Your house glows at night like everything inside is on fire. The drapes she chose for the windows look like linen. Expensive linen. The weave is loose enough that I can usually read your mood. I can watch the girl flip her ponytail while she finishes homework. I can watch the little boy toss tennis balls at the twelve-foot ceiling while your wife lunges around the living room in leggings, reversing the day’s mess. Toys back in the basket. Pillows back on the couch.
Tonight, though, you’ve left the drapes open. Maybe to see the snow falling. Maybe so your daughter could look for reindeer. She’s long stopped believing, but she will pretend for you. Anything for you.
You’ve all dressed up. The children are in matching plaid, sitting on the leather ottoman as your wife takes their picture with her phone. The girl is holding the boy’s hand. You’re fiddling with the record player at the back of the room and your wife is speaking to you, but you hold up a finger – you’ve almost got it. The girl jumps up and your wife, she sweeps up the boy, and they spin. You lift a drink, Scotch, and sip it once, twice, and slink from the record like it’s a sleeping baby. That’s how you always start to dance. You take him. He throws his head back. You tip him upside down. Your daughter reaches up for Daddy’s kiss and your wife holds your drink for you. She sways over to the tree and adjusts a string of lights that isn’t sitting quite right. And then you all stop and lean toward one another and shout some- thing in unison, some word, perfectly timed, and then you all move again – this is a song you know well. Your wife slips out of the room and her son’s face follows robotically. I remember that feeling. Of being the needed one.