“Happy birthday, Dosia!”
Brown eyes surveyed the decorations critically before nodding acceptance. Jory nudged Marcelina and she lost her scowl before Dosia looked at them. Her hair was a tangle of red curls she refused to cut or take care of properly. There were times, in the middle of the night, when she considered shaving her daughter’s head. Jory, up until now, had talked her down.
“Thank you, mama. Thank you, daddy.”
Jory grabbed Dosia and lifted her up. He spun her around the room and she squealed before she slapped his shoulder. Marcelina was glad when he put her down. He shouldn’t overtax his leg.
“Daddy! I am too old for that.”
“Then you are too old to go flying with your mama.”
“No! Fine. But I am eight now! Not a baby.”
“So, I guess we should not have gotten her that pacifier for her birthday.”
Dosia pouted, as expected.
“Well,” Jory mused as he slid his arm around Marcelina’s waist. “If she’s old enough, if you think, then maybe we can still do what we planned for her birthday.”
“What? Tell me, daddy! Tell me!”
“Settle down, terror,” Marcelina said with a laugh. “First we’re going to have sekacz.”
Their too-old-to-be-picked-up-daughter squealed again. Looking back, Marcelina could see why her mother only did the cake on her birthday. She tried to do it more often, but it was hard enough once a year out here. It wasn’t as if she could go to the store and get what she needed.
“I promise, Marcelina.” Jory always knew what she meant.
“I couldn’t do this without you, Jory.”
“I know, dummy.”
“Mama! Daddy! Stop kissing. I want sekacz!”
“So do I.” Marcelina winked at Jory and whispered, “But you’re worth missing out on even sekacz.”
They ignored their birthday girl to kiss once more.
Which Dosia only allowed because she opened the closet to find her presents. Jory said she’d already found them, but if so she at least acted surprised. As she hauled out the equipment, Marcelina kissed Jory again. They had learned in the last eight years to take advantage of any spare seconds they did not have to keep an eye on the terror.
“Are we really going camping?”
“We are. For three days.”
Dosia screamed in excitement and despite being too old threw herself at her parents who caught her expertly. The only thing that kept them from having to leave right then was the sekacz. As soon as they’d eaten their birthday lunch and had cake Dosia ran off to pack.
“Are we doing the right thing?” Marcelina asked in their room as they finished packing.
“No. Well, yes.” She wanted to say more, but they were convinced their rooms were monitored. “Three days of camping with the terror. Can we handle her?”
Jory closed his backpack and walked over to embrace her. She laid her head on his shoulder with a sigh. They stood like that until Dosia demanded they leave. Marcelina felt guilty not telling her they wouldn’t return. Unlike her mama, Dosia did have friends. Maybe they could have trusted her to say nothing, but it was safest in no one knew their birthday camping was only a cover. Best for them to leave before it was too late.