Lex felt the bitter air squeeze his throat as he watched the electric night far above him. The party was in full swing behind him and he turned his back on the light and attempted to shut out the noise. The smell of woodsmoke relaxed him. Someone had an open fire. How cosy that would be. Lex wanted to close his eyes and imagine he was back in his grandparents’ home at Christmas but he couldn’t bring himself to shut out the stars. They fairly quivered in the ink sky. He remembered his childhood well. There was nothing to prevent it. He had adjusted to all the change and loss that manifested itself. He wasn’t scarred. Lex was quite well balanced. Everyone knew that.
The styluses peppering the heavens were engraving his life there. Suddenly a single stylus shot across the sky with a message for Lex. He closed his eyes at last and leaned back against the wall. He was no longer alone. He wasn’t out of doors either. He was seated on a substantial footstool by the fire in his grandparents’ sitting room. Paper decorations were strung along the walls and Chinese lanterns hung from the low ceiling, their tassels trembling as the warm air rose. It was Christmas and a small fir tree cheered a dark corner of the room. The little boy on the footstool ran – he never walked anywhere – over to the sitting room window and knelt on the window seat, gazing out at the stars.
“Alexander, you shouldn’t spend too long by the window. It will make you feel shivery.” His grandmother was sewing at her small table by the door.
“I’m looking at the stars Grandma,” answered the little boy, “Grandpa is asleep or he would tell me about them. Do you know about the stars Grandma?”
“I know that they are points of light which we can see when the night sky is clear – but nothing much else I’m afraid, Dear.”
“Grandpa likes to look at the stars. He tells me their stories. They each have a story of their very own.”
Lex felt a slight stinging in his nose and, when he opened his eyes, they were damp.
“Now then Mate, how’re you doin’?” A familiar voice accosted him from the shadows.
“Another year Matt.”
“Aye well, we’ll see what this one brings, hey?”
“You comin’ back in then? Only, you’ve been missed.”
“I’ll be there in a wee while.”
The noise intensified and yellow light poured out onto the grass. Both noise and light faded as Matt closed the door. The party sounds still lingered but the light now shone brightest in the night sky. There was one particular light which winked and seemed to trip through Lex’s head like a flash-thought – unable to be properly catalogued in the annals of his mind.
Another Christmas and Lex was older. His grandmother, worn with care, smiled up at him from her armchair as Lex carried a mug towards his grandfather who lay, blanket-bound, on the couch.
“You’re a good lad, Lex. You mind well the times we’ve had, don’t you Boy?”
“I do Grandpa. I always will,” and Lex knew that his grandfather would not see another Christmas.
“Watch the stars Lex. So many of us are bound up with their legends. One of them for each of us, should we accept it. I’ll be there Lex. Look for me. You will, won’t you Lad?”
“You bet, Grandpa,” and Lex fought back the tears.
The adult Lex watched the winking star and remembered. He hadn’t noticed Matt leave the house and light a cigar. Through the smoke, Matt viewed his lifelong friend. He knew that Lex had reached a turning point in his life. Matt knew that his friend would need his memories to get himself onto firm ground. How, he wondered, could anyone cope alone, with all that he had gone through in the last year? The two men watched the sky as it told its tales. They were near and yet separate, for who can expect to know the precise feelings of even the closest friend? The lore of the stars spelt out its doctrine for all who would notice. But each heard it in his own language, telling his own life in the softest tones and with encouragement for what was yet to come.
“Another year,” Lex said aloud to the darkness, and was only a little startled on hearing :
“Another year, and thanks,” said Matt.
The two men went into the house together, Lex wondering at the infectious hope that permeated everything.
“A time to mourn and a time to dance,” Lex remembered – and smiled broadly when little Emma tugged his hand,
“You dancin’, Uncle Lex?”
He took a hold of both her hands and looked into her sweet face. The young life had a breath of wisdom about it.
“I surely am, Emmie. You’re a star.”