“Daddy! The robins laid an egg!”
I chuckled as my daughter ran inside beaming from ear to ear. “Is that so?” I said as I lowered my book.
Amber nodded, her pigtails bouncing about. “Two eggs! They’re so small and pretty! Do you think they’ll hatch soon?” She asked.
I reached forward and ruffled her hair. “Probably, but you’ll have to be patient. You wouldn’t want the baby in the egg to come out too early, right?”
“Nope!” She shook her head, the pigtails now smacking her face. “I’ll be patient, Daddy! I hope there will be babies soon though- I wanna see the baby birds!”
Amber was crazy about animals, but especially birds. Probably because her mom had a few parakeets. I didn’t own any pets, but I figured I should encourage Amber’s interest in watching baby birds develop. A way to learn about the miracle of life, I suppose.
When Amber was at Sarah’s that weekend, I strung up a ladder that sat next to the bird’s nest. Even my heart fluttered as I saw the blue eggs nestled together. When Amber came back from her mom’s, she nearly screamed with joy when she saw what I had set up. But of course, I had a rule.
“You can only check once per day, Amber. We don’t want the birds to get frightened off. If they decide not to come back, the babies won’t hatch.”
Amber nodded seriously as I told her this. I trusted my daughter to listen to me, she wanted to see these birds hatch with all her heart. After kindergarten on the days she stayed with me she’d go up the ladder and take a quick peek. Afterward she’d run inside and tell me all about it. Of course, nothing much really changed. But Amber noticed every little thing, down to the position of the sticks and the amount of feathers. And she let me know every day.
On a Monday after a Mom weekend though, Amber came in sobbing, her cheeks patchy red and her eyes filled with tears. She just held out the broken eggshells in her hand and managed to tell me in between wails that the babies were nowhere to be found. The robins were still there, but the babies were gone.
I remembered seeing Ms. Green’s cat stalking across my yard the day previous, but I hadn’t paid it much thought. The eggs must have hatched and when Fluffy heard the cheeping, well, he decided to have a nice breakfast of baby birds.
Amber was inconsolable. I tried to comfort her, telling her that maybe they went somewhere else, a white lie to hide her from the cruelty of the real world, but there wasn’t much I could do. She went to her room and cried into her pillow. Even her favorite dinner, mac n cheese mixed with chopped up hotdogs, didn’t bring her out of her slump. I made sure to call Sarah and let her know that Amber might be a little depressed when she saw her Wednesday.
Thursday I saw a complete turnaround in Amber.
“Daddy! The birds laid more eggs!”
She shouted this as she ran indoors, her smile from ear to ear. I tried not to seem like I didn’t believe her, as I didn’t think robins laid more than once per season. Course, I don’t really care much about birds, so what do I know. “Really? What do they look like?” I asked.
“They’re like chicken eggs!” She pointed at the ones I was whisking in a bowl for breakfast. “Maybe a lil bigger! Are they special robins, daddy?”
Aha. I figured out pretty quickly this was Amber’s new coping mechanism. She’d had a few imaginary friends, what was a few imaginary eggs? “They might be, Amber, they just might be,” I said. I decided against discouraging her, I didn’t want to have her all sad about the dead babies again.
Amber came up with more and more unique stories about the eggs. How their shells were so smooth. How the mother robin could barely fit upon it to keep it warm, but of course doing her best. How the eggs would twitch and sometimes roll around the nest. It was pretty funny. Sarah would tell me about other ‘egg tales’, and I could just imagine her shaking her head as she recounted them.
“Daddy! The eggs grew fur!”
That was the hardest one to swallow. I was talking over video chat with a woman I’d met on a dating website. Marla did a much worst job than I did of hiding her amusement, but even I snorted a little. Amber and her egg tales. What would she think of next?
“Is that your daughter? What eggs are you talking about, sweetie?” She asked, smiling broadly.
Amber thankfully didn’t seem to realize why we were laughing. “The eggs the robins laid. They jump around and they have fur and they’re gonna hatch soon! I know it!” She chattered.
Marla hid her smile behind her hand. “Well, isn’t that sweet,” She said before turning the conversation back to where we should go out to dinner on Saturday. This helped me warm up to her a little more, seeing how she was nice to my daughter.
I really, really should’ve checked on the eggs myself. I never really thought to. After all, it was just my daughter’s imagination working overtime to entertain herself after the tragedy that happened to the first batch.
I really should’ve looked.
Sarah had come over for brunch today, planning on taking Amber for the afternoon because of a sleepover she was having with her friends tonight. The ink on the divorce papers had long since dried, we were much better friends than we ever were married. Amber had gone to check on her ‘eggs’. I’d just made a comment on how beautiful the weather was today when we heard Amber scream.
Not just a scream of accidentally tripping and scraping her knee, either. A high pitched, blood curdling scream that didn’t stop.
Sarah dropped her cup on the ground, the mug shattering. I nearly slipped on the spilled coffee, catching myself last second and barreling out the door.
Amber was running up, her face soaked with blood as she continued to scream. I had never seen so much blood in my whole life. I’d never wanted to see it spurting from the head of my daughter.
It looked like something had ripped off half her face, her cheek and lower eyelid completely gone. I could see her bottom most baby teeth. Blood had soaked half her dress and covered in dirt like she’d fallen on the ground.
Sarah screeched and grabbed Amber, cradling her in her arms as she bolted back inside, screaming at me to call 911.
I was dialing as I walked up to the tree. The ladder had toppled over, the ropes that once connected it frayed, no, chewed right through. I climbed up the tree and peered into the nest.
It smelled like burnt shit and was covered in blood. And inside were two little critters. Probably smaller than my hand, but not by much, covered in black fur and with several pairs of legs. Like giant tarantulas. Except they were still chewing on my daughter’s flesh.
I heard more screaming from indoors and my heart stopped.
Amber said there were three eggs.