Fireflies - By Kevin N. Haw


Vanessa wandered through the overgrown garden behind Aunt Rachel's house, alone with her tears and her sadness. A faint breeze wafted hot, dry air at her, the sting of chalky dust biting her eyes. The sun was setting, promising some relief from the heat, but Vanessa figured it would be an empty promise, like all the others. The promise that California would be fun, that she wouldn't miss Ohio, that the Divorce really was for the best…

Aunt Rachel meant well, letting her spend the Summer while her parents worked out the settlement. But it was tough to keep the teenager's mind off of her troubles, real and imagined. A trip to Disneyland and a day at the beach couldn't do it. Instead of making friends with the local kids, Vanessa found herself spending her time in the garden where Grandma Julie used to grow roses before she died. Beautiful then, it was now just a patch of dried out weeds and dusty soil.

"You know there's no fireflies in California, don’t you?" Aunt Rachel asked when the girl took the jar with her for her nightly walk. "Maybe you should just stay inside and watch TV."

Vanessa's happiest Summer had been when she was nine, running around the park at sunset with Mom and Dad, racing to see who could catch the most fireflies. Somehow, Vanessa always won. He never knew, but once she saw Dad opening his jar and letting some fireflies go. She always smiled when she thought of it.

That was before Mom and Dad started fighting, back when she didn't know what a divorce was.

"No, thanks," she mumbled to Rachel. "I just need to be outside for a while."

Sitting on a cinderblock as it got dark, she sobbed quietly into her hands. It got dark, silver flecks of stars shining against black silk. She looked skywards and the tears blurred them, making them shimmer, jiggle, and dance.

Then, one of them moved.

For an instant, Vanessa thought it was a firefly, but then remembered where she was. California. No fireflies. And sure enough, this wasn't one. The color was too white and it flew differently, gracefully, like it was coming from far, far away. A cool breeze appeared, but the little spark was unaffected as it drifted silently closer. It lazily spiraled downwards, coming to rest in the firefly jar, forgotten on the garden wall.

Vanessa rose and walked slowly towards the gate, the spark growing bigger in the jar, dancing like a tiny bolt of lightning as she watched. It made no noise, no crackling or buzz. The only sound was the wind and incongruous murmur of the TV inside the house. Vanessa had expected to smell ozone, but instead the faint whiff of roses met her, underlaid with the nearly forgotten scent of Grandma Julie's perfume.

She gently lifted the jar, and the spark rose to bathe her outstretched hand. Then, it fell upwards into the sky, fading as it got smaller and smaller. Maybe it was just the weight of her own tears, but Vanessa thought she felt the faint caress of a kiss on her cheek as the spark disappeared completely.

Vanessa stood staring into the heavens, unsure of what she had seen, unsure of what it meant. And then, she nodded to herself and walked towards the house. She dried her tears and decided to get on with her life, knowing that no one was ever truly alone.