The ember bleeds off my cigarette, falling into the army of snow below. It stands no chance against the frigid onslaught that awaits it.
My cigarette reaches its orange filter and I toss it into the snow, pressing my back against the wooden cabin. It creaks and cracks as if it’s going to crumble. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Who knows how long this sorry excuse of a cabin has been here?
I cross my arms and get comfortable, digging my boots deeper into the snow. The pine trees around me are drowning in it too. Shaking one might be enough to bury me alive, yet I can’t help but feel warm.
The cabin lights aren’t offering much light, but high up in the mountains, the moonlight is enough to make the world clear to me. It’s almost like magic.
The cabin door swings open, the loud shuffling of a coat shattering the silence.
“Sear, why didn’t you put on your coat before, you came outside?”
“Because I couldn’t wait to get out. The stars are so pretty at night.”
“The stars aren’t going to stop you from getting a cold.”
“Yes, they can. If I see a shooting star, then I’ll wish to never get sick,” Sear responds, smirking.
“You know, you don’t have to say dumb things just cause you’re a kid, you know that right?”
“It isn’t dumb,” Sear snaps. “Shooting stars are wonderful, anything can happen when you see one!”
“Oh really, like what?”
“Whatever you wish for, that’s what. Hasn’t anyone told you about shooting stars?”
“Yeah, I know about them, but they’re not actually shooting stars, they’re just meteors flying super-fast in space, Sear. Stars don’t move, they just explode.”
“I know that Dawn, but it’s fun to think that stars can shoot across the sky. It fills me up with wonder and curiosity, so stop trying to kill the fun, jeez. The world sucks enough as is.”
“Okay, I’m sorry, relax. I didn’t know you knew already…”
I dig my boots further into the snow, reluctantly looking up at the sky.
Once I focus my vision, I see the bright burning balls of gas scattered across the world’s ceiling. They’re all so close when you’re up in the mountains, close enough to grab and take home.
“Why’re you looking up at the sky like that? You tryin’ to make a wish?”
“What? N—No, I don’t believe in that nonsense. I’m only checking out the stars.”
“If you say so.”
I don’t know why but looking at the sky makes the air feel fresh. Every aspect of the environment mixes into its embrace.
A hint of pine, with a crisp touch of snow, while the sky is only out of arm's reach. Makes me realize how trapped I am inside all day…
“Yes—” I turn to Sear, and a snowball smashes into my face, vomiting a bitter cold on me.
“Made you look,” Sear cheers.
Quickly, I wipe off the snow and grab her by the waist before she can get away.
“And this is why you don’t mess with your big sister!”
“N—No, let go of me!” Sear tries to squirm her way out of my grip, laughing through her pleas.
“There’s no escape now! You’re gonna get what’s coming to you.” With my arms wrapped around Sear, I sit us down in the snow. I start scooping it up in my hand and smashing it onto her head, making sure to rub it in good.
“Oh my god, Sear stop! You’re gonna ruin my hair.”
“You should’ve thought about that before you made me mad!”
While Sear struggles against me, my gut starts to tense up from how hard I’m laughing. Soon, I get too weak to hold Sear down and she escapes, scurrying across the snow.
“I threw one snowball at you. One, and you try to drown me with snow? What’s wrong with you!?” Sear smacks the snow at me, blinding me with a light flurry. “That wasn’t fair at all.”
“Of course, it wasn’t that’s how life is sometimes. Maybe once you get big, you’ll understand.”
“Whatever, Dawn. You’re just a stupid bully.”
“Well, this stupid bully knows a thing or two about defeating her opponents using any means necessary.”
“Yeah, I bet…” Sear aims her head to the sky, crossing her legs over one another, getting comfy in the snow. “Dawn, do you think there’re things we can do to fight against life?”
“What do you mean?” I scooch myself closer to her, gazing at the stars by her side.
“It’s about what you just said. That’s how life is sometimes. Don’t awful things happen in life? What do people do to stop those things from happening?”
“Well… sometimes there’s only so much you can do, and it depends on what it is really.”
“So, what about things like people getting mad at you, or someone you really care about getting hurt? What’re you supposed to do about stuff like that?”
“Well, when someone’s mad at you, you need to know why and apologize to them, and you need to mean it too, or else they’ll call you out for being a liar.”
“Wow, that reminds me of this one time I tried saying sorry about breaking one of my friends’ crayons, but she just got even angrier! Now that I remember, I only said it so she could shut up about it, but she ended up telling the teacher. That was a bad day...”
“See? If you were honest, you could’ve avoided that situation, but instead, you got in trouble for it.”
“Yeah… next time I’ll try being more honest, but what about people getting hurt? How do you stop that?”
“The most you can do is warn people about certain dangers, but sometimes…” I pause, glaring at the stars, hoping that they can give me an answer. “Accidents happen I guess…”
“I know that accidents happen, Dawn, I want to know how you stop them.”
“How do you stop accidents from happening? If I knew that, then I could help so many people in my life. Both of us could.”
“I just told all that I know. You can only warn people about dangers. It’s up to them whether they prepare for them or not, and even if they do, it isn’t one hundred percent that an accident won’t occur.”
“Yeah, but I want to know how to stop accidents altogether.”
“Sear, I don’t think that’s possible. Every day there’s an accident happening somewhere.”
“It’s not possible? Why not? People getting hurt for no reason doesn’t seem very fair, so why is there no way to stop it?”
“Because life isn’t always fair. It’s not about being fair either.”
With my stomach feeling uneasy, my gaze remains focused on the stars.
“Stop saying that and give me a real answer!”
“This is the real answer.”
“Stop being annoying and tell me already!” Sear grabs onto my shoulder, using the full weight of her body to force me to face her.
“I am being serious! Sometimes people get hurt, and there’s nothing you can do about it, okay!?” Sear’s face scrunches up, as she fights with the snow to stand on her feet.
“You think you’re so funny, don’t you, Dawn? Never answering questions because you want to be all mysterious or whatever! Well, I’m sick of it! You can freeze out here for all I care!” Sear marches her way back to the cabin, swinging the door open. She turns back to me, her face scrunched even further.
“Sear, what’re you—” She slips inside and slams the door closed. Letting out a strong sigh, I stand up, my head beginning to throb.
“Sear, don’t be like this, come on.” I rush to the door, swinging it open.
The soft light emanating from the fireplace burns my eyes when I enter. Sear falls to her knees in front of its crackling flame.
“I’m sorry Sear, but no matter how many times you ask, I’m not going to give you a different answer.”
“Why not? I’m tired of feeling like there’s nothing we could’ve done! Every time I start to feel happy, I feel like I don’t deserve it.” Sear turns to me with her eyes glistening. My heart starts to sink into my chest.
“Sear, it wasn’t your fault. It was nobody’s fault. It… it just—”
“Don’t say that things just happen! Why’re you making it sound so simple!? Don’t you care about mom at all? Why’re you so comfortable with thinking this way?”
“Of course, I care! Why would you think I don’t? Sear, you need to stop being such a damn child and realize life won’t always go your way! It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not. You need to accept that moms in the hospital right now, okay!? You think that I’m happy about that, Sear!?”
“N—No. I don’t…”
Sear falls silent, the snaps of fire filling the void where words should be. The front of my head is hot, my breathing picking up in pace. Sear faces her head down to the floor, her hair washing over her expression.
“I… I don’t know what to do, Dawn. I can’t help but hate myself for what happened.” I walk over to Dawn and pick her head up, tears streaking down her face.
“The first thing you need to do is stand up.” I open my hand and Sear places her palm into mine. I pull her up as she wipes the tears off her face. “Second, you need to accept what happened to her, okay? She was in a car accident, and there was nothing we could’ve done to stop it.”
“Was there really nothing we could’ve done though?”
“Yes. We weren’t even in the car with her.”
“But she was supposed to be here with us…”
“I know, Sear but she wanted us to go on this vacation without her so we can enjoy it together. She’s in stable condition at the hospital, and she told us not to worry about her.”
“I know, I know! But how can I not? She’s all we’ve got aside from each other. I just wish she’d recover already…”
“I want mom to recover as much as you do but think of it this way. Worrying about her when she asked us not to, will only make her worry about us. Trust her to make it through this. She’s made it through tougher situations before.”
“Yeah… you’re right. I remember when she fought off two guys trying to steal her purse. She even knocked out one of those losers. I shouldn’t be doubting mom like this.”
“You’re not doubting her, you’re worried about her. You don’t need to feel bad for that.”
“Dawn, I’m really glad to have a sister like you. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“Oh, you don’t need to thank me, I’m just doing what a big sister should, and speaking of that, when do you want to go back to the main lodges? We need to check out that all-you-can-eat buffet before it’s over.”
“Go back to the main lodges? Why would I want to do that? It feels too modern over there. We might as well go back home if that’s the case.”
“Oh wow, I didn’t expect you to enjoy nature this much, but the buffet is tonight only. As the sister you’re very glad to have, I suggest we head back so we can eat. It’s my responsibility to feed you, being your valued sibling and all.”
“Don’t let my compliment go to your head. Did you forget that you were only able to afford this cabin for tonight? I want to make the most of this. We’re not gonna be able to see the stars like this again.”
“Yeah, I know I spent a little extra so we could be one with nature, but the stars are always up in the sky. They’re not gonna feed us either, so we should get going. What do you say?”
“Dawn, that main lodge is no different from home. It’s so annoying being surrounded by people that should’ve stayed home. Stuck on their phones like a bunch of robots.” Sear whines, walking to the front door. “I mean, where else can you see the stars this clearly?” Sear opens the door, her head shooting up to the sky. I follow behind her, keeping my head straight up as well.
The stars look like individual pieces of glitter, each placed to create beautiful dot work in the sky.
“I hate to say it but you’re right. This is something we can’t see in the city… but they’re not going to fill me up, so let’s go!”
“I swear, you’re an oversized child.”
“That’s what all adults are deep down.”
“For real, can we please enjoy the stars tonight? I want to savor this moment.”
“Well… okay. Since you’re begging. Oh, hold on,” I dig into my pocket and pull out my phone, my head sparking with an idea. “Let’s get some good photos for mom. She’d love to see this”
“Oh, great idea, Dawn. Make sure you get some good ones.” I aim my camera with a photographer’s mindset, making sure to capture the entire scene in view.
The pine trees are lined up on the sides of the image, the clearing of snow dead center, as the stars add the finishing touches. The picture couldn’t be more perfect.
Just as I take the photo, I see a weird streak of white cross along the sky.
“Let me see,” Sear demands. She snatches my phone out of my hand with a deft hand.
“What the hell, you didn’t have to snatch it like that.”
“Woah, this is an amazing photo! Mom is going to love this! I thought you would’ve…”
“Would’ve what? Come on, Sear say it.”
“I might be wrong about this, but I think you took caught a shooting star in the shot.”
“Oh, stop being dumb—”
“Seriously, look!” Sear shoves my phone into my face, her finger pointing above a thin white line in the photo.
“Wow… oh my god! I can’t believe it! I think it really is a shooting star.”
“Now we can make all the wishes we want! I wish for mom to recover, I wish for mom to recover, I wish for mom to recover!”
Sear starts talking so fast that all her words get jumbled together. All I can do is laugh at her sudden optimism.
If I really did take a picture of a shooting star, then I wish for Sear’s wish to come true.