There's an impostor in the castle.
She sleeps in my daughter's bed and wears my daughters clothes. When I go to watch Big A play softball, there that stranger is, sliding in the dirt and rounding bases with the world in front of her.
This impostor has taken to calling me "Mom", and I let her; I believe she is the only one that can tell me where my daughter has gone, so I try to be kind and gentle and coax the answers that I seek out of her.
This stranger has traveled to my home with us, stood side by side with my sister and glanced, her head tilted, at the tip of my sister's head, which wasn't far from her own. "I'm wearing flats," my sister responded, looking at me, our minds swimming together over an ocean of time and space, searching for my daughter.
This impostor has been climbing trees of late, carefully picking out clothes; looking into a mirror that reveals a stunning face before leaving the room that she's inhabiting.
She's got a sea of emotions nearly always swimming in her eyes and sometimes, just for a moment, I look into them and can almost see my daughter looking back. But those moments are fleeting and pass by as quickly as a cloud in the sky; before I have a chance to say all of the things going through my head, she turns a cheek and bounds off in a different direction as I mentally add to the list that I carry within my heart, keeping it tucked safely away for the day that I find Big A again.
This impostor sprawls out across a bed that just yesterday my baby daughter laid upon, curled up with my dogs. She wears lip gloss and sandals and stares at me blankly as I wonder where her dolls went. "They were just here," I implore, but to no use; I don't believe that I will see them again and that thought alone saddens me in ways hard to express.
She is so comfortable here, in her role, that she sleeps soundly when I steal into her room at night and peer at her face; the moonlight streaming upon it, searching for the daughter of mine that I miss so deeply.
She rolls her eyes and shrugs at her pink walls; explains them as a way to keep me amused--perhaps to keep me off the trail of discovering where she has hidden the child that I carried within me just a moment ago.
At times, she curls up against me and kisses my cheek and murmurs sweet nothings such as, "I love you, momma." In those seconds, I almost believe her; that she is mine.
But then she steps back and I remind myself that no, she is not.
She is not mine.
She never was.
I just had the honor of holding her and rocking her and bathing her and singing to her while she grew into this impostor before me.
And my heart aches with this knowledge as time whispers mercilessly into my ear, "I told you so."