Four years have passed since Kiki came to live with Case and Ira, and the adoption still hasn’t gone through. Because Case won’t lie to her, and because of the social worker lady’s visits a few times each year, and because she’s a super good eaves-dropper, she knows she’s a foster child, and she knows that this means that where she is now might not be her forever home, and Case and Ira might not always be her really-tall-people. She could get taken away. She knows this.
It’s sad for her because she loves it here. This is her home, even if it’s not her forever home, and Case and Ira are her tall people, even if they’re not her birth mom and dad.
But she feels it’s even more sad for Case and Ira, because they love her. They tell her that every day, and she can see it in how they look at her, which is like how they look at each other, and she can taste it in the food that Case makes, especially the veggie dumplings with the just-so crinkled sides. It would be too sad for them if she ever had to leave, and she can’t bear that they would ever be that sad.
They don’t force her to always be happy. They leave room so that she can be sad sometimes. She thinks that, being an orphan, and a foster kid, and not having a forever home, it’s only natural that she be sad sometimes.
When she’s sad, they don’t try to talk her out of it. They just create this warm space, like a cloud she can live in, but not a bad cloud, a warm one, that glows pink, like sunset-pink–rose–inside, and she can stay in there until that warm pink rosy glow is all inside of her, and then she only smiles. That’s the kind of space they make for her.
She asks them sometimes how her mom and dad died. “From gentrification,” Case says. And she comes to learn that that means having to leave your home and get a new job and getting in an accident and then through medicine and drinking somehow dying. And she can understand that if one person dies, another might, too. She thinks it must mean that her mom and dad loved each other a lot.
“Angels are made of light,” Ira told her once.
So when she sees the flame of the candle, she thinks it’s her mom and dad. She always has, as long as she remembers. And she talks to them that way, too, through the flame.
“I’m doing really well here,” she whispers to them in the candle-flame one night. “I’m thriving, that’s what the social worker lady tells Cay-Cay and Ira.”
The candle flickers, as it always does when she talks to them in it.
“Is it true you can make wishes come true?” she asks them for the hundredth time. “I think it must be. I read that somewhere. If so, will you make my wish come to be? Will you make this my forever home?”
She waits and watches for an answer. Maybe it’s just the wind, but the flame begins dancing, and in her heart of hearts she hears a promise of “yes.”
“Thank you,” she whispers. “Cay-cay says that you will always be my mom and dad, no matter what happens. And Ira says that you are angels, always watching over me. And I think, if I can live here always, and grow up here, that you will feel really happy and proud of the person I grow up to be. You can’t help that, right? Cause I know how I feel in my heart, and since you’re there, you know how I feel, too.”
“Would you like a story, Kiki? Or would you prefer to sit alone?” Ira calls from the doorway.
“Oh, a story!” Kiki replies. “Is it Heidi?”
It is, and it is also Kiki’s favorite story, this little tale of an orphan girl who finds a new home in the mountains with a stern man who comes to love her.
“‘God is good to all of us,'” Ira reads. “‘He knows what we need better than we do. And just because he thinks it is better not to give you what you want right now doesn’t mean he isn’t answering you. You shall have what you ask for but not until the right time comes.‘”
“Do you think that’s true?” Kiki asks Ira.
“Well, I’m not sure I believe in God,” Ira responds, “or at least, not that type of wish-fulfilling God. More like, you know, a universal consciousness, the spark of divine. But anyway, yeah, I think that principle is true, the bit about the right-timing, and all.”
“I think so, too,” Kiki says. “I think sometimes, things are what we think are bad–and maybe they really are bad–but it’s not like the end of the universe. Sometimes, it’s just that we need a little bit of time, and then something really good happens.”
“Like we have to get ready for it,” Ira adds. “Ding! Time’s right! Cake’s done! Take the cake out too early and it’s a gooey mess!”
Case joins them.
“I don’t have cake in the oven,” he says. “Are you hungry?”
“No,” Ira and Kiki giggle.
“We were just talking about timing adjustments,” Ira says, “of the universe.”
“All things at the right time, eh?” Case asks.
Kiki has stopped listening to the words. She’s bathing in the sounds of the warbles, and that pink-rosy-glow forms a safe bubble over them and the light inside swishes and swirls, and she thinks that if anything is forever, and she actually knows that nothing is, but if anything were, it would be this. This moment of rosy glow.