Little Bit walked around the corner of the building with the other first graders; their line orderly and quiet. I leaned against a concrete pillar a few yards ahead and waited. Little Bit walked with her head down as if counting the cracks in the sidewalk. Finally, she noticed me.
I'll never forget her reaction. She broke from the line at a dead run, arms extended, and she screamed, "Papa, Papa." Little Bit jumped into my arms and I lifted and wrapped my arms around her little body. She was warm and smelled good and I planted at least a hundred kisses on her face and neck and I was happy for the first time in over a month.
As I held her she screamed, "Papa I love you, Papa I love you," over and over. The line of children had stopped and stood quietly as we were reunited. The teacher smiled. I almost, almost, lost it.
After what seemed hours she whispered in my ear, "Papa, you can let me down now." She then walked over to Birth Mother and gave her a hug. They kissed. I smiled.
We sat on an outside bench and talked. I told her Papa and Nana and her mother had not forgotten her and still loved her. I explained we were hard at work on visitation and a means to normalize her life. Little Bit said, "I know, Papa."
Then, "Papa, am I still the light of your life?"
Her mother broke. I took Little Bit back into my arms and said, "You'll always and shall ever be the light of my life. I love you, little girl. Papa will always love you."
"I know, Papa."
She's lost weight. Her hair was a mess. I asked her several times if she was well, okay, was she in pain or hurt. "I'm okay, Papa. When can I go home with you and Nana and mommy?" I felt like a knife had been driven into my heart. But, I smiled and said, "Very soon, Honey, very soon."
I asked if she understood why she had to stay with her father. She said, "Yes, he's mad, Papa." I then asked a few other questions. Our time was brief. I took a picture. She asked, "Please, Papa, don't put it on your blog. I'm not pretty enough." I promised, and I will not.
With one last kiss and hug she was gone.
It was a long walk back to my truck.