Before the end of the day, Eleanor would learn about death.
Karter watched his daughter’s chubby legs as she wobbled steadily on the grass, waving her arms up and babbling in her toddler language. He leaned back in the patio chair and sighed.
“Do you even remember being that innocent?” he asked.
Across the table, his first wife didn’t even look up from her crossword. “Hmm?”
Karter leaned away from the mother of his daughter and watched the little girl toddling, half-running. She was barely two. Two, and she was already running. Soon, he imagined, she would be running after boys. Or girls. He’d love her either way.
Innocence was such a terrifying and fragile thing. He couldn’t take his eyes off the girl. Her hair, blonde and frail, was done up in pink bows. Her eyes were so dark that they looked black in pictures. When she smiled, she would show off her gums and the small, white eruptions of enamel as though they were the most magnificent things in the world. In Karter’s world, they were. That little girl had him spellbound.
While he watched, Eleanor tripped on something Karter couldn’t see. He was on his feet before she’d even landed, and was speed-walking over to her before her face crumbled.
“Hey, hey, sweetie, no need to –”
Then he saw what she’d tripped over.
A bird, half-rotting. Blood ringed its eyes.
Eleanor’s lip trembled and her eyes started to fill with salt water. Karter quickly turned her head away but he couldn’t mistake the change in her gaze.
“Shi–” He caught himself. He turned Eleanor’s head away and muttered soothing words that he wasn’t even sure she understood.
At the patio, his first wife didn’t look up.