“Mama?” His small voice tip-toed out of the darkness.
“Yes, Jackson?” Her response was pillow-muffled and crackly.
“Mama, I saw something outside.” Georgia sat-up and looked toward the window, a cold fear roping around her spine.
“Come here, baby,” she said slow and hushed, reaching for Jackson and sliding off her bed. The young boy eagerly curled into his mama’s embrace and pressed a drippy nose into her neck. “What did you see?”
Jackson turned his head and held a chubby palm up to the window, “In the sky, Mama.”
Georgia creaked along the aged hardwoods in the attic room they rented from Mrs. Press. It was a large room, big enough for two beds, a dresser, and trunk. The walls were white-washed, but in the night only a thin crust of light came in through the only window. Georgia traced the light to keep from stumbling in the obsidian shadows.
She stretched out a thin, tanned finger to peek out the polyester lace. Georgia studied the stretching lawn below first, just until her heart quit hiccuping against her ribs. Two years had passed since she escaped her husband with Jackson, but that kinda haunting is hard to banish. Jackson swiped drool-coated fingers down her cheek to get her attention. Georgia peered into his heavily lashed eyes, all glassy and dark.
“What did you see, Jackson?”
“In the sky, Mama. Look!” He tugged on her pointy chin until she looked-up.
Georgia took in the blue-black expanse freckled with stars and gasped. “Why, Jackson. That’s a comet.”
“A comet,” he echoed in reverence.
“Yes, baby,” Georgia smiled. “It’s a star that wanted to see you so bad that it left all its stars friends just to swing on by and say hello to you.”
“Just for you, Jackson,” She snuggled her nose into his moss-soft cheek.
Jackson leaned forward, pressing his fingers into the chilled window glass and watching the wondrous streak.
“Let me tuck you back in.”
“No!!! Mama, I wanna see!” he howled. Georgia clamped a hand over the offensive noise.
“Hush, baby. You’ll wake the house,” She scolded and listened for noises from below. The old farmhouse creaked in the wind, but no one yelled or banged on the ceiling. Georgia released the air she was holding. “How about I teach you a special thing to say to the comet once you’re all tucked in?”
Jackson considered the offer and bobble-head nodded his ascent.
Georgia slipped him into his bed and cocooned him his covers so only his head popped out. He could see from his flat, white pillow out the window to the comet. A contented yawn bubbled out of him.
“Ok. Repeat after me, baby,” Georgia whispered while she finger-combed his dark curls. “Star light, star bright.”
Jackson’s echo was soft and fading.
“First star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might. Have the wish I wish tonight,” Georgia left a kiss on his forehead, “Now make a wish, baby.”
Georgia went back to her own bed and replaced her head on her pillow. Sleep was sailing her away when she heard Jackson’s sleepy voice.
“I wish you could come play with me comet.”
Georgia let the worn cotton sheeting dry her tears. Jackson could use a friend.
Play? Can he really mean me? thought the comet as she blazed her icy trail through space. I wonder if that is why I came here? She couldn’t quite recall why she had left her celestial cloud, only a strange longing that had nestled deep in her icy core.
Traveling in space is a funny thing; the comet knew she was traveling fast, but in the eternal vastness her progress seemed insignificant. Planets and moons, distant stars and closer meteors, all blurred together in a vacant, monotonous stream.
The comet had been gazing into the red hues of Mars, when she noticed something blue. She strained towards Earth, drawn by the hum of life. And as she wondered at the marvel of such a place, she heard it.
“I wish you could come play with me comet.”
Can such a thing be done? She pondered. Surely not.
The comet watched the dark-haired boy. She watched as he ran through the grass. Watched as he broke some garden pots when he tripped. She saw his lonely lunches and afternoons spent staring at the clouds.
I would run with you, she thought. I would laugh and leap, if I were down there with you. I would share your sandwiches. I would find shapes in the clouds. But I am a comet and you are a boy.
At night, he crept to the window and spoke to her, telling her about him and his mama.
“You’re so beautiful,” he said one night. The comet was so close to Earth now, she could feel the pull of the planet, drawing her in.
You are so beautiful, boy. The comet watched the little face pressed into window.
“Mama says you’ll be gone soon and that I won’t get to see you anymore,” he sniffled and rubbed his face with his sleeve.
The comet looked past Earth to the closest star. Yes, I suppose that’s true, she thought. I’ve so much to see. There’s so many places to go. A comet just passes through. Humans stay.
“I wish you could stay here. I don’t want to say goodbye.”
Oh! Neither do I. The comet realized that empty, hollow ache was gone. The more she thought, the more she didn’t want to keep going. She didn’t want to blaze by the boy and leave him in her dusty tail. Is this love? The comet peered as hard as she could at the boy and saw everything she could ever want to see in the whole universe. I must go to him.
The comet pressed her face into the layers of gas surrounding the planet and felt a tremendous tug toward the surface. The boy saw her and his eyes went wide. He left the window.
What? thought the comet. Why did he leave?
She tried to turn from Earth, to continue on a part of her crumbling away, but she could not. Earth held her fast and pulled her closer. She tried again but the gases clung to her. She felt herself heating, melting.
Boy! Boy! The comet was in agony. She saw him spill out of the house running to the lawn, his face stretched in horror.
“Oh, no! No!” he cried, “You’re falling.”
I’m falling? All her ice was singed off, her fragile crust was disintegrating. She strained toward the boy. I didn’t know it would be like this.
His scream filled the air.
She silenced it with a kiss.