“I can’t even see the stars,” he said.
This sucked. This, without a doubt, sucked more than anything he had ever experienced. More than trips to the dentist and doctor combined. More than having your great-aunt Mabel kiss you.
Granted, eight years was not a whole lot of experience to base opinions on…. But he was fairly certain that this ranked pretty high up on the scale of suckage.
Back home, he’d always been able to see the stars, bright and clear. Ever present and vaguely comforting. The night was never quite completely dark. Not that the night would be completely dark here. The street lights and the neon signs took care of that… but they weren’t exactly comforting.
He supposed he should stop thinking of that place, so far away now, as home. This tiny, bite-sized apartment was home now, although it certainly didn’t feel like it.
He looked up again, fingers wrapped tight against the cold metal railing of the fire escape he’d climbed out on. They didn’t even have a real balcony. Or a backyard. Or a lawn. He rolled his eyes. If he started cataloging all the things they didn’t have anymore, he’d be going on all night.
He squinted, blurring the sky above him to bits. Still couldn’t see the stars.
He shook his head.
How did you know where you were if you couldn’t see the stars?
People had been using them to guide by for thousands of years. They were constant. You could be in the middle of a strange jungle, or lost at sea and just look up. And after a few calculations, you would know exactly where you were.
This place… all stone and glass and too-hard concrete. It was like a different kind of jungle.
“William!” his mother called. “Come back inside… It’s bedtime.”
He heard her loud and clear… one of the few perks of the small apartment.
First day of school tomorrow. He should be excited… maybe. Instead, he tried his best not to think about it, as he brushed his teeth and changed into pajamas.
He shuffled into his new, smaller bedroom and jumped into the bed that had followed them from the old house, with the same familiar sheets.
His mother sat down on his bed, pulling the covers up all the way to his chin and tucking them in around him. She stroked his hair off of his face, stopping a moment to cup his cheek, the same warm hands as always.
“Good night, Honey-Bunny,” she said quietly.
And then she was a silhouette against the doorway as she walked back to the hall.
“Everything will be fine,” she said. “You’ll see.”
She reached out to close the door.
“I love you,” she whispered, as she clicked the door shut.
He smiled, shifting onto his side, tucking his cheek into his pillow and snuggling in.
Sometimes, he supposed, you don’t need the stars to tell you where you are. Sometimes, you don’t have to look up to know you’re right where you belong.