“They are directly tethered to you, the stars. Its as if the whole wide sky, that vast expanse of matter up there, is merely here for…wait…don’t laugh, just hear me out. They have burned and seared a thousand years away in the vain hope that their existence may cross paths with yours, as fleeting or as enduring as that time may be.”
“And if I believe that, Milo, I’d believe anything,” she scoffed.
“I read it, somewhere.”
His sentence trailed off at the end, a thought thinning his gaze along with it. A moment passed.
“Which would you pick?” he added.
There was a hum, she felt it all around rather than heard it. Breathing between those pins of light and the soil, the starlight pierced her lungs in the cold. She felt like a butterfly, or a moth, incapable of movement and arrested by the moment. Yet, Patience was aware of the soil beneath her, the light dizziness of ale on her lips as it spread through her body, negating the chiding air and the windless sky. She was not frozen like those creatures of flight, suspended in the dark being panes of glass; Patience could feel the dampness of the grass tickle the backs of her hands and dampen the cuffs of her jumper. Though for all her awareness, as a giggle died in her throat, she could not fathom what colour Milo’s scarf was. Pick. Pick. To pick. Pick what? The word resonated, blurring the thoughts of birthday presents and bookshops into the past. Malt coated her tongue with the word. Pick; a heavy word, or maybe that was the alcohol weighing down on her mind too. When she would remember this moment, unpick it from her mind, she wondered what would filter through. The stars? The starlight and darkness, both stark and blinding all at once. Those pricks of light were so cold and distant and yet matching the warmth under her skin and the chill hitting her knuckles.
The sound of breath was suddenly quite loud for all the quiet around them and Patience thought that, perhaps that would ring in her ears in some distant place. Her own dusted the sky for a brief second or two. Chapped lips, the hearth of the pub and its crackling fire, the winding lanes and the damp fences they’d scaled, yes she wanted all of it to stay with her. Would that hum endure? The feeling she had whenever he was near? The one that felt like her whole body could just crumple in on itself? Did she have any say in the matter? Patience didn’t know. She hadn’t the foggiest what question to pick or answer to give in return. Nor did she have any idea how very distracted she had become. Milo broke off her traipsing thoughts.
“They don’t have a choice,” he mused.
“That’s kind of sad,” she offered, continuing to stare up at black expanse above.
“Yes, I suppose it is,” Milo smiled, lips faltering into a lopsided line.
She’d caught it out of the corner of her eye, along with the colour of his scarf. The sight was an image she couldn’t quite shake, even as the years rolled by. For a time, in spite of all need and care she put into preserving that night, she did want to unshackle herself from it. Patience thought of Milo often. Always there; lying on the wet grass and gazing up to the inky sky on some should have been unimportant day in January, telling her in his own convoluted way that he felt it too. She would recount how she couldn’t answer his question, whatever she supposed it was, or know how long they had trudged through the fields from that pub in the 'ass end of nowhere'. In the end it was the stars that lingered, and their lack of choice in being tethered to her. It was the same lack of choice dealt to her only moments later. The car was too fast and for all those mocking stars in the sky that he watched so keenly, they didn’t light the road for him. It was possibly the closest and furthest she’d been to understanding what this was, or had been.
The colour of his scarf had been red.