Sterling put the finishing touches on his gift for Astrid.
‘Truly cosmic,’ he thought. ‘She won’t believe it…’
She would arrive at any moment and he wanted everything to be perfect.
Hearing the doorbell spurred him to stow scraps of wrapping paper and ribbon. He poured wine into the crystal glasses, and placed them on the table next to her gift.
He faced the door, and said, “Yes!” He opened the door to the love of his life, looking beautiful as ever.
She said, “Hi! I now have non-binary, preferred pronouns for my hands. No longer left and right, they’re now ‘which’ and ‘that.’ She pointed at one and the other. “As in this one’s ‘which’ and that one’s ‘that.’”
Sterling nodded without comment. “I have a surprise for you.”
Astrid ran into the living room and clapped her hands. “Oooh! Show me! What? What?”
Sterling chuckled at his plan. He offered her a glass and toasted her.
“To Astrid, my star.”
She giggled. They touched glasses and sipped.
He asked, “Have you ever wanted to live among the stars?”
“You mean, like in Beverly Hills?”
“In the heavens.”
“Oh, a gated community? Streets of gold? Many mansions? I’d be happy with a townhouse.”
Sterling smiled at her banter.
“No, I mean, up in the sky. Not the biblical heaven.”
“Oh those stars. I love them. From their perspective, we already live among them.”
He nodded, but felt things veering off track. Bowing, he presented her gift, wrapped in white tissue and silver ribbon.
“To you, my love…”
She ripped off the paper to reveal a framed certificate and photo. The photo appeared to be of a black cat standing in an unlit garage on a moonless night. The gold frame drew the eye, with its sparkles and swirls.
Astrid held it at arm’s length. “Wow! Thanks!” She looked at Sterling. “What is it?”
He took the frame and raised it.
“You are the proud recipient of a star. Named after you, my beloved Astrid.”
“That blotch is a star?”
“Well, a picture of it. It’s a long way off.”
“What’s it called again?”
“’Astrid.’ I named it after you. It’s the ultimate in bling.”
Pondering, she tilted her head. Something was wrong.
“What about planets? Can one of those be named for me?”
“The locals, you know, Mars, Venus… and the others, already have names. People are pretty fond of those. Planets in other solar systems might be available. But they’re hard to see.”
“What about Pluto? Bet I could get it for a song.”
“Yeah, Pluto is the red-haired cousin of the solar system. No one even talks about it anymore. Untouchable…” She looked forlorn. “And anyway, you don’t want to name a non-planet, Astrid. It would confuse people.”
“And the moon?”
“The moon’s not for sale. The international committee declared it belongs to everyone. No colonies, and no private ownership.”
“I don’t want acreage, just naming rights.”
“It already has a name.”
“No, a single name, like Cher. Plain old moon.”
Astrid looked doubtful. “Kind of stark.”
Sterling pointed at the certificate and said, “This site received a four and a half star rating! It’s considered the best of the star naming services.” Sterling added, “And each star has a magnitude of at least 10. So you can actually see them on a clear night.”
Astrid couldn’t let it go. “How about the North Star?”
“Already taken. It would be amazing if you could look at your star all year ‘round.”
“Honestly, I get too tired to stare at my star all night.”
“And stars take the day off.”
“Right. I need to work.” Sterling nodded. “So what’s the point again?”
“Uhm, it’s fun. Gives perspective. You’re part of the bigger picture…”
“Thank you Sterling. It’s very nice.”
He shared a secret. “You know there’s a black market in star names?”
“The sites won’t acknowledge it. They want everyone to think star naming is completely legit. People think it’s a scam that some sites won’t even let you pick your star.”
“What good is that?”
“Right, I don’t want some star out in the celestial weeds. I want my star to shine.”
“Wouldn’t it be cool to have a star dripping off the lip of the Big Dipper?”
“That’s a very popular location. Pretty crowded real estate there.”
“Exclusive, I’m sure.”
“Orion’s belt is becoming very classy. Experts predict that location will be appreciating.”
“And that’s where my star is?” Sterling nodded. She pointed at the photo. “Who owns that pretty one to the left?”
“It’s taken. Some celebrity…”
“Well, I want it.”
“I’ll check on resales.”
Astrid frowned. “What keeps them from selling the same star to everyone? Do different sites sell the same stars?”
“Why duplicate? There’s billions of stars… There’s only one Brooklyn Bridge.”
“Imagine the wait in line…” She changed her voice. “Excuse me…? Where do I find Returns and exchanges?” Standing at attention, she pointed. “First star to the right, Ma’am.”
He dragged a heavy shopping bag from under the table.
She said, “There’s more?”
Laughing, he methodically arranged a series of framed star photos on the table.
“All named for you!”
Astrid stepped back. “How sweet! You bought me the whole Milky Way…”
“Not quite, but they aren’t random.” Sterling said, “And they’re guaranteed.”
“Should your star explode in a super-nova, they’ll assign you another, of equal value.”
“At no extra charge?” He nodded. “Forever?”
He raised his arms in victory. “Life time guarantee!” Sterling showed her the glossy pamphlet. “Look. They provide the latest, most recent image of the star. In color! No old black and white images. It’s a sophisticated app.”
Astrid nodded doubtfully. “This is so great, Sterling… but I don’t have wall space…”
“Aha! I knew it…” He leaned the last frame against the table. “Your whole collection, combined.”
“Don’t tell me… Bargain basement clearance of last year’s models?”
“My love, look at the circled ones. Do they spell something?”
She bit her hand and blinked back tears. “That’s my name? Written in the stars?”
“Yes… Since the beginning of time. Well, shortly after…”
“It’s like sky writing, for real… The ultimate connect the dots…”
“They’ll never fade.”
In tears, she embraced him. Then abruptly holding him at arm’s length, she made a sly look. “What about my middle name?”
He laughed, “Oh, we can do that too.”
She marveled. “And they’re all named after me? How do I keep them straight? You know how I hate getting someone else’s mail.”
“They each have a unique coordinate. But mail delivery is not an option.”
“Promise, if aliens come looking for me, you’ll tell them I’m out.”
“Astrid, you don’t own the star. You can’t actually live there.”
She shook her head. “Then what is this? What’s the point?”
He paused. “Do you know anyone who has a star named after them?”
“I could get a name tag, listing the coordinates of my stars. With a caption saying, ‘Look me up…’”
He laughed, “That would be cool.”
“And collateral for a loan, to buy a house. ‘I’m looking for something more local…’”
He hugged her. “Astrid, you don’t actually buy a star. Naming rights only.”
“Can you get one on layaway?”
“How would you take delivery?”
“C.O.D? Do they do that anymore?”
Sterling hugged her. “I’ll look into it.”
She looked into his eyes. “I have room in my garage.”
They laughed and kissed.