Rays of golden sunlight peeked through the cotton candy clouds. Children played on the streets and laughter floated through the air. Smiles seemed etched into people’s faces. At first glance, no one would have thought that on the top floor of his stunning mansion, a man was falling apart.
As he stared out the window, the sight of smiles and laughter did nothing to lift his mood, for the cheery atmosphere only reminded him of his lost son. The children’s happiness only brought back memories that he yearned to forget. The people’s pleasant chatter only brought him images of his son’s blank, unresponding face.
As he studied his reflection in the mirror, he almost didn’t recognize the sullen, broken face he saw in front of him. There was no way that those sunken, red eyes swimming in pools of regret belonged to him. There was no chance that that mouth, heavy with words never said, was his.
He rested his hand on his forehead, trying to calm down the tornado of thoughts swirling through his brain. Why couldn’t he have listened to him? Why did he let him die? He should have known that the day wasn’t going to end well. He should have known that his son had more than just a headache. He should have known, he should have known, he should have known. But it didn’t matter what he could have done, what he should of done, what he would of done. What mattered was what was done, no matter how much he didn’t want to face the harsh reality that awaited him. He shut his eyes and immediately, scenes from that fateful day appeared.
It was a stormy day, and the dreary, dark sky didn’t seem to acknowledge the fact that it was 1:00 in the afternoon. The wind was roaring and the trees shook violently. Anyone else would have decided to give it a break, to allow their workers to rest, to leave their mountains of e-mails unanswered. But he wasn’t anyone else. He was Charles Warren Koch, and he’d be damned if he let a little bit of bad weather get in the way of his precious work.
Maybe if his name wasn’t Charles, maybe if he grew up in a warm, loving family, maybe if he didn’t own the largest technology company in the tristate area, his son, Felix Or Koch, would still be alive. Maybe Felix would still be roaming the streets with a huge smile plastered on to his face. Maybe he would still be lighting up every room he walked in to. Maybe his laughter would still float through the house. Maybe he would have made it to his seventh birthday and have Spiderman balloons and a chocolate cake, just like he wanted. Maybe he would have made it to his high school graduation, beaming with pride as he received his diploma. Maybe he would have made it to his wedding, and lived in a house made entirely of ice cream, just as he always dreamed of. But he never got to blow out the seven candles on a birthday cake. He never got to have a graduation party or plan his wedding or build his house. He never got to go to Harvard or see the colosseum or climb the Eiffel Tower. He never got to find out that his dad really did love him, or figure out that his father would give up all the money in the world just to be able to hear his voice one more time.
Any other father would have realized that something was wrong with their son. Any other father would have noticed that there was no cheery “Good morning” greeting them at the breakfast table. Any other father would have noted that there was no childish laughter coming from his bedroom. Any other father would have observed the paleness of their child’s once rosy cheeks or the pain in their boy’s voice as he whispered “I have a headache”. But Charles Warren Koch wasn’t any other father, and he certainly wasn’t someone who would let his son’s complaining get in the way of his work.
Ding! A sharp noise snapped Charles back into reality. He closed his eyes and wished to stay in his flashback forever, no matter how painful it was. Anything was better than the sun that was too bright and the smiles that were too big. Anything was better than the kindness that was too exaggerated and the sympathy that was too fake. He didn’t want to face reality. He didn’t want to get out of his bed and make forced small talk and act like everything was just dandy. He just wanted it to end. The pain, the suffering, the sorrow. All he wanted was to hold his son in his arms one more time. He wanted to tell him that he was sorry for being such a bad father. He wanted to tell him that he loved him, that he was more important than any business deal or any email. He just wanted to hear his laughter one more time, to hear the soft pitch of his voice. But he couldn’t, and it was all his fault.
He sunk to his knees in resignation, wishing for all the grief and regret to just go away, to just leave him alone.
“Why?” he sobbed into the still air. “Why me? Why me?”
Just as he was losing himself in the world of haunting flashbacks and never ending tears, a bizarre, almost inhuman voice woke him up from his thoughts.
“Father”, said the voice. “Father!”
Charles closed his eyes tightly, trying to stop himself from feeling even the tiniest ray of hope, trying to stop himself from even considering the thoughts that entered his brain.
No, he thought. No! It can't be! There’s no way!
But there was no denying the fact that those flaming locks of orange hair, that those leaf green eyes and rosy cheeks, belonged to Felix.
“Leave me alone!” Charles sobbed. “Can’t you see that you’ve caused me enough pain already?”
“Just leave me be!”
Charles sunk his forehead into the floor, wishing that the wood tiles would swallow him up, wishing that the apparition’s haunting voice would leave him alone. No matter how much he didn’t want to get up and return to his son’s chilling gaze, he knew he had to keep going. He knew he had to be strong. If not for him, then for Felix. He drew in his breath and lifted his head, readying himself for the stare of those melancholy eyes. However, Felix was nowhere to be found. Despite his pleads for him to just go away, Charles felt empty without him. He wished he could have appreciated him, he wished he could have took in the sight of that lazy mop of hair and sparkling green eyes before they disappeared from his sight forever. But he knew that it wasn’t the time for regrets. He knew he had to keep standing strong. The time for weeping and moping was over. He wasn’t going to let his son die in vain. He wasn’t going to let himself be the victim,and he certainly wasn't going to let Felix be just another sad story.
“Don’t worry, son,” he whispered. “I’ll never forget”.
Five Years Later
Charles smiled at the bright sun and happy faces surrounding him. He laughed with the people around him and dimpled at the sight of the children playing on the streets. But, no matter how much he chatted and grinned, he couldn’t hide the anxiety in his eyes.
What if it lets him down? He thought. What if it doesn’t capture his essence?
But he knew what he had to do. It was his way of keeping his son alive, of not letting him be forgotten. He let out a breath and began to write:
Rays of golden sunlight peeked through the cotton candy clouds. Children played on the streets and laughter floated through the air. Smiles seemed etched into people’s faces. At first glance, no one would have thought that on the top floor of his stunning mansion, a man was falling apart….