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Holiday Friendship

All Maddox wanted for Christmas was a telescope. He got his wish, but he wasn’t happy about it. He had no use for it now. His dad was dead. The whole point of the telescope had been for them to communicate with each other.


Before his dad deployed for another tour, he told Maddox about looking up at the stars and what it meant for them now that he was going to be thousands of miles away. . .


“The world keeps turning, son. But the stars stay the same.” His dad placed a hand on her his shoulder and looked to the sky. “If we look at sky at the same time, it’ll be like we’re talking.”


“Really?”


“Really.” His dad bent down to his level. “You can tell me all about your day and what you’re learning in school and about any girls you might like.”


Girls?” Maddox made a face of disgust. “Gross.”


His dad laughed, but there were tears in his eyes. Maddox was trying not to cry. He wanted to be brave.


“Dad, do you promise you’ll listen?”


“I promise.”


Maddox had tears in his eyes now as he thought back on the memory with his dad. He was sitting on one of the park benches in their town. The telescope Santa brought him was sitting in its box on his lap. It was his mom’s idea to bring it. She said he might get a closer look at the Fireworks. He didn’t want to, but he didn’t want to make her sad.


His mom brought him, his brother and sister to the New Year’s Eve celebration. Laughter and cheer could be heard all around. They lived in an army town that always did something special for holidays. It was probably because most of the people who lived there had loved ones overseas, and they didn’t want anyone to be lonely.


Maddox knew his mom was trying her best to keep it together, but there were many days since his dad died that he heard her in her room crying. He knew his mother was just as unhappy as all of them were.


It had been a month since his father passed, but it still felt like yesterday they were given the news.


“Is this seat taken?”


Maddox looked up to see a gruff-looking man with a beer in his hand standing in front of the bench.


He shook his head.


The man took a seat. He sipped his beer.


“I’m no expert, but kids usually like parties.”


“Not this kid.”


“I don’t blame ya.” The man took another swig of his beer. “I especially hate fireworks.”


Maddox looked to the man. “Why?”


“Takes me back to a place I don’t like to go.”


Maddox furrowed his brows. “Then why did you come?”


The man chuckled and held up his beer bottle. “Free booze, kid.”


Maddox nodded and turned his attention to his box.


“Got anything good in there?”


“A way to talk to my dad.”


“Cool.” The man took another swig of his beer.


“It would’ve been.” Maddox sighed. “It doesn’t matter anymore. My dad’s dead.”


He squeezed the box between his fingers a little tighter.


A tear fell from his eyes. He sniffled.


“It was a telescope. My dad said that if we look at the stars at the same time, it would be like we’re talking.”


A silence fell over them. Maddox didn’t know what else to say. It seemed the man forgot about his beer. He was now staring at the ground, as if he was thinking hard about something.


“Gather around, everyone!” A woman shouted to the crowd. “The fireworks will be starting in five minutes.”


“That’s my cue.” The man cleared his throat and stood to his feet. He tossed the bottle of beer into the trashcan next to the bench.


Maddox looked up at him. The man wasn’t leaving. He seemed to be doing that thing again where he was thinking hard about something. Maddox didn’t know what to say, so he stayed quiet and waited.


“I’m not a religious. . . or spiritual man, but, um. . . I’ve heard stories about shooting stars.”


Maddox straightened up a bit. He was curious about what the man had to say.


“Shooting stars?”


The man nodded. “Yup.” He seemed a little uncomfortable. Talking was clearly not his thing, but Maddox didn’t care. “There’s a legend that a shooting star represents the souls of those we’ve lost.”


Maddox suddenly felt himself growing a little excited. “Really?”


“Yeah.” The man looked up to the sky, and then around at the gathering crowd ready to see the fireworks. “How’s about I take you and your family to the lookout, and we try and find your dad’s star?”


“Yes, please!” Maddox beamed with excitement. He put his telescope box next to him on the bench and leapt to his feet. “Thank you, mister!”


“You can call me James.”


“Okay, James. I’m Maddox.” He waved. “Let me go tell my mum. I’ll be right back!”


The excitement continued to pour out of every inch of Maddox. He hadn’t been so excited since before he found out his dad died. As hard as it would be, this had to be the way he could finally tell his dad all the things he wanted to say.


It took a little convincing to get his family to agree to go with a stranger to the lookout, but after several pleas to his mother, she finally caved and agreed.




The lookout is where Maddox, his family, and his new friend, James, now stood. Maddox looked out to the mountains, and up at the stars in the clear, night sky. He would never forget this moment for the rest of his life.


He looked to James with a bright smile.


James smiled back. He had tears in his eyes.


“Are you okay?”


“Yeah, kid. Just thinking about something.”


Maddox nodded. He didn’t ask anymore questions.


“Say something to your dad.” James nudged him forward.


Maddox looked from James to his mother and siblings. His mom nodded. He took it as the ‘ok’ to move forward. 


He stepped closer to the edge but made sure not to venture too far. His eyes never left the sky.


“Dad?” His voice was shaky. He had tears in his eyes now. He felt the achy pit in the bottom of his stomach rising to the back of his throat.


What if his dad didn’t answer?


What if he didn’t find his shooting star?


Maddox suddenly felt afraid. He went to turn around, but as he did, he was stopped by James. He looked up at his friend. 


James bent down to Maddox’s level and looked out to the sky. “Tell your dad what you want to say.”


“What if he can’t hear me?” Maddox looked to James.


James looked back. “He will. . . because he’s right here.” James touched Maddox’s heart. “With you. Always. He hears you. Just let it out.”


Maddox nodded. He turned his attention back to the sky.


“Dad.” He was crying now, but he didn’t stop. “I miss you. Mom misses you, so do Lucas and Chloe. We all do.” Maddox paused. His eyes closed and he whimpered out a few more tears. They fell down his cheek. The cool air on his tingling skin felt nice. His eyes opened again, and he continued. “I’ve been mad at you, and I’ve felt bad for being mad because I’m not supposed to be mad at a soldier. I know you died doing the right thing, but I’m sad that you died and left us, but I love you. I will always love you.” Maddox paused. He let took in a heavy breath and let it out. “I- I just want to know you’re here. Can you just show me that you are?”


Maddox stopped for a moment. He looked to James.


James nodded.


He returned his attention to the sky. “Please?”


Maddox waited for a moment or two, and nothing happened. His heart sank to the bottom of his stomach.


He was devastated. It didn’t work.


He went to turn around, but right at that moment he heard his mother let out a cry, and his attention quickly turned to the sky. His eyes caught sight of the shooting star soaring across the world.


His dad heard him.


His dad was here.


The shooting star disappeared behind the mountains.


With tears in his eyes, Maddox smiled toward the sky. His family joined his side.


“Thank you, Dad.”


He hugged his mom, brother, and sister.


Maddox would never forget that night he met his friend James, nor would he forget his dad, or the shooting star.


His mom thanked James and went to take her leave with Maddox and his siblings.


“Wait.” Maddox ran over to James one more time. His arms wrapped around his friend.


“Thank you.”


James hugged Maddox back. “Anytime, kid.”


* * *


James couldn’t believe a little boy was the reason he was doing what he was about to do. Maybe it was seeing the kid’s sadness from losing his father – one he couldn’t get back – that made him man-up and realize his priorities in life.


Whatever it was that gave him the courage to step off the bus that night and make his way down the road of the town that had once been home, didn’t matter. What mattered was that he finally got the courage to do it.


He arrived in front of a familiar home that hadn’t change much over the years. His eyes scanned the area. Though Christmas was over, most people in town had their decorations out, but not this home. This one had a little tree in the window and not much else.


James’ heart ached at the thought that maybe his absence was to blame for this.


He went to the door, but the sight of something – or someone, rather – in the yard caught his attention.


James made his way to the back instead.


There she was. His daughter, Jessica, looking up at the stars – those stars he told her about all those years ago. “The world keeps moving, baby girl. But those stars stay there. Always. You just keep looking at them and thinking of me. It’ll be like we’re talking.” Though the time between him leaving for his last tour, him returning to the States, and now. . . was a lot longer than either of them planned.


James knew he should’ve been home a lot sooner than he was, but the last tour was just too much. It took a toll on him, and he couldn’t bear the thought of bringing that sort of pain home to his family. 


He stepped closer toward his little girl. Though, she wasn’t so little anymore. She was a teenager now.


“What are you doing?” James greeted. He waited for Jessica to turn around.


“Just-” she paused. It was clear to him, Jessica recognized that voice. She turned to face him. Her eyes widened. “Dad?”


James smiled. “Yeah, baby girl. It’s me.”


Jessica squealed out “Daddy” before running into his arms. James caught his daughter. He held on tight. It was like she was a kid all over again – like all the years between them disappeared and the only thing that existed was this moment. Him and his little girl.


James caught sight of the night sky. There were tears in his eyes. He thanked the man who gave his life for his country, and who led him to the little boy when he needed help. Without Maddox, James wouldn’t be there. The night they met changed James’ life forever. It put right what had been wrong by the horrors of war, and it was all thanks to a telescope, a shooting star, and a little boy.


He would never forget Maddox or their random meeting on New Year’s Eve.


December 26, 2021 19:14

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1 comment

Julie Emma
06:37 Jan 06, 2022

This is such a sweet story❤️

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