A long time ago, I wrote "A Pair of Brown Eyes" and alluded to a short story called "Stephen's Daddy". I promised someone I would write the story in full.
Here it is. Handkerchiefs at the ready…
P.S. This story is totally mine. It belongs to me, and I will protect it if need be.
In Stephen's school, there were many Daddies. Some came with their children every day. Some did not.
Stephen liked the ones who wore a uniform best.
Sam's dad was a policeman. He wore a special hat and a badge.
Maryissa's dad was an optician with his own special pairs of round glasses.
Louis' dad was a clown. Everyone liked Louis' dad. Sometimes he put on his clown clothes for one of their parties.
But Stephen knew that his Daddy was the best.
Not everyone had an angel for a Dad.
Stephen's Daddy had died before Stephen was old enough to know him, but Mommy talked about Daddy all the time, so he knew his Daddy was special. She talked about how they had planned to have Stephen in their lives and how excited he had been when he knew that Stephen was coming.
But, Stephen already knew that because at night when he closed his eyes he saw Daddy. He even spoke to him.
"How was school today?" Daddy asked most nights.
Most of the time, Stephen would tell Daddy a fun story about his day. He would tell of the friends he played with and the cool things his favourite teacher put into the lessons. Daddy would laugh softly, in the same way Stephen had seen him do on one of Mommy's home movies.
But sometimes, Stephen would not want to tell Daddy about his day because it hadn't been a good one. Perhaps he had argued with a friend or been told off by his mom. So he would say nothing.
Daddy knew what had happened. He was an angel so he also knew why.
"Maybe it would have been better if you had said this instead." Daddy would say.
He was always right.
One day, Stephen's mom told Stephen he was going to meet someone special. His name was Jack and he was a grown up.
He didn't look like Daddy, but he made Mommy smile. When he got to know him he made Stephen smile too and Stephen liked him.
Until one day, Stephen's friend Max said that Jack was going to be Stephen's new Daddy.
That made Stephen cry.
Stephen knew that Jack was nice. He liked soccer like Stephen. They played together in the garden and sometimes Jack took him to the park and they had ice cream. But no-one could be Stephen's Daddy…except Daddy.
So Stephen decided to be nasty to Jack. He didn't want to play with him. He didn't do as he was asked. He was rude.
That made Stephen's Mommy cry.
Stephen hated making Mommy cry.
One day Stephen was especially nasty to Jack and made Mommy cry a lot. That night, when Daddy came to see him, he looked sad.
Stephen didn't like to see Daddy sad.
"What's wrong Daddy?" he asked.
"You don't like Jack." Daddy replied. "Why?"
"He wants to be my Daddy. But that would mean you aren't my Daddy." Stephen said, his voice going funny at the end.
"Stephen. Max was wrong. Only one person can be your Daddy, and that is me. Jack is going to be important in your life and he just wants to be your friend. Have you talked to him?"
Stephen shook his head.
"You should ask him if he wants to be your friend and then you should choose a name for him together."
Stephen thought about this. It sounded like a good idea.
Daddy smiled. "Good."
So the next day, Stephen asked Mom if she would call Jack and ask him to come to tea. Mom looked surprised but she trusted Stephen so she did call.
For tea mom made special sandwiches with all of Jack and Stephen's favourite fillings and she made Daddy's favourite cake. That made Stephen happy because he knew that it meant Mom still thought of Daddy.
After tea, Stephen asked Jack to take him to the park like before. Jack smiled and said "Sure". Mom stayed at home.
They played soccer and catch, and Jack pushed Stephen really high on the swings. They laughed and they ate ice cream, even though they had eaten a big tea.
"Jack." asked Stephen after a particularly good laugh. "Are you my friend?"
"Yes. You're one of my best friends." Jack replied.
Stephen smiled. "You're one of mine too." He looked thoughtful for a moment.
"Are you going to marry Mommy?"
Jack nodded. "Yes Stephen. I am. But I want you to know that I am your friend and not your daddy. Your Daddy was special and I can't take his place."
"What can I call you?"
"What do you want to call me?"
Stephen frowned. "One of my friends calls his special daddy "Pops". Can I call you "Pops"?"
Jack grinned at the words "Special Daddy".
"I think "Pops" will do just fine." He replied and hugged Jack tightly. "Do you know, my mummy used to call me Jay-jay, my grandma used to call me Jacky, and my school friends used to call me JK, but I think "Pops" might just be my favourite nickname of all." He ruffled Stephen's hair. "It's getting dark. One more go on the swings and then we should head home. I think Mommy will be missing us." He held out his hand to Stephen who took it in his own small hand.
Later that night, Daddy returned.
"I'm so proud of you, Stephen." He said beaming a big smile which made Stephen smile too. "You and Jack will be great friends."
"Now I have someone else to help me look after Mom." said Stephen. "I'm happy. Really happy. And Mom's happy too." Stephen said.
"Then I'm happy." His Daddy said. "Now, what else have you done today?"
And curled up in his bed clothes, Stephen told his daddy all about school and the park – and "Pops".