“Dad?” The little boy sat up, his nightshirt askew and his hair still damp from the rain outside, “Everyone has wings in Heaven? Right?”
Farley pulled the covers back over his son and nodded. “Yes, Cal.”
Cal nestled under his blankets, holding tight to his stuffed rabbit given to him by his mother on the day of his birth. His face was pale and his eyes were bloodshot. He wiped his nose on his sleeve and coughed, clutching the toy tighter. “Promise?” He asked.
“I promise. Now, get some sleep.”
Farley turned around and opened the nightstand drawer, taking out a small candle. He placed it in its holder and lit the wick, his breath causing it to flicker. He scooted it closer to his son, who rolled on his side to watch it. Cal preferred candles to electrical nightlights because he said the fire makes the shadows dance for him. “Night, dad.”
“Goodnight Cal.” Farley flipped the switch, turning out the lights, but before he left, he turned back to his son, “Hey, Cal? I don’t want you going outside anymore when it rains, alright?”
“It’s not healthy,” he said softly as Cal coughed again.
“I won’t get sick. It’s ok.”
Farley said nothing, but left the room and closed the door. He walked downstairs and was startled to see the man waiting for him on the couch. “You didn’t answer the door,” the man said, “I knew you’d be with Cal, so I let myself in, if it’s okay with you.”
Farley nodded and sat down next to him, “doctor?”
“Cal is sick again.” The doctor said it more as a statement than a question, “he was out in the rain, too.”
“I tried to keep him indoors.”
“It’s not your fault. Kids will be kids.”
There was a moment of silence between the two, broken only by the occasional clap of thunder and the ticking of the clock. Farley stared at his guest until the doctor cleared his throat.
“You know,” the doctor began, “the boy is already seven years old.” He waited for a reply, but received none. “That’s pretty good for a child like him.”
“Cursed to be born with the disease his mother had,” Farley muttered, “Delilah lived a good ten years with it. Maybe Cal will be the same.”
The doctor sighed, “Maybe, if he’s staying on his medication, but, listen, the meds can’t cure it. All it does is stall the process. With time, his immune system will get weaker and it’s been seven years, Farley. Seven!”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s time to start letting go,” he said, “Cal is already coming down with a sickness. A child that young…” He let his sentence trail off.
“I don’t want to lose him.”
“No one ever does,” the doctor stood up and put on his coat, “I’m sorry. Try to have a good night.”
Farley showed the doctor out, and then sat back down on the couch, listening to the drizzle outside. When the clock struck midnight, Farley stood up and headed for the stairs. He quietly slipped into Cal’s room and blew out the candle, letting the smoke curl around his face. He leaned over his sleeping son and whispered, “Everyone has wings in Heaven. Even you.”
Cal’s sickness only grew worse and worse as the days went by and, soon, he was sent to the hospital. Farley stayed with him the entire time, leaving only to bring Cal his stuffed rabbit and the candles, which, after convincing the nurses, he lit every night at bedtime and put out at midnight.
“Dad?” Cal would say every night, “everyone has wings in Heaven, right?”
Cal hardly seemed to respond to the treatments at all and, with time, he grew weaker and sicker. Farley swore that the saddest sight he ever saw was his little boy hooked up to life-support machines with thin tubes and wires running up and down his arm. The doctors refused to let him light the candles before bed anymore and did their best to prepare Farley for the absence of his son. On Cal’s last night, he leaned over his son and whispered in his ear, “everyone has wings in Heaven,” Cal gave no reply, “even you.”
The next morning, the doctors gave Farley the news that Cal was no longer with them. The remainder of the day passed in a blur that Farley couldn’t remember. That night, he made his way up to Cal’s empty room, the stuffed rabbit hanging halfway off the bed, and brought the candle out before he remembered that Cal was no longer there to enjoy the dancing shadows. That didn’t stop him from lighting it, scooting it closer to the bed, and coming in at midnight to blow it out. He leaned over the blankets that covered nothing and whispered, “Everyone has wings in Heaven. Just like you.”