To my daughter, the girl you are, the me in you.

Before you are born I will name you beautiful. You’ll be baptized an Ava or a Willow or whatever name fits best in my mouth when I first feel your gentle kick in the womb, when I sense your soon-to-be laughter bubbling inside my skin. My body is a temple, the world has always told me, and you, girlchild, are holy tabernacle. I will safeguard you as something sacred.

Daughter, I haven’t seen your eyes yet, nor will I for years to come, but I just know they’ll be bright. You’ll get the fire from me and the depth from your father, whomever he may be. I’ll teach you how to look without burning, how to gaze without turning everything to ash. Master this, and you will learn to use your light for nothing other than gentle warmth. This will be your greatest gift, sweet girl, the intensity in your softness.

It won’t always be easy. You’re my brain’s next branch, after all. You’re the extension of a soul that has only halfway healed. There will be times you shake. I will root you back to earth. There will be nights without sleep. In the morning I will let you dream through the afternoon.

I can’t promise perfection. I can’t even promise that you’ll always love me, when I fail, when I become the name you curse under your breath, when I hold you too tightly for too long and you gasp and flinch for freedom.

Ava Isabelle, Willow Grace, someone not yet known yet already the most important love of my life, to the girl you will be regardless of what name we give you, I promise you one thing.

You will know love. You’ll learn to recognize it before you can even speak. You will know a love that cannot be argued, that knows no shortcuts, no alternatives, the same kind of love that carried you here.

Before you are born I will name you beautiful.

And for the rest of your life, I will fight to make sure anyone who dares to say your name calls you by your first.

Beautiful. Nothing less and always mine.

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