There were lots of stars out that night. Not that it wasn't unusual; Violet was used to sitting outside late at night watching them in their masses with her telescope. And where she lived with her grandparents in the country, she was quite lucky with the location – it meant when she was doing her observations, she could see quite clearly in the sky without buildings or anything else to get in the way. She was going to miss that when she and her mother moved to the city.
"Might be lucky enough to see the Perseid shower tonight."
Violet turned to see none other than her grandfather standing on the porch behind, his eyes crinkled at the corners where his warm smile stretched upwards. Smiling slightly in return, Violet shifted to her left to allow her grandfather to sit down beside her and look through the telescope. She watched him intently as his face then began to frown with concentration whilst looking into the telescope.
"About the right time now." Violet murmured, cuddling up to her grandfather as he put his arm around her and chuckled. She loved her Grandpa: he was the one who had taught her about astronomy, inspired her love of space and stars amongst other things – she couldn't think of a single day where she hadn't learnt something from him. The thought of being more than hour or so away in distance from him made the prospect of moving the next morning even more difficult than it already was.
But then that was the hardest thing about moving on – not knowing how far you could go before turning your head back to see if everything you once knew was still the same, and then being afraid that it's changed.
"Grandpa…" Violet started, not even realising for a moment that she had started talking. Everything that she could say was often left unspoken; each time she even thought of expressing how much she cared for her family, how much that they meant to her, a lump would form in her throat and left her feeling sick. Like now, something was on the tip of her tongue, waiting to reveal itself – yet the only thing that came out of her mouth was her own breath.
Her grandfather's grip around her shoulder's tightened as he looked down at Violet, his expression now sombre as it lost his smile. "I know, sweetheart." He said gently, letting her know that he knew, and that she didn't have to say anything. As far as he was concerned, as grandfather and grandchild, what could be said that would change anything between them?
But it was in recent times that Violet saw differently. It had been only a year since Grandpa Weston had been diagnosed with lung cancer: her family had been so shocked by the revelation, because Grandpa had always been a relatively robust man.
"It's all my years of one too many cigarettes and G&T's." He would joke afterwards, though he always seemed to say it with a sense of cautioned humour. Even though he tried to see the bright side of his life from then, he could tell it was increasingly difficult for his wife, his daughter and his granddaughter to see so. It became particularly evident when his health started to decline.
The day the family would finally discover the cancer was when Grandpa's face had begun to swell for reasons unknown at the time that had set off the alarms – he didn't have any known allergies, and it was also so unlike him to be ill. Violet's grandmother panicked and immediately called Violet's mother, Laura. Completely unaware of what had been happening, Violet had returned home and soon enough was surprised to see her mother and Grandma bustling Grandpa into the car to go to the hospital.
She would never forget the moment her heart flipped in realising that something was seriously wrong: she remembered very clearly the look on Grandpa's face when he looked in her direction, his body and face somewhat limp - yet his eyes were still alive and mobile, slowly beginning to fill with tears. I'm sorry, His eyes cried out to Violet, though she could never understand what it was he had to be sorry for. Later, when she was sat down in the hospital ward, holding her Grandpa's hand, the doctor gave out the diagnosis.
Lung cancer. Advanced. Needs urgent medical treatment. Very serious. Only a year or so left to live.
The only thing Violet heard loud and clear was that everything was going to change. No amount of sympathetic words and comforting reassurances from the doctor and nurses tending to her Grandpa, nor the extended condolences from friends and acquaintances that knew her Grandpa and her family, could shake the immeasurable numbness that overtook her.
"You will always have a place with me and Grandma, Violet. We are always here for you." Grandpa murmured in Violet's ear. She slowly broke from his embrace and looked at her Grandpa, searching his tired face though she was not sure what it was she was looking for. She gazed somewhat sadly at his round face, his weather beaten skin, his light hazel eyes that appeared faded, yet still maintained a mischievous sparkle to them. To think that these had been the features that she had grown up with and perhaps taken for granted, not fully appreciating that like everything that possessed life, they must one day find the end of a cycle, and she would no longer be able to reach out and touch them.
Violet felt her heartbeat rise quite suddenly and found herself overwhelmed inexplicably by a sudden wash of emotions. Turning her head away quicker than she intended to hide the sudden tears threatening to spill from her eyes, she brought a hand to her mouth to stop her from making a sound. Her grandfather frowned as he reached out and pulled his granddaughter towards him, embracing even tighter than before, rocking her gently as she rode the storm of feelings that that had finally surfaced after suppressing them for so long.
"There, there, my little one. There, there." Grandpa murmured in Violet's ear as she started to shake, her cries silent as she clutched at his dressing gown. He knew that she had been keeping as strong as she could for her mother; for her grandmother; for him – the resilience he saw in her was a strength he had seen in himself in his life, and never once could he say that he had never been proud of his granddaughter.
But cancer was the reality: it had stuck a needle in him and his family, so with each day that passed where his health was knocked down little by little, they were constantly drained of any hope that time would make it easier to accept what had happened. He knew deep down that it wasn't the fact he was ill that hurt Violet: it was her knowing that even though he truly meant that he was there for her, he wasn't going to be by her side for much longer. She was finally beginning to understand why he was sorry. And that was where his words became a very bittersweet untruth.
Grandpa looked up to the sky once more, and almost as soon as he did, the shower of stars the pair had been waiting for began to shoot across the darkness, whilst the hundreds and millions of others shone like lights hanging from invisible branches.