The house is silent. They're finally asleep.
I step outside to retrieve a few rogue items from the laundry line before it rains – still-damp swimming suits that shiver sand when I shake them, towels slung up without clothespins. There's a pair of shoes in the grass.
It's darker than a usual 8:30 because the clouds cover the sun's final salutations. The wind is kicking up, rifling through my hair but I don't know how it can possibly press through all this humidity.
A kickball jostles in the grass, threatening to roll down the driveway when the storm says hello. The cartoon characters printed on the ball's face smile at me plasticly and those huge, unseeing eyes somehow sear through my skin. I pick up the ball and tuck it close to the house. Safe. Though I'm certain neither of the girls would miss it if it ran away.
Inside the house, I gather up the remains of the day – bedtime books left on the couch, a stuffed animal on the kitchen table, baby toys trailing like tell-tale crumbs around the house. And a doll lying facedown on the living room carpet. She breaks my heart for some reason, positioned like that. I reorient her gently in the toy basket, face up. On top. So she can breathe? I'm not sure why.
Everything is cleaned up, set up for a new day.
The silence – such a unicorn during the day I sometimes want to scream – suddenly presses on my throat, heavy with a far away sadness that I can't quite name.
I sit on the cleared-off couch and close my eyes for a second. There's nothing I have to do. It feels weird.
The baby's sleep-heavy cry startles me – she's so loud, instantly. I go into her room. She's sitting up in her crib and rubbing her eyes. I gather her up and she fits snugly in the crook of my arm. Her eyes flutter closed. She absently strokes my arm as sleep washes over her again.
It's so quiet.
And then it begins to rain.