As the last lingering rays of sun faded over the horizon, I smiled up at the bright, dotted sky. A gust of wind blew across the roof, running chills down my arms. I hugged my knees closer to my chest and watched the surrounding land darken from purple to deep blue. My eyes adjusted to the growing darkness and the stars left streaks of light across the sky. Fixating on the North star, I clasped my hands together tight, whispering underneath my breath.
“Starlight, star bright. First star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.”
I counted in my head. I...2...3...4..Ring! My cell phone buzzed against the tiles of the roof. I lunged for it, answering as I pressed the cool screen to my face.
The deep, familiar tone of my brother’s voice pushed the tension out of my body. I let out a breath and fell back against the roof.
“I didn’t know if you would call this time.”
Michael laughed, “I said I always would. Second Tuesday of the month, after the sun goes down. Here I am.”
“I heard you were sent into a battle,” I bit my lip, waiting.
“That’s kind of what it means to be in the army.”
“But you’re okay?”
His smile reflected in his voice, “I think you’d know if I wasn’t. But i’m fine, except for the amputated leg that is.”
“Kidding, I’m kidding!”
I shook my head in disbelief, “Jerk.”
He laughed and then a silence stretched between us. My fingers picked at a mosquito bite on my arm, simultaneously waiting for him to speak and for me to think of something to say.
Micheal cleared his throat, “How are Mom and Dad?”
“They miss you, but they’re trying to treat every day normally. They're proud of you though, Dad tells everyone who comes by that he’s got a son in the army,” I rolled my eyes. “I need you to come home so I don’t have to listen to it anymore. Oh! And we finally fixed that leak in your bedroom.”
He laughed airly on the other end of the phone, “Nice, and how are you?”
“Suffering from the double amount of chores you left me, so hurry back for that too,” my voice dropped to a softer tone. “Also, I miss you. Tomorrow is the first day of seventh grade.”
Micheal sucked in a breath, “That’s right, I nearly forgot. Nervous.”
Ignoring the twisting feeling in my stomach, I guffawed, “Who me? Nah, it’s nothing I can’t handle.”
“Do you want to play our game?”
I looked up at the sky stretching over my head, “Yes.”
It seemed like only yesterday we had come up with it, although it was nearly three years ago. Michael had shown me how to climb out of his bedroom window to reach the roof. I would follow him up and we would lay side by side, watching the stars. Michael had always loved the night sky and taught me how to find the constellations. The pictures in the sky that could be seen from anywhere in the world, at least during the right time. To help me learn them, we came up with a guessing game, and we had played it ever since. At least until Michael had left.
My eyes flitted through the stars, silently naming and considering options. The wind blew a little harder and the roof creaked softly beneath me. I scratched my arm, narrowing the choices down to two.
“Okay okay, I have mine. You start.”
I could almost hear Michael thinking before he said, “Is yours the Pegasus?”
“Nope. Is yours Scorpio?”
“Nuh uh, Ursa Major?”
I smiled, “No, Lupus?”
He groaned loudly, the echo making it seem like he was really beside me, “Yes that was mine, okay, is yours Draco?”
He huffed, “Those are the three you always choose!”
I grinned, “Not tonight, they're not.”
“How do I know you didn’t just change your answer?”
My mouth dropped open, “You’re just mad because I’m winning.”
He laughed softly, “Alright, I give up. What was yours?”
“Yeah, that one would’ve been the last one I guessed.”
I smiled again, wide, “I know.”
Another pause, but this one was more familiar. A silence closer to comfort, all of a sudden I just wanted him home. Then I realized he was still talking on the other end.
“Wait, what did you say?”
He laughed, “Just...you don’t have to be nervous about tomorrow.”
I scratched at my arm, “Thanks.”’
“And you should probably stop itching those mosquito bites.”
“I try to I just...Wait how did yo-”
“And you’re right by the way, the fixed leak is so much better.”
I sat up on the roof, looking around, my head spinning back and forth. Michael’s voice held a suppressed smile.
“Behind you Lauren.”
I spun, the phone dropping from my hand. Micheal was leaning over the top of the roof, his phone still against his face and a smile rivaling the brightness of the stars above. I climbed up towards him and lunged into a hug. His strong arms encompassed me as I burrowed my head into his neck.
“You’re home,” I whispered, almost afraid to break the spell. “You’re home, you’re home, you’re home.”
His breath was warm against my neck, “Yes, I’m home, at least for a little while. I couldn’t let you go to seventh grade all by yourself now could I?”
I pulled away, and reached up to run my hand over the top of his head ,the tiny bristles of his hair scratching slightly.
“Your hair is so short! It looks hilarious.”
He laughed hard, “Well that’s good to know. But again, that’s kind of what it means to be in the army.”
“But how did you..?”
He smiled again, “I planned it out with Mom and Dad, I was already on my way home when I called. When I offered to play our game, I was climbing through Mom and Dad’s window to get onto the roof on this side. I’ve been here the whole time after that.”
I gasped, “I thought you were the wind! But your voice did seem suspiciously louder.”
We laughed together and I wrapped my arms around him once again, wanting this moment to last as long as possible, Over Michael’s shoulder I saw the North Star wink through flickering light.
I watched the star and mouthed, “Thank you.”