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Dancing Star - a short story - fiction
"Thank you, Stars"
Her light brown curls are mussed, and one hangs just below her right eye. My daughter, Piper, says to me out of the blue, as we are well into our way through her favorite book, Skippyjon Jones, “Did you know that stars dance, Mommy?”
“They do? No, I don’t think so,” I reply, amused at her innocence, the way she inhales the world like a giant ball of cotton candy. I take in the cherub roundness of her small face, her tiny pink lips, with one dry crack etched on the bottom. I drink in the wonderment spilling from her eyes, and marvel at her precious self, this miniature combination of me and her father, this little human, this angel. I smile down at her and she smiles back, oblivious that I am summing up her existence. Her mind is free as drifting clouds. How could she possibly know that I am feeling incredulously blessed that she is in my life, sleeps under my roof, eats at my breakfast table? Even by kneeling at her level and looking directly into her eyes as if that would make the words stretch across the air like a connecting highway, it would still be beyond her comprehension. How could she know that the love I give her pales in comparison to the love she bestows to me? Children are earth’s greatest blessing, and of this, I am convinced, as I still gaze down at her little self.
Piper wiggles contentedly beneath the blanket and snuggles into the crook of my arm. I am at peace, sensing her security and trust.
“I love you, Mommy!” she says, locking eyes with mine.
“And I love you, peach blossom!” I reply, hugging her tiny body beneath her pajamas. I want it to always be this way. Please, God, let her always love me like this.
The realization hits me that one day this big, astronomic thing called life will gobble her up like a hungry monster and change her. She will love, and be loved. There will be positive influences in her life but also, she will have to travel weathered roads pitted with humans of withered spirit; humans carrying torches of prejudice and grudges; that she will stumble upon crossroads of having to pick the lesser of two evils. Maybe her senses will tell her not to do something, and she will do it anyway.
I have already journeyed through flat, dry deserts of life. I have traveled numerous highways, encountered too much prejudice, defiance, and untruths. It is true, is it not, that given the chance, we would do some things differently? Is it not true that reality inevitably comes crashing down like a gavel, pounding us back to the reality that we can never go back? I don’t want this for Piper. I want to protect her. How can I protect her from this crazy landscape we call life?
Piper’s small hand is patting my leg, rat-a-tat-tat. “Oh, and Mommy, stars do too, dance!” she says defiantly, determined to make her point from earlier.
“Just how is it that stars can dance? I know they twinkle sometimes, but that is not dancing,” I tell her, smoothing out her hair and pushing the stray curl from over an eye, loving her mussed, fresh from the bath, unkempt curls. I’m loving that we, mother and daughter, are snuggling together beneath Cinderella blankets and Cinderella pillows, ending the day with treasured moments I hope that she will always remember.
Thank you, God, I say silently, for my lovely Piper who loves me and knows that I love her. She knows, because I tell her every day, and because our little routine reinforces my love: I cup both of my hands closely in front of me, making sure there is a tiny distance between them.
“Do I love you this much?” I ask, and Piper shakes her head. I move my hands and arms further apart. “This much?”
Piper grins and shakes her head again. My hands and arms open even wider and we keep this process going until my arms are stretched as widely as I can make them. I squinch my face showing I’m making an extra effort to spread them even further, but just can’t.
“Do I love you thiiiiiis much?” then Piper nods enthusiastically, saying yes, yes, you love me that much, and then we giggle and hug.
With a small yawn and droopy eyes, Piper tries to suppress sleep. “I know nars dance,” she says, meaning to say stars, but her drowsiness is taking over. “I make them dance - right here,” she adds, tapping her heart.
“Oh, you make the stars dance in your heart? That’s wonderful!” I say.
“Uh-huh, and you can make them dance, too! You have to touch your heart!” says Piper, wiggling her toes inside her foot pajamas. I watch the material squiggle, reveling in the fact that my daughter believes she can move stars just by believing and tapping her heart. I wonder how many times she may have looked into the night saying, “Dance, stars!” believing that they had danced. Is this how it would happen, or would she merely allow her imagination and child-like faith to take over?
How long has it been since I could believe in things like dancing stars? Little Piper, little Piper, how are you? Little Piper, little Piper, I love you… the words from a rhyme I made up for her as a newborn, come floating through my mind. Subconsciously, I fiddle with her curls, amazed at the velocity of her faith. Is it too late for me? Will finances, bills, work, divorce, wear me down for good?
When had I stopped believing that the world spun just for me? When had I found it easier to tell people white lies to spare their feelings? The amazing thing about children is that they have no fear of sharing the truth as they see it. Take for instance, the story of the mother complaining about her neighbor coming around at the most inappropriate times. Yak, yak, yak, she’s always yakking. I can’t even get a word in edgewise, she tells her husband. Their child, overhearing the conversation, stores this in her memory. One day, the doorbell rings and the child, proud of having permission to see who it is, runs to the door, flings it open, and seeing it is the annoying neighbor, turns and yells, “Mommy! It’s the lady who always bugs you!”
So here we are, Piper and I. The night is moving on. We are distracted from reading, and I attempt to sway us back to the book when suddenly Piper wants to know if I would like to make the stars dance.
“Well, sweetie,” I say, attempting to nip this dancing-stars-thing in the bud, “shouldn’t we just concentrate on finishing Skippyjon Jones right now?”
I start to read, hoping to immerse her in the story, but small fingers begin drumming on my leg. “Mommy!”
“I want you make a star dance!”
“I will, honey. After you go to sleep.”
(Just a teeny, white lie)
No, no, don’t make me promise, please, I muse.
“I promise to try, ok?” I tell her.
“Cross your heart?”
“Yes, I cross your heart.” I say, leaning over, criss-crossing her heart.
“No! Not mine, silly, yours!”
“But I did cross yours!”
We laugh, and I tell her ok, and I criss-cross my heart, ignoring the guilt galloping across the plains of my soul. Of course, I’m not even going to try!
Finally, I am kissing her soft cheek, tucking her Cinderella blanket around her chin, and secretly envisioning a glass of merlot. She closes her eyes, and I click off her bedside lamp. A soft illumination from the hall light falls upon the shadow of her window curtains, and I tiptoe over and push them aside. Trees and bushes silhouetted against the dark sky are like guardians of the night watching over Piper. Subconsciously, I scan the vast darkness for a star, any star. What does it really matter, after all?
There is one glow set apart from the others. A lonely star, I imagine, so I will focus on it. Dance, I muse, dance. Nothing. Piper’s words whisper like a breeze, you have to touch your heart, and so I do. Nothing above moves, but suddenly, something in my heart does…something even bigger than that vast, dark, universe with billions of stars watching over the earth: a bond between a parent and child. It is then, I know: that star did not dance in the sky, but it did dance in my heart! Would that count? Yes, I believe it would.
Making my way to my room, I imagine the next morning’s scenario:
Piper: “Mommie? Did you remember to make a star dance? You promised!”
And this is what I will tell her: Yes, love, I made a star dance. I will say this, in her childlike innocence. It will not be a lie, not even a white lie, because childlike innocence is real, perhaps the most real thing in the world!
I will sip my tea then, delighting in her giggles, ignoring the taunting Mr. Mean jabbing my ribs, telling me to enjoy her innocence, because it won’t last long.
Get lost, Mr. Mean, I will say. Last night, I made a star dance for my little girl and I made her smile. Oh, and guess what else? It was the most delightful, beautiful star, ever.
© 2015 Essie