A Father's Love

By: Domus Vocis

"Good-bye, Marissa-"

She slammed the car door hard, and before I could say anything, she quickly started the car. In a flash, flown dust from my gravel road camouflaged her car speeding down the street. I held a paw to my muzzle as dust got up my muzzle, making me cough a bit.

Silence. Next to me stood a young wolf cub, with several bags rested next to him. At about age nine, you could see the similarities between me and Luke. Both our fur was painted white, and our muzzles had a black mark on them. But while I had my light hazel eyes, Luke got Marissa's oceanic. He looked very glum, so I gently grabbed his smaller paw and we went inside with his bags.

The way up to the apartment held a soundtrack of silence. Luke didn't say a word, wag his bushy tail, or give a sign of joy. I couldn't blame him after the trial that's happened over the past year.

I've smelled the hint of liquor on his mother's breath, the hangover eyes she held. It sickened me that after a full year of fighting her in court, I finally got full custody of Luke permanently. She didn't even say good-bye to him.

As soon as we reached the apartment, I put on a smile for him. "Welcome to your new home, Luke," I opened the door, but my ears fell down as Luke just passed by solemnly. "Luke, are you alright?"

He turned to me with his small cub eyes and smiled. "Yeah, Dad. I'm alright," he replied in a soft voice.

"You sure, champ?" I asked. "I know all this is a lot to take in," I closed the door and began to wag my tail, "but we can make this work. You want some pizza after we're done unpacking?"

Luke shrugged. "Okay," he said.

The apartment had only one bedroom and a bathroom, so I decided to take the makeshift bed in the couch while Luke took the bedroom. It's until we get a bigger apartment that we'll have to live in this place. And since Luke will be starting school again in several days, both of us started unpacking.

But doing so brought back painful memories for me. Deep in Luke's bags, I found a couple of photos. Framed photos. Of me, himself, and Marissa, before she started drinking. Her fur was brushed tamely, and she actually looked happy. It felt like gazing into a time capsule to what we used to be: a loving family.

A happy one, until things changed for us.

Not long after setting up Luke's room, he and I ordered some pizza for dinner. It was Luke's favorite, extra cheese and pepperoni. Despite its enchanting smell, Luke didn't eat a single bite, even when I offered him my last piece.

"Your pizza's getting cold, champ. You okay?"

Shifting his tail, Luke looked up to me and nodded with a smile.

He was lying, probably letting his emotions get plugged up. I could see it in his eyes, which were flooded with emptiness. I wanted to say something, comfort him, tell him everything is gonna be alright. But before I could say anything, Luke excused himself and went to bed.

Later that night, not long after I fell asleep on the couch bed, I awoke to the sound of someone breathing. And sniffling.

Blinking my eyes open and awake, I lifted my head to see a short silhouette with drawn down ears and oceanic eyes on the right side of the bed.

"L-Luke?" I sat up and rubbed my eyes. "Is that you, champ?" After turning the lights on, I saw it was Luke, but his furry cheeks were soaked with water. "Oh my God. Luke, what-"

All of a sudden, I felt two small paws wrap around me tightly, and a head lean against my chest in sobs. I heard crying, and felt it in the fur on my bare chest.

"Oh, Dad!" he cried. "I….I…" He couldn't continue. So he was plugging it up inside, and now the floodgates have opened.

In remorse, I pulled my son closer to me. "Shhhhhhh. It's okay, Luke," I caressed his head tenderly. "It's okay. It's okay."

Luke coughed in wheezing and didn't look up. "I want everything back! I want Mom back!" he pleaded.

"Champ, I do too," I told him. "I do too."

Luke's muffled voice was barely audible. "N-no it's not okay! Everything is not…" he cried deeper into my chest, and I hugged him harder. "You'll soon stop loving me like Mom did."

My heart stopped at those words. Did he just say that?

"Luke," I lifted his head up and stared into his blue eyes, not seeing Marissa's but a pair of orbs that showcased how beautiful my son was. "I know that this is very hard for you, but it's hard for me too. I can't promise you a perfect life, son. But I can promise you all the love on this planet earth. I'll love you and never leave you until the day I give my last breath. I mean, we have each other, and that's better than any family."

Luke sniffled, and his ears perked up. "Y-you mean that, Dad?" he asked, blinking away the tears.

I gave him a genuine smile. "Absolutely, champ," I said in full honesty. I then kissed his forehead. "I love you so much."

Luke giggled in response, his tail wagging against the sheets. "I love you too, Dad," he licked my nose, and I accidentally sneezed. He giggled, which made me see the sparkle in his face like years before.

Suddenly, both of us were wrestling each other on the bed, with me pretending to be the tickle monster and Luke being my victim. I've never felt this warmth and joy in years.

"Stop it, Daddy!" he laughed with me. "That tickles!"

"Make me!"

It killed me with joy to be with him like this. Pretty soon, the crying was only a memory, like it never happened. We just laughed on the bed, talked about the time I took him to the amusement park when he was little, avoided the past year, focused on the now, and laughed some more.

We also talked about ourselves. Luke told me about how when he grew up, he wanted to be an astronaut, and I could see him doing that. I told him that when I was a cub, Grandpa used to take me out camping when I was a cub.

"Can you take me camping sometime, Dad?" he asked. "Please?"

After seeing his eyes and how they glowed with excitement, I couldn't resist saying yes to him. Pretty soon into the night, we ended up tiring ourselves out from exhaustion, both from playing and talking. By ten to midnight, Luke and I laid on the makeshift couch, my arm wrapped around his tiny form and his head rested against my shoulder. I felt his heartbeat, and it's music was relaxing.

"Dad?" he asked.

"Yeah, champ?" I asked softly.

He looked at me with his barely open oceanic eyes and said, "I love you."

To which I replied, "I love you too, Luke."

He then lowered his head and closed them shut. From his breathing I knew he was asleep. Carefully picking the lad up, I used all my strength to soothingly place him in his bedroom. He didn't wake up, and I didn't want him too. His tail curled up next to him, he had a smile on that would make even a thug melt away his tough façade. I didn't know how someone like Marissa could not want son like him, and I wondered how could a person like me deserve a cub as special as Luke?

He looked so beautiful even when asleep, with his ears perking out and his tail swaying reflexively at his thighs and the bed. His paws were soft when I placed them under his blanket, and his face looked relaxed and happy, almost as if he's never known pain or sadness.

Watching him sleep made me wonder what he dreamed about. Was it about his career as an astronaut? Was it the planned camping trip? School? Friends? Or was it about the future?

I may not now much, but I know one thing. Life isn't something to be taken for granted; it's a gift for all anthros. It's a piece of beauty that anyone can either make the best of or exploit. Unlike Marissa, I won't waste it away and let my son go down a similar path.

I will give him all I love, comfort, attention, truth, compassion, and support he needs, no matter how many times Marissa takes me to court. I will not rest until my son, my flesh and blood, gets all the love he deserves in this life. Not tomorrow, or the next day, but now and forever.

Smiling down at my beautiful son, his smile glowing like the sun and stars, I tucked him into his blanket, giving him space for his tail to breathe. I then patted his head lightly and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"I love you Luke, my son."

I really do.