Kneeling down in front of her, he held her tiny hands inside of his—a prayer within a prayer—and looked directly into her eyes.
“It’s going to feel scary,” he said. “But it’s going to be okay. I promise.”
She looked over his shoulder at the entrance to the cavern, then back into his eyes. She wanted to trust him. She wanted to believe they’d be safe on the other side. But she couldn’t be certain. And that’s when she started to cry.
“Shhhh. It’s okay, baby. It’s okay.” He pulled her fragile body close to his, wrapping his arms around her tightly enough to stop her from trembling. “Daddy’s got you.”
They didn’t have much time left. The longer they stayed outside, the easier it’d be for the monsters to track them. He knew they would smell her fear. And he knew they would feast on it.
He wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist, and stood up again. He was glad she couldn’t see the pain on his face. They were so close now. So close.
He turned and began walking into the darkness. “We’ll be safe here, my darling,” he said, stroking her long, silky hair. “No one will be able to hurt us here.”
He carried her for miles. For seasons. For years. And, as she grew, he began to shrink under her weight. Eventually, he had to let her go. And for many more years, she walked alongside him in silence. Listening. Watching. Learning.
One day, she saw a light. And, as much as the thought of being alone pained him, he told her she should go. He knew the monsters were waiting for her, but he also knew he’d taught her not to be afraid.
As the years passed and his body weakened, he began to wonder if he’d ever see her again. If she’d made it. If he’d done the right thing. Completely exhausted, he kneeled down on the ground and put his hands on his head.
And then he felt her touch.
She held his tiny hands inside of hers—a prayer within a prayer—and looked directly into his eyes. “It’s going to feel scary,” she said. “But it’s going to be okay. I promise.”