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All the Stars That Shine
"There's Scorpio," Danny said quietly, pointing at the sky. I looked around wildly, trying to find the constellation.
"I don't see it," I whined. Danny sqeezed my hand.
"It's okay. It's there, and that's all that matters." My brown eyes searched the heavens again. With the hand that Danny wasn't holding, I reached up to catch a star. My fingers cut through the balmy night air.
"Danny, I want a star." My brow furrowed as I attempted to grab one again. "Why can't I get one?"
"Because they're far, far away," Danny said calmly. With a soft hand, he reached over and pushed a few strands of hair out of my face and began to gently stroke my cheek.
"I still want a star," I whispered. It was too dark to see his face, but I can't feel Danny's sweet smile linger in the air between us.
Forty-three years later, reality came crashing down on me.
"Hi there," I murmured, patting Danny's hand softly. His watery blue eyes opened a millimeter, and a small, lopsided grin creased his face.
"Katie?" I was terrified how frail and vulnerable he sounded. For his sake, I choked my emotions down and put on a happy face.
"Yeah, it's me."
"Katie... Why are you here? You have a family now."
"I know. But I had to come see you." I wiped away a tear before it could trickle down my cheek.
Danny gazed into the distance.
"When I die," he rasped, "bury me beneath the stars."
"Don't say that, Danny. Never say that."
"Katie... There's still some truth left in this world. When you find it, you can't deny it."
"Oh, Danny... My beautiful Danny..." My shoulders heaved as the past days' horrors spilled out of me. "Don't leave me, never, ever, ever leave me..."
"Katie, what time is it?"
I looked up at him through puffy red eyes. "It... It's 9:17."
"Are the stars out?"
Somehow I gathered the strength to get up and peek out the window. The sky was masked in clouds.
"They're out there somewhere, Danny," I choked. "They're there, and that's all that matters."
"Good..." I went back to his side, clasping his wrinkled hand in mine. Slow, silent hours passed. I didn't even notice when his eyes closed.
"Ma'am?" A blonde nurse stepped into the room. "Visiting hours are over."
"O-oh." I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. Reluctantly, I stood up. Before the nurse ushered me out the door, I stole one more glance out the window. A single star glinted at me through the clouds.
I almost smiled.