By Elena Van Horn
Bright streaks of light jumped across the sky as Hannah watched. It was two in the morning. Her father and mother had told her that if she couldn’t find anyone to go with her, then she couldn’t go. If they really cared, they would have offered to go with her themselves. Friends? No one would go climb a mountain with her at two in the morning. Siblings? Hard to ask when you didn’t exist to them.
As she sat with her back against a tree, Hannah was amazed by furious brilliance each falling star had. It made her imagine that each was a sentient thing, desperately grasping for life as it fell.
How brave these stars were as they fell.
She wanted to be like them, brilliant and powerful even as they remained separate from the other stars in the sky. She imagined that if a star were a human it wouldn't care about sitting alone at lunch. That wouldn’t matter to them. They were bright, even alone.
It was a luminescence she didn't quite understand. It was so hard to shine bright when hardly anyone noticed she was there. Everyone was too busy looking at popular kids—like her brother and sister. Hannah scowled, hunching her shoulders.
Something rustled, and Hannah’s head snapped towards it. The lumpy bush didn’t move, so Hannah turned back uneasily.
Her father had told her horror stories about people falling off cliffs or getting eaten by bears. Geez, it had scared the freakin’ coleslaw out of her.
She had tried to get someone to go with her. She really had. Her sister, Vickey had been too busy making monster faces in the mirror to practice for a play. Her brother, Justin, hadn’t even heard her the first three times she’d asked him. He’d been playing games with his friends. He’d blinked, pulled off his gaming headphones, and given her a questioning look. She’d just snorted in frustration and walked away. What was she supposed to do? It was like when she tried to approach them at school. She was invisible.
Hannah touched the taser she had stolen from her mother's lingerie drawer. She didn’t need them. She could protect herself. She was like a falling star, brilliant in her solitude.
A particularly bright meteor flashed across the sky. Two bright stars happened to be above it, and they formed a giant frowny face across the sky.
Hannah scowled. Leave it to the universe to contradict her.
Sour at the emoticon in the sky, Hannah got up. Maybe it was time that she went home.
Hannah pulled out her flashlight and clicked it on. The forest blinked into detail.
She heard another crunch. Her flashlight swung towards the sound, her other hand on the taser. The bushes stopped moving. Hannah abandoned any pretense of searching for the source of the sound and ran down the trail, her light bobbing.
Her foot hit the edge of a root. Hannah caught herself on a tree with a crunch. The woods plunged back into darkness.
"Oger snot." She lifted the broken flashlight grimly.
Glancing forward, Hannah realized that she was staring over the edge of a cliff. She scooted back quickly, gasping.
Fingers slid over her ankle. She caught a glimpse of a ski mask in the darkness. Hannah screamed. Yanking her leg away madly, she bolted away.
The next moment, a cliffside wall rose in front of her and Hannah skittered to a stop. She turned, gripping the taser, sure her heart had stolen all the blood in her body with its mad pumping.
“I swear, if you don’t leave me alone, I am going to…” Hannah looked around frantically. As always, the sky caught her eye. “Make you see stars,” she finished weakly.
She pressed herself against the dirt wall, the taser in front of her. “Just, don’t hurt me!”
“Hannah?” a low voice said. A feminine voice joined it, laughing.
A flood of warmth rushed through her body. “Vicky? Justin?”
A moment later, Justin emerged from the bushes, Vickey trailing him.
“If you don’t leave me alone, I’ll make you see stars!” Vickey mimicked Hannah’s motions, laughing.
Hannah scowled, so embarrassed she couldn’t speak. “You gave me a freakin’ heart attack!”
Justin folded his arms, one eyebrow raised. “Now, I wonder why that is? Could it be wandering around alone at three in the morning isn’t safe? Too bad no one warned you not to do that.”
Hannah gaped like a fish. “What are you two doing here, anyways?” she snapped.
Justin folded his arms as Vicky continued to snicker. “Neither of us like that you’ve been sneaking out.”
“We also knew that if we told you to quit it, you would just ignore us,” Vicky threw in now that she had her mirth under control. “So, we followed you up the mountain to teach you a lesson."
A bubble of pressure grew in Hannah’s chest. She noticed a ski mask in Justin's hand. The pressure grew. "You what?"
Vicky folded her arms. "Seriously Hanny, you could get yourself in real trouble out here. What if there was a real creeper or even just some dumb dog?"
Hannah glared at Vicky. "What if I accidentally fell off a cliff?" Vicky blinked. Something in Hannah snapped. “You know what? I’ve had enough of you two! You’re so wrapped up in your own worlds that you hardly even look at me anymore! Now you suddenly care? Without you two messing things up, I would have been fine. Go smell goblin barf.” She thrust her hands in her pockets and walked quickly away.
Vicky's brow went up. She pressed her lips together, looking embarrassed. Justin caught her arm as she passed. “Hannah,” he said, guilt in his expression. “We've always cared. It’s just been…busy.” Vickey and he shared a look.
Hannah shrugged angrily. "Whatever. Let's just go home."
Vicky drew in a sharp breath. "Look. I’m gonna be honest. I don’t get your junk. I don’t see the appeal of hiking a mountain at three in the morning.” Hannah rolled her eyes. “But,” Vickey swallowed. “When we lost sight of you, it really scared the both of us. So, how ‘bout we make a deal? One of us picks something every week and then we all do it?”
Hannah blinked. “Huh?”
Vickey put a hand on her hip. “Equal rights. I don’t wanna climb a dang mountain every week. But I do want to spend time with you dum-dums. So, we take turns.”
A prick of hope rose within her chest. She fought it. Vickey was just playing the ‘nice sister.’ Just like her dumb plays.
“And if not, I’ll just kidnap you for stage crew,” Vickey finished.
Hannah blinked. “What?”
Justin snorted. “I second that.”
Vickey got a predatory look, taking a step forward. “I can’t have anything happen to my cute little sister. Submit or I’ll make you.” Hannah bolted. Vickey cackled, tackling and tickling her.
Hannah thrashed, trying to avoid her sister’s fingers. “S-stop it!”
“Not until you give. Mwahahaha,” Vickey replied.
Hannah curled up. “F-Fine! I give!” Justin folded his arms, an amused expression on his face.
They sat up. “So, you up for a dance class next week?” Vickey asked.
Hannah looked at the two of them. Did they really mean it?
The sky was dark. It seemed that the shower of brightness had finished. Something eased in Hannah's chest. She thought about school tomorrow morning. Vicky and Justin would be exhausted when they got up because they’d gone out to make sure she was safe. Maybe this was the beginning of a change?
Hannah smiled a little, and as she looked up she saw one last star fly by in the darkness.
Edited by: Reagan Greenwood