad loved each other?” I asked, handing her the tea.
She accepted the glass and considered the question like it was a trap. “Yeah,” she hesitated.
“Do you think they still love each other?”
This caused a frown. “They still love me and Bone Head,” she finally said.
“Yes, they do,” I said. “And that means there’s a bond between them that can never be broken.”
“You mean they’re Soul Mates?” she said.
“Sweetheart,” I said, leaning in to give her a hug. “Soul Mates come in all shapes and sizes—even species, and I believe you get as many Soul Mates as you need.”
Her lip quivered as she considered this, and I could see the whole Cinderella-Sleeping Beauty Myth crash around her like a nuclear bomb. And my heart broke for her.
“I know,” I said, giving her a squeeze. “I know.”