I glanced across Joe and Sam, over to her window where I could see she was tracing constellations with her finger. She said the names so quietly that they emerged as a little more than a breath.  

“Hannah,” I whispered.  

Her face turned to me, eyes round and mouth partially open. I’d caught her by surprise. 

“What do you see? I only have a view of trees from my side.”  

She smiled and took off her bulky, dark rimmed, unfashionable glasses to point to them. I didn’t get the clue.  

“What?” I whispered. Joe stirred and mad a quiet snoring sound.   

What? I mouthed again.  

Her parents had put Sam and Joe between us because we’d been bickering over who got the window seat overlooking the ocean. Of course Hannah got it, and I’d rather be next to her than at “the other window seat” which was apparently just as good. Instead, her brothers got stuffed between us, because Joe refused to move unless Sam came with him, all because Rachel, the oldest, didn’t want to sit next to us. She had a seat to herself. So, I was stuck next to Joe who I “bickered with” way more than Hannah. Oh well.   

Hannah rolled her eyes but continued smiling and put her glasses back on.  

“I saw glasses,” she whispered.  

“No constellations?”  

“Yes, a constellation. Just because Socrates or whoever didn’t draw it in his map of stars doesn’t mean it’s not up there. They didn’t have glasses back then to even know what a constellation of glasses would look like.”  

“Do they look like your glasses?”  

“No, they’re way uglier than mine.”  

I laughed. Joe growled under his breath and elbowed me.  

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash


Star Girl

Star Girl

They call her star girl. I call her Emmeryn. She’s my little sister, and a connector between this world and another. A magic world. 

“Have you ever met Titania, Edward?” 

“Have I ever… who?” 

Emmeryn giggled.  

“She wants me to come live with her,” she whispered. 

“Titania? As in Shakespeare’s Titania?” 

“Shakespeare was like me. They told me so.” 

Before I could ask her who, she ran away. Skipping. Tiny sparkles of light falling out of her dark hair. It reminded me of constellations. 

I took Emmeryn to the park. It’s usually very quiet despite only being a few miles outside of London. That’s good, because my sister is odd.  

I used to try and stop her from gazing at nothing with round eyes and hands carefully folding to capture the empty air in a gentle cage. But it was no use. Then she would whisper something, and her hair would start to leak stars. 

The old lady and I watched. 

“How can you be so ordinary when your sister is such a little star girl?” 

She meant no harm. I smiled as she laughed. The old lady then told me about her deceased husband, about him being buried at the church three miles down the road, about her children who are always busy.  

And I would listen, keeping one eye on the dancing Emmeryn. 

“Aren’t they pretty?” She would ask on the way home. 


“The ariels.” 


Then she would laugh and twirl. 

I would have figured that a child with such a spirit, with enough passion that light escapes her eyes and her hair, would be very strong, but Emmeryn has always been weak. Her body always feels feverish like the fire inside was burning everything else up. When she turned seven, she began sleeping two days at a time. 

“Like your mother,” the doctor said, touching the forehead of the child. Then he looked at his hand, twinkling with stardust. “And I thought she was young when they took her.” 

“But Emmeryn is only seven.” 

“I know… Ah, so strange. It won’t be long before she sheds this mortal shell.” 

“You mean she dies.” 

He took my shoulder and looked back and forth between my eyes, like he was searching for the reason why I was normal, why was human. 

“Do things really die? Or do they become something different?” he asked. 

“They die.”  

I sat down and watched my sister. I could feel the doctor watching the back of my head for a little while, then the air changed. It blew in and around the little room, stirring up the stars in Emmeryn’s hair. I resisted the urge to turn around until the wind stopped. When I did, the doctor was gone. 

A star creature, a human with a touch of fae. Not a sorcerer who could mix science and magic, or a mage who could harness the magic of other creatures. But a star person, someone who created magic inside of them, a fairy kind of magic, beloved by all the fae, hunted by magic-seekers, short-lived because their human body could not hold up to the strain of their magic spirit. 

When Emmeryn died, she would turn to star dust. Her spirit would be carried to another world, and I would never see her again. Because I did not even possess the Sight. 

But, it would almost come as a relief. I’ve looked after Emmeryn since she was born. I never knew my father, and I never knew hers. And our mother – or the woman who claimed to be my mother as well – disappeared when Emmeryn was born. Turned to dust. And I, a ten-year-old kid, spent my life from that time forward looking after Emmeryn. When Emmeryn was gone, I would have my own life. 

Did that make me a bad person? 

I ran my fingers through Emmeryn’s hair then stared at the tiny stars. They faded into my skin. 

I whispered her name several times, then brushed her hair. Then watched these stars disappear. It was no use. She was somewhere else. I laid my head down and closed my eyes. 

When I woke up, she was gone. 

Photo by Annie Spratt


Magic Silence

Magic Silence

I think silence is such a pretty sound. Not the sound of nothing, like when you are absolutely alone and nothing is around. I mean the sound of your mind when you are sitting quietly. Content. Maybe people in the background are talking. Perhaps a TV is on. Maybe birds are chirping or rain is falling. But there is a peacefulness in your soul.  

I have not felt that in a long time. 

I work with kids. Sad kids, needy kids, rude kids, kids who will smile and joke and make the entire class laugh all while avoiding direct eye contact with anyone. Kids who wear a mask over their numbed pain. Kids who use memes and other stupid things to hide the shining desperation in their eyes. They smile so wide that it hurts, it screams. “See me! See me! Please just see me!” all without saying a word. Their insides are charred and broken from unseen wars. 

These kids are too young for this.  

I want to carry them with me to a forest or a field and have us all close our eyes and breathe fresh air and appreciate our beautiful existence.  

I want them to feel that silence. It can cure, almost like magic. 

My kids would laugh. A bitter and sad sound to mock my foolish ideas because magic doesn’t exist. Fairytales and happy endings don’t exist. But they don’t know that fairytales helped me reach adulthood. 

So instead, I play violin music, and touch their shoulder, and tell them they are special. It’s like giving a lollipop to a kid in a war-ravaged country, but have you ever seen their eyes? The way they light up like I could somehow guarantee them lifelong happiness? It would curl the corners of your soul. 

That silence holds so many things with it. Like love. 

I used to never think about love. Never thought it applied to me.  

I’ll never forget when a guy mentioned that he would like to marry me, though he would never be able to sleep with me or even kiss me because we weren’t that type of love. I couldn’t even feel love. The way he’d said it too. So casual. Not a trace of anger or mocking in his words. He had meant them, and he believed them.  

You’re not capable of feeling love, he said. 

I think about that often.  

Am I a psychopath? What am I? I love my family. I love my kids. Never a boyfriend. Never a first kiss.  

I had a crush on a boy once with gorgeous dark hair and pale eyes. Why? There wasn’t a reason, but I was convinced that he was good. Even when he wasn’t. He never spoke to me, but was just another self-obsessed individual trying to survive, searching for someone to help frame his picture of himself. He is normal. 

But in my silence, when I am content and happy, I think myself in love. With what? Not myself and certainly not another person. 

Would I be okay without the people I love?  

Yes, I think so.  

There is a man I think I love. I know he loves me because of his eyes. The way he smiles. It makes me uncomfortable to think of someone being in love with me, opening doors for me, buying me cans of chicken soup when I’m sick, and reading my stories and telling me they’re good even when they’re not.  

Why does it make me uncomfortable? Because I can’t feel love? Because if something were to happen to him I think I would be okay?  

So many people want this. I guess I can understand that. It’s nice.  

Is it because I am able to hypnotize myself into this silent, content state? Where nothing outside the walls of my mind can affect me? And I am alone, but not empty. I am the opposite of empty. Is this what Buddha felt?  

I don’t know what Buddha’s silence was like, but with mine, my mind is not empty. I think about the universe. So many things are wrong. So many people are angry and depressed about the wrong, but is it not beautiful? I think it’s beautiful.  

The stars, the seas, and all the tiny people who are so insignificant yet so unique. Some are evil, and some are good, and some just want to live. I want to help them all, but maybe I will just help a few. And that’s good enough to make me satisfied.  

I appreciate the existence and stop thinking about everything that’s wrong and everything that could make me angry because what does that anger ever accomplish? It only leads to depression. So I thank God for a chance to do some good. To help my kids and the man who loves me with what love I can feel. And I trust God will look after them too.  

If they knew, they might laugh and mock because fairytales don’t exist, but fairytales are what helped me get to adulthood. 

Photo by Meritt Thomas




The first thing I want to do is call my sister. But I don’t. I just stare at the picture.  

My stomach rises up to my throat, then it drops down to my feet and drags everything else along with it. But I don’t feel like crying. The pain isn’t anything new. I’m just a little bit more aware of it than I had been a few moments before.  

Sometimes I think I have days when I don’t think about him.   

But I don’t think that’s true.  

We were supposed to get married, this little voice in my head whispers. It was supposed to be us.  

But it’s not.  

Those words reverberate through my mind.  

It’s not. It’s not. It’s not.  

So, it was her birthday today. They traveled. They drank. They kissed. They took this adorable little picture that all of their friends liked and commented on and sang the praises of young love, happiness, and a new life.  

I’ve never met her. I bet she’s bubbly and kind and always smiles, just like in her pictures. I bet me and her would become good friends.  

Him? I can’t stand him. We always argue and can’t find a thing in common and never hang out anymore because we’re not really friends because I care way too much about everything in his life, and it’s annoying to both of us, and he doesn’t get it and I get so angry at him because he doesn’t understand.  

I take in a deep breath, and I like the picture. I comment some basic little congratulatory phrase that she probably won’t even read.  

My insides have settled back into their places. They should. It’s been a couple of years. I’m not going to tell anyone about this. No one knows my secrets but my siblings, but they’re not going to find out about this either.  

“Ya know, pain is really good for your writing,” Jay once told me. I can remember his lips smacking from that gum.   

“But I don’t even want to like him.” I argued. “I want someone else. Someone better. I can’t even figure out why I would like him.”  

“I’m telling you, it’s for your writing. You’d always wanted a good writing career. You know how David only wrote Psalms when he was in trouble? People don’t really write when everything’s good. And even then, it’s not like it’s good.”  

I hadn’t known how to explain myself. It wasn’t like that. I thought I always wrote the same. Good days. Bad days. All those little days in between that I can’t even remember. My art wasn’t affected by my emotions because I portrayed the world onto my art. Not myself.  

Is that bad?  

“I’m not the same as David,” I finally said.  

“But it’s the Bible,” he whined. “Go ahead and try to write a poem or something.” Jay grinned at me. I could see the massive wad of gum squashed between his teeth. “I bet it will be your best one. Everyone will love it, and you’ll feel better. Just like David.”  

That was the last time I’d talked to my little brother about this. Part of me wanted to think that he’d understand one day, but the other part of me hoped that he never did.  

Besides, he’s just a kid.  

Macy’s more understanding, her and her stitched up little heart. Social media was probably just a scrapbook of bad memories for her.

We used to listen to each other complain, and then I realized it was complaining. Useless, miserable, futile complaining. It did more harm than good. And it was annoying, like we were trying to comfort each other while also competing for who was most miserable.  

I still listen to her, but I resolved that I would never complain to her again. I’d never complain to anyone again. Putting sadness out there only makes it grow.   

I was going to keep mine inside, to swallow it and make it disappear.  

But, it’s been years.  

I know about how he used to like me. I know about how he tried to pressure me into confessing it because he was too scared to say anything first. I know about how he used to talk about me, how he always set girls up with the people that I might have dated so I’d never end up with them, how he tried to try to date other people to get over me because he was convinced he wasn’t good enough. His friends told me, and I had laughed and pretended not to believe them, even as they pushed me to talk to him.  

I wanted him to say something first, to like me so much that he had to confront me, maybe not even say anything but just kiss me. I wanted him to fight for me. I wanted a reason to like him.  

I remember his stares.  

I always thought we were soulmates, that somehow we would end up together.  

I’m looking at other pictures, at other happy couples, at beautiful single people, and I don’t really care. I’ve never really cared about being with anyone but him.  

We’ve never even dated. Never even held hands. We’ve never done anything but stare at each other from across the room.   

He looked so happy in that picture.  

I wonder if he’s really happy, if he really feels the way that he talks, the way that he looks in this picture where he’s staring at her.  

Because he still stares at me. 

Published in The Iris Review, Spring 2018
Photo: Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn