With Stars in Their Eyes

Renee Johnson

© Copyright 1999 by Renee Johnson

Photo of children playing soccer.

I remember so well the day I met you. But then again, how could I forget it? We were both about 8 years old, and this day was without a doubt one of the most important days in either of our lives. This was the day of out last soccer game of that season and the championship was on the line. It plays in my mind over and over seeing you rush towards me, a determined glint in your eye. The crowd cheered you on as you rushed down the field past my team to where I stood in the goalie box. I remember it all so well, and the thing I remember most about that day is seeing the ball rushing towards me, and putting my hands up to block it. The shot was a good one, but not good enough. The ball bounced off my head and kept it out of the box, but I was knocked out for a moment. My team won the game that day because I blocked that goal, and I never let you forget it.

After the game you came over to see if I was OK. Maybe you came on your own, but I’ve always had the feeling that you were forced by your mother check on me. I remember the look on your face wasn’t exactly filled with concern. I’ve often wondered what would have happened if we had not met that day. If some other team had won the chance to go to the championship, or if your mother had not forced you to come over and ask if I was all right. Maybe things wouldn’t have happened the way the did. Maybe our mother wouldn’t have become friends, and maybe we wouldn’t have become anything more.

Your mother started coming over a lot to talk with my mother and soon, whatever they did, they did it together. It seemed that whenever your mother came over, so did you. You never knew it, but you were the son my mother never had but always secretly wished for. Actually, now that I look back on it, you may have been the reason I grew up an only child. We did enough fighting to convince her one child was all she needed. Besides, she could always send you home.

Along sometime in the summer we both turned 16, something changed. I didn’t see you as the annoying kid who came over with his mother all the time, but as someone different. You weren’t the same boy that pulled my hair and teased me and snuck out of the house with me on a “midnight exhibition” in search of a late night snack. For the first time, I noticed your eyes, your hair, and your smile. And I noticed that everytime I saw them, it made me feel a little dizzy and light-headed, and weakened me in the knees. I would have never had the nerve to tell you. Everybody thought we were brother and sister, so I thought maybe you saw us that way too. But I was so glad when you proved me wrong.

Of course it was on the fourth of July. It seems like all summer love stories and all summer love movies start on the fourth of July. Our story was no different. “Something right out of a cheap romance novel” my friend used to say. But that night, while the whole town got together in Greed’s park for a big celebration and a huge fireworks display, we weren’t there at Greed’s park eating overdone corn on the cob and underdone hamburgers. You and I had found our own special place. It was hidden far back in the woods behind the park, and you and I were the only ones who knew about it because the trail had been overgrown for years, it was just our place. You kissed me for the first time there that night, and that was the first place I felt your touch soon after. And sometimes I can close my eyes and almost remember what it felt like. If only it were real.

We met there nearly everyday after that in our spot. You would be waiting for me in the tree and jump down. Then I would act as if you had suprised me, and try to run away from you, only to be tackled and smothered in your warm kisses. You were always there when I needed you. No matter if I just needed to take my anger out on someone, or just to cry on your shoulder. You never turned me away. Not once. And I guess I was nieve enough to believe that we would be together forever. Maybe because of what you told me as we laid in the grass looking up at the stars twinkling in the distance. You told me that no matter where either of us went and no matter how far apart we were, all I would have to do is look up at the stars and know that somewhere you were looking up there too.

It conforted me so much to hear you say that, and for a second I thought that maybe we would be together forever and maybe we would grow old together and that things couldn’t get better. I was laying on a bed of roses, and what was better was that you were with me. But I soon found out that roses die and wilt, and in doing so lose their beauty.

It was two weeks before graduation that my world collapsed. I waited for you that day at school between each class. Something told me that there was something that just wasn’t quite right. I tried to ignore it, but I couldn’t. The day seemed an endless jumble of lectures and tests, and the seconds felt like hours that slid by like centuries. I should have known. I should have known that something would happen to you. I should have known that just as things were going so wonderful for both of us, something was going to happen.

Maybe in the back of my mind I did know. But the tinniest part of my mind that knew couldn’t convince the rest of my mind that was trying to convince all of me that everything was fine.

I went to our place looking for you, and when you weren’t there I waited for you as long as I could. I saw the street lights turn on one by one. As they did, the feeling that something was wrong grew into an unbearable fear. There had been times that you had been late before, or days that you had been sick and not came, but you had never just not shown up without letting me know. And that scared me more than anything.

After the street lights were all on I started to hear the traffic of people rushing home to their families, and kids on bikes headed home to their dinner and I decided to go home too. But not right away. First I went by your house. The thought of going to the door and asking you where you had been and why you had not been there crossed my mind. The thought of strangling you as soon as you opened the door for making me worry about you so much crossed my mind too. But I knew I couldn’t do that. You’d open the door, and after one look at you, I wouldn’t be able to stay mad at you. So instead I decided I would go home and call.

When I got home I noticed there had been several calls from someone, but they hadn’t left any messages. The phone rang, and I had hoped that it was you, but it wasn’t. Instead it was your mother saying that you had been in a car accident that morning on your way to school. She said your car hadn’t made it across the train tracks and that you had been killed. My body and mind went numb. My knees buckled and I hit the floor. Images flashed through my mind. I saw you rushing down the road towards school, the train coming towards you, the engineer blowing the horn trying to warn you, the terror in your eyes as it hit, and then finally the serenity of your face surrounded by the twisted metal after it was over.

It sank in slowly, but I couldn’t let myself believe it was true until I saw it for myself. I need the chance to convince myself it wasn’t real and that I was dreaming. I knew it couldn’t be true because in my mind I was asleep and would wake up with your arms around me in our special place and you would kiss away my tears and everything would be allright.

But it didn’t happen that way. I went to the train tracks and the train was still there. So was your car. It didn’t even really look like a car. It was just an unrecognizable pile of nothing.

I touched your car, but when I did, it almost seemed to burn me. Maybe it was knowing this was the exact place where your life had come to an end. This was the exact place where you had drawn your last breath and the place where you had your last thought. I wondered what it had been, but mostly I wondered if it had been about me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small black box. It had been crushed and beaten, trampled by the force of the impact and thrown out of the wreck. Slowly I opened it, and my breath caught in my throat. It was a ring. Infact it was the most beautiful ring I had ever seen. A gold band with a diamond in the middle cut like a star. I ran my fingers along the edges, my eyes blurred with tears, and I could hear your voice again. “No matter where we are, all you have to do is look at the stars and think of me, and I’ll be there.”

You had told me that so many times and I guess I never realized how true it was until that night. As I held the ring in my hand and looked up at the stars twinkling millions of miles away, I felt like you were there with me. I felt it so strongly that I turned around to see if maybe you were standing there. Of course you weren’t and the reality began to set in again. You would never been there. Never. Whenever I turned around, all I would see was where you should have been. And where you would never be again.

I touched the ring again, slowly, and decided that without you, there was no reason to go on. You’d asked me once what would happen to me if one day you were gone. I told you that I wouldn’t be far behind and you made me promise that I would go on. No matter what. I had promised. But so had you. You had promised me that you would always be there for me, and never leave me. You promised me what we would grow old together and live forever. But you had broken your promise, and I had no choice but to break mine too. It was the only way we could be together I told myself.

The question was how? I didn’t exactly have a knife handy or could just go grab a gun from someone. A million ways shot through my mind. Hanging myself, jumping from the bridge on the other side of town, and even waiting on the tracks somewhere for another train. Finally, I decided. I would overdose on sleeping pills I would simply fall asleep, and when I woke up, I would be with you. Together Forever.

There was a store about a mile and a half down the road. So I put the ring in my pocket, and when I reached the store, the cashier must have noticed something because she asked if I was all right, I said yes, but I hadn’t slept for a few days. That seemed to satisfy her and she gave me the pills.

I went back to our place in the back of the park and I wondered how long it would be before they found me here, cold and dead with an empty water bottle in my hand and an empty box of sleeping pills beside my lifeless body.

I took all the pills out of the box and moved them around in my hand. They seemed like ordinary pills. Like anything someone would take for a cold or a headache. But once I swallowed all of these pills, I would never hurt again or feel anything ever again. I closed my eyes and swallowed some of them and a few sips of water. I laid down against a tree. Our tree, so that I could see the place where you had carved our initials inside a heart. I tilted my head back and swallowed the rest of the pills. Eventually my eyes closed, and I let them. The breeze turned cold and it whistled through the trees like someone singing a distant lullaby. softer, softer, then I could barely hear it.

I was suprised me how fast the pills had an effect on me. How quickly my mind was clouded and how quickly I became too tired to move. I tried to lift my arm, but couldn’t. It felt like they were completely made of lead. For a moment it scared me and I tried to fight it. But it was too late, and I relaxed and thought about you. I wanted my last thought to be about you.

Slowly everything faded away and I couldn’t hear the wind or feel it. I couldn’t feel the cold ground below me, or the rough bark of the tree I was leaning against. It was completely black. Nothingness. I wondered if you had felt this too in your last moments.

It seemed like I laid there for a long time waiting for mind to stop working and waiting until I could be with you forever. It became hard to think, my thoughts muddled with thoughts that made no sense, so I stopped thinking and waited for you to come and wake me up. It seemed like an eternity passed before you finally came. I felt your hand brush my cheek and tried to open my eyes, but had laid your fingertips on them gently. “Shh...” you whispered. “Lay still. It’s O.K. I’m here.” I heard the leaves rustle as you sat beside me, and I tried to reach for your hand, but my arms still wouldn’t move. You must have been reading my mind because you took my hand in yours and softly kissed my palm. I remember thinking that your hands felt like blocks of ice. But it didn’t matter to me because they were yours and you were there with me. You held my hand that whole night, just talking to me and telling me how much you loved me and that I wouldn’t ever be alone. The last thing you said to me was that if I ever felt that you weren’t with me, that all I had to do is look up at the stars and know that you were up there, watching over me.

When I opened my eyes you were gone, but I could still feel where you had kissed my cheek moments before. The sun was shining and it hurt my eyes, I felt the wind again and shivered. My mind was still clouded, but I could hear voices shouting my name. I’ve always suspected that you had something to do with helping our parents find me in our place.

I don’t know how long I slept after they took me to the hospital, but when I woke up, the first thing I noticed was that the ring had somehow gotten onto my finger. I touched it, slowly tracing the edges in the darkness. I knew there had to be some reason that you hadn’t wanted me to die. I found out why very soon.

It was six months later that I had our son. I named him after you, and each day he looks more and more like you. His eyes and hair are the same color and he has your smile that is guaranteed to get him out of trouble down the line. He also shares your love for soccer. In fact, he made the point that won the championship game today. I wish you could have been here to see it (although I have a strange feeling that maybe you were). There is a little girl on one of the other teams that has been picking on him all season long. I have a feeling they will become good friends.

Renee is a 17 yr old writer from Salina Kansas, just begining to spread her literary wings, and hopes this contest will be a good start.

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