10. You Made it to the Stars
Trigger Warning: Mentions of Murder/Blood and loss of identity.
Death is inevitable. We all die in the end, but some of us perish before our time.
Some of us get our lives stolen by the hands of others as they smear our blood down their clothes as if it were nothing. A mistake. A hit. An Accident. A calculated, premeditated act. Whatever it may be.
Today marks seven years since you left me by myself. Which makes it five years since I was picked up by the MI6 to work for them instead of spending quality time in a prison cell. I suppose I got justice at the end and a job. However, I don’t have you. My other half.
Everything can change in an instant. Nothing is promised. Nothing is forever.
So I never settle down in one place for long. I’m constantly moving, constantly in a new place with a new identity despite the fact that I do have some family back home. Which mostly consists of my dog, Arrow. He’s an American bully, gigantic heart and a love for babies and ducklings of all things.
I didn’t care that Pitbulls and bullies, in general, were illegal in the United kingdom. I had a couple of strings pulled. What were they going to do? Come marching in my house and take my dog as he continuously attacked them with kisses? Not if they wanted to be met with the bottom of my shoe.
Sometimes I don’t really know who I am. Am I Astar? Or am I a mixture of all of the fake identities I’ve been given over the last five years. The lines seem to have become blurry.
I guess somewhere along the way I lost myself. I think I lost the biggest part of me when I lost you.
I stopped believing in a higher power a long time ago. I don’t think someone who is supposed to love all of their followers would hand someone a life so...hard. Wouldn’t put you through absolute hell only to put you through more hell. Wouldn’t ignore your cries and pleas for help.
The smell of the London rain filled my studio apartment from the window that I had left slightly propped open last night. The smell of rain sparked something in me, a sense of nostalgia. I almost smiled. Almost.
Today marks seven years. This will be the first year that I’m unable to visit your resting place.
I hope you know, wherever you are that it’s to protect both of us. I hope someone waters the flowers around your grave today.
I brought my slightly curled index finger up, wiping away the tear that threatened to escape the corner of my eye as I lay my head on the pillow. A part of me wanted to text Harry and tell him that I couldn’t do the second test today. That it was a hard day for me, but that wasn’t who Astar Lennox was.
I’ve always known how to wear a mask though and fool everyone. Even myself.
However, for now, I let myself wallow in the emptiness that I felt deep within my chest cavity, clutching onto my skin there as if it would make a difference and let myself get lost in the flashback of that godforsaken night.
July 24, 2014.
Going to Tesco’s on the corner at night wasn’t the brightest idea our sperm donor has had, yet I digress. Most of his ideas weren’t what I would classify as bright anyways.
The night was oddly quiet for a Wednesday night in July. It was just a regular day but I had expected people to be out, wandering the streets or even the fellow homeless guy that slept near the corner. I usually gave him some money if I had any leftover but he wasn’t camped outside tonight which I found odd. This was the first night he wasn’t laid there. Even the blankets that he usually laid on were gone. It was as if he just simply never existed.
Everyone was always moving. Leaving. It was just a part of life.
“Kaia, come on…” I let out a small groan as I stopped briefly in front of the shoppe we had just exited, moving to look down at my watch to see just what time it was. ”The walk isn’t that far.” I added after a few moments, moving out of the way in case any late-night shoppers were exiting. There were always those few people who got their cookies at the last minute.
“It’s nearly eight at night. You know how he gets whenever we don’t make it home in time, K. I really don’t want to deal with that.”
“We’ll make it home in time. Quit making a fuss. Let me just rest my legs for a second.” My sister grumbled, tucking a piece of her long, brown hair behind her ear so that it wouldn’t linger in her face. She then started walking over to where a brick wall was, propping herself against it.
Any pent up tension seemed to visibly leave her body the second she relaxed against the cold brick. I did a quick scan of my surroundings, always feeling the need to protect her from harm’s way but it was a somewhat warm, dark and lonely night. Not a soul out.
It was usually like that in East Sussex. The cobblestone under our feet would pick up the sound of anyone trying to sneak up on two unsuspecting girls anyways.
Or so I had thought.
After what felt like an eternity as I stood there with crossed arms, waiting for my sister to push herself off of the brick wall, she broke the silence, a small smile on her lips as she spoke. She always looked at me with stars in her eyes.
“Thank you for letting me rest for a minute, Star.” Her soft voice spoke. And I knew that had a double meaning. We never got any rest whenever we went home. Any annoyance in my body immediately seemed to just slip right out of my bones the second she spoke and dropped the nickname.
She was the only person that was allowed to call me that. It started and ended with her. Before we started to move again, I took another quick glance at my watch, slightly grimacing at the time but made sure to keep the reaction to a minimum so that I didn’t alarm Kaia.
Which shouldn’t seem too alarming but he always wanted us to be home before nine pm.
Where we lived was a good fifteen-minute walk from where we were currently. What was the point of sending two underage girls down to the corner at the small Tescos to get bread and milk? It couldn’t have waited for the morning? The milk would end up spoiling just like the last one anyway. It was a never-ending cycle with him.
Granted, nothing too drastic happened in Rye but you could never be too careful.
“The stars are so bright tonight, Star. Look!” She exclaimed, amazement clear in her voice as she brought her hand up to point at the sky. I followed her instructions, giving in to what she wanted because this moment felt...normal. Like I could breathe normally for a few seconds so I would indulge her.
For once there was a clear night where the sky was visible. Those were always Kaia’s favourite nights. We would sneak out of the top floor window and climb to the roof, clinging to each other as she rambled on about her favourite constellations and would trace over them with her index finger. She would occasionally encourage me to trace over them with her and who was I to say no?
There’s no one in this world that I loved more than my sister.
A soft, fond smile grew on my face as she rambled on about Perseus. Apparently, Perseus was the twenty-fourth largest constellation in the night sky. The most famous star in Perseus is Algol. Also known as the demon star. I clung to moments like these.
“Perseus was a hero in Greek mythology. Perseus slew the Gorgon Medusa. Yes. The Medusa.” The wonderment in her voice kept the smile on my face as I listened. She was always so animated whenever she spoke of the stars. We stopped briefly as I watched her trace over the stars that formed Perseus. A little break wouldn’t hurt for something she was so passionate about.
“Perseus was the son of Zeus and Danae and the grandson to Acrisius. Because of a prophecy that any son born to Danae would kill Acrisius, Acrisius would go on to try and drown Perseus in the lake..”
Her hands moved quickly as she spoke, enthralled with the way she was able to clearly see a constellation and eager to tell me about the history behind it. At that moment everything seemed so innocent. Like it would be okay. The bright smile she was wearing showed no signs of hurt. It was like this one constellation washed away any pain or fear and I wanted to bottle it up and keep it there.
If I could freeze time, I’d freeze it forever just to hear her talk about her favourite constellations and the history behind them.
Kaia deserved better than the life she was born into. I always tried to protect her from any harm but sometimes it was out of my control.
“Acrisius tried to drown Perseus?” I questioned, raising my eyebrow as I shifted the jug of milk to the other hand since my right had become restless. I wanted Kaia to know that I was listening. I always listened.
A gust of wind swept through the small town of Rye, blowing Kaia’s brown hair behind her but it didn’t phase her one bit. She continued on with even more enthusiasm if that was possible, her accent becoming even more prominent as time went on.
“Keyword: Tried,” A bright, toothy grin took over her soft features, teeth glistening in the small light that the moon provided. The way it brushed over her face made her look even more beautiful. She put her index finger down after a few moments before continuing to speak. “Zeus intervened and spared Perseus. Perseus was then taken in by Polydecetes. He was a king.”
She now had a little pip in her step which rarely ever happened but when it did, it was because she was excited. I brought my hand up to brush a stray fly away behind my ear as I continued to listen, nodding my head so that she knew I was.
Then I heard it. Faint footsteps out of nowhere behind us but I didn’t think too much of it. After all, we had just left Tescos and people did live along the streets. There was another couple inside of Tesco’s other than us so no immediate alarm bells went off.
“Polydectes then turned Danae into his personal slave but sent a now-adult Perseus on a suicide mission to slay Medusa. As we all know, the famous tale is that she turned men to stone just by a look.” Her hand motions became even more frequent and I couldn’t wipe my damn smile from my face. I took another brief glance at my watch, trying to ignore the fact that the footsteps behind us were growing closer, more frequent and heavy. As if they were wearing chunky boots.
I gave Kaia a small nudge with my shoulder so that we could step to the side a bit in case whoever it was wanted to step around us. Thankfully they did just that and I understood. It was late at night. Kaia and I had slowed down a lot but I didn’t mind, I also didn’t blame whoever the gaggle of guys were one bit.
Upon closer inspection of the boys, I noticed that there were four of them. They varied in height and they were all dressed in black clothing. It wasn’t an odd choice considering black was a very versatile colour but what struck me as odd was that everything was covered. It wasn’t exactly chilly in July. It was actually pretty hot for West Sussex.
I eventually abandoned my birds-eye view on them and turned my attention back to Kaia. I seemed to miss a part of her rambling but I could easily piece two and two together. At least I thought I could.
“On the way from the mission, Perseus rescues a princess in Ethiopia! She was being attacked by a Sea Monster. Perseus ends up marrying her in the end but that is besides…”
We both came to a sudden halt, her animated rambling and hand motions coming to a halt whenever the boys had surrounded us without me even noticing. I shouldn’t have taken my eyes off of them. Now that I had a closer look, one of them was wearing a mask that skewed his face from my view. A quick look around showed me that all three of the boys wore a mask. One of them seemed to have conveniently disappeared and I didn’t like that.
Nerves quickly entered my veins and filled me with dread as I flickered my eyes between the three of them. Hiding their faces wasn’t a good thing. That only meant bad intentions.
I couldn’t fathom what they could want from us. Two teenage girls. Kaia was fourteen and I was seventeen. I didn’t even know what to do in a situation like this. All I could think of was that I wanted to protect Kaia so as subtlety as I could I moved over so that I was standing in front of her just slightly and obstructing their view of her.
All three of the boys were positioned directly in front of us which meant that Kaia had the best chance at running away. My life for hers if that’s what they wanted.
I didn’t want her to be stuck with him at home though. She didn’t need to be stripped of her innocence. At least the innocence of knowing that monsters live among us and one lived right next to our bedroom and paraded around our house. She didn’t need to have a skewed version of the definition of home.
I wanted that light that flickered in her eyes and shone so brightly to never leave and if I had to sacrifice my own happiness to achieve that I would.
Kaia deserved a fair shot at life. She deserved to become an astronomer and study the stars. Her lifelong dream. To float amongst the stars with other astronomers and astronauts.
“Listen, we don’t have much..” I began, trying to force my voice not to shake but I seemed to be failing at that. I needed to appear strong for Kaia. Come on, Astar. I held my hands up in front of me in a surrendering motion, milk jug and all. My hands shook slightly as I held them up, darting my tongue out to wet my lips before speaking again.
“I have some notes in my back pocket. I’m going to grab them if that’s what you want, yeah? Money?”
I bent down slowly, showing them that I was just setting the milk down so that I could free up my left hand to use both of them. What I needed to figure out next was a way to non verbally tell Kaia to run. Now would probably be a good time for us to know a bit of sign language.
If it was possible the three lads seemed to step closer, as if they were trying to back us into the dark alleyway and corner us in. It didn’t look like they had any weapons so I wasn’t on high alert.
I should’ve been.
Once I was stood up again they were even closer than before. I did the only thing I could think of at that moment.
“My wallet is in my back pocket. I’m just going to reach around and grab it, okay?” I shakily let out, letting the three silent boys? Men? I couldn’t tell. It was dark and it didn’t help that all three of them were dressed head to toe in all black and wearing masks. For all I know there could be a woman or two present. However judging by their stature and the size of their necks, I’d go with all men.
I reached my arm around, not going straight for my pocket at first. No. The first thing I did was give Kaia a few small shoves. She grabbed my arm tightly, digging her nails into the flesh as if to say she wasn’t leaving without me so I used our secret little code for when we had to hide from him and be quiet.
I tapped gently on her hand three times before drawing a star on the outside. I was saying It’s okay in our own little language.
I could tell she was hesitant to leave me. We’ve never been separated for more than an hour, ever since we were younger. My mum used to joke that we were conjoined at the hip and should’ve been twins.
I gave her two more gentle taps on the back of her hand to further let her know that it was okay. I’d take on whoever these pieces of wet lettuce were myself. Her hand eventually slipped from my arm and I reached into my back pocket, pulling out my wallet and bringing it in front of me so that the creepily silent men could see everything that I was doing.
I just needed to keep the situation as neutral as possible and keep the focus on me.
“Alright. Alright. I’ve got forty pounds, that’s it.” I held out twenty-pound notes, tossing them towards the men since I didn’t want them to get any closer. I could no longer feel Kaia’s presence behind me which meant that she was slowly but surely detaching herself from me and trying to get away without being noticed.
Eventually, she took off into a sprint and any tension that was taking over my body seemed to relax at the idea of her being safe. However, I didn’t catch the guy furthest to my left pulling out a gun with a silencer attached to the end of it out of the waistband of his jeans as if it was second nature to him. I didn’t catch the way he removed the safety.
Everything seemed to roll in slow motion from then on out. My hands flew forward to try and grab the gun but it had already been fired, my ears ringing as I let out a high pitched scream, turning and watching as Kaia fell to the ground whilst clutching her stomach.
She barely even made it five feet away.
“Fuck. Let’s get out of here.” One of them finally spoke. His hands didn’t shake whenever he pulled the trigger.
I stood there frozen, the sounds of their feet hitting the cobblestone pavement as they ran, being white noise to my ears as I forced myself to put one foot in front of the other and come to my sister’s aide.
The once pristine cobblestone that lined the sidewalk was now tainted a dark crimson colour, a little river of red flowing out from under my sister. In a poetic way, I’m sure you could say it was pretty.
I quickly dropped to my knees, needing to push the initial shock to the side. My hand then came up, moving to replace hers so she didn’t use up any more of her energy and I pulled her into my lap the best I could, applying pressure to the wound with both hands.
I didn’t care that her blood was acting as heat to warm up my cold, shaking hands. Feeling the warmth at that moment reminded me that she was still here. Alive. Breathing. With me. I needed help though. I couldn’t sit here forever.
A quivering breath fell from my lips, completely unaware of the fact that I had tears rushing down my face and falling onto Kaia’s. I opened my mouth to yell but all that came out was a broken sob, feeling a somewhat cold hand come up and brush away the tears that were falling down on my face.
“Why are you crying, Star?” A weak voice spoke up from below me.
I didn’t like how weak she sounded, like she was struggling to speak. What I hated, even more, was how I couldn’t stop the blood so I briefly ignored her, pulling off my sweater. I placed the sweater over the wound and added pressure, watching as the blood just soaked right through it as if the sweater wasn’t even there. The little river that stained the cobblestone just kept growing until it started slipping into the run-off area.
My head kept shaking from side to side because this wasn’t how this was supposed to happen. She was supposed to be the one that made it out of this wretched place. She was the one that was supposed to outlive me.
Not this way.
It wouldn’t fucking stop. No matter how much pressure I added, just like in the movies. Even if I tried my best to stuff the bullet hole with the sweater.
“I-I’m crying because I can’t stop the blood, K. It won’t stop.” I choked out, choking on my own saliva as I blinked my eyes quickly to try and make it less blurry but blinking them only seemed to make everything worse. Her hand on my cheek didn’t falter, she just seemed to try and comfort me as if she wasn’t dying in my lap currently. She made sure to catch every tear that rolled down my cheeks.
I’ve never felt more useless than I did in that moment.
“Hey..” She croaked out, voice quieter than it was previously. Fuck. She needed to quit talking. I needed to get help. Come on, Astar.
A car suddenly peeled away down the street with no tag, leaving tire marks in its wake. A getaway car. The fourth guy was waiting for them in the car. They never wanted my money because it was still on the ground from where I threw it at them along with the jug of milk. The bag that held the bread lay on the ground next to Kaia, becoming drenched in her blood.
“Hey.” She repeated, her hand turning icy cold as she brought it down to cover her mouth, to which she then coughed and sputtered into it, removing it to see that the crimson red now stained her hand as well.
She was dying.
Her hand came down to rest upon mine that was continuing to apply pressure to the bullet wound. She ran her finger down my hand three times before drawing a star the best that she could. It was weak and shaky but I knew exactly what it was.
It wasn’t okay. I could tell that she was growing weak. I glanced at my watch the best I could, trying to figure out just how much time had passed. The face of it was covered in her blood and I could feel my stomach fall to my ass.
Kaia had given me this watch for my sixteenth birthday. There was a meaning behind the fact that her blood was the one to stain it but I didn’t have time to look into it.
Suddenly the worst noises I’ve ever heard fell from her lips which were turning a pale shade of blue. “Please...K..” I breathed out, glancing down at the soaked sweater. She was running out of time and I knew she wasn’t going to make it. She never even had a chance.
“Oh, K…” I breathed out, trying to steady my voice but it was a lost cause. My entire being was shaking but not from the cold breeze. From anger. From the amount of pain that was radiating through my veins. From the unnerving realisation that I was about to lose the only person that has ever made home a home.
I should be the one comforting her in her last moments, not the other way around.
I could tell that she wanted to speak but I just gave a shake of my head, feeling my bottom lip wobble as I continued to hold her in my arms. As long as she feels safe in this moment. I want my face and the stars to be the last thing she sees so I lean back a bit so that she could look straight above me.
“Just listen to the sound of my voice, yeah?” I whispered gently into the air, bringing one of my hands up that had her dried blood on it as I began to course it slowly through her hair. Her skin almost looked porcelain white and her eyes were glazed over as she stared at the night sky.
She was so, so cold to the couch.
“Twinkle, Twinkle little star. How I wonder what you are, up above the world so high…” I continued to sing to her in a soft voice, swaying side to side with her as I continued to run my fingers gently through her hair in a motherly way. I could tell that she was fighting her hardest, her eyes threatening to close but every time they went to shut she forced them back open.
“Like a diamond in the sky, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star...How I wonder what you are..” I drowned off, leaning down to place a gentle kiss to her forehead, letting my lips linger there for a few moments before promptly pulling back to see that it was excruciatingly hard for her to breathe. The sides of her mouth were stained red from her blood.
I ran my finger over her cold, cold hand three times before drawing a star.
“It’s okay. You don’t have to fight anymore.” I murmured. Prolonging the suffering she was going through didn’t sit right with me. I know she just wanted to hold on as long as she could for me.
It’s like the second she felt the all too familiar star being brushed over her hand, it relieved her. I felt her body rise before she went completely still, eyes fixated on the stars above her but they held no light in them.
They were bare and the three men--no. The three boys stole the stars from her eyes.
“You reached your dream, Kaia.” I breathed out wetly, continuing to brush my hand slowly through her hair even though she was no longer with me. “I always knew you’d reach your dream before me.”
“You made it to the stars.”