"Hey Pop. You know, the blue in the sky that is like ink and it comes every morning? It has a big brain so it knows when to come, and at night the blue stuff goes away and then you could see the space." She says, after being quiet the entire walk home.
"The clouds cover the planets in the day." She adds.
Her face is puffy, shoulders slack.
I take her every day at the same time, just after lunch and before the children take naps in a darkened room crammed with yellow beds. Lunch ended early today for some reason, and they went early. She thought I was not coming for her. Not even late, just not coming. I was actually right on time, but she was already a tangle of hair and hot tears, her body sloping into the shape of a wounded animal.
She dresses in silence, thrusting a hand out to me as we go down the stairs and outside.
She will make worlds for the rest of the day, pausing at times to explain to me who lives where, who sleeps where, who owns what car, what room the kitchen is, the bathroom, the laundry. She will pull a handful of clean white paper from next to my desk and draw in silence, pictures of princesses and evil mothers, of a grey cat on a leash, of a castle.
She will wake up crying late that night, standing in silhouette in the doorway and knocking lightly until I wake up. She is terrified of losing me, or being separated. She is scared of her mother, of harsh children, of being stuck here forever.
"I just want to go to Brooklyn." She whispers to me as I carry her back to bed and tuck her in.
I kiss her cheek, and smooth the hair from her face.
She stares at me for some time.
"We'll get there." I tell her.
She nods once.
I put an old film on, the original Charlotte's Web. Sitting next her, I hold her tiny hand. I think of when I was about her age, and how I wrote a letter to E.B. White with a drawing I had made of a pig, or maybe a horse. I remember the letter that arrived months later, the paper translucent and almost pink. It was typed, thanking me for the drawing and saying how nice it was to hear from me. It was signed in tall loose letters. I remember carrying it around with me, ready to prove it existed.
"I'm gonna watch with my eyes closed." E tells me, and her face slumps against the pillow.
I sit there for some time, until her breathing shifts.
Her hand goes loose and I slide my fingers from hers.
The next morning, there is a film crew downstairs. We watch them from the kitchen window as a cold wind whips the trees around. A woman stands in a dress as lights are adjusted, as cameras roll back and forth on a set of silver track.
"What does illustrated mean?" She asks me, standing on a chair to see what is happening.
"It is when you draw something, to show what it is." I say.
She nods once, satisfied.
"You know." She says. "If there was a film of us it would be called Project of Life."
"OK." I say.
"Or maybe, Book of Life." She adds. "But then, we would have to make it."