“It’s a sad little thing,” the boy muttered to himself. “It’s about as breathtaking as Mom.” There was something so remarkable in how utterly plain this new home, this barn looked. He wouldn’t be surprised if he contracted a terrible disease the second they walked in the door.
“It’s home,” the girl replied factually. “And don’t let Mom hear you say that if you want to keep your tongue inside your head.”
He rolled his eyes. “If I wanted your opinion, I would have asked for it. And thanks, by the way, I was just about to waltz up to Mom and tell her how her ugliness caused mine.” But his sister did have a point--he might as well get used to the layers of dirt settled within his new house.
The girl stuck her tongue out at him. “And if I wanted someone to give me sass, I would ask someone who has a sense of humor, but you don’t hear me complaining. Anyways, we have to help get dinner ready.”
And though nothing was quite notable about the dinner their family had, to say the same for nightfall would be a lie.
“Mom! Look! There are stars, right in the field out there!” The boy pointed excitedly, tugging on the sleeve of the woman’s bland outfit. Without waiting for her reply, he grabbed old mason jars and his sister’s hand, and they dashed outside where stars glowed, within arms’ reach and flitting across the midnight sky. All of a sudden, the ordinary, bland house where they lived became a place of magic and wonder, like a second Disney World.
Together, the two unscrewed the lids of their jars, and within moments, dozens of the glowing bugs filled them. The boy thought he may never see something so miraculous again. The lights in the jars flickered back and forth, dimmed by the grime left on the outside of the glass.
The duo sprinted back inside, out of breath as they proudly displayed their jars to their mom.
“Look, Mom, they’re magic light bugs! I bet if you wish on them, your wish will come true.” The girl grinned at him, shared excitement passing from one young soul to another. The boy shook his jar in her face, his arm not quite long enough to reach up past her nose.
Their mom had always been a bitter, practical woman, no matter how much she may have tried to deny it. Tell her there was a rainbow in the sky, and she would explain it’s just light refracting through rain drops, her tone leaving no room for further discussion. Show her a painting, and she would give the best constructive criticism anyone could hope for, but no praise--not even for her own children.
And so it was no surprise when she gazed down at her children sternly, hands on hips, and informed them that they had not, in fact, captured stars or magic light bugs.
“Those are fireflies. They’re native to this region, so I hope you don’t plan to continue these antics from now on.”
That may have been true, but even reprimand from their mother could not dim the joy the boy felt, and nothing could convince him they captured anything besides magic light bugs.
A ragged breath escaped, a chest moving painfully, shaking.
The boy, now seventeen, gripped his mother’s hand, ignoring the clamminess, the sweat that encased it. He had money, but not quite enough to pay for the medicine he needed for adequate medicine. It broke his heart to see her in pain, but he knew his mother was too proud to admit it, right until the very end.
The sun was setting, painting the sky in hues of pink and orange and purple with the barest breath of the dark night sky peeking out high above. It seemed odd, somehow, that something so beautiful could occur during the same time someone lost their life.
Spots in the field began to flicker and glow. He squeezed his mom’s hand. “Look, Mom, the fireflies are coming out.”
A gentle smile graced her stony features, almost looking awkward on a face that he had only ever seen scowl. “No, those are magic light bugs. I hear that if you wish on them, your wish will come true.”
The boy’s eyes were lined by silver as he held back impending tears. “I wish you would stay with me, Mom. I wish you would stay.”
“A little longer, sweetie. I think I can stay a little longer.”
And when she finally closed her eyes and tears spilled from the boy’s eyes, a final, peaceful smile was etched onto her face. It was a dreamer’s smile, the smile of someone who looked up at the night sky, at the stars, and wished.