‘'Maria are you okay?"
The teacher asked getting close to the little girl, noticing how oddly quiet she had been that day, whilst the rest of the students were busy with their drawings. Maria was always talking, not in an excessive way. But that day, she spent most of time distracted, looking out of the window.
Once the teacher got close, she finally got the girl’s attention.
“What is a scar?’’ She heard one of her favorite students ask with concern in her tiny eyes. She wasn’t supposed to have favorites but she couldn’t deny how much she liked the kid and her parents, considering how easy they were to deal with it.
“Scar is a mark that stays in your skin after a wound is healed. Why?’’
She could see Maria’s mind working on something after her explanation.
‘’Did you know my dad has a scar?’’
Actually, the teacher knew about it. She didn’t know the details but she knew that Dr. Melendez was in some kind of accident in the past. Something related to an earthquake.
“Yes, I did"
“Is my dad gonna die?’’ This time the question was followed by tears that broke her heart. Maria was just a toddler; she shouldn’t be worrying about this stuff.
“Of course not, sweetie why would you say that?’’
“Cause this morning I heard mommy talking about how big his scar was.’’
‘’Maria, you can only have a scar, if you have a healed wound. It’s actually a good sign, it means you are no longer hurt.’’
After she heard that, Maria wiped her own tears a hugged her teacher - “Thanks’’ - the little girl said, continuing to work on her drawing.
At the end of the day, both Dr. Melendez and Dr. Browne came to pick up their daughter. This would have been unusual in the past, but now it was routine, considering Dr. Browne was approaching the end of her second pregnancy and Dr. Melendez absolutely refused to leave her side. The teacher decided that would be good to talk to them.
“Good afternoon, how are you?’’
“I’m fine, just a little tired’’ Claire said smiling. “Everything okay today?’’ she asked, still smiling whilst looking to Maria running to her father’s arms, this time, without the daily session of being tossed in the air by him.
“Actually, there is something I think you both should know.’’ Now she had Dr. Browne’s full attention. “It’s nothing very serious but Maria asked me today what is a scar....and if.... her dad was going to die.’’
She waited while the doctor was processing the new information. After a couple minutes, Claire answered with an unhappy smile ‘’So she heard about it.’’
“Yes, she did. But don’t be too worried about it, I told her that scars mean you are out of the woods.’’
When the teacher said it, she saw Claire wiping a silent tear, whilst Maria was laughing, still playing with her dad.
“Thank you so much. Anyway, I'll talk to her about it tonight.’’
“No worried, you have a good night.’’
The family waved her goodbye and she knew that soon, the little girl wouldn’t worry about it anymore.
Later that evening, after Claire told Neil what happened, away from their daughter, they decided to talk to her. Claire expected a lot of things coming from Maria, jealousy due the upcoming arrive of her little brother, behavior problems at school considering how much her and Neil worked, even a small accident. She definitely didn’t expect her daughter to experience the fear that devastated her a few years ago though.
That evening, bedtime story was replaced by a real story.
“Maria, there is anything you would like to ask us?’’ Clare said sitting in one side of her bed, since the other one was already occupied by Neil, who were looking to their daughter lying between them.
“Are you sure?’’
The couple exchanged a look, and Claire asked herself where did her daughter’s tendency of hiding her feelings came from.
“Baby, we know something is bothering you. You didn’t even wanna play today.’’ Neil said, and Claire could tell his heart was broken.
“I wanna hear a story.’’ The toddler said, still refusing to talk about what was bothering her.
“Ok then. This time I will tell you a story that happened to me.’’ Once he said that, Claire felt an almost painful kick next to her rib cage. In both of her pregnancies, every time Neil started to talk, she could feel her babies kick, which was something that annoyed her but filled him with pride. She slightly moved to a more comfortable position, but he noticed, and would probably ask her about it later.
‘’Once upon a time, a few years ago, when I wasn’t married to mommy yet, I went to a party. But there was an earthquake that night.’’ Whilst he was telling the story, Claire notice Maria’s eyes becoming more and more apprehensive and she almost considered for a second that maybe that’s wasn’t a good idea. But she trusted Neil, especially when it was about his parenting skills.
“That night, because of the tremor’’ - And now he was tickling the girl, which relieved the tension - ‘’a lamp fell on daddy, which made me very sick and in a need for surgery.’’
And now Maria was tense again because even though she was a kid, she already understood that surgeries were a serious thing. Claire couldn't help but feel stressed too whilst having flashbacks of the worst night of her life.
“It wasn’t easy for daddy, and it hurt a lot.’’ Now everybody was tense, especially Neil, who suffered the most. Even the baby stopped moving in Claire’s belly, like if he was paying attention too.
“But mommy was there, and she helped daddy recover. Actually, she saved daddy.’’
Maria looked at Claire with a new type of spark in her eyes. Claire thought that maybe it was pride.
‘’Mommy saved you?’’
“Yes baby, she did. And she helped me recover.’’
‘’Mommy you are so cool’’
And now the tension was gone. Everyone was laughing at the little one's enthusiasm when she got up to hug Claire whilst saying that.
‘’And that’s why I have this scar here Maria.’’ Neil finished his story and lifted up his shirt, showing their daughter the mark on his belly, as she climbed up onto his lap.
“Does it hurt?’’ she asked, softly touching the scar with her tiny fingers.
“Not anymore, like I said, mommy saved me.’’ Claire knew that in that, he wasn’t talking just about the earthquake anymore. She knew it because she felt that way too.
“Isn’t weird that a lamp did that?’’
Neil and Claire were laughing. The irony of the situation was something they joked about a lot once he was out of the woods, an irony that even a kid could notice.
‘’It is baby. But everything is fine now. You don’t have to worry about it, cause I’m gonna be here for a long time okay?
‘’Okay.’’ Maria said yawning, finally relaxing. Claire felt another kick, and she knew then it was bed time. After Neil kissed their daughter good night and took her hand so they could go end the day in their own room, she felt the truth in his words.
He would stay for a long time in this family.