“Emma!” I called as I opened the caramel-colored door. The room brought back so many sweet memories of my baby and I, but of course there were a few sour ones as well.
But enough of that, because there sat my love, drawing as always.
“Baby, I'm back,” I chirped at the preoccupied child, who turned around at lightning speed as she recognized my voice.
“Mommy!” she excitedly called, jumping up from the cream-colored carpeted floor and running into my waiting arms.
“Oh, I've missed you so much,” I cooed, tightening my hold around her small figure in a bear hug as she wrapped her arms around my neck.
“I missed you more, Mommy.” She giggled as she pulled away from me so she could shoot me a ÍÍhappy and excited smile.
I chuckled at her behavior as I lifted her up in my arms.
“How was your stay with Grandma and Grandpa?” I asked as I made my way out of the beige-colored room and into the sunlit hallway.
“It was nice. Grandma took me out for some ice cream on Monday,” she answered happily, her excitement making me smile as warmth filled my chest.
“Really?” I asked. “Maybe you and I can go out for some ice cream later, too. What do you think?”
“Can we, Mommy?” she asked hopefully.
“Definitely.” I reassured, gently squeezing her at my side.
“Mommy!” She giggled, squirming in my arms.
“What?” I feigned innocence.
“You're naughty, Mommy. Your hug almost killed me,” she chastised, folding her arm in an attempt to look stern.
“I'm sorry, my love. Maybe I should stop hugging you then,” I sadly sighed.
“What!” she dramatically exclaimed. “Never.”
She shook her head, wrapping her little arms around my neck, pulling me into what I assumed was her way of comforting me.
“You're right. I would never,” I smiled, affectionately kissing her chubby cheek.
Her mood suddenly changed as her eyes darkened, her now-sad eyes connecting with my concerned and confused ones.
“Mommy, will you be leaving again?” she softly asked.
All the enthusiasm was gone from her eyes, replaced with shyness and caution that made me feel guilty, even though it couldn't be helped. I had to work so she could have a good future and a happy life.
“Nope, I'm not going anywhere anytime soon,” I promised with a reassuring smile.
“Promise?” She couldn't hide the hope in her eyes.
“I promise.” I smiled, raising my pinkie finger to intertwine with her much smaller one. Her toothy grin reached her once again glowing eyes.
“Let's go say bye to Grandma and Grandpa before they leave,” I said, tickling her sides as she rewarded me with loud, high-pitched giggles that ricocheted across the empty hallway.
“Mommy, stop!” she forced out, clearly out of breath.
I stopped tickling her, allowing her to bury her face in my neck as I made my way to the staircase.
I headed in the direction of the living room, where I heard the TV quietly playing.
“Hey, Mom. Hey, Dad,” I greeted as I entered the living room. “Are you guys ready to go?”
“Hey, sweetheart. Yeah, we are. We were just waiting on you two so we could say goodbye.” Mom softly sighed.
“Oh, sorry to keep you guys waiting. And thanks for looking after Emma on such short notice. I know that you were supposed to be going on vacation.”
I smiled apologetically at them, even though I knew they would have loved nothing more than to be with Emma anyway.
My mom brushed me off with a wave of her hand before smiling.
“Oh hush, it was no problem at all. We really don't mind. She’s our only grandbaby, after all. Goodbye, Emma darling. I'll miss you so much,” she cooed.
The soft sound of sniffles alerted me of my daughter’s silent cries, instinctively making me start running my hand down her back comfortingly.
My sweet love really hated goodbyes, but I didn’t blame her because I didn’t like them, either. She definitely took after me in that department.
“Oh, Emma,” my dad said softly from the couch as he stood up and walked over toward me.
He gently took Emma from my arms before walking away with her, leaving Mom and me alone in the living room.
“Let's go outside. I have no doubt he's taking her there for a private talk,” chuckled my mom, looping her arm through mine, guiding me out of the living room and toward the already-open main door.
Who knew what my dad said to Emma? Whatever it was, she ran in my direction with a smile now beaming from her once-sad face.
I looked at him expectantly, just for him to brush me off with a shrug.
“What did he say to her?” I asked my mom, hoping that she knew my father well enough to answer.
“Honey, I'm not psychic,” she said, patting my back before making her way to her husband.
“Won't you give us a hug before we leave, sweetheart?” she asked over her shoulder.
I gaped at her but walked over to them, nonetheless.
“You two are a strange couple, you know that?” I asked.
“Oh, sweetie, one day we'll be saying that about you, too,” smirked my mom knowingly.
“You two will always take the prize,” I shot back.
My dad chuckled before pulling me into a bear hug like he always does.
“Take care, Pumpkin,” he said, placing a kiss on the top of my head.
I couldn't help but nuzzle into my dad's chest. He always filled me with a sense of safety.
“Thanks, Daddy, I will. You and Mom should take care too,” I said, wrapping my arms around him in a hug.
“You've always been a daddy's girl, but at least you stayed a loyal mama's girl too,” chuckled my mom from beside us.
I pulled away from my dad to smile at my mom before pulling her in for a group hug.
“I'll miss you guys,” I softly whispered as tears burned my eyes and threatened to cloud my vision.
“This is where Emma gets her emotional side from,” teased my mom, making me giggle.
“It can't be helped, Mom, Besides, I also got it from you,” I teased.
“But when was the last time you saw me cry?” she dramatically gasped. We broke apart the group hug so she could kiss my cheek adoringly. “We love you, honey. Both of you.”
“We love you too, Mom,” I replied, pulling her into one last hug before letting her go.
Dad helped Mom into the car before climbing in, just as Emma ran back to my side.
“Bye, Grandpa! Bye, Grandma!” She happily waved at them even though we couldn't clearly see them through the tinted windows.
The car horn sounded just as the car passed through the open gates and turned left.
I looked down at my little angel and asked, “How about we go watch a movie with some popcorn and slushies?”
“Oooh, yes!” she eagerly agreed.
Holding out my hand, I guided her back to the house and closed the doors behind us. The deafening silence made me frown as I quietly sighed.
I already missed my parents.
I made my way into the kitchen, finding my chef, Penny, and my housekeeper, Blake, chatting away.
They immediately stopped their conversation at my entry as they greeted us with warm smiles that matched their kind eyes.
“Good morning, Miss and Emma,” they said with small bows of their heads.
“Hello, Miss Blake, and hello, Miss Penny,” Emma answered.
I had taught Emma to respect all elders, including the house staff, from a young age, and she has never disappointed me.
“Good morning to you too, ladies,” I smiled. “Well, don’t mind me. I’m just here to make us some popcorn.”
Chef Penny instantly turned pale. She profusely shook her head at me, making me pout even as I swallowed the laugh that threatened to break out of my throat.
“Oh, that won’t be necessary, Miss Williams. I’d gladly make it for you.” She nervously smiled.
“Oh, come on, Penny. I won’t burn anything, I promise.” I innocently batted my eyelashes.
“Oh, no, I insist,” she tried to persuade me.
And that was all it took for the laugh I had been so desperately trying to hold back to break free, because I had no intention of making the popcorn.
I already knew that Penny wouldn't let me. She's seen firsthand just how talented I am in the art of cooking.
“I'm just kidding, Penny. I knew that you wouldn't let me,” I admitted with a giggle.
“You were so right to assume that,” she mumbled, the color coming back to her cheeks as relief filled her warm eyes.
Penny is only ten years my senior and Blake is only a year older, so we all get along quite well. We're more like roomies, to be honest.
“Well, Emma and I are gonna be in the movie room,” I said, turning around with a chuckle. “Wait, where is Emma?” I asked, noticing that she had disappeared.
“She's probably in the movie room already,” answered Blake as she pulled the popcorn from the pantry.
“I better go entertain her. Thanks, you two.” I made my way out of the kitchen and down the hall.
Walking into the movie room, I found my maid, Cleo, helping Emma with the slushy machine.
“Hey, Cleo,” I greeted, making the girl jump in surprise.
“Miss Williams!” she shakily said as her hand went to her chest. “You scared me.”
“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you.” I smiled apologetically as Emma ran to me.
“Mommy, Miss Cleo helped me make a slushy. Do you want me to show you how?” she excitedly offered.
“Sure, honey.” I smiled.
Cleo bowed at me before leaving the room.
“So, what would you like to watch, my angel?” I asked.
“Moana!” she exclaimed.
“As you wish, my little princess.” I smiled, tapping my finger on her nose.
“Mommy!” She giggled, scrunching her nose at me.
“I have your popcorn, Miss Williams,” announced Blake as she walked into the room.
“Yay!” yelled Emma, running to Blake for her popcorn.
“Thank you, Miss Blake.” She plopped down on one of the couches in the small theater. “Mommy, can I open it?”
“Sure, sweetheart,” I replied before turning to Blake for the rest of the popcorn.
“Blake, could you please prepare a picnic basket for us? I'll be taking Emma out after lunch.”
“Of course, Miss.” She smiled before turning to leave the room.
“Okay, let's get the movie started. Oh, but first, let me prepare my slushy,” I remembered.
I walked the couple of steps to the slushie machine and made us raspberry-flavored slushies. I placed them in the chair cup holders before sitting down and opening one packet of popcorn in my favorite flavor, salt and vinegar. A moan of delight escaped my lips as I popped one in my mouth. Only then did I turn to the movie that had already begun; Cleo must have put it on earlier.
Emma and I munched on our snacks and watched the entire movie, singing along to the appropriate scenes and just having fun.
Sometime during the movie, Emma plopped down onto my lap, and we continued bonding over more Disney movies.