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We are sitting on the sofa at her mom’s house facing each other, my left hand intertwined with her tiny right hand. I’m here because she was adamant that I go with them during the drop off to meet her new puppy. None of my excuses to the contrary persuaded her eleven-year-old brain.

H is circling her hand, and with it mine, at the wrist. She prefers that I refer to her as bonus daughter or my girl rather than stepdaughter. Neither of us likes any combination of family words with “step” in them, and somehow…