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Sunflowers At Night
This is a short "side story" to Sugaru Miaki (Fafoo)'s book The Place You Called From, which was posted online alongside its release.
This story doesn't have much to do with the book and pretty much stands on its own. It takes place in the same town with an overlapping timeframe, but is focused on side characters. The stories have some connection, but nothing should constitute as actual spoilers - it's a publicly-posted story without any spoiler warnings.
(Also, there are some passing mentions of suicide.)
Once again, my little sister came home with several cuts and bug bites on her legs, sat down on the floor as if about to paint her toenails, and began to put ointment and insect-bite relief on her ankles, calves, and under her knees. I was watching a baseball relay, drinking beer alongside yakitori, but the smell of menthol and bug spray on her clothes took away my appetite. She put the medicine away and went to the kitchen to wash her hands, reheated her wrapped dinner in the microwave, sat across the table from me, and put her hands together.
"Time to eat!"
I looked to the clock on the wall. 9:12 PM. If she were in the exercise club, coming home around that time wouldn't be too unusual, but my sister, turning sixteen this year, wasn't in any clubs. Perhaps she'd made a stop somewhere.
But it was strange how practically every night, she came home with cuts and bug bites all over, and her shoes dirty with mud. The sister I knew was introverted, preferring to stay indoors to listen to music and read, so cuts and dirt should have had no place on her.
Where in the world was she, and doing what?
I resolved to ask her. "What were you doing out so late?"
"I stayed in the classroom to study," she answered.
"What, is that classroom swarming with bugs, with thorny vines growing all over the floor?"
"Yes, that's right. You know it well," she said coolly. "Just the other day, two students got bitten by a viper and died."
"One of the country's top all-girls schools has vipers roaming around it?"
"Oh, yours doesn't?"
I gave it some thought. "There was one time when a dog got inside during class."
"See? It's the same thing." She laughed cheerfully.
After dinner, my sister cleaned up, boiled some water, and poured tea. She returned to her seat with a cup, took eight sugar cubes from a jar, and mixed them in. "Astounding how you can drink it at that sweetness," I - ...kept my mouth shut.
I took my questioning further. "Hey, there's no way you were really studying, is there?"
"Mhm. To be honest, yes," she replied after taking a sip. "Actually, I'm going to look for ghosts."
"Ghosts?", I asked.
"I lied. Just kidding." She giggled without moving her mouth.
But I knew. When there was something my sister wanted me to ask about, but it was too hard to bring up, she told me in the guise of a joke. This was probably a case of that, I reasoned. If she said something weird, it was a signal that there was something she wanted me to ask.
Before, whenever she gave me these signals, I would sincerely go along with it and ask "What happened?" But she was turning sixteen. I needed to get her to stop relying on me and be independent. Thus, I ignored her signal.
Thinking I didn't notice it, she repeated, "I'm going to look for ghosts." "Sounds tough," I bluntly replied, and she pouted.
"...You're dumb," she said with a glare. "You big brute," she appended. I ignored her and drank my beer. She left her seat.
Annoyed that I wouldn't pay attention to her, my sister began giving reports on her "ghost hunting" every time she came home.
"Brother, oh brother..."
"What is it?"
"There weren't any ghosts today."
"I see. Good work."
"I'm going to give it my all tomorrow."
"Right. Good luck."
My sister stared at me expectantly. I pretended I didn't notice. Her shoulders drooped, she sat on the floor, and she treated her bug bites. The smell of menthol filled the room.
As it turned out, it seemed that it wasn't just a joke, and my sister really was looking for ghosts. Every night, she went alone to the woods by the coast, sat on a bench, and waited for ghosts to appear.
Peeling off peanut shells, I aimlessly thought about ghosts. In the past few years, ghost stories were on the rise in the town of Minagisa. It only made sense, I thought. Ten years ago, a middle-schooler killed herself in the woods by the coast. Five years ago, another killed himself jumping from the roof of a supermarket. Four years ago, a vocational school student killed himself in his apartment. Two years ago, an old man, in those same woods. Last year, two middle-school girls killed themselves in abandoned ruins on the edge of town. It was that kind of town. Strange rumors had to crop up; it would be strange in itself if they didn't.
There being lots of suicides in a northeastern rural town was nothing new, but Minagisa's suicide rate in the past decade was abnormal. And the eeriness of many of them being young spurred rumors. Our town has tried to bring its long-told mermaid legend to the front and sell itself as the "Mermaid Town," but contrary to that expectation, Minagisa has built a national bad reputation as "The Town Where Young People Kill Themselves." A shameful title, to be sure.
Because of its many suicides, Minagisa Town had "haunted spots" all over the place. The place where most claimed to witness ghosts was around the woods near the coast. "I thought I saw an unusually tall girl waving from under a tree, but she was in the middle of hanging herself." "I was walking at night and heard laughter from above, and as much as I ran, it followed me." "I took a phoot at a barbecue, and when it developed, there were all these hands coming out of the sea trying to drag people in." Too many rumors of that sort to count. But without exception, the stories all have the intro of "Well, it happened to a friend of a friend...", so it makes me laugh. What else does a rural town with no amusement have to do with all their time than think these up and spread them?
When I was a kid, I believed in something like ghosts too. Any night I watched horror shows on TV, I wouldn't be able to go to the bathroom alone, and I was worried a ghost would grab my legs if they stuck out past my blanket. I thought if you tripped in a graveyard your lifespan would shorten, and I hid my thumb when hearses passed by. But that was only until I was ten at the latest. My sister was turning sixteen and looking for ghosts. It was just too foolish.
I didn't take what my sister said seriously. Honestly, ghosts? I thought you were always a dreamless girl who didn't believe in UFOs or UMAs or ESP, even when you were little. You even figured out Santa Claus was your dad before me, so why are you saying "I'm looking for ghosts" now? Being such an honor student, is she just having a late rebellious phase?
I don't get it.
I heard the front door open, and our dad saying "I'm home." My sister stopped staring at the TV and shot up off the floor, returning to her room on the second floor before dad appeared in the living room. He put down his briefcase and took off his necktie, and when he met eyes with me, he recoiled.
"Well, that hurts," he said with a worried smile. "It's hard being hated by your own daughter."
"You reap what you sow," I said.
"Can't respond to that," he mumbled, scratching the back of his neck.
He took a cold beer out of the fridge and sat next to me. Watching the baseball game on TV, he asked me how the game had been going so far. I briefly explained.
Even up close, my dad sure didn't look like a man in his late forties. Nobody'd doubt him if he said he was in his early thirties. His body was tight, his eyes shined, his skin was fine, he had plenty of hair.
His youthfulness wasn't only in appearance. For the past few months, he hadn't been at home on most days off. When you think of leaving your family to go off and do something, of course you think adultery. According to what I heard from my drunk father, apparently he was dating a junior college student of 19. Nineteen? You're dating a girl less than half your age? Younger than your son, even. And not much older than your daughter. I was stunned, but at least respected the gall. He wasn't the most admirable person, but he could partially be learned from.
It wasn't a matter of mom not being aware of his adultery; she'd figured it out long before me. But she had no right to criticize her husband. My mother had a bad habit of having one night stands with young men at her workplace. Dad could notice minor changes in people, so it was apparent to him that his wife was that kind of woman.
The point is, they were sort of halfway to a mutual agreement regarding their cheating. "I'm running free, so you go ahead and be free too." I didn't think it was that bad of a thing. The two of them were pretty enough that it seemed wasteful to be stuck with one partner, and rather than force themselves to stay home and foster irritation, it was easier on me that they let each other go free. And their extramarital affairs didn't put them on bad terms or anything. You could even see it as the two of them going out with other men and women to ascertain their love. If that'll deepen your affections, then cheat all you want, I suppose.
But my sister didn't seem to think so. Ever since learning about the situation, her attitude toward our parents markedly changed. She particularly started looking at our dad like he was filthy. I couldn't blame her; learning your dad is getting on with a girl just three years older than you would be pretty shocking.
Maybe our bizarre family situation was driving my sister mad, I considered. I mean, I couldn't think of much other reason for it. It wasn't impossible she was being treated terribly at school or whatnot, but my sister was blessed with just-above-average skill in everything, so if she wasn't too unlucky, she wouldn't be a target of bullying and harassment. So the more likely cause was our family.
Then again, even if our family was the root of her odd behavior, that didn't mean anything. When all was said and done, it was her own problem. If she wanted to look for ghosts, I wasn't going to stop her, and if she wanted to stop her parents from cheating on each other, I wouldn't stop it. But on the other hand, I wouldn't help.
At some point, absolutely nothing was going well anymore. ...I'm talking about myself.
Last autumn, my girlfriend who I'd been with since middle school broke up with me. I think that was about when the gears got out of whack.
During the breakup, I recall she kept repeating the word "realistic." "I need to start thinking realistically about the future..." "There are realistic problems to deal with, and even if you stay with me..." "You're a good person, but it sort of feels like your thoughts aren't realistic..."
It happens all the time. When girls graduate high school, they rapidly start thinking pragmatic. While college boys empty their heads and have fun, college girls steadily plan for the future. Maybe it's a genetic thing.
Recently, I'd heard rumor that my ex-girlfriend was getting married. Sounded like she was about to drop out of the foreign language college she'd struggled to get into. Must be a realistic guy she found, I guessed. With a realistic job, realistic hobbies, realistic objectives, saying realistic stuff. Nothing like me, with my aimless thoughts and aimless life.
I don't know if it was the news of her marriage, but by June, it was nearly certain that I'd flunk three important classes in the first term of my fourth year. The reason was simple: I wasn't attending any lectures. It seemed that for two of them, I could potentially make up for it if I met with the lecturers, but I just didn't have the desire, and couldn't avoid repeating a year at this rate.
On top of that, at the end of May, I kept making major mistakes at the part-time job I'd had for ages, getting me fired. I'd worked there for three years, but left just like that. On my last day, I said "Thanks for everything" to the manager, and he blatantly ignored me and started talking to someone else.
I feel like the world's left me behind, I thought. Of course, it was all my fault to begin with.
The sole relief I had from this were late-night drives with a friend who knew me well. I'll just call him Kimura here.
Kimura was an "unrealistic" human, a type I saw few of. Furiously shouting "I'd rather die than work a job with nothing to do with music," he dropped out of college last year and was playing in a band while working part-time jobs. Lately he'd gotten enough visitors to his concerts to meet his quota, but of course, that wasn't enough to live on, so he was still depending on his parents' allowance. They'd said he'd have to give up music if he didn't show some decent results, but lately he'd been complaining about how he was scared of living this kind of life forever with half-results.
I stayed in the college's lab all day, doing useless research. Kimura worked all day, practicing guitar in his free hours. Then when midnight came, I'd drive over to his cheap wooden apartment. Driving up to the front door and honking the horn, he'd wordlessly come out and get in the passenger seat.
And so we drove through the night. Listening to FM radio on unlit mountain roads, laughing at each others' plights with self-deprecating jokes, letting worries of getting home by 2 AM pass. As the sun came up, we'd return to town, pass by people who lived proper lifes, and sleep. That was our custom.
One night, we were driving aimlessly as usual. When I mentioned my sister looking for ghosts, Kimura was worried.
"Whoa, is she gonna be okay? There's enough middle school girls committing suicide in this town. You gotta watch her."
"She's already in high school."
"Huh, is she? I thought she was in middle school, like, just the other day. So she's already that age..."
I sighed, my hands still on the wheel. "Saying she's looking for ghosts, in high school... Just ridiculous. And she's been giving me reports on it day by day."
"Bet she wants you to care about her."
"I'm leaving home in a year or two. I don't want her to be too reliant."
Kimura reclined the seat, took off his shoes, and threw his feet on the dashboard.
"That's exactly it - it's because she's realizing you're gonna go that she wants your attention, right? And she doesn't care much for her parents, does she? Wouldn't you think she'd want to get spoiled by the one she trusts most while she can?"
"You're overthinking. If that were it, I'm sure she'd give a clearer signal than talking about ghosts."
For a while afterward, we were silent and just listened to the radio. When I saw a vending machine, I stopped the car, bought coffee, and brought it back. Smoking cigarettes as the night bugs chirped, I thought back on the earlier conversation with Kimura. And I suddenly noticed something amiss. Kimura seems to be acting a little different today, I puzzled. I felt like he should have had a wittier joke to make as soon as I made mention of ghosts.
Maybe something had happened to affect his mental state.
I was right on the money. After finishing our coffee, we went to the beach to see the sunrise. Stopping the car on the wharf and walking along the coast, the sky began to brighten. Just them, Kimura spoke up.
"Seems these comfy days are going to end soon."
Having somewhat expected to hear such a remark, I showed no surprise and just nodded.
"I'm leaving this town next week."
"What kind of job did you get?", I asked.
"Something you'd forget in seconds even if I told you. Even I forget it sometimes."
I swallowed the words "Not a music-related job, then" before I spoke them.
"Let's have some good fun for one more week," Kimura suggested. "Enjoy this lovable, degenerate life."
"You're right," I nodded.
That's one less unrealistic person, I thought to myself.
After taking him to his apartment, on my way home, I was suddenly attacked by outrageous emptiness.
I stopped on the roadside, put my head on the wheel, closed my eyes, and drew a long sigh.
...Maybe it's time for me to put my feet on the ground already, too.
A week later, I headed for college first thing in the morning and went around apologizing to my teachers, managing to secure credits for two classes. Then I went to apologize to my graduation counselor I hadn't seen in ages, and resumed writing my thesis I'd ignored for two months. On the way home, I bought three cheap suits at a clothing store by the highway, and also got a few job-hunting books at a bookstore.
On this day, my life took a major turn. I drove all needless things out of my head, silently solving all problems before me, and moving onto the next thing without delay. I didn't think about what was driving me, just doing it for the sake of doing so. The days passed in a blink. After just a month and a half, I could see my thesis starting to wrap up, and job-hunting was going well, with final interviews with several companies lined up.
I was rapidly becoming a realistic person. Taking the first step was an ordeal, but with that, the rest was primarily inertia, surprisingly. I even wondered, maybe if I'd taken that step just a little sooner, my girlfriend wouldn't have left. But of course, it was pointless just to think about what-ifs. Because in essence, you're making the assumption "what if I weren't me?"
Before I knew it, it was August. After job-hunting in the city for about half a month, I returned home at last. I should have gotten there around 11 PM, but the bullet train closed for a few hours due to someone getting onto the track, so I arrived at 1 AM.
I opened the front door, took off my shoes, and went in. Just as I thought everyone was asleep, I saw a light from the living room.
As expected, my sister was there. When she saw my face, she beamed. Just seeing her smile relieved me a bit from the fatigue over my body.
"Welcome home, brother."
While I went back and forth between the kitchen and living room, my sister followed around behind me. I sat down after preparing my meal, and she sat across from me.
"Looking for ghosts as usual?", I asked.
"Yes," she answered. "As usual."
"Zero." She shrugged her shoulders, but glad that I had breached the topic of ghosts myself, she leaned over the table and grinned, resting her chin in her hands.
"So many people have said they've seen ghosts, so why do you think they won't show up around me?"
I thought about it. "From the stories I've heard, it seems easier for people who don't believe in ghosts to meet them."
"That just figures," she said in disappointment. "The people who get it are the ones who need it least."
We watched TV together for a while, not speaking. When I got bored of it, I reached for a newspaper on the table. It had a story about the abnormal heat of this summer. There were record-breaking temperatures all over the place; as of today, it had gone up to 40 degrees Celsius in multiple locations. I told my sister about it.
"That's some outrageous heat," she said. "Do you think when it's this hot, it's annoying even for ghosts to come out?"
"That might be it."
After my simple reply, I had a sudden thought.
"Hey, so I had a proposition..."
"Is it okay if I come looking for ghosts too?"
Her eyes looked at me and sparkled. "You, brother?"
"Yeah. I mean... See, if you're with someone who doesn't believe in ghosts, it might help your chances of one showing up, right?"
"I'm glad," she said, eyes twinkling. "I'm really glad."
"That's good to hear."
"Well, let's go right now."
"Now?", I reflexively repeated. "We're going now?"
My sister took my hand and smiled mischievously. "Yes, that's right. Since you've gotten on board. We need to go before you change your mind."
"Don't worry about it. I'm not saying this on a whim. We can do it anytime, so it doesn't need to be..."
"No. I can't stand to wait." She shook her head and pulled my hand.
I hadn't gone on a late-night stroll in ages. Come to think of it, for the past month, I'd kept up a regular schedule of getting up at 5 and sleeping at 11.
As we passed in front of a field of sunflowers, I suddenly stopped. It was a place I thought I knew the sight of well, but it gave very different impressions when seen in the day and when seen at night. The sunflowers, such incarnations of brightness, felt terribly out of place in the darkness. It was eerie, like a smiling clown face in a closed-down amusement park.
"Are you going to leave home next year after all?", my sister asked, holding my hand.
"If things keep up like this, it seems that way."
"I see. ...I'll be lonely," she sighed, eyes downcast. "Will you mind if I come visit from time to time?"
"Of course not. As long as you call beforehand."
"Good," she said with relief. "Now I've secured a shelter."
Shelter, I repeated in my head. As I thought, living with our parents was a major source of stress for her. When their complicit adultery was revealed, I was already in college, but my sister was no more than fourteen. Perhaps it was a major incident that shook her, as her trust for her parents still served as a foundation.
I decided I had to ask. "Do you hate being at home?"
"Yes," she nodded. "In the month you've been away, a lot has happened with mom and dad. They'd managed to keep a miraculous balance inches away from things falling to pieces. But, however small, cracks have formed. Once it goes, there's no turning back. It's only a matter of time."
"Is that right. ...Well, I expected it to happen someday. From your position, though, it's troublesome."
"Yes. I wish I had a break from their loud arguing while I'm studying."
My sister pulled my hand along and resumed walking.
"But that doesn't matter," she said.
"It doesn't matter?"
"Yes. Now, let's just think about ghosts. Since these opportunities are so rare."
"...Listen, brother. Don't think I'm fleeing to ghost-searching to avert my eyes from family issues," she warned. "My looking for ghosts and the discord between mom and dad are completely separate issues. And to make further sure, I don't have any intent of suicide. I'm not looking for ghosts for any impure motives like that."
I pondered for a little while. "Then why?"
She didn't answer, just pointing forward.
"That's the entrance to the woods. Are you prepared?"
"Sure," I nodded.
The woods were much darker at night than I'd expected. Not only were there no lights, the trees served as umbrellas that blocked even the moonlight. In areas where the branches were clustered, I could only vaguely see my own hand. My sister unfalteringly moved forward, as only someone who had been here practically every night could do.
As I walked, watchful of my feet so I didn't trip over any roots, a spider web stuck to my face. I groaned and shook it off, and a moment later I heard a large bug buzzing near my ear. I leapt with a little yelp.
"You get scared too easily, brother," my sister snickered.
"No, it was a really big bug," I asserted.
"Hmph. Oh, right, there are spider webs all over, so be careful you don't run into them."
"Thanks for the heads up, but I already did," I said, rubbing my face. "I can't believe you can come to this place every night."
"It's just what I have to do to meet ghosts. ...Now, we've reached the usual place."
Just after she said it, my vision blocked by trees opened up, and we reached a place like a little plaza. She pointed to a tree stump in the center.
"Let's sit there and wait for ghosts."
"Do they really just show up if you wait?"
"I don't know. But I've heard rumors of people seeing ghosts here."
We sat back to back on the stump. It wasn't big enough to sit side by side on, and this way, we thought we could see ghosts no matter what direction they came from - of course, that was assuming anything such as ghosts really existed.
"I didn't get to hear it earlier, so... What's your reason for coming here to look for ghosts?", I inquired. "You said it wasn't an impure motive."
"Do you not want to meet a ghost, brother?", she asked back.
"I guess between wanting to and not, the latter. Ghosts don't have a very positive image."
"Then let's change the question. Would you not want to meet Santa Claus?"
"Santa Claus?" What was she talking about, in the middle of summer? "Well, if he were someone I could meet, I guess I would. Of course, I'm not really the age that I'd get a present from Santa anymore."
"What about an alien? Do you want to see a UFO?"
I thought over the intent of her questions. "Does it not really need to be ghosts, necessarily?"
"That's it. Well done, brother." She playfully approached me. "It's just that, given the qualities of Minagisa, I thought looking for ghosts would be the fastest."
"So as long as it's strange, anything will do?"
She hummed thoughtfully. "Hmm, how should I say it? Yes, maybe anything strange will do. At any rate, I want to be surprised."
"To be surprised?", I repeated. "You're that starved for excitement?"
"How do I explain it? Well, all right... List all the things you can feel right now with your senses."
"Sure, but... why?"
"Please," she pleaded.
"Okay..." I closed my eyes and focused on my sense of smell. "The smell of damp soil, of plants breathing, of sweet leaves." Then to hearing. "Bugs buzzing, branches rustling against each other, my own voice." Then touch. "Your back touching mine, the soft ground through my shoes, the itchiness of my bug-bitten ankle, the lukewarm sweat on my skin, the thick summer air." Then I opened my eyes for sight. "Dark black trees, a deep blue sky right above, and many stars floating in it."
"Thank you," she said with satisfaction.
"So, what did you want?"
After a pause to think, my sister spoke. "Well, I can't sense half of that."
She adjusted herself on the stump, exactly aligning her back with mine.
"In sight, sound, smell, and touch, I only have about half that capability. But it's not anything like my eyesight and hearing going bad. I can see it, I can hear it, but I can't recognize it. Until you mentioned it, I didn't notice the smell of plants, or moisture in the air, or itchiness on my leg. What in the world do you think happened?"
"...How long have you been afflicted with that?", I asked.
"Since about three years ago, perhaps. So I don't think it only has to do with things at home."
"Have you gone to a hospital?"
"You might as well try."
"I don't want to. If I did that, I might serve to help mom and dad reconcile."
I turned around. "You don't want them to reconcile?"
"Indeed. That couple should just break up already," she calmly declared.
My mouth hung open.
"...I had no idea you thought of it like that."
"After enough time of them apart, I absolutely intend to go to the hospital. But until then, I want to face this on my own power," she said. "So, to finally get back on topic... I think a dose of shock is best to cure a sensory illness like this. Though I can't say I have proof, I'm sure my brain is so afraid of some things, it's shutting my eyes and ears. But if something happens that seems to turn my entire view of life upside down, so surprising I can't even speak, even my cowardly brain should start to come out and ask, "What happened?""
"So you wanted to meet a ghost and be surprised."
Aha. I felt I finally understood the strange things my sister had been up to for months. I looked to the sky and let out a sigh.
Just then, for a moment, a thin line shot across the sky. I thought I must have seen it wrong, but I kept watching, and a few seconds later, I saw a much clearer comet in the sky.
"Hey, look up," I told my sister.
"Up?" She looked up to the stars as told. A short while after, an even brighter comet crossed the sky.
"Wow," she whispered.
Even after that, comets kept coming intermittently. We stayed there a long time, sitting back to back on a stump, fascinated by the unreal spectacle.
It was August 12th. After getting home, we would learn from the morning news that it was miraculously the day when the Perseid Meteor Shower peaked. What's more, this year, 1994, due to the effect of Swift-Tuttle's recurrence, there were over twice as many shooting stars as there would be on a typical year.
How wonderfully fortunate it was.
About an hour passed of us watching the comets go by. "We should get home," I said standing up. My sister felt a little regretful, but got off the stump. After wiping off her skirt, and looking up at the sky again, she murmured something.
"I was a little surprised."
Then she looked at me and narrowed her eyes. "It's thanks to you, brother."
I shook my head. "You just invited me to go looking for ghosts. I'm grateful to you. I got to saw something great."
"No, I think even I wouldn't have gone out this late at night if you weren't here. Besides, it's not just today I'm thanking you for. ...Do you know what I mean?"
I folded my arms and considered it. "I wonder... I can't really recall."
"I made a new friend," she said shyly. "Someone I can really talk with. And it's you who gave us the chance to meet."
"Huh? Did I introduce you to anybody?"
"If you don't know, that's fine. It's not a big deal."
She smiled, self-satisfied. I mentally went through things again, but I'd been so busy lately that my memories were kind of a mess. I couldn't remember what "chance" I'd given her.
Oh well, I thought. At any rate, my sister made a new friend. And she's happy about it. Knowing that is probably enough.
By the time we left the woods, I was drenched in sweat, with grass stains and bug bites all over me. But in stark contrast to my disastrous appearance, I felt cheery. It was all too thrilling, like I could run around barefoot with joy.
On the way home, I told my sister: "Hey, you should definitely find a ghost."
She tilted her head curiously, and suddenly burst out laughing.
"Somehow, you don't seem like your usual self today."
I laughed along with her. "Honestly, I don't understand myself much lately."
"You're so strange." Still, she took my hand.
"Very well. I promise. I'll absolutely find a ghost for you."
"Please do." I looked up at the stars again.
"Look forward or you'll trip," my sister said.
"Guide me so I don't," I replied, still looking up.
...The next time I see a meteor, maybe I'll break character and make a wish.
As I thought it over, we slowly walked the road home.