“You don’t really think she’s watching, do you?”
Jeanie looked up from where she was tracing absent-mindedly on the ground with a stick. “Huh?”
Michael lifted his head up from the sleeping bag he was currently in and looked over at his sister. “You know. How you said … that she would always be with us.”
Scoffing, Jeanie threw the stick away. It clattered off into the darkness; the campfire roared brightly, but its light couldn’t penetrate too far into the pitch-black night. And the forest was thick.
“Of course I didn’t,” she now said, building up the fire some more. She laid down on the ground and threw her own sleeping bag over herself, burrowing under the quilt down. “It’s just fairy tales, Michael. Mom isn’t coming back.”
She stole a glance at her younger brother. They lay next to each other in silence, only punctuated by the soft crackle of the dimming fire. As the light diminished, the stars threw themselves into even clearer focus.
Michael sniffed. “I miss her, Jeanie.”
Jeanie stayed quiet. To be quite honest, she did too. But she wasn’t about to say so in front of Michael, because it was up to her to keep some level heads around. And she couldn’t do that if she kept escaping into a dream world, where mom was here, and it was daylight, and the campfire wouldn’t exist…
“Look, Michael.” Jeanie now roused her brother. “Look at the stars.”
Michael blinked sleepily. “Why?”
Jeanie smiled, although she was herself tired and the act of smiling took a toll on her muscles. “I think I can see mom.”
It was Michael’s turn to scoff. “No, you can’t. You said so yourself.”
“Well, maybe I lied,” Jeanie winked. “And the stars are a bit brighter now. Maybe she can see you, too.”
Despite himself, Michael narrowed his eyes, trying to see into the murky night. “No, I can’t – I can’t see anything.” He sighed and leaned back into his sleeping bag. “Maybe she really is gone,” he mumbled.
Also disappointed, Jeanie closed her eyes. Even though she – of course – hadn’t expected anything to happen, she thought maybe she could cheer up Michael. She had done the complete opposite.
“Look, Michael – I’m sorry,” she now mumbled, sleep and fatigue washing over her. “I’m sure mom’s out there somewh – ”
She was interrupted by a gasp. Jeanie opened her eyes to see Michael with twinkling eyes and his face shining. “Hey! I think I see her!” He pointed upwards. “I just … I just think I saw something. You should’ve seen it!”
Jeanie looked on as a grin spread across her younger brother. “She really was watching after all,” Michael told her.
She bit back a sigh and a lump in her throat. If only.