Tomorrow morning, Inara goes back to New York -- but tonight there was this:
After watching some TV on the couch together, followed by a little collaboration on a coloring book that features cartoons of dogs (whenever Inara wants to do this, she gets the book, looks up and announces, "Draw puppy?") and a couple of bites of what she excitedly called a "yummy salad," I finally decided to put my daughter down for the night.
I picked Inara up, carried her into her room and set her gently in bed -- along with a cup of milk, her blanket and stuffed bunny -- then laid down next to her on the floor. I listened to her fidget for a few minutes, then from out of the darkness came a tiny voice.
Nothing. She didn't respond at all, just went back to sucking on her sippy cup.
A few moments later, there was the voice again, even quieter this time.
"Yes, honey. I'm here."
Even though she couldn't see it, I gave her a warm and reassuring smile -- one fueled by pure contentment.
Again a little later: "Daddy?"
"Yes, Inara. I'm still here. I'll always be here."
After a while, the voice grew smaller and smaller -- its entreaties further and further apart. But each time she called out for me, I answered, until she stopped altogether and the only sound left in the room was her steady breathing.
This is the best Saturday night I've had in years.