"It's all right, Gustave," I cooed as I carried my son into the dark first aid station. After flipping on the lights, I sat him down on the nearby medical table and ran towards the cabinets to find a cloth to sop up his bloody nose. I held it firmly against his face, instructing him to tilt his head back to stop the bleeding. Oh, the Persian fool had not only caused his nose to bleed, but his face was scraped as well. I tried everything to stop my boy from crying, but he wouldn't. I knew his face hurt him terribly, and I also knew that he wouldn't want to play in the snow for some time to come. Oh, damn Nadir! Damn him to hell!
"Why don't we go on home?" I questioned, lifting Gustave up into my arms. "I'll make you some hot chocolate and you can lie down."
When Gustave nodded, I walked out of the first aid station carrying my son and locked the door, already finding Nadir standing there waiting for me. I ignored the man and trudged on home. He had hurt my son, and therefore, he deserved everything he got. Once inside, I stripped my son of his wet clothing while he still held the bloody rag against his nose. I took his soaking wet garments and hung them over the fireplace to dry. My boy was now naked and shivering, which I fixed by wrapping my black robe around him. It might have been too long for him, but the child would grow into it sooner or later. Though, I knew he loved the garment more than anything in the world. It was strange, for when I looked at him standing there in my robe, I could somehow see myself standing there. He might have come from Christine, but he was me in every way.
"Here," I laid the child down on the couch and placed a blanket over his back. "Just rest and get your nose to stop bleeding. In the meantime, I'm going to heat us up something to drink."
Oh, my boy looked so hurt and so exhausted. If there was anything I wanted to do, it was march straight to Nadir's apartment and wring his neck! An ice ball… Did he think that was funny? I would kill him! Maybe it wouldn't be tonight, but it would be soon.
"Erik, you should have him lie on his back with his head tilted."
I spun around to find Christine standing there. I sighed and turned back towards the stove.
"Ange, he's laying on his stomach. The blood is only going to continue to flow while he's in such a position."
Knowing that my angel was right, I walked back into the family room and placed Gustave onto his back, gently tilting his head up towards the ceiling.
"There you are…" I said, pressing the rag against his nose. "Just like that."
When my son closed his eyes, I walked back into the kitchen, shivering from head to toe from how wet and cold I was. Christine must have noticed, for she wrapped her arms around my shoulders, sending a wave of heat crashing through my flesh.
"Erik, you're freezing. You need to change out of these wet clothes before you become deathly ill again."
"I'm perfectly fine, thank you," I shivered. "I can take care of myself."
"Erik, you're going to get sick. Here…" Christine helped me out of my wet jacket, noticing that my shirt was wet as well. The woman wouldn't give up on attempting to get me into dry clothes, for her fingers were soon unbuttoning my shirt.
"Christine, enough," I spat. "I need to tend to Gustave. As soon as I'm finished making him his hot chocolate, I'll change."
"Must you really be so angry with Nadir, Erik? It was a mistake."
"A mistake? Could he not feel the hard snow? Nonsense, one does not toss a hard ball of snow at a child. I will be mad with him as long as I wish to be mad at him. Now, leave me be. I have a son that needs attending to."
Christine smiled and pressed her lips against my own. "As you wish, Erik. But tonight, I shall meet you in your room. I wish to speak with you."
When my angel disappeared, I carried my child's drink out into the family room with a plate of cookies and sat them down on the coffee table. Curious about how he was doing, I took a seat at his side and gently pulled away the bloody rag from his nose.
"It looks like it has stopped bleeding," I murmured, running my hands through his damp locks of hair. "Why don't you sit up and drink your hot chocolate before it gets cold? I have a few cookies here as well to snack on."
Gustave nodded and sat up, nibbling on one of the cookies.
"I'm going to go upstairs and change, but I will be back in a few moments, ok?"
When he nodded again, I left his side, hurrying up the stairs to strip myself of my clothing and dressing into my night attire. But even then, my body was still shivering. After coming back into the family room, I took a seat on the couch beside Gustave and wrapped the quilt around the both of us. My boy was being silent…too silent, which was why I ran my fingers through his hair and held him close to me.
"Your face looks like it hurts," I began. "It is nothing more than a few scrapes, son… You will be fine in a few days."
"Does your face hurt too, papa?" he asked.
"Why would my face hurt, Gustave?"
"Well, I know it does when you wear the mask too long. Am I right?"
I nodded. "Indeed. My flesh takes a beating from wearing that mask. But, it hurts more than those few scrapes on your face do. My hurt is a different kind of hurt. I'm fine at the moment though."
"If it would make you feel better, papa, you could make my face look like yours. That way, you wouldn't have to feel different and hurt alone."
"Gustave," I looked at the boy and shook my head, astonished that he would even think of something so horrendous. "Don't you ever say that again. You're perfect, Gustave, perfect… Why would you ever think I would want you to look like me? I may be hideous, but I am never alone. Do you understand me?"
The child nodded. "Yes, papa…"
I patted him on his head. "Good. You are your mother in every way. I don't want you to ever think that I resent you for being beautiful. Your mother was beautiful, and I loved her more than anything in the world. I love you more than anything in the world, boy."
"Mister Y, I miss mama… Usually, when it snowed back home, she and I would play in the snow all day and then, we would sit by the fire and she would read me a book."
From his face, I felt hot tears, tears that were for Christine. Yes, there were many nights that I wanted to cry, but I stayed strong for Gustave. But now, I wanted to cry just as much as he was. I was his father though, and needed to stay strong for him. His mother was in heaven, but I would do anything in my power to make him happy.
"Gustave, please don't cry… Your mother may be gone from us, but she is never forgotten. I have pictures of her on every wall in this house, I make you her favorite meals, try to tell you everything I know about her. Remember when I told you that love would never die, Gustave?"
The child nodded and wiped his teary eyes. "Yes…"
"Well, your mother's love shall never die as well."
I maneuvered myself off the couch and approached my bookshelf, coming back with a thick, red book. From there, I proceeded to lift him up onto my lap and wrapped the blanket back around the both of us.
"You see, Gustave," I said, opening the book. "You and I played in the snow all day today, so, now, I will read you a story. Pick one… I shall read you any story that you wish to hear."
Gustave smiled and flipped through the pages until he came across the exact story that he wanted me to read him.
"This one," he said. "I want you to read me this one, Mister Y."
"Ah, King Arthur?" I slyly questioned. "One of my favorites, you know…"
And like the trying parent that I was, I read Gustave the story twice, only satisfying him when I promised to read him a story any time that he wished. When all was said and done, it was very late, so late that I was beginning to fall asleep. I carried Gustave to his room and laid him down beneath the warm blankets of his bed, handing him Don Juan and kissing him goodnight.
I was nearly out of the room, when I heard the child calling for me. Yes, I was exhausted, but I came back to his bed and took a seat at his side.
"Did you know that I pray to mama all the time?"
I shook my head. "No, Gustave, I didn't know that. But, I'm glad that you pray to mama all the time, because I do too."
"I pray to her that she saves me a spot in heaven with her. I pray that she will still love me when I see her again."
"And why wouldn't she, Gustave? Your mother loves you more than anything in the world."
"Then why doesn't she ever talk to me from heaven, papa? I want to talk to her more than anything in the world. I want to tell her that I love her and I want to hear her say the same."
I wasn't sure how to make the boy feel better, because the truth of it all was that I hadn't the faintest idea on how to make that happen. Though, suddenly, an idea came to mind and I left Gustave for the slightest of seconds, coming back with a small, wooden box. It was no bigger than a loaf of bread, but it would do.
"What's that?" Gustave curiously asked.
"Well, you want to talk to your mother right?" I questioned.
Gustave nodded. "Of course I do, Mister Y…"
"Well, she lives in heaven, and heaven is very far away."
"How do you get to heaven, papa? Do you take a train? Or a boat?"
I chuckled. "No, Gustave. Heaven isn't reachable by boat… Actually, it's not reachable at all. Which is why you will have to settle with this."
I opened the empty box and placed it in front of him. Gustave picked up the box and looked inside of it, his face filling with disappointment.
"Well, you have to fill it up."
"Well, you know how I send out important messages to the post office?"
Gustave nodded. "Yes, the mailman delivers your letters to whoever you need to send them too."
"Exactly. Well, this box will do the exact same thing, Gustave. It's your mother's new mailbox in heaven. Whenever you have something you want to ask you mother, you simply write it down on a piece of paper and place it into this very box. Afterwards, you place on the lid and put it on your windowsill."
"Then how does it get to heaven, Mister Y?"
"The moonlight is the postman… Your message will get to your mother and she will answer your prayers and questions."
"Really?" the boy's eyes widened.
I nodded. "Yes, Gustave, they will."
Gustave excitedly placed the box on the windowsill and crawled into bed.
"You're tired tonight… Why not start tomorrow?"
He nodded and pressed his eyes closed. "Thank you, Mister Y… You're the best papa in the whole world."
This made my heart leap with joy, and with that, I kissed him goodnight and headed towards my bedroom. After crawling into bed, I felt Christine's arms wrap around my freezing body. It felt wonderful to have her lying next to me.
"Erik, you're shivering. Did the fire not warm you?"
"It did, but only for a short while… I simply can't seem to get warm enough, Christine."
Christine's arms tightened around my body, causing her heat to rub off onto my flesh. All the blankets in the world couldn't compare to this… Christine was my everything and she always would be.
"It's late, Christine," I exhaustedly murmured. "You should try to sleep."
"Angels don't need sleep, Erik. Their job is to watch over their loved ones. In this case, my job is to watch over you, mon ange… You're freezing, and this bothers me. You have a weak heart, love, one that needs to be kept strong for Gustave's sake. Please say that you at least drank something warm?"
"Would you rather me lie, angel?"
Christine pressed a kiss to my neck and smiled. "I wouldn't expect nothing less from you, Erik. You've always been stubborn and you shall be that way until the day that you die."
"Oh, and did the big man himself tell you this?"
"Is he you're new lover?"
Christine playfully slapped my shoulder. "I'd stop while you still have the chance, Erik. You're going to dig yourself a grave right into hell for saying such words."
"I believe that I'm already in hell without you, Christine. It couldn't possibly get any hotter than it is right now."
"And you lie," she giggled. "For if this were hell, you wouldn't be shivering like you're lying naked in the middle of Antarctica… No, I believe you would be sweating and burning hot. So, I believe it is safe to say that you're still on Earth."
"What a pity that is, Christine."
"I heard what you did for Gustave tonight…"
"Eavesdropping, were you?"
"I wouldn't exactly call it eavesdropping if it is my mission to look after the two of you. But giving him a mailbox was probably the sweetest thing in the world. What made you think of a thing, Erik?"
"It didn't take much thought, Christine. The boy is hurting and I want to take some of that pain away. So, if I can make him believe that you are answering his questions, then so be it. At least it will make him feel better."
Christine pressed a kiss to my neck and ran her fingers gently through my wisps of graying hair.
"And I will answer his questions, Erik. You read his letters to me, and I will tell you what to write."
It might have been a lie, but it was only half a lie, for his mother really would be answering his prayers… At least I would be taking some of his sorrow away, for that is all I ever wanted to do. Happiness was something he needed, and therefore, he would have it.