My name is Ryan. He calls me Johnny. His name is Henry. I call him my angel. I didn’t believe in God until He sent Henry to me. Now I know angels are real, and if angels are real…God must be, too. I’m 19. Henry is 18, but sometimes—most of the time—exhibits a childlike innocence. He isn’t “stupid”—and no one better ever call him that. He is…pure. Sweet. A bona fide angel. I love him. He loves Johnny. I am Johnny now…the keeper of his heart.


♥  ♥  ♥


“Henry!” Johnny groaned and broke into a trot. “No.” By the time he reached Henry, the boy was on his knees with an armload of puppies, each wriggling and squirming to lick his face. The puppies in question were housed in a large cardboard box—or had been before Henry scooped them up—with the words ‘Free puppies’ scrawled across the front. A folding chair was setup next to the box but was currently vacated.


“Johnny,” Henry laughed and tumbled back on his butt as the puppies overpowered him and scrambled up his chest. “Puppies. They’re so cute. Can we have one?” He looked up at Johnny, his large, pretty eyes lit up with hope. “Please, Johnny…just a little one?”


Johnny smiled and shook his head, another piece of his heart breaking away inside. “You know we can’t, Henry,” he said softly. “We can barely provide for ourselves.”


“But they’re not very big,” he pleaded. “They wouldn’t eat a lot. I’ll share my food with him.”


“Henry, you know we don’t have food to spare. And puppies don’t stay puppies.”


Henry continued to gaze up at him for a moment, and Johnny’s heart crumbled as he watched the light fade from the young man’s eyes. Henry ducked his head and hugged the puppies, then began placing them back in the box. Johnny squatted down and helped him as they both fell silent. A thin sheen of tears glimmered in Henry’s eyes and caused a knot to form in Johnny’s throat.


When the puppies were confined, Henry stood up and started down the sidewalk. Johnny followed, his longer legs easily catching Henry’s pace. The puppies yapped as they walked away. Henry stared at the ground then wiped the back of his hand across his eyes.


“I’m sorry, Henry,” Johnny whispered thickly. “You know I would let you have one, if I could.”


The young man sniffed but didn’t reply.


“Are you mad at me?” Johnny asked quietly.


Henry slowed to a stop then looked at Johnny. He was shorter than Johnny by a couple inches, but sometimes he seemed much smaller, and so fragile. Yet Johnny was the one who broke in pieces every time he had to tell Henry ‘no’.


“I’m not mad, Johnny.” Henry wrapped his arms around him and hugged him tight, his face buried in Johnny’s throat. “I never get mad at you.”


Johnny hugged him back and kissed his head. “You know it breaks my heart to deny you anything,” he choked softly. “I wish I could give you the world, Henry. You know I would.”


Pulling back, Henry looked up at him, his beautiful eyes damp, lashes glossy with tears. “You give me the world every day, Johnny,” he whispered. “You’re the world to me. You’re all I need.”


Johnny cupped his face, his cheeks flushed with the growing chill in the air, and kissed his lips. “Someday, Henry…we’re going to have a house out in the country, and you can have a puppy.” He smiled. “Maybe two or three.” He kissed him again. “I promise.”


The light seeped back into Henry’s eyes. “Really? Two or three?”


“Yes.” Johnny tugged him closer and stole another kiss.


“Big dogs?”


“Big enough to ride,” Johnny grinned. “Like small ponies.”


A crooked smile twisted up the corner of Henry’s mouth. “Can I have a pony, too?”


Johnny laughed. “Already taking advantage of my generosity, I see.” Henry just smiled and Johnny’s heart melted. “Okay, you can have a pony, too. A whole damn herd of them.” He chuckled.


Henry grinned and hugged him, then kissed his ear. “Thank you, Johnny,” he whispered.


“For what?” Johnny mused. “I haven’t struck it rich yet.”


Henry hugged him tighter. “Thank you for always making it feel like it could really happen.”


“It can.” Johnny slid his fingers through Henry’s soft, honey-brown hair and kissed his head. “It will.” He wrapped Henry snug in his arms. “We’re gonna have it all, Henry. One day. I promise.”



Copyright 2016 by Audrey M. Snead