Tessa crouched at the top of the stairs clutching her teddy bear to her chest. “Momma?” she called.
Thunder cracked and she glanced at the ceiling, afraid it would fall on her head at any second. The hallway lit up – the lightning so bright it reached all the way from the bedroom window. Tessa forgot about being a brave girl. “Mom!”
A scuffle of movement from downstairs and her father came into view. Tessa stared at him; eyes wide. He gave a sad smile before starting up the stairs. Thunder crashed and Tessa leaped into his outstretched arms.
She buried her face in his chest and wrapped her arms around his neck. “I’m scared,” she whispered. “I want Momma.”
“Tessa, baby,” he crooned softly in her ear as he rubbed her back. “Momma isn’t here – won’t I do?”
Her tears soaked into the worn fabric of his t-shirt. “I miss her, Dada.”
A little poof of air from his parted lips and Tessa knew he was sad too. She wished she could breathe out all of her sadness, and when she had no more breath to give maybe Momma would come back.
“Did Momma ever tell you why you shouldn’t fear the thunder?” he asked and she shook her head. “Well, I’ll tell you.”
He carried her to the kitchen and grabbed some precut apple slices and caramel dip. Tessa’s eyes widened in delight. She usually scooped out the caramel sauce with her fingers and hid the apples at the bottom of the compost bin. Dad had caught her one day and now he only gave her the treat when they were sharing.
He sat with her at the table and offered her the apple. “Remember yesterday, in Momma’s garden? You were worried because the tulips weren’t blooming?”
“The periwinkle too,” Tessa said.
“And what did we do when you went to bed?”
“I said my prayers, and asked the Gods to send rain to help the flowers in Momma’s garden.”
“And this afternoon it started to rain, right?”
“Uh-huh,” she licked caramel from her fingers. A big boom of thunder rumbled and he pointed upward.
“That sound is the gardeners walking around in the heavens, looking down on all the gardens we keep. The light is from their lanterns, so they can see. The rain is from their watering cans.”
“Really,” he agreed with a smile.
“That is so cool,” she whispered. She flinched as the gardeners began to move again. “It’s still scary. Can I stay with you?”
“Sure, baby. It’s hard to sleep with all that noise.” He hefted her into his arms and looked out the window to the backyard. Lightning flashed and he saw the calico sitting on the fence, looking back at them. Another flash and the cat gave a nod before it jumped down and ran off into the rain.
Momma’s still with us, he thought.
Suann Amero (she/her) is a Canadian writer who loves both romance and horror, tea and coffee, cats and dogs. She writes from Nova Scotia, where she lives with her partner and their two cats, Quincey and Onyx. Suann’s short fiction has been previously published by Dark Recesses Press, Black Hare Press, Antimony and Elder Lace Press, and Friday Flash Fiction.