|Dream the Stars
Author: Alice the Strange PM
A snippet of a story that I planned to finish one day and never did. Six children living in the outback are forced to journey towards civilisation when their father is killed in an accident.Rated: Fiction K - English - Family/Hurt/Comfort - Words: 719 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 03-08-10 - id: 2783251
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"I can carry you if you want, Cassie," James offered.
"No, thanks," I declined. "I'm OK." In truth, I was feeling sick and fatigued to the point of collapse. My head ached and I could already feel blisters coming up on my sore feet, rubbed raw by my tight shoes. The sun overhead was so blindingly bright I was forced to walk with half-shut eyes, squinting against the boiling heat. However, I knew I couldn't tell James this; he had enough to worry about as it was.
"Seriously, Cassie," he said, concern in his eyes. "You need a rest. You look exhausted."
Dear, sweet James. I felt a wave of anguish mixed with love, knowing without asking that he was far more exhausted than I was, although he never would admit it. In the crook of his left arm, he cradled a baby, though I couldn't tell which one on account of the swaddling shawl pulled up over its head as protection from the heat. On his left shoulder lay two-year-old Ben, fast asleep, his head resting against James's neck and his blond curls lying across his forehead. He looked so angelic, but I hated him at that moment for causing James all that trouble. James's right arm reached down, curled awkwardly round Rhiannon's small fingers. He was bending forward with the weight, one of Ben's legs swinging like a pendulum as they staggered along.
"I'm fine, really," I lied. "You don't need to carry me. Anyway, I'm too big." My disparaging tone was a distinct and pointed end to the conversation.
We made camp that night underneath a mulberry tree. It was a warm night, and stars were pricking out like white moths among the gathering clouds. The cool breeze on my face was a welcome relief from the constant, glaring heat of the sun, but despite my fatigue, I couldn't sleep. I heard James's rapid breathing, and knew he was awake too. "James," I whispered. There was no response. "James? You awake?"
I heard the noise of footsteps, and then he was kneeling beside me. "Cassie," he said, with a sigh. "Go to sleep."
"I might say the same to you," I countered obstinately. "Why are you still up?"
"It's too complicated for you to understand."
"Don't talk to me like I'm a little girl!"
"Shh!" James hissed. "You'll wake the others!"
I fell silent, feeling crushed that he was treating me so offhandedly. His soft breathing was the only sound in the midnight air.
"All right," I heard him say, "I'll tell you. This time – night-time – is the only time I can get away."
"Get away from what?" I whispered, inching closer.
"The noise. The hassle. All you kids together…it can get tiring. You've probably noticed."
I was offended that he'd called me a kid, but decided not to mention it. "Yeah. I've noticed."
"Night is so beautiful," he said. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness by now and I could see his silhouette, his head tilted upwards, the whites of his eyes shining in the gloom. "Look," he said, squeezing my hand. "There's Orion. See his belt? Those three stars together?" He pointed, and I stared up.
"There. See it?"
"Yes," I breathed. I gazed, wide-eyed, at all the constellations, so bright and magical, like an explosion of silver and gold. They were like diamonds, as though someone had released a firework, showering the sky with jewels.
"How many are there?" I whispered.
"I don't know. Millions, probably."
The number was dizzying. I imagined the noughts trailing into space like bubbles. Millions upon millions of stars. I thought about living in the sky. You'd climb the stars like a staircase, perch on the sharp, slender curve of the crescent moon, dance with pale girls with silvery hair, dressed in white velvet. No screaming babies, or yelling toddlers. No burning sun. Just cool winds that blew around you. All on your own, at the centre of the stars.
"Must be lonely out there," I said softly.
We were quiet for a bit.
"I'm going to sleep now."
"Me too. Goodnight, Cass."