It was called Galaxy, and for good reason.
It was nothing more than a ripoff of the Milky Way candy bar, only with dark chocolate instead of milk and fancy edible glitter in silvery hues of dark purple and blue. Pippin and I used to skate to the drugstore on the corner and buy a bar, Saturdays, before our parents got off work. We’d pool our jangly collection of nickels and quarters until we had $0.79, and then we’d split one. Pippin would eat hers slowly, and mine fast, in classic girl-boy contrast. We saved the wrappers and stored them in one of Mom’s old shoeboxes we dug out of the trash. They discontinued Galaxy after less than three months in 2007, which would explain why you’ve probably never heard of it. I haven’t thought about it in years.
I sigh and pull into my parents’ gravel driveway, the tires making unpleasant crunching sounds on the rocks. After parking behind Dad’s old truck, I sit in my car for a moment, thinking about how terrible this is going to go. Finally, I get the cranberry relish and pecan pie from the backseat and make my way onto the front porch. I open the door, being careful not to drop either of my dishes, and slip inside. “Hello?”
“Quinn!” Pippin appears from out of nowhere and runs up to hug me. She pauses when she sees that I’m holding stuff, then whips the food out of my hands, sets it on the floor, and wraps her arms around me before I can react. “I’m so glad you made it!”
I smile and return the hug. “You too. Good to see you, Pip.” I pull back and study her eyes. “How old are you again? Nineteen?”
“Twenty-two, you idiot.” She grins, picks up the dishes from the floor, and prances off to the kitchen. “Come see Mom and Dad! Unless you have Covid, of course.” She peeks her head back around the kitchen wall. “Do you?”
“Who’s to say?” I hang up my coat and walk down the hall. Mom’s setting the table, and Dad’s sitting stiffly in an armchair in the living room, reading the paper. It seems that my parents want to prove to the world how old they are every chance they get.
I greet Mom, then Dad. No hugs. I tell them it’s because of the virus, although I just hugged Pippin seconds before. I stand at the edge of the kitchen awkwardly, shifting from foot to foot. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
Mom shakes her head, her grey hair bobbing along with it. “No, Quinn, darling; you just move right along.”
I don’t know what that means, but I slide into a barstool and watch Pippin work.
Guys are all over her. She’s got the most gorgeous curly hair and infectious smile, and every time she laughs, you can’t help but laugh along. Her personality is just as pretty as she is, and I couldn’t love her more for it.
I watch her move around the kitchen, bouncing from place to place like the energetic kangaroo that she is. Suddenly, she stops in her tracks and turns to me, snapping her fingers. She runs off down the hall, then returns a few seconds later, her sock feet sliding on the hardwood floor. “Look what I found!” she giggles, waving something dark and oblong in the air.
“Hold still one sec,” I laugh, grabbing her by the wrist and snatching the object out of her hand.
It’s a Galaxy bar. My eyes widen and I look up at her from my seat. “Where did you find this?”
“Ebay!” She bounces on the balls of her feet. “Wild, right?”
I stare in shock at the bar, slowly turning it over and over in my hands.
Pippin makes excited squealing noises. “Well, what are we waiting for? Open it!”
Slowly, I pull apart the wrapper, and the smell hits me. A bit musty for being thirteen years old, but still the signature scent of everything dark--dark chocolate, dark cocoa powder, dark brown dirt and black night sky. And a memory is opened up that I never knew I’d forgotten.
Summer. July 2007. I couldn’t sleep--again--so I slipped out of bed, not caring to be quiet for Pippin. She’s slept through a house fire before. Literally.
I pushed our bedroom window up, removed the screen, and stuck my head and torso out, carefully. I slid my hands behind the drainpipe to the left, then got both my legs out until my feet were resting only on the windowsill. Carefully, I shut the window with my toes and shimmied up the pipe a few feet until I got to the roof. I crawled up onto the shingles and headed for the chimney. Once there, I leaned against it and looked up at the stars.
I don’t know how long I stayed there, but it didn’t matter; I snuck onto the roof almost every night. There was something so enchanting about the darkness to me, and I could never, ever get enough of it.
I always wondered why we lived during the day.
I rested the back of my head against the cold brick and stared at the night sky. Until, startlingly, I heard a voice.
I scrambled up and turned to see who was speaking to me. It was a girl, sitting cross-legged next to me on the roof to my right. By the lights of streetlamps, I could see that she had skin even paler than mine was dark and purple-tinted blue eyes. Her hair was straight and at least as long as I was tall; it blew gently in the breeze behind her. It was made up of a thousand colors, green and grey and brown and black and orange and yellow, but mostly purple, and silver, and blue. Her hair was like a starry rainbow.
She was wearing a red hoodie with white strings and a pair of denim shorts. Her fingers were covered in rings that seemed to move, somehow, even though she was still. Delicate tattoos crept across her hands until they reached her fingernails, which were painted with sunflowers. She looked to be around sixteen. Whoever she was, I almost fell off the roof.
“Hey, don’t be afraid,” she said, standing up. She held out her arms in a peaceful gesture. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Who are you?” I squeaked, failing miserably to hide both my fear and embarrassment.
She smiled. “And how did I get here?” She sat back down again and patted the roof next to her encouragingly. “Well, I’ve been around for a while. You can call me--hm, what can you call me?” She cocked her head.
“Ada,” she said suddenly. “You want to call me Ada. Very well, then.”
“Ada?” I stammered. “What makes you think that?” I sat down uncertainly.
Ada grinned and tapped the side of her head. “Not me. You.”
I gaped at her. “You can read minds?”
“In a sense.”
The breeze changed directions and blew, now, at me, and I caught Ada’s scent. She smelled like nighttime and wind and dirt and crickets and chocolate and shutters and everything dark. Mostly, though, she smelled like--I would soon find--Galaxy.
Ada combed her hair back with her fingers and crossed her legs at the ankles. “Just thought I’d stop by and say hi. Technically, I’m supposed to be in Yogyakarta right now, but this is far more interesting.” Seeing my confused look, she added, “It’s in Indonesia. It’s actually where my best friend is from. I’m supposed to be visiting a kid named R. But I’d much rather be here with you, so let’s just enjoy this time, for now.” Ada leaned back on her hands.
“I still don’t understand,” I spluttered. “Who are you?”
Ada smiled. “That, my friend, is the question of the century.” And without another word, she rolled off of the roof and disappeared.
I gape at the Galaxy bar in my hands.
Pippin pokes my shoulder lightly. “Come on, you nincompoop. Here, I’ll go first.” She breaks off a piece of the chocolate and pops it into her mouth, laughing. “Ack, the nostalgia! Take a bite, Quinn.” She points at the candy bar.
Trying to keep my hands from shaking, I tear a bit off from the rest and move it slowly to my lips. Almost as if I’m a machine, I open my mouth and slide the piece in.
I resist the urge to cry.
It’s so, so strong. The dark chocolate, the nougat, the caramel--all exactly the same. Sure, it tastes a bit old, and stale, maybe, but it’s so distinctly Galaxy--so like Ada.
“Pippin, Quinn? Thanksgiving dinner is ready!”
I wrap the remaining candy up abruptly and set it to the side of the kitchen counter. “We can talk about it later,” I whisper to Pippin, who undoubtedly doesn’t know what I’m talking about. She shoots me a confused glance, still chewing, as we sit down opposite each other at the dinner table. Steam rises from the turkey in the center.
Dad begins to say grace. Everyone has their eyes closed. While no one’s looking, I steal a glance over to the kitchen table where I put the Galaxy bar.
And it’s not there.