Everyone has had one of those nights.
You’re out under the stars, all manner of night creatures peeping and buzzing and the air is thick and roiling.
It’s usually July.
The grass prickles at your back.
You’re torn between wanting to run through the woods barefoot, or never getting off the ground until dawn.
So torn, you can feel an ache down the center of your rib cage, begging you to make a choice before you’re ripped apart.
Maybe there’s lightning bugs, flickering in the grass, tiny fairy lights, beckoning – come find us.
This part of the sequel to The Spark That Left Us – is an ode to those nights.
Somewhere in South Dakota, we’d parked for the night, exhaustion finally numbing us to a halt around one in the morning, I’d listened, half-awake to the sound of bullfrogs in the swampy area near the highway.
“Are you asleep?”
The words came muttered from the backseat, quiet in the dark, a question thrown half hoping to be ignored.
I twisted under my jacket in the passenger seat from where I’d been facing the cooler breeze coming through the open window, towards the sound of his voice. The breeze kept the smothering in my throat at bay, the taste I couldn’t wash from my mouth.
Fresh air was the only thing keeping me from screaming.
He was nothing more than a shadow against the white leather, my eyes adjusted to the waning moon and the starlight enough to see his outstretched hand, the cast that bound his shattered arm a dull white against his jeans. I was still vaguely bewildered by the absence of the silver pupils, of the wolfish glow to his eyes I’d become accustomed to.
The damp had left his fingertips cold where they gently sat in my palm, resting our hands and his broken arm on his bent knee.
Deke swallowed, hard, took a deep breath. I felt him shift, brushing the hair from his forehead.
“This darkness. Not being able to see. I’m still not used to being blinded by the night,”
I squeezed his fingers. I could only understand so far. I didn’t know what it meant for him, to be normal once again. Maybe he hated it, maybe it hurt him to feel human again.
I had half dozed off once more, his thumb stroking the back of my hand, listening to the peepers that punctuated the silence between the croaking of the larger bullfrogs. Pure exhaustion was the only cure for the bruises and battered nerve ends, the only thing that would let me sleep.
His voice came from close to my ear, and I turned my face toward where he’d sat up, forehead resting on the back of my seat.
Deke cleared his throat,
“Will you do me a favor?”
A coyote howled, far off in the hills, others taking up the plaintive calls with answering yips.
They were hunting something, a rabbit maybe.
I said a prayer for the rabbit.
I ran a hand through his hair, pulled his forehead to mine,
“If I ever go back to that. That thing. Whatever I was, please, just. Just,”
A shaky exhale.
A beat passed by, two, and three.