Benjamin

My watch reads 7:23; it's dark outside already. Half of the stars are in the sky; I can pick out most of the constellations in my head.

Anna's real name is Andromeda. My father had just left us right before my little sister was born; she was depressed, sad, left to care for four kids--one on the way. Andromeda was the princess of Ethiopia. The constellation tells of her mother, who bragged of the own beauty to Poseidon. She claimed that her splendor surpassed that of the Nereids, Poseidon's sea nymphs. The sea God was greatly angered and, as punishment to her mother, shackled Andromeda to a rock by the sea, intending for her to be a sacrifice to a sea monster. Meanwhile, Perseus, flying by on his way back from conquering the Gorgon Medusa, saw Andromeda on the rock and fell in love with her, saving her from her impending doom. In the sky, Andromeda is pictured with her arms stretched toward the sky and her hands chained.

It was a happy ending, as my mother saw it. She needed one of those, when my father left.

I get up, out of my lawn chair placed precariously on the back porch, and go to the railing that winds all of the way around our house. I lean against it, suddenly tired, heave a sigh, and that's when I hear the voices.

I can't decipher what they're saying, and so I look out across our lawn, searching. Just barely, I can see a couple sitting on the grass to the left. A shape is next to them, a dark blob in the darker vast stretch of grass. I tiptoe along to them, careful not to be seen.

As the voices grow louder, I stop myself dead in my tracks. Dropping with a small thud on the dew-strewn ground, I ruin my good pants. I groan inwardly: I just bought these pants, but I focus back on the conversation between my sister and another person.

A voice that I recognize as Anna's is filling up the silence, and I don't think I've heard this sort of color in her voice, this spirit, since she was nine. "--Billy, that was his name. Anyway, Billy was my stuffed animal when I was small. I used to carry him everywhere, and my mother had to force me not to bring him in the bath." This comment unnerves them a little, I can tell, and an awkward silence washes over the both of them. "…I don't know if I even have him anymore," Anna says, a desperate attempt to maintain conversation.

I can see by the shape of the figure beside her and its body language that this other person is a boy, Anna's age--thank God. But she doesn't have any male friends… except Jake. It must be him.

I'm far away enough to catch how he leans into her, while not really looking it. The moonlight gleams on both of their faces, lighting up Anna's really quite striking features and complimenting Jake's square cheekbones.

His voice is deep, calm, when he says, "Comfort objects? I didn't have one when I was little. I mean, I had toys that I liked, but I guess none of them stuck."

There is another silence after this, and I dare not breath, lest I interrupt them and get verbally--or otherwise--beaten by Anna for 'spying' on her. Which, all things considered, I am.

She moves toward him slowly, her hands leading her across the damp grass. The pair still silent, he doesn't move, but instead gazes at her advancing form with glistening eyes.

She's just getting onto his lap when I look away. This is my sister, for Christ's sake, and I don't really want to watch them…

But, I don't know a good way to move away with them unawares. They were talking when I first came up, and so my sound was masked, but now the quiet pushes against every move I make, amplifying the sound of my every footstep.

Thankfully, Jake speaks, so I know they're not doing anything obscene.

"You're beautiful, Anna," he says, as I inch my head back to look at them, hesitant.

She smiles, the premature lines on her young face becoming more defined. She is older than her actually birth; she has been through so much more than most people go through in their lives.

"I really like you, you know," my sister says, and I grin as I realize where this is going.

Jake leans back on his outstretched arms, propping him up, and nods.

There is a long silence, in which they shift awkwardly, not meeting each other's gaze until their eyes lock in the same instant. Jake seems amazed at the color of her eyes, and though I'm sure he's seen them before, it is more impact-full, I suppose, in this setting.

"Anna?"

"Hmm?" she murmurs.

"Will you be my girlfriend?"

She nods, beaming from ear to ear.

As they both sit back to gaze at the stars, the magnificent beauty of the night sky, she starts to tell him her full name, the story of Andromeda that I have just rehearsed in my head moments before. And, in the camouflage of her joyous voice, I stand slowly and make my way back toward the house.

She's in good hands.