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In the span of a breath, everything changed. That’s what I plan to tell Katie, when she’s old enough to ask why she’s only got one grandda instead of a proper two. In the meantime, I’ll sit next to the cradle he carved out of an old tree from the homeland.

I don’t understand why it meant so much to him, that link to the world beyond the base. He left that behind to come here, to be with Mum, to have me. But there’s the cradle that he’ll never see his granddaughter in, mute reminder there’s a big world out there that doesn’t love her as well as I do. I’d protect her from it if I could. If my Jackie’s any example, that world can hurt her in ways no physical enemy might.

The span of a breath.

When Katie first cried, when our world came full circle, I thought I heard my own voice again. They say a baby cries in anger, shock, fear even. But not my Katie. She cried for loss. Her indrawn sob was the same as mine when I felt my Da dying so far away. And the sound of her shriek was like mine when I turned, full of the gift he died to give me, and took up arms to protect the broken tree that my family had become.

Now I watch Katie sleep, face pressed against the curve of my body, and measure her future one breath at a time.

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