It was always tomorrow. Never right now. Never in five minutes. Every time he asked to do something, anything, it was always the same. Ever since his mother had died his father just didn’t seem to have any time to spare.
Johnny was beginning to think his father didn’t even listen to his questions anymore, but simply came out with the same answer: maybe tomorrow.
“Dad, can we go and play football?”
“I’m going to be busy with work so maybe tomorrow, Johnny.”
“Dad, can you help me fix my skateboard?”
“Maybe tomorrow, Johnny, I’ve got a bit more work to do.”
“Dad, do you mind if Zakzigabar, my friend from Mars, comes to sleep over?”
“Not right now, Johnny, maybe tomorrow. Now eat your supper, there’s a good boy.”
That had been the last straw. Leaving his half-eaten bowl of apple crumble — which proved how annoyed he was as that was Johnny’s favourite — he ran to his room. He stomped extra hard, on the three creaky stairs near the top, knowing how much that annoyed his father when he was working. Slamming the door he ran to the window and leant his head against the glass.
“Maybe tomorrow.” He mocked his father’s voice as he gazed out into the darkness. Normally, at this time of the night, millions of stars would fill the sky. Tonight, though, as if to match his mood, clouds covered everything in gloom. Then, twinkling high in the sky, he saw one. He peered into the gloom and then held his breath as the light started to stream towards him.
A shooting star.
His mother used to sit, at this very window, with Johnny on her knees and sing about stars and wishes. Even when she was tired and, near the end, she was always tired, she’d made sure — as she kissed him goodnight — to tell him how the stars looked down on every boy and girl in the whole world. That was their job, she had said, to look after people. To light the darkness.
When they came home from the funeral, Johnny’s father had brought him to his room but hadn’t sung to him. Hadn’t told him any stories. He’d just stared down at Johnny, eyes empty, and waited while he got into bed. When he’d pulled his blankets up to his chin himself, Johnny had whispered.
“Why did Mommy have to go away?”
“She was ill, Johnny. She was tired. She’s in Heaven, with the stars, so don’t worry.”
Johnny brushed a tear from his cheek and watched as the twinkling star got closer. Eyes wide in wonder, remembering his mother’s stories, he whispered the song to himself; and to the star.
“Star Light, Star Bright,
First star I see tonight,
Wish I may, wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.”
Clambering onto the windowsill Johnny pressed against the glass and tried to see where the star was going to land. He craned his neck, he bent, and twisted, and hoped against hope to keep the star in sight.
Then he slipped.
He crashed to the floor and bright lights filled the room as millions of stars danced in front of his eyes. Strong arms suddenly held him close; soft hands wiped the tears from his face; then a voice whispered, gently, into his ear.
“ … Johnny?”
“Johnny, are you okay?”
Opening his eyes Johnny saw his father’s face above him. He couldn’t stop the tears that fell from his eyes. Holding his father, tightly, he buried his face into the woolen jumper and sobbed. His father sat there, underneath the window, and gently rocked him until finally Johnny went quiet.
“What were you doing, Johnny? You scared me!”
“I made a wish, Daddy …”
“You did? What did you wish for?”
“It doesn’t matter; it didn’t come true.”
Holding him away from his body Johnny’s father stared at him, his own eyes filled with tears.
“I miss her too, Johnny.”
“I just wish …”
“Nothing, Daddy, it doesn’t matter — it won’t come true either.”
Johnny’s father picked him up and, cradling him in his arms, carried him to the bed. As he laid him down on the soft quilt he brushed the hair from his face.
“You know, Johnny, that isn’t the way to make a wish.”
“You have to really want something – you have to put your whole heart into it – if you want the wish to come true.”
“Yes — your mother told me, when you were very little, that she had made a wish once herself … did you know that?”
“No! What did she wish for?”
“She wished that, if she ever had to go away and couldn’t be with you that she could still look down on you; could still light your way.”
“Yes, Johnny. She wished that she could be a star, a special star, just for you. She closed her eyes, really tightly, and held her breath, then wished with all her might for just that very thing!”
“… and did it work?”
Johnny’s father pointed back out though the window, where the clouds had moved and the brightest star in the night sky twinkled.
“I think so, Johnny; she is looking in right now, isn’t she?”
Johnny smiled at his father as they stared at the star and then, reaching out to take the large hands in his own small ones, closed his eyes as tight as he could; he held his breath until his face turned red.
“Yes, Daddy?” Johnny said as he inhaled deeply.
“I am going to take tomorrow off work. Would you like to do something, just you and me?”
“Yes! Yes please, Daddy!”
Leaning forwards Johnny’s father kissed him on the forehead before walking back out through the door. As he started to close it he stopped, and looked at his son.
“What did you just wish for?”
“I’ll tell you tomorrow.”
Though Jay Faulkner resides in Northern Ireland, home’s simply wherever his loved ones are — his wife, best friend and soul mate, Carole, and their two wonderful baby boys — Mackenzie and Nathaniel. So while he’s a hopeful writer, martial artist, sketcher, and dreamer he’s mostly just a husband and father.