To Escape in the Stars
By Maia LeFevre
Photo from Pexels
To Escape in the Stars
“It’s colder than I thought it would be,” said Ella. Feeling the impact of a mildly frozen breeze, she clenched her hands tightly into fists, and shoved them nervously into her jacket pockets. “I better head home. It’s getting dark soon.”
“Why don’t we go away this weekend?” Interrupted Jack, who stood across from her. He was a whole head taller, and at the moment, seemed completely unbothered by the cold. “We can go star-gazing like you’ve always wanted to. Up in the mountains, and away from the city lights.” Ella gazed into the empty space of an open college parking lot behind Jack, and contemplated their silence saved only by the faint sound of crickets. Go away for the weekend? She felt a shiver run down her arms. She had never really been star-gazing before. In fact, she couldn’t even remember the last time she had visited the mountains. Even so, it was unrealistic for her to take a whole weekend off with such a busy schedule.
Finally, she looked at him and said, “Do you remember what you said to me when we first met?” Noticing the confusion on Jack’s face, she continued, “You took one look at the snow, and said you wanted it to be summer still so you could learn to surf. You told me all about what it was like at the beach back home. You’ve never been afraid to do or say exactly what you wanted to. I would be fooling myself if I said I could ever think like that.” Jack let a sharp exhale creep out of his crooked smile. Stepping closer, he said, “You’d be fooling yourself by saying you couldn’t. Please, come up to the mountains with me. Reality can wait for you. You’ll see.” Ella turned away, debated the invitation. She knew what she wanted to do, but also what she couldn’t. She had responsibilities to fulfill, and an image to compose. Aside from that, this weekend was her turn to host a luncheon for the intimidatingly brilliant lawyers of Pollock, Hammond, and Phillips. Her father had given her the chance to intern for his firm, and she had many important people to impress in only a short amount of time. She didn’t have much room to consider being whisked away to gaze at the stars. Someone she never seemed to make up her mind about. Still, Jack seemed to stand for something to her; bring attention to something in her that she had never quite known.
“Do you like me?” asked Ella. This question seemed to take Jack by surprise. Silence. Finally, he responded, “Of course I do. I’ve never really had the chance to say it, but you know I do.” After a moment that felt more relieving than awkward, he asked, “Do you like me?” Ella looked around as if ensuring the absence of anyone daring to eavesdrop. “I like what you represent to me. I feel drawn to this version of myself were I’m different. Free. Here I am, being brought up to never stop moving and working towards absolute success. Then you come along and you like to stop and look around, admire nature where you are, and talk about your childhood as if you were…” “Happy?” Jack finished her sentence. Ella nodded. “You must’ve misunderstood my story that day we met. I talked about the beach because it was my escape from reality.” Ella took one step closer, now folding her arms for warmth. “Your reality?”
They walked along the sidewalk towards a tall, brown apartment building in the distance. Ella carefully waited for Jack to continue his explanation. What reality could he be escaping from? Jack had always made his life back home seem so great. Now that she thought about it, she didn’t really know him as well as she had previously believed. “My parents died when I was thirteen. It was a car crash.” Said Jack, looking at the sidewalk in front of them. “I was taken in by my grandparents right after, but I could always sense that they had made quite a few sacrifices to raise a child again. Everywhere I went, people showed me sympathy, and expressed how sorry they were for me. I got sick of it. I started going to the beach every day that I could. I would go in the morning before school, and watch the sunset every night. In those moments, nothing else existed. Now when I stop to look at the sky, or the world around me, I take a breath and just appreciate where I am.”
Ella stopped walking, and grabbed hold of Jack’s arm for him to halt as well. “I wish I could stop to appreciate the sunrises, or the sunsets, or even allow myself to block out the busy world around me. I wouldn’t even begin to know how. That’s all I’ve ever known. Working hard in everything is all I’ve ever known.” Jack took a couple steps closer to Ella. “You’re moving too fast. Now, look up at the sky. What do you see?” “Darkness. Oh, and a girl in the middle of the sidewalk with her head tilted all the way back. I feel silly.” “Shh. Look a little bit harder.” “I see some stars. I bet there are more up in the mountains.” Jack smiled at Ella. “There’s a whole sky of them.” “Then I want to see them. I want to escape reality up in those stars.” Ella continued to look up at the sky. “I see a few of them now. Wow, they are beautiful!” Jack, who was looking up, now looked down at Ella. “They are. As are you.” As they finished gazing at the stars and continued walking, Ella looked up at the building a few yards ahead. “Yes.” “Yes?” “Yes. I do like you.” They exchanged one last smile as Jack watched Ella walk into her apartment building.