I. The girl’s eyes sparkled with the reflection of the stars. Her little sister looked over at her, strawberry-blonde hair cascading around her shoulders as they sat out on the shingled roof.
“Do you know the story of the stars?” the little one asked.
“Tell me,” the older girl answered, meeting her little sister’s Bambi eyes.
The little girl giggled and pointed, turning back to the midnight sky. “You see those three in a row?”
“That’s Orion’s belt. And those ones… those ones are his feet. And there’s his head, and his sword is there. Orion was a great warrior…”
The little girl continued her story, staring and pointing, sometimes glancing back at her big sister for a nod or a smile of acknowledgement. She reached the tale of Medusa before she realized her sister’s usually stormy blue eyes weren’t looking at the sky, they were fixed one her.
“You aren’t listening,” she whined. Then she smiled. Her sister’s eyes weren’t storms now. They shined like the clear summer sky. Those bright blue eyes turned soft as she leaned over and hugged the little girl.
“I love you, Sophia,” she said.
“I love you too, Lyssa.”
II. The little girl’s eyes turned red as blood streamed from her forehead. Her tiny, five-year-old hands wiped her eyes but all that accomplished was to cover the rest of her face in crimson and mat her golden-brown hair. The steel shelf support lay on the ground by her feet, one corner the same red that now dripped from the girl’s chin onto her t-shirt. Her oldest brother stood petrified across the room. No one remembers why he was angry (it wasn’t an infrequent occurrence), but everyone remembers what happened because of it.
The eldest sister rushed towards the youngest and shouted for someone to get a towel. The middle one ran forward and handed the elder a dish towel as tears ran from both their eyes.
The mother stormed into the room as the eldest girl tried to stop the bleeding.
“Sophia, put Micah to bed,” she ordered the middle child. “Alyssa, get Gloria to the car.” Then she glared across at the elder boy. “We’ll deal with you later, Andrew,” she snarled.
The children hurried to follow their orders and Sophia heard the car speed away as she sang her little brother to sleep.
III. His eyes were hard that day, their usual turquoise brightness hidden far from sight. He wanted something, and he knew it would not be given freely.
They sat on the floor eating poptarts and watching television — together, like everything they did back then. He commented about her being sexy. She laughed.
“You’re missing the best part,” she chided, gesturing at the television. She rolled her eyes, chuckled, and turned back to the show, but his eyes stayed fixed on her.
He reached over and slid his hand up her back, under her shirt.
“Griffin, what are you doing?” Her voice tremorred. He wasn’t listening.
He flipped her onto her back on the ground.
The pencil fell from her fingers and she sprung back as she saw what she’d nearly done. She crouched near the wall, still ready to fight, terrified of what might happen if she did. Her hands shook. The pencil lay just a few feet in front of her. She darted forward and grabbed it, then threw it across the room, listening to it roll and bounce down the attic stairs.
A trickle of blood crept down his neck as he sat up from where she’d pinned him. She’d stopped barely short of the carotid, but it wasn’t her who’d pinned him down. It wasn’t her who’d wielded the nearby weapon, now terrifyingly far away.
He didn’t speak. He just stood up, walked to his desk, picked something off the upper shelf, and returned to his place sitting across from her on the floor. He set the knife in front of her.
“Don’t pick it up,” he said.
Her whole body shook now. Every muscle tensed, ready for a fight but not wanting one. They stayed like that for an eternity, every second fighting for control, until finally she ran from the house.
IV. The little girl closed her eyes and hugged her legs to her chest. She didn’t bother trying the door — it only opened from the outside and she knew from many previous imprisonments that she wasn’t strong enough to break it. She covered her ears against the shouting outside and retreated into a more comfortable darkness than the one her body was trapped in. She imagined a better world than this one, a world where music brought trees to life and no human ever corrupted the beautiful peace of her garden — the simplistic innocence of a child.
The door swung open and banged against the wall when the shouting finally stopped. The light stung as she opened her eyes.
“You can come out now, Sophia,” Alyssa said. “He’s gone.”
V. Sophia closed her eyes again, years later, but now it wasn’t to block out the world. She was Charlie now, and Charlie didn’t hide.
Charlie raised her arms and turned her head upward. The wind wrapped around her body and every raindrop on her skin felt like a kiss. Lightning flashed across the clouds and thunder rolled through the air. The sky’s deep indigo made the electricity all the more striking.
Charlie reached over and took her best friend’s hand, then her little brother’s. They laughed and danced in circles on the rooftop until water dripped from every part of them and they returned home.
VI. “You have beautiful eyes,” he said.
“The colors — it’s like whole worlds are inside your eyes.”
She chuckled. “Well, I guess that depends on your definition of ‘worlds’.”
They both smirked.
They lay on the roof looking at each other and the sky. The sun shone through the maple leaves above, casting starry shadows on the shingle. Wind ruffled their hair and rustled the leaves, making the stars dance on their faces and accentuating their rainbow eyes.
“Y’know, you’re kind of beautiful, too,” she said, “Dork.”
“I am not a dork, Bambi.”
“Beautiful,” he whispered.
“What color are they now?” she asked.
He described greens and browns and golds, spring flowers and summer leaves and dark chocolate. Then she described his: oceans and summer grass and twilight skies and bluejay’s feathers.
They lay there just staring into each other’s eyes until the stars came out.
“I love you, dork,” she whispered.
“I love you too, Bambi.”