“We only get to see one side of the moon,” I tell my daughter, pressing her fingers into two tiny fists and circling one around the other. We are sitting cross-legged together in the front garden, sky still dark, where Sheila would normally drive up and take her to school. We watch the moon’s last minutes above the tree line as the dampness of the grass begins to seep through my jeans.
She considers her hands for a long moment. One of her elbows is twisted around the other from trying to keep up with the circling lesson. “Like Sheila,” she says, suddenly satisfied. The name hurts to hear. “Sometimes she was doubly-faced, and only showed her nice one.”
“Two-faced,” I correct on automatic. “And where did you get that from?”
“It’s what you said. Last Friday, when you two took ages to make dinner.” She has the proud smile of remembering exactly what I taught her, exactly right.
“It’s the earth that keeps the moon facing just one way, you know,” I say. I slip the two rings I bought onto her two thumbs, her fingers too small to hold them, and I could hardly wear them, now. I tie the rings together with the string from an old broken bracelet in the dredges of my bag.
I explain about the earth’s tidal forces and there’s a shakiness in my voice I’ve been avoiding so far. It’s all knowledge I found on Wikipedia yesterday, holding my phone tightly in the office toilets, staring determinedly at the black letters to block out the tears. Planets and stars seem to be all she wants these days – wanting me to explain how everything holds together, still the age to think I’m doing any more than grasping onto the fractures.
“The moon can’t seem to decide what she wants to be,” she ponders, head tilted at the sky. “Getting bigger and smaller all the time like that.”
“That’s just what we see though,” I tell her. “Remember this one?”
“Because the moon’s all one size – we’re the ones without a strong enough light!” She is enthusiastic again.
I’m not. I don’t know how to say I should have seen that side of Sheila before she hurt us when all I want my daughter to hear is no one will ever hurt you.
“Can the moon see us properly when she looks back at us? Or does she just see one side?”
“I’m not sure the moon has eyes,” I say. “I’m not sure she really minds what is happening to us down here.”
“That’s not true!” She shoves me into the grass and I dramatically topple over. The moon flickers on and off between tree branches and dying leaves. “See, the moon just winked at me!”
“Really? Someone’s a special girl.” I draw her close into my arms, hugging her from behind, so my chin rests on her shoulder and we look up to the sky together. “That’s her way of showing you her dark
side – just for a moment.” Telling you that it’s okay, that she’s playing, that she isn’t just one side of shining good.
That you really should have known that, and not expected something impossible.
We wait in the driveway until I can no longer see the moon. In the end, we take the bus.