charlotte woke up crying. her father sits at the end of the couch.
his voice is soft, his breath is sweet. the party is quieting down, but there are still adults talking downstairs.
charlotte is seven. she dreamt that the house was on fire.
she watched from the street. no one else made it out. father, mother, little brother, dog.
he turns off the tv. she’s sleeping in her mother’s office, where it would be quieter. her brother can sleep through anything.
“the house is not going to burn down. we have smoke alarms. and we’re very careful.”
“but that boy’s house burned down.”
“the boy on tv. he was asleep. he didn’t come out.”
“what were you watching?”
“i was sleeping.”
“before you were sleeping.”
“it was on the news.”
“ahhh.” he shakes his head. looks at the tv. then back at his daughter.
“what is it.”
“you’re too young for the news.”
“i wanted to know what’s happening.”
“the news isn’t what’s happening. it’s more like a scary story.”
charlotte slides the covers up to her eyes. her father smiles. he’s had a few drinks. how can he explain?
“is the world a scary place.”
he thinks about it. it is a scary place. but not in the way she means.
“the world is a beautiful place. and you make it more beautiful.”
the covers slide back down. she’s smiling.
“will you talk to me, so i can fall asleep?”
“you don’t find me interesting?”
she giggles. yawns. she’s already three quarters of the way there.
he regrets not bringing his drink with him.
“while we’re on the subject, let me tell you about the news. but remember, just because something is scary, it doesn’t mean you have to be afraid.”
his wife will find him a half hour later. asleep. she’ll let him be. they look so sweet together.