Wanda leaned back in her gravity chair; her stomach churned as the backrest went down and her feet went up towards the firmament. It surprised her that, though the chair creaked from disuse, none of its powerful cords snapped and sent her crashing onto her butt.
She gazed at the starlit sky. How long had it been since she’d lounged here, bundled up against the cold and with a steaming cup of tea beside her?
One year, two months and eleven days.
The last time, Ben had stood beside her, his telescope pointing at the heavens, ready to answer all her silly questions.
Now the telescope sat buried in the garage, while Ben lay buried in Arlington Cemetery.
Tears pin pricked her eyes, and she ran her hand across her face. The tiny dots in space came back into focus. Wanda took a long, quivering breath.
Only Ben had known how to use the telescope, and now she regretted turning down his many offers to teach her.
She took a sip; the tea burned her tongue.
Wanda put on her earphones, clicked her phone and settled down to wait for her eyes to adjust to the night.
Orson Welles narrated in her ears.
It had been a tradition between them. They sat outside in darkness and waited for the stars to show. Ben turned on his Bluetooth speaker and together they listened to old radio shows. The Shadow, The Saint and Gang Busters.
Every year, on this special night, they listened to the War of the Worlds while Ben’s telescope pointed towards Mars, waiting for the real spectacle to begin.
Today was the first of many nights she would restart the tradition, alone.
“Oh Ben,” she whispered, “I miss you.”
Wanda closed her eyes, and only half listened to the narration. Her mind torn between paying attention to a show she knew and wading in the murky waters of yesteryear, which rippled with memories of Ben.
Orson Welles faded and Wanda found herself in another night with the telescope between them, while Ben peered through it.
“Did you know that when some stars die,” Ben’s sweet voice filled her ears, “they go into supernova and that explosion causes the birth of new stars?”
Ben continued, “One day our sun will explode and we will cease to exist. Out of its ashes, a new star will spark and keep the cycle of birth, death and rebirth spinning for eternity. When you think about it, death is only a transition.”
A sob exploded in Wanda’s chest. Then a second and a third, until tiny little supernovae thundered in her body. Tears flowed down her cheeks, and she didn’t stop nor repressed them.
Orson Welles’s transmission ended and Wanda, adrift in an ocean of muffled noise, removed her earphones. The night silence was like a breath of fresh air, its quiet permeated her skin and the exploding sobs in her heart abated.
The tears stopped, and the stars came back into focus through her wet eyelashes. Becalmed, she gazed at the sparkling heavens, enjoying it for the first time in a year. A smile crept across her lips as she recalled Ben’s voice a few moments ago.
“It was you, wasn’t it?” She whispered to the stars, “You were here.”
A flare streaked across the sky. Then another and another. The myriad of shooting stars soon engulfed Wanda in spangles and wonder and evanescing sadness.
“Goodbye,” She whispered as a new spark kindled in her chest: Peace.