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Two Little Candles

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Sarah’s first birthday had been remarkably easy. The child had no interest in anything other than cuddling up with her parents and then eating cake, having a sweet tooth that came directly from Peggy. Buying presents was easier too, a simple knitted blanket and some blocks were plenty enough to keep the child entertained for the day.

But now here they are at two years old and Sarah was blossoming into quite the firecracker. She climbed almost anywhere her arms and legs would take her, and had a certain smile that showed when the toddler was up to something devious. Beyond that, Sarah was also caring and naturally curious, following her parents everywhere and asking any question she could.

“What birfday?”  Sarah sat in her high chair in the kitchen, swirling her applesauce around on the tray as if it were finger paint.

“Well,” Peggy wiped her soapy hands on her apron before sitting next to Sarah, “it’s a day to celebrate a person getting bigger. You get to have cake and open presents, and everybody sings to you.” 

“Why?” Sarah asked.

“Because growing up is very special, and celebrating a birthday is a way to show someone you love them.”  Peggy wiped a smudge of applesauce off of Sarah’s cheek.

“Why?”

“I don’t know.” Peggy’s patience was far from running thin, but she did hope the child wouldn’t ask why again.

“Sarah gets presents?” 

Peggy nodded, “Yes, just like at Christmas,” another holiday quickly approaching which Peggy felt slightly more prepared for, “Is there anything you want?” 

Sarah tapped an applesauce covered finger to her chin, “Sarah wants a baby.” 

“A baby doll?” 

“A real baby, just like me.” 

The remark settles in Peggy’s heart, stinging around the edges, “Well it takes time for a baby to come, Sarah.”

“How many days?”

“How about we settle on a baby doll instead?” Peggy answers, narrowly avoiding the question. 

“Otay.” 

Peggy critically eyes all of the dolls at the department store as Steve pushes the now sleeping Sarah in her stroller. “It’s just a doll, Peggy, how hard can it be?”

The options are endless, some big, some small, some with molded hair, others with soft curls, dolls that looked like toddlers and dolls that looked like newborns, nothing like the nearly breakable baby Peggy had owned when she was growing up. “This has to be perfect, Steven, it’s the first gift she’s ever asked for.” 

“The only person who will remember that will be you, Peggy. I think this one looks nice anyway.” He points.

“That doll has green eyes, Sarah doesn’t have green eyes.” Peggy dismisses him with a shake of her head. 

“She can’t even name the colors yet, Peggy, it’s fine.” 

She settles on a pleasant looking baby, with blinking blue eyes and a pale pink dress. She sticks the doll in the cart, covering it with her jacket in case Sarah wakes up. She grabs a few other accessories for the doll, including bottles and a fake diaper, and is ready to check out, knowing the rush of the Christmas season is only going to get worse if they linger. 

“Hey wait,” Steve stops the stroller in an aisle before the cashier’s table, “did you have a bear like this growing up?”

Peggy turns around looking at the bear in Steve’s hand, “Is that one of those German ones with the jointed arms and legs? Michael had one of those.” 

“I had one, called it Franklin. He came everywhere with me until Bucky told me it wasn’t grown up enough to do it anymore.” Steve strokes the red ribbon around the bear’s neck, “Let’s get Sarah one.” 

“Alright,” Peggy nods, “but nothing that big, I don’t want to overwhelm her with presents that are nearly the same size as her.” 

“Fair point.” Steve puts the bear back on the shelf, opting instead for a smaller animal, “Hey this one’s nice. And it’s a rabbit, she’ll be different than all her friends.” 

“She’s only two, Steven. The only friends she has are our friend’s children, and they usually just stare at each other in the playpen.” 

Sarah’s birthday had been a success. The child loved being the center of attention and ripping open all of the birthday presents she had been given. Sarah’s eyes grew wide as she opened the first gift from her parents, “It’s a real life baby,” the little girl cheered, kissing the cellophane that separated her from her new child, “thanks.” 

“Daddy can get that out of the box for you, if you want,” Steve offers.

Sarah nods, “fanks.” 

Sarah reaches for the next gift while Steve gets to work freeing the baby from the ribbons that kept her in place. “Your father picked that out,” Peggy says, putting a hand on the paper, “can we wait for him?”

“Otay.” 

“Here you go, little Mommy.” Steve hands the doll to Sarah who kisses it on the head before putting it down next to her, ready to open the next present.

“A rabbit!” Sarah nearly screams as the last layer of paper is unwrapped. The little girl clutches the animal to her chest, hugging it happily and humming. “I love her.” 

“Told you she’d like it,” Steve whispers.

And like it she did. Sarah kept the rabbit with her all day, the baby doll being left on the couch practically untouched.  Sarah even used the bottles and diaper to care for the rabbit, pretending it was her own special baby. 

“All that deliberation, for her to choose the bunny all day.” Peggy said that evening, lying down in bed. 

“I don’t know, I think this Miss Rabbit business could just be a phase. I bet by tomorrow she’ll be back to the baby doll.” Steve answered, flipping off the lightswitch. 

Steve had never been and never would be more wrong.