A Father’s Gift

“Dylan, c’mon! Let’s go build a snowman.”

“Not now Steven, I’m busy.”

“But dad always…”

“GET OUT OF MY ROOM!”

Dylan shoved Steven out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Steven, holding back his tears, trudged back to his own room. Gazing through his second-floor window, Steven watched all of the children in the neighborhood scatter about as the December snow fluttered over their heads haphazardly. Fueled by the children’s laughter, he pulled his sweater over his head and wrapped himself in his winter coat.

“Mom, can I please go and play outside?”

“Only if your brother watches you.”

“But mom, he said no.”

“Sorry baby, you know I don’t like you playing outside alone.”

“But mom! All of the other kids are outside playing.”

“No means no, now go upstairs and hang up your coat.”

Steven led a barrage of stomps upstairs, again disappointed with the outcome of his conquest to control the wintery goodness.

All his young heart desired was to build a snowman like he did on Christmas Eve in years past. However, the holidays has not been the same since last year. Tired of being told no, Steven devised a plan to sneak out and fulfill his snowy mission, alone.

I don’t need anyone to watch me. I’m a big kid now!

***

“DYLAN! STEVEN! DINNER IS READY!” she yelled from downstairs.

Dylan barged downstairs, and plopped himself at the dinner table.

“Where is your brother?”

“Should be in his room.” Dylan slouched, lost in his phone.

“STEVEN! COME DOWN NOW!”

Again, no answer. His mom stormed up the stairs and stopped in front of his room. She banged and banged, but still no answer. She tried the doorknob, but something was blocking it on the other side. She began shouldering the door until Steven’s desk chair gave way. She swung the door open, but Steven was nowhere in sight.

“Steven, this isn’t funny. Where are you?” she panicked. She searched his closet, looked under his bed but to no avail. She walked towards the open window and surveyed outside, but the nighttime fog engulfed the streets. Reality had sunken in; he was gone.

“Dylan, your brother is gone.”

“He is probably outside building his snowman.”

“Why didn’t you go outside with him? You know your father used to build one with him on Christmas Eve.”

“Well dad isn’t here anymore, okay? He decided last Christmas that he was better off with his other family. Maybe he went there.”

With sweat dripping from her palms, she picked up the phone and rapidly punched in his number. The sharpness of her heartbeat sliced through the silence in the room.

Hi, you’ve reached Donald. I’m not able to come to the phone right now to please leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you.

“Donald, listen I know it’s late but Steven snuck out of the house today and hasn’t returned home. Please tell me he’s with you. Call me back!”

Her nerves did not allow her to sit still. She paced up and down the kitchen, Dylan still lost in his phone. Her vision blurred, and her legs shook uncontrollably. She tried to sip coffee from the mug Steven bought her last Christmas. It read: World’s Best Mom.

Finally, the phone rang. She raced to the phone, but suddenly there was a bang on the door.

“STEVEN!” she ran to the front door and flung it open, but Steven was nowhere in sight. Instead, a police officer stood at the door with tears rushing down his face. It was Donald.

“Sarah, they found Steven in the lake. He stepped on a thin patch of ice and fell through. Sarah, he’s gone.” He reached his arms out as she collapsed into them.

***

I bought you a gift dad, but I know you won’t be here to open it. Why did you have to leave? Mom is always crying and Dylan just locks himself in his room. Nobody plays with me, and all of the kids in school make fun of me. Why did you do this to me? You LEFT ME! I HATE YOU! In a moment of rage, Steven threw the gift across the lake. As he turned back towards home, he became covered in a blanket of guilt. He wiped away his tears and turned back towards the lake, taking his final steps towards his father’s gift.

 

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