Kaylia Mai | Art by Ronald Sit
As soon as she opens the door, a gale sends her tumbling. On her second try she manages to shove herself through, but not before a torrent of rain drenches her dress and seeps into her shoes.
The inside is cold too. Water spills under the unsealed bottom of the door and across wooden planks, so that, with every step, it squishes in and out of her shoes like a sponge. Shivers wrack her frame as she stumbles into her quarters. To think that she only wanted to see the stars at night! Stargazing is futile now. Even if not for the sudden heavy rain and wind threatening to blow passengers off the deck of the ship, the thick canopy of thunderclouds block out all light.
Grandmother must have heard her coming down the hall earlier, because she comes into the room and only takes one look at Melody’s slim, soaked frame before shrugging off her warm jacket and wrapping it around her. Melody hardly registers this at all. The cold which had been leaching into her bones is now blanketed by a soft warm, and she finds herself inexplicably exhausted. Sound fades, and darkness pulls her under.
Consciousness comes to the sound of dripping. The ceiling is bland, and the damp air lingers with a scent of rain. A lonely fly buzzes past, flitting around the light, then dives behind the lampshade and vanishes. Groaning, she turns over and drags herself upright.
She walks into the hallway. Whispering lures her forward. She presses her ear to the side of the door, breath caught in her chest. She recognizes the captain of the ship, but not the man in fancy clothes whom he speaks to.
“…ship was blown a bit off course, but we’ll just follow the North Star and I have faith I can get us to land…”
She slips away from the door and pads further down the hall. These were her grandmother’s quarters, and after a knock, she walks in.
“Melody! What are you achoo!” A suspicion forms in Melody’s mind.
“I was just wandering around.”
“Something’s wrong.” Grandmother rubs her nose with a handkerchief. “Well?”
Melody sits on the edge of the cot and fidgets with the hem of her dress. Her mind muddles with words, colliding but never managing to be voiced.
Suddenly she burst out, “We’re lost, and now I’ve gone and made it all worse by getting you sick!”
As soon as the words escape, she claps a hand to her mouth. Her face burns. Grandmother is sick and does not need to think about Melody’s problems. How selfish she had been to put it on her poor grandmother! Perhaps it is the stress of being so far from her friends, the lack of comfort, or the uncertainty surrounding her; tears well in her eyes. Her life seems to be crumbling out of her control.
Grandmother’s mouth moves, and Melody blinks quickly as she tries to comprehend it. It is something about the stars and her grandmother’s own faith that there would be medical supplies when they reached land, but her mind drifts and she imagines she had projected her own thoughts into the movement of her grandmother’s lips. Lost in herself, she mutters an excuse about clearing her head and backs out of the quarters.
The deck is empty except for the captain steering the ship, as the crew has already turned in for the night. The ship creaks tiredly to the lamenting rhythm of the lapping waves, and the creeping fog blurs the line between sky and ocean until it all merges into a gray haze. Starlight filters faintly through the fog, the only source of light aside from the single lantern she holds.
She turns to the brightest point of light, which must be the North Star, and tears stream from her cheeks. “Aren’t you supposed to–” she hiccups– “bring us home?”
The star stares blankly down at her. She flinches, and a red haze falls on her. She curses, explicits falling from her lips aimed at the stars. She curses her hate at this fate, this life, until she is brought to her knees on the deck. The stars stay silent as ever above her.
The next morning, in guilt, she resolves to never swear again. That night, with no change in her grandmother’s sickness or their ship being lost all day, it happens again. The next few days follow the same exhausting routine, until staring off into the distance at the stars, for stars were the only scenery around aside from the ocean, became a nightly occurrence.
Privately, she considers it a staring match, a battle of wills between herself and the heavens. The distant point of light burns into her eyes, and, as she watches, it almost appears to grow larger. Many more points of light filter out of the darkness. Colors grow distinct, red and yellow, and, as a sea of lights pierce through the veil of fog, all the stars behind it fade into insignificance. Then her feet and flying beneath her, and her eyes glued to the light.
“Land!” she cries, and the glittering city lights greet her in return.
The captain, of course, has since already seen it. A dark mass of land emerges beneath the lights, and the ship gradually turns towards the docks. Melody trips over her shoes in her sprint towards the railing and her back hits the deck. Above her the stars twinkle, little pinpricks of eyes laughing at her, and she knows her grandmother will be alright. Apologies are unnecessary; the stars know her heart.