Stars twinkle down, almost taunting us. They live on seemingly forever, immortal as celestial beings. Human lifetimes are laughable to a star, watching us burn out and die off within a few moments. But they say the brightest stars live the shortest. We strive to live as brightly and loudly as possible, shouting into oblivion, desperately hoping our existence makes an impact on the vast universe. And like blue supergiants, we live as bright as possible, inevitable to a supernova, exploding into nothingness again.
We were young and reckless. Riding out life as bright as possible, unafraid of the end. Screaming into the night sky and vying for attention and meaning. Loud music seemed to vibrate in my bones and everything in the universe seemed to be exploding inside that little Honda Civic. The roof was open and we took turns hanging out the window, raising our hands up into the endless sky and singing at the top of our lungs. I watched the stars through that window, and it made me feel at home again. The party was something I never considered, but I wanted to do something crazy and spontaneous.
It was Charli that had that sort of influence on me. I was living like a white dwarf until she exploded in my universe. She was so bright, flamboyant, and warm. All eyes seemed to draw towards her and her warm dark skin, playful freckles, and gorgeous curly hair, wild and crazy around her shoulders. She never followed the rules and she never fit in. People seemed to admire her for it. I felt the same isolation as her, always orbiting around others, not with them. I was an outcast, staying in the shadows of space. But around her, she shone like the sun, lighting up my world. I loved the way she made me feel. So the party wasn't exactly my scene, but with Charli and her other misfit friends, I felt okay.
There was the stereotypical blaring music, people dancing badly and grinding, shouting, singing, laughing, and drinking. Lots of drinking. Charli took me by the hand and led me through the writhing bodies. Everything felt chaotic and like too much. Too much movement, the feelings of other bodies rubbing up against mine, the overwhelming smell of alcohol and cologne, and the music booming so loud my ears almost bled. Charli turned around as she led me and gave me a sympathetic smile.
"It's okay," She promised, "It'll be over soon. You okay?"
I gulped back my nausea from the overwhelming sensations and nodded. She didn't believe me but she continued to lead me through the party. It was hell. Charli's friends got lost in the crowd, but we would find them afterward. Before I even realized it, we were outside and the people crowding around me were gone. A few people lingered in the outdoor patio, but they kept to themselves and weren't too loud. The loud music was much more subdued from outside. There was a medium-sized pool in the dark, lit pink in the dark night. The stars shone down on me again, which helped soothe my nerves. Charli took off her oversized shirt to reveal a sports bra, showing all of her freckles. They looked like constellations in the sky against her body. I felt my face flush and my heart leap into my throat. She dipped her feet into the water and looked up at me expectantly. I nervously cleared my throat and tugged at my sweater I had worn.
She laughed. Her laugh was so light and contagious. Like the sun bouncing off stained glass windows.
"It's okay," She chuckled with her cherry lips in a warm smile, "Just sit next to me."
I took off my shoes and socks and stuck my feet in the water with her. She moved closer to me, her body almost touching mine. The moon was so bright in the dark sky. Charli was closer to me than she had ever been before. She smelled like strawberry pastries and a little bit of alcohol. Her honey brown eyes shone so brightly and crazily. Contact this close normally would have overwhelmed me, but with Charli, it felt right. That didn't stop my heart from beating faster than a runaway train.
"You know," She said softly while kicking the water with her feet, "Venus is in retrograde."
I smiled sheepishly, "As if my love life wasn't already complicated."
"It's a romantic life, isn't it?"She asked, "Letting the planets and the stars guide us? Relying on them for direction on our choices in life?"
"I guess, "I shrug, finally starting to feel comfortable, "I like the stability that comes with it."
"But does it give you meaning?"She continued, "Purpose?"
I frowned, "I mean, yeah. Something to rely on. Something to hope for."
"I don't want anything to guide me in life," Charli looked up intently, "Much too blasé. I just wanna live life to the fullest extent. Not care about the future too much."
"It feels like the future is so scary," I admitted, "It's like I need to control everything now so that things fall into place in the future."
"But they never do," Charli gave me a smile to the side of her face, "Sometimes I feel so small. Like the universe is so massive and I am barely a speck on it."
I felt taken aback and wordless. I said nothing because there wasn't anything really left to say. She was oddly heavy and philosophical at this party. Maybe it was the alcohol.
"That's why I wanna live as bright and bold as possible. Like those giant stars that live short but explode at the end?"
"A supernova, you mean?"I interjected.
"Yeah," She gazed at the night sky like she had come to a realization, "A supernova. Not like those tiny, dull stars that shrink and slowly fade off into nothing. I mean, death is inevitable, right? But those stars that supernova. They spew parts of themselves into the universe. They leave an impact- a legacy- in the universe. I want that."
I was speechless. She completely blew me out of the water with that. I just wanted to sit there and hold her hand and point out the constellations, not get all philosophical and existential.
"Are you even listening, Loonie?"She nudged me, taunting me with her stupid nickname.
"Yes, Charles," I teased back, "I guess I like believing in something. External locus of control and all that."
Charli laughed and splashed me playfully, "You and all your smart words. Do you ever just... stop thinking and talk?"
I shoved her with a small smirk, "What? That doesn't even make sense!"
"You don't make sense!"She teased and pushed back. Almost on instinct, I pushed back way too hard. We were both laughing but she fell back into the water, splashing in the pink water. I gasped and offered my hands to help pull her back up. She grabbed both my arms and pulled her head out of the water. Her hair shrunk and splattered over her warm brown face. She giggled and pushed her hair out of her face and fixed the skirt she just ruined in the pool.
"Luna, you did NOT just do that!"Her laugh shook her entire body playfully. She stood up straight and kicked her feet so her face was right up with mine. Her breath smelled like cinnamon and alcohol. The warm night sky cooled down with a burst of wind, taking my hair with it. It felt romantic and perfect, the pool water and the lovely weather and a beautiful girl.
"So what if I did?"I countered, moving my head even closer as a challenge. She raised an eyebrow and her brown eyes sparkled formidably.
"So what, "Her face was so close to mine, our foreheads touching, "If I did this?"
Her cherry red lips formed into a smirk and her playfully rivaling eyes stared into mine, waging war against mine. Then she leaned in to kiss me.
Time stopped. The stars stopped twinkling and stayed in their spot, the moon shone brighter than before. The pool water was placid, it was like looking into a mirror. She closed her eyes and moved closer. My heart was beating violently and my entire body shook like a leaf. I felt elated and like I was floating in the air, weightless. Gravity stopped and we were alone in the universe, close together.
I didn't even realize falling into the pool with her.
But soon enough, we were splashing around in the pink water, flailing and gasping for breath, giggling. The stars reflected in the pink pool water like an ocean of starry night. She looked beautiful with her hair soaking around her and the fluorescent pink light bouncing off her face.
"How drunk are you two?"
We looked up to see some of Charli's friends, two misfit punk kids who looked stoned and high. Our eyes met again and we doubled over laughing in the pool. She climbed out first and then offered her hand to pull me back up. We both stood on the concrete, soaking wet and giddy. I tried ringing out my sweater but it was probably ruined. I looked over at Charli, who was ringing out her hair and skirt, laughing as she spoke with her friends in the pink moonlight. Totally worth it.
"We don't know where Aidan is, "The girl, Sasha, with black knee-high boots, said.
"Maybe he got lucky," The other, Finn, wearing an oversized indie band teeshirt in baggy jeans joked.
"Shut up," Charli rolled her eyes with a smirk.
That's when the gunshots blasted in the air.
I covered my ears and ran. I wasn't sure where exactly they came from, but it was in the house. I also wasn't exactly sure where I was going but my flight or fight was ringing alarm bells inside my head. Gunshots made me shake all the way down to my bones. The wind was picking up on my wet clothes and hair and I was freezing, shaking, and shivering. I couldn't even look behind me to see if Charli or her friends were following me. The tunnel vision eventually led me to the car I came in. Finn was in the front seat, driving since it was their car. Once I jumped into the back seat, I frantically looked around for Charli and Sasha.
"Charli!"I cried, my voice hoarse.
"Sasha!" Finn yelled, putting the car into drive and turning on the high beams. Teenagers were scrambling for cover and running around in confusion and fear. I could only imagine Charli and Sasha with them. Or even worse... inside with the gun. The doors opened up soon enough.
"We're okay," Charli's voice was next to me, crying but safe, "Are you?"
"Y-yeah, "I answered.
"Where's Aidan?" Finn asked.
Finn stopped the car and all four of us looked at each other in a panicked realization.
"Oh no," I said under my breath.
"You don't think he was inside?" Sasha asked. What if he was the one shot? I thought. But I sensed everyone else was thinking it too, we just didn't want to say it.
Sasha's phone dinged and she whipped it out at light-speed. She audibly sighed after reading the text.
"What does it say?"Finn pressed.
"It's Aidan," Sasha held her heart close, "He's okay and he made it out. He said ran away and he's at the train tracks now."
Everyone in the car sighed in relief. Then was the matter of reaching him. And going home, trying not to be traumatized.
"Where are the train tracks?"Finn asked, starting the car again.
"I know," I offered, leaning closer to them as they drove, "It's near the high school. If you make a left down the hill from it, it's there."
Finn nodded and sped off. I smelled alcohol on him, but he was holding it well. At this point, I didn't really care that a drunken teenager was driving me at 60 down a country road while a bad punk band blasted. I guess it was that whole spontaneous star thing Charli was talking about.
Once we reached the train tracks, we saw Aidan sitting to the side, drinking from a red cup filled with water. At least, I hoped water. He looked too drunk to lift the cup to his lips.
"Aidan!"Sasha cried, running out of the car before Finn could even put it park. She offered him her hand and enveloped him in a hug. I looked at Charli as the wrinkle in her forehead relaxed and she opened the door to get out. He explained what happened. Apparently, he was talking to some girl when her boyfriend came in. He assumed Aidan was flirting, starting harassing her, so he defended her. That led to a confrontation, ending in the gunshot. It was supposed to hit Aidan. But somehow it missed him. He was so drunk and terrified. He looked crumbled in pieces in the grass behind the train tracks. Everyone was trying to comfort him, but he continued mumbling scared whispers and shaking.
"H-hey," I said nervously. Everyone turned to look at me, which threw my nerves into the wind, "When I feel anxious, I go for a walk. We could... walk down that trail until you feel better."
Aidan looked at me with crazy hazel eyes and nodded a bit too quickly. He looked so hopeless and broken. I felt for him.
And so we each climbed up onto the train tracks, which continued on in the woods endlessly. I figured it was late at night and there were never any trains...
We talked about the party, about life, our feelings. As we walked on, Aidan began to calm down. He finally smiled at a stupid joke Finn made. And for once, looking up at the stars, I felt like a normal teenager just enjoying myself. I felt something brush up against my hand, which I pulled away as a reaction. Next to me, Charli eyed me quizzically. I widened my eyes in realization and quickly accepted her hand. It was warm and wrinkled from being in the pool. We were still soaking wet from the pool but it felt so romantic.
"Hey," Sasha smirked at us and I had the urge to pull my hand away from Charli, but she only held on tighter. "Is there something going on?"
"Hell yes, there is," Charli raised an eyebrow challengingly.
Sasha put her hands up in defense, "Hey, no problems here, ladies. Do your thing... lovebirds."
Charli shoved her playfully and she stumbled while laughing.
"I don't want this night to end," Finn said dreamily, swaying back and forth. They were all drunk, I guess except for me. But it was okay. I felt closer than ever to them. It was a beautiful night with beautiful people.
Until the train came.
There was a loud blare. A flashing light. We were on a bridge, nowhere to go but straight. For a moment, we didn't want it to be real, so it wasn't. But as the blaring got louder, it was inevitable. The bridge was over a river, at least a hundred feet below. The train was quickly approaching. The night air blew ominously. I screamed and ran forward, but the train was so fast. My fight or flight was frantic. My hearing went and I could only see in front of me. Tears flooded my eyes as I screamed. I could faintly see Charli, frozen in time next to me. The train was on the bridge now, not slowing down at all. I saw Sasha jump into the water below, but I never saw her surface. I saw Aidan hanging from the side of the bridge by one hand, grabbing Finn's hand and holding tightly, suspended over the river. Charli watched as the train sped closer in fear. She was frozen, watching it with blank eyes. They almost looked black in the lack of moonlight. The night was so dark and alone. I screamed but I couldn't even hear myself.
"Get down!"I screamed, lying flat on the tracks. The train was so close. But I lay flat against the tracks and held my breath. The train was so close, my feet were basically against it. The hot air burned my face. The blaring was so loud I thought my ears stopped working. Tears and snot streamed down my face. I tasted the coal in the air. The tracks felt cold and unstable.
Then the train passed over me. I shut my eyes and winced. I was the most scared I had ever been in my entire life. It was above me, speeding along as I squished myself below, desperately hoping it wouldn't run me over. That I would open my eyes and everyone was okay. And we all look at each other and laugh in relief and cry.
I never opened my eyes. I was too afraid to.
It was Aidan's voice. I heard two sets of footsteps behind me. Not three. I held my breath. I couldn't look.
"Oh my God," Finn's voice was so horrified it sent shivers down my spine. Aidan nudged me with his foot. I clenched my eyes tighter and held back tears. But they came back in desperate waves of sobs. Aidan and Finn knelt down beside me and pat my back and hair. I sobbed, never opening my eyes. I wanted to believe Charli was next to them, twinkling like the sun and the stars.
So instead of looking at the tracks, where I could find the truth, I opened my tear-filled eyes up at the sky. And I saw the stars.
There was one extremely bright one, twinkling right down on me. So bright, so powerful and big. I know it's Charli.
The brightest stars die the quickest. And they explode in a supernova, spreading their impact across the universe.