Unable to sleep, I check on Molly. Her small body huddles under the covers, dark lashes framing her peaceful face and Pooh bear tucked under her arm. I want to touch her soft curls and smell her breath, proof of her vitality. Ever since the accident, this vigil gives me comfort.

That day began like any other. Dash, our Shepard mix, woke me with urgent pokes and when I didn’t respond, resorted to licking my feet. If only the dog could brew coffee and bring me the first cup. Thinking of the busy day ahead, I groaned, eyed the bright digits on my bedside clock and threw back the duvet.

I saw Sam’s note: “I’ll pick you up at the office. Call your sister.” She had called three times without leaving a message, and I hoped for Sam’s sake, she wasn’t canceling. He’d planned a getaway to the coast and my sister was supposed to watch Molly.

Ever since I’d made partner, work had taken precedence. Instead of feeling elated with my success, I floundered at home with Molly. The other day when I tried to explain why I couldn’t step away from my laptop to paint with her, Molly said she would cut me in half. Alarmed, but trying to smooth it over, I mused, “But how would I walk you to the park with one leg?” Molly said, “You can hop.”

As I stuffed my briefcase that morning, Molly appeared on the back stairs in footed pajamas, rubbing sleep from her eyes. “Pancakes, Mama?” she’d asked. “Not today, baby. When Daddy and I get back.” Molly said, “Pinky swear?” And we linked fingers.

Our last touch.

After the nanny came, I sped off to work. Sam’s timing this weekend had been terrible. Not only was I in the middle of a case, but for the past month I had come home to the quiet of a sleeping child and a second-hand account of her day.

Sam wanted more children. Molly was almost four-years-old now. We had time; I was young enough and although my mother gently reminded me the second time might not be so easy, I was healthy and sure it would happen when I was ready. Only problem was, a pregnancy now would hinder my career. And I secretly hoped Sam would change his mind. I was fulfilled with our family of three — why wasn’t he?

When Sam picked me up after work it started to rain. I told him my sister hadn’t called to cancel; she’d just wanted to tell me about her blind date. She’d relieve the nanny and stay the night in our house. We grabbed coffees to go and settled in for the hour’s drive to the coast.

Sam drove through relentless rain. Passing truckers sprayed our windshield. We made plans to pick up Dungeness crabs for dinner, enjoy a bottle of Pinot, and watch the storm roll in from our coastline cottage on the rocky bluff. Storm watching, the locals called it. I began to think this trip was a good idea after all.

Then it happened.

I saw headlights penetrate the driving rain as the truck crossed into our lane. I saw Sam’s horrified profile behind the wheel. I felt the cold window pane hit my cheekbone after Sam swerved. A blinding light bore down on me as brakes squealed. I braced myself for what might happen next. At last, impact.

Silence. Darkness. Fraught with horror, I reached out to Sam, but only empty space surrounded me.

Satisfied with Molly’s peace, I leave her and head down the hallway to my room. I pass the collage of framed pictures Sam and I painstakingly hung, allowing space on either side for additional ones that now will never be.

Sam’s side of our bed is empty. My sister’s bare shoulder pokes out from under the duvet. She rolls onto her back, opens her eyes, and looks … through me. I open my mouth to speak, but no sound comes out. I reach for her and once again am burdened with the absolute grief that I cannot make contact. She closes her eyes and rolls over.

The day Molly was born I marveled over her eyes that matched Sam’s, her dark hair like my own. She was my baby. Our little girl. How foolish I was to stake claim on this child of God. I was her mother for the fleeting time we had together.

Now I will be her angel.