I only mention it once.
I need to clean the bathrooms this afternoon... I breathe it, seemingly to myself, but I'm moving ever so slowly today so I move on to other things and decide to just see about it later.
But she hears me.
And while I'm clearing the table from lunch and my sons begin to wash the dishes, she clambers to the top of the washing machine and collects the cleaning bucket from the cabinet, filling it with fresh rags and every little thing one might need to clean bathrooms used by mostly boys... spray bottle full of vinegar; small container of homemade soap scrub for the sink and tub; cut-up sponges to fit her smaller hands...
And it isn't until she hops down and the telltale thump registers in my brain that Yes, I did say I needed to clean the bathrooms, and, oh dear, I must have said it aloud, that I breathe a deep, third-trimester breath and smile at her as I gather bleach and broom.
How could I think she would ever forget our sweet tradition?
Come, Cinderella, we must do our very best to finish before the ball tonight! Oh, I do hope we'll be allowed to go...
She giggles and skips ahead of me down the hall. Yes, Arabella, I'm sure we will- but we must finish before stepmother returns!
And the tradition continues while she sits on the counter and wipes the mirror, and I ask her from hands and knees at the base of the toilet, How will you change Mother's old-fashioned gown to be suitable for tonight?
I sneak side glances as I scrub, trade looking at brownish-yellow gunk for just a peek at blonde tendrils falling into her eyes, pink fingertips holding the rag that's resting in her lap now; she's pondering. Well, I think the ruffles must go. And since Mother was married when she wore it, it IS off-the-shoulder, so I must add some straps to make it 'popriate.
I hide a smile, though it reflects back at me from the basin. It sounds lovely, sister! I think I will polish her old brooch, and maybe the earrings, too. They've been stored away for ever so long, I say.
And she sprays and I scrub and she wipes and I lumber in and out to start washer loads of towels and we giggle as we stand on the edge of the tub to unhook the shower curtain and all the while we are sisters, taking joy in our work for the reward of an imaginary ball.
It's the dance of a servant, this.
I'd chosen long ago not to complain aloud about some of my least-favorite duties, seeing how her green eyes followed and mimicked my every move (and emotion, and word, and body posture...), and as a result my Cinderella cannot wait to assist me in them. My heart still resists, and I always find ways to put those horrid duties off, but her joy and eagerness pull me along till the job is done and I am always, always thankful.
And now she's shifting in and out of character, murmuring dreamily of future days with her coming baby sister; how they'll sketch in the woods, or sew by the wood stove. She steps back from shiny sink and places fists on her slim hips: Why, the time positively flew, Arabella!
And I, heavy on hands and knees, weary face in the muck, swollen fingers in the mire... find my heart dancing.