Continued from yesterday’s post, located here:
She hiccupped, swallowing the last of her tears and glared at me.
“What do you want?”
I froze under that cold, silvery gaze.
“I – I don’t want anything,” I said. “I just…. I thought maybe you needed help.”
“I’m fine,” she said, fiercely, glaring at me.
Her eyes belied her words, red-rimmed with tears.
“Are you sure?”
I took a few steps closer. She shifted on the ground a bit, but didn’t move away. Because she couldn’t, I thought.
“I thought you might be hurt,” I volunteered.
“I …. I’m fine,” she said, although she couldn’t get the words out without her lip quivering.
She plopped her face into her cupped hands and returned to her tears. I could see them, a fine silver trickle, just visible trailing down her cheeks, between her fingertips.
This might’ve been the strangest thing that happened to me in the woods – a weird silver girl in the middle of the forest – but it felt a lot like dealing with a small child.
“I was… running,” she gulped air, in the attempt to form a coherent sentence. “And I wasn’t looking where I was going… And I tripped and fell… And now… Now I’m here.”
She looked at me, tear-stained face sad and somehow hopeful.
“And I don’t know how to get home,” she said.
I smiled at her.
“First things first,” I said, reaching down to her skirt.
She twitched away from me, looking up at me mistrustfully.
“I just want to see how badly you’re hurt,” I explained, gingerly lifting the hem of her skirt.
She was barefoot. And her feet were as silver as the rest of her.
And outside of that, she had one of the worst sprained ankles I’ve ever seen. The thing was swollen. It looked painful. Not good.
As gently as I could, I covered it back up.
Maybe I could just go to her house and get her parents? Then they’d be able to come get her and I wouldn’t have to deal with this whiney stranger in the woods?
“Ok,” I said. “Where do you live?”
She glared at me again.
“Like you can’t tell,” she said.
With a theatrical sigh, she pointed skyward.
“Very funny,” I said. “Now really, where do you live?”
“Where do you think stars live, stupid?” she huffed. “Of course I live in the sky.”
Well, that was one explanation, I guess.
“You’re a star?”
“Of course, I’m a star… What the hell else did you think I was?”
“I don’t know… I…” I stumbled to find words. “Aren’t stars supposed to be giant balls of burning gas?”
She looked like she wanted to punch me.
“That’s the worst thing that anyone’s ever said to me.”
I could see tears welling in her eyes again.
“Fine,” I said. “I’m sorry. You’re a star.”
Clearly, the sarcasm didn’t translate, because she stopped crying.
“Thank you,” she said, lifting her head a little higher.
“So if you’re a star,” I said. “How did you get here?”
“How do you think?” she said. “I told you. I tripped over something. And I fell.”
“Yeah? What did you trip over?”
“Asteroid, maybe. Could’ve been one of the smaller moons. Or a space shuttle. Those things are tricky.”
I looked at her carefully. Outside of the silver glow… and the eyes…. And the dress…. Well, quite honestly, she looked pretty human.
“If you’re a star,” I asked her. “What’s the difference between you and me?”
“Besides fashion sense?” she asked, looking at my raggedy old sweater and galoshes.
“Very funny,” I said. “I just mean…. You look human.”
“I am human,” she said. “We all are. All stars are.”
“So what’s the difference?” I asked, genuinely wanting to know.
She looked at me for a few moments.
“There is no difference,” she said. “Humans …. People used to be stars. You used to be like us.”
She gave me a sad smile.
“You just forgot how to shine,” she said.
“So… we’re all just lost stars?” I asked.
She didn’t say anything. Just that sad smile.
We were both distracted when a loud whispering sound filled the darkness of the woods.
It was strange, actually, the darkness. The sun should’ve risen by now, or at least started to rise. I must’ve imagined the pearly light at the horizon earlier, because now it was a solid stripe of darkness.
The whispering wasn’t quite a whispering – more of a shushing. It was, I thought, the sound of cloth being dragged along the forest floor. She clearly recognized it immediately, because she lit up, glowing with a brighter light – and with a genuine smile, this time.
“She’s here,” she said. “She’s come to get me.”
I didn’t have a chance to respond before light filled the woods – not lantern light or a flashlight. Bright, clear light, like the dawn should’ve brought by now…. Except it was coming from the wrong direction. I squinted my eyes at it and somehow, through half-closed eyes, the light resolved itself into a woman in a shimmering golden dress that shone as brightly as her skin.
I couldn’t focus on her – couldn’t make out the details. But before I cast my eyes on the ground, I saw dozens of gold bracelets, long, chandelier earrings. The woman was heaped with jewelry, her hair done up in some elaborate, loopy pile on top of her head. Except for the light, she looked like a statue had stepped off of a plinth in a museum.
Staring at the ground, I couldn’t see much. But I did hear the girl yelp as the woman wrapped a long-fingered hand around her arm, yanking her up to totter on one foot.
“Silly, disobedient girl!” she huffed. “How many times have I warned you about this sort of thing?”
“I’m sorry, Mother.”
To her credit, she did sound genuinely sorry, but I think this might’ve been more on account of hurting her ankle than actual penitence.
“You’d better be sorry,” she said. “And you’ll be even sorrier by the time I get through with you.”
Their voices were growing a bit muffled through distance as they walk-hobbled away from me.
“It’s taken me forever to find you… Do you realize how much trouble you’ve caused? Do you realize that everything has been held up? Waiting? For you.”
She was shouting now.
“Selfish little thing,” she continued ranting. “You think the world revolves around you. Well, I’ve got news for you… It doesn’t!”
“But mother…” her protest was feeble, probably because she was focused on hobbling along, trying to keep from putting weight on her injured ankle.
“No Buts! I’ll have no more trouble from you….”
The voices faded off into the distance, the twin glows I could just barely focus on growing more and more distant until they faded away completely. I sat hunched on a log in the now mostly-silent forest.
It wasn’t terribly surprising when the sun rose a few minutes later, bright and golden in her glory.
“Are we all lost stars?” I asked, testing out the words, just trying to see how they sounded.
They sounded just as silly as I thought they would.
I shook my head, pulled myself up and turned away from the sun, beginning my walk home.
I think I need more sleep.
350-500 words * mystery * morning
Also inspired by the song “Lost Stars” from the movie “Begin Again”….
“Are we all lost stars trying to light up the dark?”