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Why the Stars Don't Shine
My mother told me when I was six, that every time someone says something negative, a star dies.
We sat up on the rooftop of our apartment, a blanket spread under us. The sky glowed with speckled stars. The moon looked like toenail. My mother squeezed my hand. I squeezed back.
“Is that why there aren’t any stars sometimes?” I asked.
She nodded, “Yes, baby.”
“Where do they go?”
“Somewhere else where they can shine.”
“Like my Daddy?” I asked.
She nodded again. “Like Daddy.”
“Why can’t I see them shine anymore when they go away?” I asked.
“Because it’s not for us to see.”
A late night breeze brushed against my Mother’s face, tugging at her short, wispy hair like it wants her to fly away with wind. I grasp her hand tighter. I don’t want her to go away with the wind. Not yet.
“I love you, Mommy,” I said.
She kissed my forehead. “I love you too, baby.”
“You’re weird, Hannah,” Kaden Miller told me when I was ten. We were on the playground. The teachers are too far away to see Kaden and his friends taunting me.
I ran my fingers over the prickly grass. I sat underneath the shade of the large oak tree by the fence during recess because the other girls didn’t like me. Well, they were nice to me in a nonparticipating way. But not nice enough to ask me to play with them. I didn’t think anyone else in Mrs. Kliff’s fourth grade class could spell nonparticipating without forgetting the second i. I could. I had begun to think that my success at spelling was the reason the other kids didn’t like me.
“I am not weird, Kaden,” I replied softly.
Kaden scoffed. Beside him, Brett and George nodded in agreement with their friend. I didn’t like Kaden Miller. His front tooth was chipped and he had too many freckles. Also, he was mean. Very mean. But I would never say that to him, because that was negative. And if I spoke negatively, stars would die.
“Yes you are,” Kaden said. “You’re weird and stupid and you brag a lot. You dumb and you’re all full of crap-”
I pressed my hands against my ears. “Stop!” I shrieked. “Stop it, Kaden! Stop talking like that or the stars won’t shine!”
Kaden laughed, as did Brett and George. Kaden sneered at me, “You’re a freak, Hannah Knight. Maybe if your parents would have stayed around if you weren’t such a freak.”
“My parents didn’t want to go,” I whispered. “The wind took them away.”
Kaden smirked. “That’s a lie. You’re a liar, Hannah. They left you. No stupid wind took them. I bet your parents were glad to leave.”
“Stop it,” I begged. “Stop saying that, Kaden. If you keep talking like that, my parents won’t shine tonight.”
“Your such a baby,” Kaden spat. “Your parents didn’t love you. They won’t ever shine.”
“That’s not true. They shine somewhere.”
“You are weird,” Kaden claimed, and then he kicked up dirt in my face as he walked away. I tasted dust and grass and hot tears.
The stars don't shine that night.
The World Trade Center crashes.
The stars don’t shine.
There is a war.
The stars don’t shine.
Kaden Miller’s words ring in my ears.
I didn’t see any stars.
“Do you believe angels?” Bryce Carrington asks me.
We were fourteen, sitting on rooftop of the orphanage. Bryce was my best friend. Sometimes people asked if we were related, because we both had the same blond hair and blue eyes. But Bryce’s eyes were a darker blue, because he had lived through darker conditions then me. His father used to beat him and his mother had been a drunk. Both of them got killed in a car wreck. I thought about how both of my parents had passed away from cancer. Mine eyes were a watery blue, mixed with green. Maybe my eyes reflected on my past too, I just didn’t realize it.
The night sky is sprinkled with stars. Out in the country, they are easier to see. I like it better here than Brooklyn or Long Island. The sky felt closer here. It had been almost four years since I had seen a full sky of shining stars. I thought about what my Mother had said so long ago, about how stars die and then they shine elsewhere. Maybe stars went to better place, like people.
I stretch out on the blanket next to him. The late November air is cold, but comforting. The sky stretches for miles. I breath in the night air.
“No,” I say. “I do believe in stars. though.”
"That's a nice thing to believe," Bryce comments.
I nodded. "I think your right."
And I decided that maybe I was too.