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He ran at me, kicking my feet out under me and tackling me to the ground. I laughed as I tried to push him off, even pulling his overgrown hair and scratching at his arms. He wouldn’t budge. “David!” I squealed, out of breath from trying to fight my way out.
He only smiled, replying, “You know I only annoy you because I loooove you.”
“I’m beginning to think you actually do,” I said, then stopped fighting. “TAP!”
“Nope! Nice try!” David pulled my face toward his so that our lips were only inches apart. His breath smelled like Welch’s Grape Soda.
“C’mon, David, the little kids are going to think we ditched them.”
“Let them,” He replied breezily. He finally rolled off of me, lying instead on the dew-covered grass. We lay side by side, looking up into the vast expanse of night sky.
“David! Rachel!” One of David’s younger brothers called out about a minute later.
“Suppose we better get up,” I sighed, rolling over to get on my knees.
“No,” David touched my arm and I laid back down next to him.
“Probably on the other side…” A neighbor girl said, maybe Molly.
“Probably making out in the woods somewhere,” Another said. Laughter followed. They still called our names, but their voices faded as they walked back to the front yard.
“Look, it’s the Big Dipper,” I said. “It’s the only one I know,” I smiled to myself, but David didn’t answer. “David?” I turned over to face him. His eyebrows scrunched together, deep in thought, and his crystalline blue eyes looked troubled and stressed. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“My step-dad had a stroke yesterday,” He answered, monotone.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, David. That sounds awful.”
“I don’t care that much though, and that’s what confuses me,” He ran his hand through his dark hair and sighed. “I mean, I should care, right? He’s been married to my mom for six years.”
I reached for his hand, and said, “David, your mom cheated on your dad. Maybe you haven’t forgiven her yet. Maybe your step-dad is… like an extension of how you feel toward your mom or something.” I watched his face, waiting for a reaction.
“I don’t know, maybe I’m just the trouble child,” He tried to smile, but failed.
“No one else I know has gone through what you have. I’m sure it’s normal to have those feelings, so please, please, PLEASE don’t beat yourself up about it.”
I waited for some sort of response, even a little smirk, but got none. I squeezed David’s hand and let my head rest on the ground once more. The stars were so clear and beautiful tonight that it made me want to know more constellations. Each pinprick of light shone vividly, in clumps and masses together, and I could only think of one of the many stories they portrayed? I had heard of Orion’s Belt before, but where was that? And the Little Dipper came off of the Big Dipper somehow, but where?
As if reading my mind, David said, “You see that star up there right next to the Big Dipper? The one that has two stars below it that makes up a triangle?”
“Umm… yes I see it!” I let go of David’s hand and pointed my finger up at the spot so I wouldn’t lose it.
“And then there’s another star above it that makes a straight line. Right there,” He said, moving my arm slightly upward toward the star. “It makes a fish. I don’t know who’s fish it is, but it’s a fish,” He smiled.
I started laughing. “At least I know two constellations now!”
“And do you see that star?” David asked. His voice sounded more serious.
“Well, that’s pretty broad.”
“That one, right up there, right in between the left star of the triangle and the bottom right star of the Big Dipper,” He pointed out the star and eventually I found it.
“What star is that?” I asked.
“That’s our star. It tells our whole story, starting from the night we met back five years ago when you spilt chocolate milk on my pants, along with all the days of tubing and wakeboarding-”
“I think I’ve gotten at least twenty bruises,” I interrupted.
“Even that time when I asked you why my girlfriend dumped me.”
I giggled, then replied, “I actually thought you were going to ask me out – not ask advice.”
“Maybe I should’ve,” He waited for a response, but I didn’t know what to say.
My cheeks felt hot in an instant. Luckily he couldn’t see my face. “And there are so many more stories to tell,” he added.
“Rachel?” He asked when I didn’t reply.
“David, that’s the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me. Thank you,” I leaned over toward him and kissed him on the cheek. He reached for my hand and I let him take it. The younger kids on the other side of the house kept calling our names, but we didn’t acknowledge them, or even attempt to get up. Instead we listened side by side to the distant sound of the waves rolling against the lakeshore and watched the cars pass by on the street in front of us. Crickets chirped and mosquitoes buzzed and the air felt just right. Everything was perfect. At that moment I realized how true it was that I never wanted summer nights like this to end.
“I’ll always remember this night,” I finally said.
“So will I.”
And then I knew that our star would keep collecting memories and stories for a very long time.