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What Are Stars Like?

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"What about stars? What are stars like?”

Casey shoved him playfully. “You asked me that already. Gimme a new one.”

Brian shrugged and lay back against the hardwood floor. “I’m serious. What are stars like?”

She sighed, like she always did before she explained something. When she spoke, her voice was like warm milk, or cinnamon. “You’re standing beneath an umbrella, and all around you it’s raining. You stick your hand out and thousands of tiny droplets prick your palm and shatter in a million directions. If you listen ever so carefully, you can almost hear them. They sound like a baby, breathing.”

“Stars must be beautiful.”

“They are.”

For a moment, brother and sister lay silently on the living room floor, listening to the fire crackling and the clock reminding them that time would still continue.

There was a picture on the mantlepiece. It had been taken three years ago, on a beach somewhere. Casey was splashing in a tide pool and Brian cupped a starfish between his hands. He was smiling, running his fingers lightly over the textured skin of the creature, as if, just maybe, be could see it.

The real Brian lay sprawled there in front of the fire, unseeing eyes gazing off as he ran his thumb and forefinger over the hem of his T-Shirt. “Are you going to be mad if I ask you one more question?”

Casey watched his searching face, then she sighed. “Do I ever get to ask you a question?”

“You’re not the blind one, Case.”
“But what’s it like, though? To be blind, I mean?”

Brian thought hard about his answer. As time slipped by and life got more complicated, he and Casey spent less and less time sprawled in front of the fire and talking about things. Maybe there would never be another chance to tell her about his prison. “You’re standing at the edge of a cliff, your toes curled over the cold stone ledge. The wind plays in your hair and you can smell. . .lilacs. You step off the cliff and there’s a tiny moment where you’re floating. And then you fall. Falling, falling, forever. But even as you fall, you can still smell those lilacs.”

Her voice was very small. “Is that so bad?”

“No. I still have lilacs.”

“Do you want to ask a question now?”
He wanted to ask her everything. He wanted her to show him what red looked like, and green. He wanted her to explain darkness and smiles and fire. Tomorrow would be busy, and the next day would be busier, and before he knew it Casey would be a successful lawyer or something, with a husband and a house and a life. He would still be her little brother, lost and aching. He had to ask his most important question, because he might not have another chance. “What’s sunset like?”

He heard rustling, crinkling. “Open your mouth, Bri,” she said softly.

It was chocolate. It melted on his tongue, filling his mouth with thick, warm sweetness. savored every last bit, swiping his tongue over his teeth to get the full experience.

He could practically hear Casey’s smile. “That, little bro, is a sunset.”





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