Airplanes

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“Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars? I could really use a wish right now, wish right now, a wish right now…”

The chaos surrounded me. Kids were screaming and running all over the place, laughter erupting from their lips. Beer cans are scattered all over the ground, and the smell of alcohol fills the air.

I don’t know why I even came. It’s not like I have any friends to hang out with. My only best friend had just moved across the country with her mom. So here I was, alone at senior party, sitting on the couch looking like a complete loser. And all just to try and escape reality that awaited me when I got home. But reality wouldn’t escape. In my mind I saw her face before I laid her down to go to sleep. My eyes started to tear as I pictured her smile in my mind, her two missing front teeth and the beautiful face that one day boys would be fall in love with. One day, maybe…hopefully, I thought.

I shook the thought from my mind, shutting my eyes and allowing a new thought to wash over me.

No, they will. It’s going to happen, and everything’s going to be okay.

I told myself this over and over again in my mind, refusing to break down in the crowded room.

I scanned the room slowly, looking at the faces of all of the people I’d grown up with. The people that were at one point the smartest and most innocent people I knew were now all over each other, the blur of red cups clearly visible in their hands; some hovering above their heads.

“Chandler?”

I looked up and saw that Jordan was standing beside me in his worn out jeans and hoodie, with a Yankees baseball cap resting on top of his head. I knew of him, but I didn’t know him well. He never came to school anymore. He was always absent and no one knew why. We’d spoken once before, but only that one time. He was really nice though, so I didn’t mind.

“Um, hi Jordan.” I said, forcing a weak smile on my face as my eyes met with his. I don’t know why he’s talking to me.

“You seem distant. Is something up?”

I shook my head automatically, looking down. I couldn’t look at him and lie. “I’m good.” I said softly.

He didn’t believe me. I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t have either. “Want to take a walk? It’s got to be better than just sitting here.”

My mind flashed to stories I’d read. Stories of a boy asking a girl to take a walk with them that usually ended in the girl being hit on or kissed. I didn’t want that. A relationship was probably the last thing I needed. All of my free time was spent with Sam. She needed me most.

I pursed my lips together, looking to the left of Jordan and saw everyone dancing, and then my eyes met with his again. I studied them for only a second, being careful not to stare too long. His eyes seemed innocent, and he seemed to be curious, maybe even worried. A walk I could handle.

I nodded and pushed myself up off of the couch, standing up next to him. He placed his hand gently on my lower back and helped me fight my way through the crowded room and out of the front door.

The gentle breeze met my skin as we stepped outside, causing the hair on my arms to rise. I pulled my jacket out of my bag and put it on, tightening the fabric against my skin. He slid his hands into his pocket and we made our way down the driveway and onto the street. It was becoming dark and the streetlights were all that were illuminating the path before us.

Conversation was casual. We talked about summer plans, college plans…the usual. The conversation was actually quite boring and predictable, actually. But I didn’t mind, because it got my mind off of things.

We’d walked halfway around the block and we fell silent for a while. I looked around me, barely making out the fronts of houses surrounding us. I looked up at the sky, and smiled as I realized the stars were coming out.

I remember being a little girl, fascinated by the stars. By age seven I had so many books on them, four telescopes, and I had bought a hundred of the glow in the dark stars at the dollar store and plastered them all on my ceiling. I loved knowing that there was so much beyond earth, so many stars, planets, maybe even kinds of life. Simply the idea of it all mesmerized me.

I looked over at Jordan and smiled. “Have you ever seen a shooting star?” I asked, shifting my gaze back up to the sky.

“I thought I had when I was little once, but it turned out to be an airplane. When my mom told me I was devastated. I felt like I’d been tricked.” He said, laughing softly, “God that upset me.”

I shook my head, laughing softly. I’d seen a couple of shooting stars in my lifetime, but I didn’t say that. Instead I looked back over at him. “What had you wished for?”

He shrugged, looking up and then back over to me. “For my mom to stop worrying about me so much. For her to believe that I’d be okay no matter what happened.”
I smiled. My mom was the same way. Always being protective, always wanting to know exactly where I was. Until I had turned eighteen I could hardly go out anywhere without being bothered by a phone call every half hour. “I know how that is. You know, you could always pretend. “

“That would be cheating.” He protested, chuckling.

“Well, sometimes cheating is what makes you win, correct?”

“Win unfairly.” He said bluntly.

“But who is it going to hurt if you cheat by pretending to see a shooting star? No one loses anything.”

He was quiet for a moment, thinking. “I guess you’re right.”

“You know I am.” I said, matter-of-factly.

He shoved me playfully and I shoved back, allowing a loud laugh to slip through my lips.

“Alright, clever one. What would you wish for if there was a shooting star right now?” He asked, raising an eyebrow.

I knew the answer immediately, and my mood shifted. I looked away from him then, gluing my eyes to my feet as I walked. “For my sister to get better. She’s five.” I said softly.

“Is she sick?” He asked casually, adjusting his baseball cap.

“Yeah,” I replied. I stopped walking a few feet away from a street light and took a deep breath, looking up at Jordan. “She has leukemia.”
I swallowed hard, closing my eyes. He was the first one I’d told.

He stopped walking and looked at me, staying silent, and I continued. “I’m scared. I tried going to the party tonight after tucking her in to clear my head and to stop thinking about it, but all I could think about is if she’s ever going to even be able to live out her senior year. She’s so young and now it’s come into her life like some major storm. There’s no telling how long she’ll live.” My words faded, becoming softer at the end of the sentence and I opened my eyes, looking back up at him.

He stayed quiet and I swallowed again. This is exactly what I didn’t want. “You don’t need to say anything. You don’t need to feel down or sorry for me. I shouldn’t have brought that up.”

“That’s not it, Chandler.” He said, his voice serious.

He reached over and gently took my hand in his. I almost protested. I didn’t want to be comforted by him. I didn’t want this from people. The attention didn’t do anything for me. But for reasons I’ll never know, I didn’t let go of his hand. “It’s possible that she’ll have her senior year, Chandler. Leukemia is tricky. It can go away, come back, and then go away again. You can’t give up hope on her making it just yet. She can do it. It’s possible.”

I shook my head. “How do you know? You haven’t seen what the cancer has done to her or how much it’s affected her. She knows she’s sick. She’s not the same anymore.”

He pulled on my hand, causing me to walk with him a little further until we were directly under the street light. He looked nervous, tense, and slightly unsure of himself. I stayed quiet, wondering what was going through his mind.

He pulled his hand from mine and looked me directly in the eyes. “Chandler,” he started, reaching up and pulling off his baseball cap.

And in that moment, when I saw the street light hit his head and I looked up to see that he had no hair, I heard the words that would give me the strength that I’d been needing. “I know it’s possible that your sister will live a long time, and even more so through her senior year, because I did.”





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