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Mister Smith paced the length of the small room and back again, unable to sit still and simply wait. Watching the door for when it would open was very much like waiting for a pot of water to boil – it would happen in its own time and not before.

He always felt nervous on these occasions but he was usually much better at hiding it. Why today should be different he couldn't really say. Perhaps it was his long absence that made him fret over what his reception would be. After all, it had been more than three months since his last visit.

Will she be upset with me? he wondered as he paced hardwood floor. What if she thinks I abandoned her? What if she doesn't want to see me? What if --

The heavy oaken door suddenly opened and a small blond dynamo flew into the room.

"DADDY!!"

Mister Smith had just enough time to drop to his knees before his six year old daughter threw herself into his arms. She pressed her cheek to his, hugging him just as hard and as tight as she could.

"I missed you, Daddy!" she said, turning to kiss his cheek.

"I missed you too, honey," he assured her, hugging her back. He could smell the vanilla of her soft blonde hair and feel the rapid beat of her heart as he held her to his breast. "I missed you more than anything in the whole world."

"Me too!" she said, nodding against him.

He raised his gaze to the Sister standing in the doorway. She offered him a smile without judgment or accusation and backed out of the room, quietly closing the door behind her to assure their privacy.

"I made you a present," said Rose, letting her arms drop and leaning aback against his embrace. In her hand was a yellowed piece of paper folded neatly in half. "I drew it myself."

"Did you?" Reluctantly letting her step back but keeping one arm around her small waist, he accepted the gift. "Should I open it here or wait until later?"

"Open it now," she said eagerly. "Please," she remembered to add.

"Alright. Here we go." He carefully unfolded the paper with one hand to reveal a child's drawing rendered in pencil and colorful crayon. The center of the picture was a small house with white walls, a dark brown roof, and windows of blue. There were little flowers growing in boxes on the window sills –

"Those are daisies!" said Rose brightly.

"I love daisies," he said with a smile.

-- and a bright green lawn. A white picket fence surrounded the house with a gate in the very middle. Standing just inside the gate were two stick figures, one tall and one small, dark haired and blonde. They were holding hands and smiling beneath a storybook blue sky with white fluffy clouds and an orange sun.

"I know the sun is yellow," said Rose with a very serious expression. "But I only had orange."

"Orange is perfect," he assured her with a loving smile.

"It's my dream house," she said brightly. "I've dreamed about it lots of times. It's got pretty curtains on the inside with little frills and furniture and a real kitchen that has hot and cold running water and you don't have to go outside to tinkle." Pointing to the sun with a delicate finger, she continued, "And we can do all sorts of things with the sun like make lights work and stuff."

Mister Smith looked in awe and wonder at his golden haired child. Born of the first generation after the devastation of the Big Death, she was touched with an intelligence far beyond her tender years. Just one of the incredibly gifted children given refuge beneath this roof. The future hope of the world might well be here within these walls.

"Do you like it, Daddy?"

"Like it? I love it! It's the most beautiful picture I've ever seen."

"Really?"

"Absolutely the best and the prettiest. And do you know what?"

"What?"

Carefully setting the picture aside, he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her close once more. "It's my dream home, too. Especially if you're in it."

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July 2006

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