Every Soul a Star Read online

  We all lean forward. His eyes narrow and he says, “They had forgotten to lock the door!”

  At that very second, seriously, that very second, the door of the shed bangs open. We all scream and scramble backward, including Ryan who drops the flashlight.

  Outlined in the flashing of the lightning is a figure, but we can’t see its features. It sweeps its tangled hair off its face and says, “Hey, guys, room for one more?”



  “Why so jumpy?” I ask, stepping out of the rain into the warm, dry shed.

  “Bree?” Melanie asks, surprise and relief mixing in her voice. She turns to Ryan and puts her hands on her hips. “Did you guys plan this?”

  “Plan what?” I ask, squeezing into the circle between Ally and Ryan. Everyone is staring at me. You’d think they’d seen a ghost.

  “Your entrance,” Ally says, looking from the door to me and back again. “Ryan was telling a ghost story, and then you . . . right at the . . . oh, never mind. Now that I say it, it sounds kinda dumb.”

  Melanie jumps up and hugs me.

  “What was that for?” I ask, peeling her off of me.

  “You came,” she says. “I can’t believe it.”

  “How did you get up here?” Ally asks, peering at me closely. “The path must be so slippery. Are you hurt anywhere?”

  “And the lightning!” Ryan adds, seeming genuinely concerned. “What were you thinking?”

  I don’t know how to answer. Yes, it was slippery. And muddy. And really, really dark. Basically it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I’ve had my legs waxed by a twelve-year-old (Claire, last year). But I couldn’t stay in that cabin alone. Mom and Dad were at the main house, learning about running the campground. I was just sitting there on the floor, surrounded by all my clothes, and it hit me how out-of-place it all was. All those bright colors were a welcome sight, and it felt good to touch fabrics other than boring cotton. But my wardrobe belonged to someone else. Someone who I don’t get to be anymore. It was like I was looking at the clothes of a dead person. How can I explain how that felt? The goose bumps that ran down my arms and legs. The sudden tightness in my throat that made me feel like I was choking. How can I explain that after sitting there for an hour, not moving, I got up, carefully packed most of my clothes back into the boxes so they’ll be ready for me when I, like Frankenstein, am brought back to life, and then headed up here?

  So I shrug and say, “I figured you guys needed me.”

  They all laugh, which is better than them saying they don’t need me, which I know is really the case. “So aren’t we supposed to be finding a planet or something?”

  “Rained out,” Kenny says. “We get to try again tomorrow night.” He looks longingly at the huge bulky object in the middle of the room, which I figure is the telescope. Drops of water are slipping off the silver cover and forming a puddle underneath it. This is definitely different from sleepovers with my friends. No one’s painting anyone’s toenails, no pictures of models are being torn from fashion magazines, and I haven’t thought of rating anyone even once. Whenever my friends are together it’s usually up to me to organize the activities. But now I feel like I interrupted something. “So you were telling ghost stories?”

  “Ryan was just telling us about a guy with a hook for a hand who haunts campgrounds,” Jack says. “We thought you were him. You didn’t see him on your way up, did you?”

  A few years ago I might have believed him. Jack seems different than when I first met him a few days ago. He’s less shy, and not as pasty. Of course that could just be the lack of light in here.

  “You didn’t happen to bring any food with you, did you?” he asks.

  “Or dry clothes?” Ally adds.

  I shake my head. Honestly, I hadn’t thought this thing through. I only had a general idea where the shed was from Melanie’s description. It wasn’t raining like this when I left. I had no idea the path or the hillside would be so treacherous. I actually had my flip-flops on at first and turned back around for sneakers. I’ll keep that part to myself.

  Jack divides his Milky Way bar into six pieces and passes them around the circle. I hand mine to Ryan. “Bad for the complexion,” I explain.

  “But good for the belly,” he replies, popping it in his mouth.

  One minute everyone (except me) is happily eating their chocolate, the next minute Ally bursts into tears. And not ladylike, glide-silently-down-the-cheek-type tears. Messy, snotty, gulping tears.

  At first we’re all too stunned to say anything. “Did I miss something?” I ask.

  “I don’t want to leave the Moon Shadow!” she says between sobs. “I’ll never make it out there. I don’t want to live somewhere I have to worry about my complexion!”

  “Not everyone worries about that,” Melanie insists.

  “Yes, they do,” I say.

  Melanie glares at me.

  “Well, it’s true!”

  “I don’t want to leave either,” Kenny declares.

  “Me either,” Jack says so quietly I almost didn’t hear it.

  “And I don’t want to stay,” I said. “But something tells me you guys already know that.”

  We all look expectantly at Melanie.

  “I’m happy either way. Here, there, it’s all okay.”

  I shake my head. “You’re hopeless.”

  Ally continues to cry. I dig into my pocket for a tissue, but all I find is lipstick and a movie stub. This just makes her cry harder.

  Jack passes her a napkin. She takes it and blows her nose. I don’t think I’ve ever in my life blown my nose in front of anyone. It’s never pretty, even when I do it.

  “We’ve got to help each other,” Jack says firmly. “That’s all there is to it.”

  “We already tried,” I explain. “We had all these great plans to make our parents change their minds. It didn’t work at all.”

  Ally sniffles loudly. No one says anything for a few minutes as the rain continues to pelt down on the roof.

  Eventually Ryan says, “Um, I don’t mean to sound obnoxious or anything, but have you all tried just accepting it? You know, making the best of things?”

  I give him a glare that would make most boys shudder. “That’s easy for you to say. Your biggest problem is what position you’ll get on the football team.” As soon as it’s out of my mouth I wish I hadn’t said it. Ryan’s been good company these past few days. It’s not his fault that he doesn’t have any problems.

  He breathes in sharply. “Just so you know, my life isn’t always easy. How about the fact that I have a dad who I’m pretty sure hates me, and that my grandparents who practically raised me just got a divorce? But I try to make the best of things, and that’s all I’m suggesting.”

  Great. Now I’m the jerk. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize.” But in my defense, he had never mentioned his parents to me, or told me much about his grandparents other than to say he came out here with them every summer.

  Ally stops sniffling and her swollen eyes open as wide as they can. “Your grandparents got divorced? Can they do that at their age?”

  “Of course they can,” he replies.

  “But why?”

  “When I asked, they just said something about drifting apart. But I heard my grandmother on the phone a few weeks ago, and she said she was tired of taking care of someone. She said fifty years was long enough. She lives with her friend Shirley down the block now. Grandpa was pretty down for a while, but I think he’s going to be okay. He has a lot of friends from his astronomy club, and I go over to visit a lot.”

  “I just can’t believe it,” Ally says. “Why did you tell me that story about the bridge tournament?”

  “That’s what she asked me to tell everyone. I guess she doesn’t want people to judge her. I really felt bad lying to you.”

  “My mom heard she was sick and that’s why she’s not here.”

  He shakes his head. “Nope. She says she’s going to trav