“Can we go again tonight, Mads?” June asked, her eyes trained hopefully upon the stars above.
“Of course. Anytime you like, June. You don’t even have to ask.”
“Okay, then. Let’s go now.”
“Do you want mom and dad to join us?”
“No. Just you and me, Mads.” She paused for a moment. “I’m afraid I might not have too many jumps left.”
Mads leaned closer to her sister and took her hand. She whispered, “I think you’ll have a whole lifetime of jumping to look forward to, Junie.” June smiled that sweet, sweet smile that was like no other in Mads’ world. “Off we go, then. Hold tight.”
The first leap always had to be big in order to reach the closest stars, which even though they looked close, were not so very close at all when one considered the sky as a whole.
June landed first, right in the middle of a beautiful M star, its shimmering red surface tilting only slightly with June’s unsubstantial weight. She looked up to see that Mads was nearby on an O star. “Oh, Mads, you remembered to put your special shoes on, I see! You can go so much farther tonight and not worry about the heat from the O’s!” she cried out merrily. “The blue of that star so brings out the color in your eyes! I wish again, as I do every time, that we could take pictures here.”
“Why thank you! Let me see some red dust, Junie. Do it like you did last time.” June acquiesced immediately, stooping to gather a handful from the surface of the star and rising to throw it overhead. She disappeared behind a curtain of red glitter, known affectionately to most as “stardust” and Mads waited for her smile to emerge again. When it did, June informed Mads, “I think I’ll slide down the moon tonight also. Look! It’s the perfect shape. Watch me climb to the top!”
So while Mads skipped from star to star (reds were actually her favorite simply because they were her sister’s favorite) June chose a glimmering path to the moon. Upon arrival, she touched it tentatively at first.
“What does it feel like, June? Is it dusty and all glittery like the stars?”
June slid her entire hand down a portion of the world’s nightlight. She turned, raised her eyebrows, and happily reported, “Not at all. It feels like. . .let me think for just a moment. . .it feels like the very purest, smoothest piece of porcelain, and it smells of lavender. My favorite!” She put her face on the surface of the moon and inhaled. She raised her head back up to study what lay before her. “Let me see. I think I see a few small chips where I can grab on and climb. Probably hit by some small pieces of rock from time to time, I bet.”
“Just be careful, June. It’s a bit of a long way up there. And what will you land on when you fly off the end?”
June considered, “That’s a good question. Could you catch me, you think? If you go just there,” she pointed to a yellow-white star directly in front of the tip of the moon, “I think I’ll land right in your arms.”
“I’ll make my way there while you climb then.”
There were several leaps Mads had to make to reach the appointed destination, and by the time she arrived, June was in position at the top of the star.
“It’s actually a little flat here in the middle, not really sharp as one might expect. It’s an excellent slide really. I’m going to turn on my backside now, and I’ll start sliding immediately. So be ready, Mads.”
“I’m here. I’ll catch you.” Mads moved into position, bending her knees and readying her arms.
June turned, took only a moment to settle herself, and began her descent. The breeze (yes, there was a definite breeze amongst the stars tonight) cooled her skin as she traveled, faster and faster, down the face of the moon. The tail of the moon flung her toward Mads, who gathered June warmly in her arms.
She exuberantly threw her arms around Mads’ neck. “It was magnificent, Mads! I’m so sorry I waited. You know it’s taken me a while to work up the courage for that one!”
“That was amazing, June. You are the bravest girl I know.”
The smile slid off June’s face, and she grew serious, contemplative. “Speaking of bravery, Mads, I think I might be ready now. Can you see it over there? It’s the brightest whitest star I’ve ever seen. That’s the place I want to go; that’s the star that’s calling me.”
Mads flinched with understanding. She also knew something was different tonight. She couldn’t see the star that beckoned to June, and that had never happened before. “Really, June. Ready now? I wasn’t quite expecting that tonight.” She rallied. “But that’s your choice, June. You’re the only one who knows when you’re ready. And I’m right here with you.” She was holding June’s hand and squeezed it tightly in her own.
“You’ll have to let go, you know, Mads.”
“Yes, I know, June. And I will. In just a moment.” She put her forehead to June’s and breathed in deeply, catching the scent of lavender that remained from June’s journey down the moon.
“You helped me get a little braver each time, Mads. And now I need you to be brave. Brave enough to let me make the biggest leap yet.”
Mads nodded and stepped back. “I love you, Junie.” She was rewarded again with the smile that lit up every part of her sister’s face.
And then June took the leap, and Mads could only see the trail of stardust she left behind.
Mads opened her eyes, her mind back in the room she had shared with her sister the past few months when June’s sickness was at its worst. The plastic stars they had affixed to the ceiling months ago glowed softly, soothingly. Her hand lay beside June’s on the bed. June’s eyes were closed, but her mouth still held the hint of a smile. Mads blinked back the tears that formed; it was time to be brave like her sister. She went to tell her mother and father that their beloved June had finally, peacefully gone to live amongst the stars.