• Tom Batt

Holding Back Tomorrow

In his short six years of life this was the latest Danny had stayed up past his bedtime. He was wedged in the cushions of the sofa staring at the colourful glow of the television screen surrounded by darkness. The slapstick cartoons gave off the appearance of being loud, but Danny had the volume down low so as not to disturb others in the house. As humorous as the characters acted, the timid boy couldn’t even draw a hint of a smile at their antics.

His father appeared at the door watching him with surprise, Danny unaware of his presence.

‘Hey, what are you doing up so late? You should be in bed,’ he questioned with a whisper.

Danny turned his focus to the tall, charismatic man towering over him, smiling softly. The boy remained emotionless as his father’s cheerful face switched to something more sorrowful.

‘Can’t sleep, huh?’ he asked inquisitively.

Danny merely shook his head in reply. His father sat down next to him and looked upon with sympathetic eyes.

‘Are you worried about tomorrow?’

Danny nodded before turning away. He felt an arm wrap around his shoulder and he was pulled in close to his father’s chest. He felt the man’s breath in his ear as he spoke softly.

‘There’s no need to be worried. I know it’s not going to be easy, but you need to try and be brave for your mother and I. You’ll be fine. I’m sure you’ll see lots of family members you haven’t seen in a long time. And you never know, if you’re lucky they might even bring you a present.’

Danny glanced up to see his father grinning. He forced a smile back.

‘But know that whatever happens, I’ll always be here and I’ll always be proud of you,’ he continued.

Danny’s head dropped staring down at the green carpet beneath his dangling feet.

‘Hey, it’s not that late. Why don’t we watch one of your cartoons together before going to bed?’ his father suggested as he squeezed the boy gently with his arm.

Danny cracked a smile and nodded his head enthusiastically. He snuggled deeper into his father’s warm chest and got himself cosy. They sat and watched the erratic animation, stifling their laughter, desperate not to wake his mother.

Danny climbed into his bed sliding under his warm duvet. His eyes were becoming drowsy, struggling to keep his head up. His father tucked him in and perched himself on the edge of the bed.

‘Now you try and get some sleep, you’ve got a big day tomorrow and I don’t want you causing problems for your mother because you’re too tired,’ he grinned.

Danny fought against the tiredness and smiled back.

‘I love you, Daddy,’ Danny whispered.

‘I love you too, son,’ his father replied painfully. ‘Good night.’

Danny felt a gentle kiss on his forehead before his father switched off the bedside lamp and then made his way over to the door. He turned and smiled at Danny laying down to sleep. After one last deep breath he pulled the door closed blocking out the light.

The next morning Danny was sat on the sofa quietly staring at the carpeted floor, a strong feeling of discomfort. His suit and tie were tight and chaffing him. He shifted, trying to wear them in. His mother appeared at the doorway in a black dress, accentuating the redness around her eyes. A crumpled tissue was clutched in her fist. She stared a moment at her son before building the courage to speak.

‘Are you ready?’ she asked softly.

Danny turned to her and reluctantly nodded. She extended a supportive hand toward him. He took it firmly. As they stepped outside the front door, a black car pulled up. A second vehicle followed causing Danny to squeeze his mother’s hand. He couldn’t help but stare at the coffin in the back of the hearse, a funeral wreath on top spelling out the word “DADDY”. Danny took a deep breath.

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