Lullaby (Goodnight, My Angel)

The song is by Billy Joel, and as soon as I heard it, I thought of Race and Vinnie.

To get this story, it is probably helpful to read For the Sake of Freedom, as this deals with certain events that occur in that story. I really don't want to say what now, as it gives away a lot of the story. But if you look at the dates and you know your history, you can piece together what happened.

Hope you like it!

August 14, 1904

"Jist one moa story, pop!" the boy begged as his father tucked the blankets up around his neck. The man smiled. The tiny boy, so tiny, so much like his father, sat up, not tired in the least.

"No moa tanight. Ya need yer rest, kid." The man's broad New York dialect rolled over his tongue as he brushed back the dark hair on his child's face.

"Please, Pop? Tell me about da strike!" The man laughed again. Would the child never tire of that old story?

"Now, if ya go ta sleep now, I might jist take ya down ta da stables wid me tomarra. But don't tell yer mudda."

"I heard that, Racetrack Higgins!" The boy grinned at his mother's voice and all but dove under the covers. The man laughed and snuffed the bedside candle, making the room dark, though the lights of the great city around them shown bright in the windows, so he could still see the boy's face.

"Pop?" He sighed and sat back down.

"What, Vinnie?" The boy stared up at his father, looking at him with identical eyes.

"Would ya sing me ta sleep? Like ya used ta?" He smiled, gently at the boy's request, leaning over and kissing the pale skin above his son's eyes.

"Only if ya close yer eyes." He instantly did so and Race sat back, letting the old song float out of his memory and rock his son to sleep.

"Goodnight, my angel

Time to close your eyes

And save these questions for another day

I think I know what you've been asking me

I think you know what I've been trying to say

I promised I would never leave you

And you should always know

Wherever you may go

No matter where you are

I never will be far away"

"Pop?" Race turned to little Vinnie, and leaned over him.

"Yeah, kid?" Tired eyes looked at him through half opened lashes. Race felt suddenly so happy, so filled with wonder and amazement. This was his son, his son. The boy who had his whole life to be better than his father. To have so much more than his father had. At four, Race had no father to tuck him in, to sing him to sleep.

"L'amo, il babbo." Race laughed gently. Then he kissed his son's forehead.

"I lova ya too, son." He pulled up the chair and stroked his son's forehead as the child drifted off to the strange world of dreams.

"Goodnight, my angel

Now it's time to dream

And dream how wonderful your life will be

Someday your child may cry

And if you sing this lullaby

Then in your heart

There will always be a part of me."

"Race?" Race touched the small hand on his shoulder, then looking up into the loving arms of his young wife, her big belly swollen and looking ready to pop. And he realized he'd never loved her more.

"Are you alright, love?" he kissed her hand and nodded.

"Fine, jist wonderin' bout Vinnie." She wrapped her arms around his shoulder and sighed.

"What about him?"

"I wonder, if he has a kid, will he eva sing him ta sleep? What will his life be like? Will it be bedda den mine? God, I want so much fer him, Vicky. So much moa den I got." She nodded, knowingly.

"I don't want him ta know all da tings I know. Ta be able ta live and have a family and not have ta sell papes in da snow, not have ta stand outside on blazin' summa days, hawkin' da headlines. Ta do somedin' he loves and ta live. Dat ain't so much ta ask, is it?" she shook her head.

"No, no that isn't too much, I think. Now come to bed, love." He followed her out of the room, but paused just before he closed the door. The moonlight danced across the face of the sleeping child, making his pale skin twinkle and his dark brown hair shine. The look on his face was one Race had worn rarely in life, whether awake or asleep, one of pure contentment and happiness.

Slowly, Race closed the door, watching as the light faded from his boy's face until all he could see was darkness.

December 26, 1917

Race slumped in his chair. There was no light in the apartment. The children were downstairs at Jack's. But not Race, Race was up here, alone.

The moon streamed through the open window, letting in a cold winter breeze. Slowly, Race moved, not to close the window, but pass it like a ghost and to enter the small bedroom that had once housed two small beds, but now held only one.

The chair still sat beside it, empty much like the bed. Race sat heavily in the chair, filling it as the bed would never be filled, knowing that the child who had once spent his nights there was now sleeping in a field far away across the sea, never to come home.

Slowly, he closed his eyes, seeing the moonlight trickle across the empty sheets and tears began to flow down his cheeks once again.

It was too much to ask, it had been far too much to ask, to let his Vinnie have a life better than his. Right now he would settle for just the child back, no matter what life he might be doomed to have.

The moonlight sparkled on the pure white sheets that held no sleeping child. It did not lighten his hair to make him seem like a little angel. It did not make shadows on his face, shadows like hands and soft touches from unseen beings.

Race swallowed hard and picked up the pillow, holding it close to his chest. Very softly, so only the moonlight could hear, he began to sing. It was the song of a time long past and a promise never to be fulfilled.

"Someday we'll all be gone

But lullabies go on and on...

They never die

That's how you

And I

Will be."

The sound died like the wind and after a few moments, Race got to his feet. He laid the pillow back down and smoothed it. Then he turned and walked to the door.

He turned back and looked at the plain neat bed, waiting for a boy to pull down the sheets and climb in, waiting excitedly for his father, to hear one more story, one more song.

Never again. Never was a very long time. Too long. Race closed his eyes and pulled the door closed behind him, shutting out the light of the moon.

But several strands of moonlight remained, dancing on the pillow like silver threads, as if telling the world that there had once been a boy, a boy who wanted to save the world, a boy who had given everything. That there had been such a boy, and he would never be forgotten.

To all the little boys who gave their lives so that we might live. For those brave men were once only little boys. And someone tucked them in at night and whispered to them, and sang to them.

To all the fathers whose little boys will never come home.