Wildflowers and Moonlight

Submitted into Contest #245 in response to: Write a story in which a character navigates using the stars.... view prompt

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Contemporary Fiction Romance


In the open expanse of the desert terrain that stretched ominously under the cloudy moonlit sky, Danny and Christina found themselves unsure of which way to go. Christina was trying desperately to stay calm but failing and Danny was hoping the sky would clear up a bit so he could use the stars to navigate their way out of Joshua Tree National Park. He learned astronavigation when he was a Boy Scout and while he wasn’t always thrilled with his parents for making him stick with everything he started there were times, like this, he was grateful for their unyielding stance on quitting. “McAllisters aren’t quitters, Danny. You start something, you finish it,” his father’s voice echoed in his head.


Christina had just enrolled in a photography class at the local community college and her first assignment was to photograph something rare. She came up with the idea of taking a picture of one of the wildflowers that bloom for a short time in Joshua Tree National Park. They lived nearby so it wasn’t a difficult decision to go for a quick hike. 


The area had had plenty of rain this winter and the reward this spring was a landscape that was bursting with color. Reds, yellows, purples and blues splashed across the park’s muted landscape, lending a psychedelic hue to an already mystical scene.


Their morning had started with a fight, which was not unusual these days. And while their fights are about different small things every day: the way Danny squeezes the toothpaste from the middle instead of rolling the tube up from the bottom the way Christina likes it or the way Christina replaces the toilet paper roll facing under instead of over the way Danny insists on having it, the fight is really always about the same thing. The one thing that has consumed their marriage for the last three years: infertility. They are stressed, fatigued and overwhelmed with the financial, the physical and the emotional drain it has been. 


They both want a baby but Christina has become obsessed and can think of nothing else. They have gone to specialists, taken every test and done everything the doctors have suggested and still nothing. They have done IVF twice unsuccessfully and the shots and the prep for insemination for the third time is causing Christina to be more and more moody and very, very angry. All the time she’s angry. This bubbling hostility is really getting to be too much for both of them.


As they sit in the dark desert, contemplating which way to go they looked at each other and he noticed Christina was near tears. They were lost, hungry, scared, and disoriented. Danny felt particular pressure to get Christina out of this since he had a lot more experience with hiking and nature in general and she just didn’t need this stress. If only the sky would clear up, he could find Polaris and get them home. They couldn’t possibly be too far away from where they needed to be.


“We shouldn’t have gone so far away from the marked trails,” Christina whined with a hint of blame creeping into her tone. “We’re gonna die out here!”


“It'd really be great if you didn’t use that tone. I’m not the one who just HAD to get the picture of the Mojave Aster flower,” he said angrily. 


“I know. I’m sorry. You’re right,” Christina said as she breathed deeply using her yoga breaths to center herself. Christina was a yoga instructor and had always been so healthy that she took her failure to get pregnant as a particular insult to her healthy lifestyle.


“Okay Mr. Boy Scout, show me how to survive!” she said through her breaths.


 He knew that talking would keep her focus away from her fear so he talked.


“Well, when the clouds clear, all we need to is find Polaris — the North Star. It’s directly over the North Pole, always.”


“How do you find that?” she asked between deep breaths that were not doing a great job of keeping her centered.


“Well, to find it, we need to locate the Big Dipper. And if the Big Dipper is partially obscured, which, thanks to the cloud formation, it is you can look for Casseopeia. Casseopeia is always opposite the North Star from the Big Dipper. So that’s how you can center yourself and figure out which way to go. We parked and came in through the West Entrance so as soon as the clouds lift a little more we’ll know which direction will get us out of here.”


As she listened to his answer that was meant to soothe her, she actually got more worked up. 


“But what if the sky doesn’t clear up? What if a mountain lion comes around? What if the temperature drops? We are going to die!” With each question, her voice got louder and she was getting more and more hysterical.


“Christina, stop! This isn’t helping,” Danny grabbed her shoulders and turned her toward him and looked straight in her eyes. “We are not gonna die. Just calm down.”


Well, that did it. He should’ve known. You don’t tell a woman to calm down. Ever. But especially one jacked up on hormones. 


And with that Christina burst into tears, the floodgates opened and everything came out. All the pent up frustration, anxiety and stress was released into the desert air and she wept. She wept for the children they didn’t have and never would have, for the years of trying, for the money spent and for the misplaced guilt that drove her desire to do all of this in the first place. She cried and cried and cried, and all Danny could do was hold her. As her tears subsided a little, she pulled away from him and looked at him with the most shattered expression he’d ever seen. She was completely broken and seemed to deflate before his eyes.


“Danny, I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I’m, just so tired," she said through tears. "I don’t want to disappoint you. I really don't, but I think, for me--I’m done. I'm just done," she sobbed but continued talking. She had to get it out now.


"I'm so sorry, but I’ve gone as far as I can go with this. I feel like I’ve failed you, I failed myself, and I’ve failed at the one thing a woman is supposed to be able to do, but I can’t live like this anymore, and I can’t take the heartbreak anymore,” the last few words were a whisper drowned out by tears.


Danny listened to her in the eerie silence of the dark desert and couldn't believe what he was hearing. He had been sure she was never going to stop until they had a baby. But when she said it, he could feel the pit that had been in his stomach gnawing away at him for what seemed like an eternity break apart into nothingness, and he broke down and cried with her. He cried for all the pain and stress they had gone through and because he couldn’t believe that they had gone so long without really communicating. This whole baby-making train had taken off and put them both on autopilot. After they decided to do it they never really discussed what that would look like and how far was too far in this quest. 


“I’m sorry,” he said as he brushed her tears away. “I’m sorry for making you think that you could disappoint me. You could never disappoint me. I’m sorry for not taking the time to talk about this sooner. I can’t stand what this is doing to you; what it’s doing to us. It’s just all too much. I wanted a baby. I really did, but I'm done too. I just didn't want to say anything because I thought you were still determined, and I didn't want to disappoint you.” 


They held each other in the quiet of the night and felt peace come over them. After a while Danny looked up at the sky and noticed that he could see stars. The clouds had parted.


“Hey, look! The Big Dipper! Do you see it?” he pointed into the sky and she nodded without really even looking.


“C’mon. Let’s go,” he pulled her up off the rock she had been sitting on and they started walking west. “See? If that is north, we need to walk west over here. It shouldn’t take too long.” 


As they walked out of the desert, they kept talking about how sorry they were for all the fighting they’d been doing. They talked about what they’d like to do now that they’d have time to focus on other things and they held hands and realized that while having a child would’ve been great, they were fine just being together. And there were other ways to have children. They could always adopt, but that’s a discussion for another day. Today they feel light and unfettered for the first time in years. 


It took about an hour to follow the stars back to their car and on that walk they felt closer and happier than they’d felt in a long time.


“You know, walking in the dark, following the stars reminds me of something I read in college that Leonardo da Vinci said. Are you ready? It's gonna be cute."


She smiled in the dark at how sweet and dorky her husband was. "I'm ready. Lay it on me," she said with a little laugh.


"I think it goes something like: ‘fix your course on a star and you’ll navigate any storm’. Leo was right," Danny said as he squeezed her hand. "We fixed our course on a star and it not only got us out of the desert, it got us back to each other.”


"Aw, you're right, that was cute," she smiled at him knowing how lucky they were to have each other as they got in their car and drove home.

April 11, 2024 01:17

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22 comments

Hannah Lynn
20:35 Apr 16, 2024

I enjoyed your story. The quote ‘fix your course on a star and you’ll navigate any storm’ is a keeper! Thanks for sharing :)

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19:04 Apr 15, 2024

This one hit close to home - I love the imagery of the desert and the way you convey the emotions of the couple as they navigate this tough conversation. It reminds me of my own husband the way Danny comforted his wife as they let out their grief. I understand this is a fictional story but you capture the reality of life so well - great job overall!

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Annie Hewitt
19:36 Apr 15, 2024

Thank you so much. I'm so glad it rings true. I appreciate your feedback

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Viga Boland
22:18 Apr 14, 2024

Very nice Annie. And you just happened to hit on a topic close to my heart right now: fertility. My younger daughter and her husband are trying and trying and looking at IVF in August. I really hope she and her hubby can keep it together as well as your characters did. 👏

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Annie Hewitt
22:36 Apr 14, 2024

Well that's the beauty of fiction. I get to decide what my characters say and how they behave hahahaha. I really hope all the best for your daughter and her husband!

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Renate Buchner
18:21 Apr 14, 2024

A very intriguing story. I think it was fantastic that you tackled a topic that is a genuine challenge and conflict for so many individuals. Well done, Annie.

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Annie Hewitt
20:12 Apr 14, 2024

Thank you so much, Renate

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Harry Stuart
13:16 Apr 14, 2024

Really enjoying reading your writing, Annie! It was a poignant story to overlay with the star-tracking. Relationships seem to go on autopilot for a variety of reasons, and having them communicate their thoughts under the expanse of the stars was a relatable read. Great command of dialogue too -- very well done 😊

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Annie Hewitt
13:33 Apr 14, 2024

Thank you, Harry! That means a lot. I am struggling with getting stories done the way I would like them to be in this time frame so I'm just thrilled that people can read them and get anything at all out of them! HAHAHA. Your stories are great so I appreciate you taking the time to read mine and comment. It helps me keep going.

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Kerriann Murray
20:15 Apr 13, 2024

Beautiful and heartfelt, Annie. Loved all the feeling here. Nicely done. ❤️

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Annie Hewitt
20:42 Apr 13, 2024

Thank you so much. I hope I was able to convey something that felt real. It's hard to do in a week!! I appreciate you taking the time to read it and tell me your thoughts

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02:27 Apr 13, 2024

Lovely story, Annie. Really feel for this couple. Now that they've found each other, I believe giving up will bring them success. One of my sisters had wanted a baby her whole life. When she married, her hubby wanted them to save and have their own home first. Then came years and years of trying to and being in despair. Finally, they gave up and decided to do the great OE and working holiday thing. We told her to take the pill all the same, in case Murphy's law came true and she got pregnant on her trip. What happened is that she caught a t...

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Annie Hewitt
20:42 Apr 13, 2024

Thank you so much for reading my story and giving such nice feedback!

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Kristi Gott
06:09 Apr 11, 2024

Beautiful story and inspiring. Well told. The time being close to nature can help with discovering new angles or accepting new paths in the labyrinth of life that may turn out very well. Good job answering the prompt.

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Annie Hewitt
10:28 Apr 11, 2024

Thank you so much! You do nature so well; I appreciate the feedback!

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Darvico Ulmeli
06:06 Apr 11, 2024

I know a lot of that terrible feeling of disappointment. I spent years of self treatment to get rid off him. It is my biggest fear - to not became failure to myself and to people I care about. You captured that feeling in the story. Nice work.

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Annie Hewitt
10:30 Apr 11, 2024

I so appreciate your feedback, Darvico. I think we all have that fear.

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Mary Bendickson
04:05 Apr 11, 2024

Good story right on prompt and good message. Thanks for liking my 'Too-cute Eclipse '.😊 And 'Blow Your Head Off'

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Annie Hewitt
11:34 Apr 11, 2024

Thank you for reading my story. I appreciate it.

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Trudy Jas
03:01 Apr 11, 2024

Lovely story, Annie. And so true. We often get stuck in thinking we know what the other wants without really talking about it. It never ceases to amaze me that couples aren't sent to couples therapy while they do IVF. Thanks for liking my stories.

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Annie Hewitt
10:34 Apr 11, 2024

Thank you, Trudy! It would make sense to be part of the medical plan I would think. I've never had to experience the disappointment myself, and I hope I was able to capture some of the feelings adequately. I know others who have suffered with that particular disappointment and it strains everything

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Trudy Jas
10:51 Apr 11, 2024

I does. Just needing to take your temp everyday keeps all those negative feelings in the foreground.

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