Yeah, it was just hair, and it was already falling out from the chemotherapy, but her protective instincts weren’t exactly running off of logic.
This plan Dante had of cutting it all off sounded rational, but being rational wasn’t really high on her list of priorities. That was her baby, and if he wasn’t on board with the idea, she was shutting this entire plan down.
She moved to take a step in their direction, but Dante’s smile halted her. He wasn’t looking in her direction—probably had no idea she was watching him so intently. But the easy way he smiled at her son, the way Nazario mirrored Dante’s same crooked smile that spread slowly across his little mouth and lit up his entire face—the power of it held her in place.
Tony opened his bag. He pulled out a drape and shook out its folds. She saw Nazario stare at the drape with a bit of trepidation shaking his small frame. Tony lifted it in the air and placed it carefully around Dante’s neck.
Her eyes met Dante’s, silently asking for answers. Before she could form the words of her question, Tony turned on his clippers and took a quick pass up the side of Dante’s head. When he pulled the clippers back, she saw scalp, or more aptly described, scalp covered by a short fuzz.
She glanced back at her son. He
had a front-row seat of Dante getting his hair shaved off. Nazario stared at the man, his fear morphing into curiosity. Without so much as a word this man took the fear out of something for her child, making it something fun.
In a few minutes, those beautiful dark curls that were Dante’s signature were gone. When Tony was done with Dante, he cleaned him up, shook out the drape, and motioned for Naz to take Dante’s place.
The boy hesitated for just a minute and then settled into his chair. Tony secured the drape and turned the clippers on. Nazario jumped a little at the sound, but Dante calmed him down by leaning in front of him and giving him a thumbs-up. While Dante kept him distracted, Tony shaved the boy’s hair down to his scalp, and with what appeared to be practiced ease, he lined the boy’s edges up, making the haircut look less like they were attempting to cover up illness and more like a trendy haircut a young boy would wear.
Tony dusted off the excess hair from Naz and pulled off the drape. When those dark brown eyes she loved so much looked up with both excitement and approval, she pulled on a trembling smile. She walked up to him, running a gentle hand over his head.
“You look real good, Naz. Mr. Tony did a good job.” Her voice felt thick and heavy as she spoke. The little boy fell into her arms. She hugged him as tight as she could and lifted watery eyes to Dante and Tony. Too full to speak over the growing ball of emotion in her chest, she simply mouthed a silent thank you to them.
They each nodded, but it was the red rim around Dante’s eyes that pulled her attention. In their depths she found understanding. Her brain questioned briefly how Dante could know just how relieved she was to see a happy smile on her boy’s face.
It almost didn’t compute that someone else could fathom how much it would mean to her that her son looked less like a sick cancer patient and more like an average five-year-old. But when Dante’s watery gaze fastened on to hers, she realized something crucial. Dante was Nazario’s father. Not just in blood, but in every way possible.
Orchestrating this haircut to preempt the trauma of hair loss was something only a parent would recognize as necessary. Only a father would sacrifice his own healthy mane to make his son feel less afraid, less abnormal.
Sanai opened her free arm to Dante, inviting him into the embrace she and their son shared. He hesitated briefly, and she hated that he thought he had to. Truth was, there was no one else she could blame for that.
She’d done this. She kept her arm open, and he finally leaned in. He circled
them both with strong arms, and she lightly scraped her fingers against his
“Thank you,” she whispered in his ear. He didn’t speak. If he was experiencing the same emotional overload, she understood why. He simply tightened his hold and squeezed Sanai and Nazario closer to him.
Her annoying mind kept trying to bully its way into the moment, but she refused to allow it. She wasn’t going to worry about how right it felt to be in Dante’s arms, how protected she felt with his arms surrounding them. She wasn’t going to listen to the fear screaming in the back of her mind that Dante was getting too close too soon. She simply burrowed into his embrace and let her battle shield fall.