The Lady in the Stars (A Short Story)

“She must be lonely,” I say, and inch closer to my mother, burrowing into her shoulder. “She must be bored, too.”

“She’s not lonely, sweetheart,” says my mother. She pulls the blanket tighter around us, and we huddle together, gazing up at the night sky.

This is our tradition, every February, to greet the end of winter, and to say goodbye to the lady in the stars. Tonight, we sit together on a blanket in the sand, listening to the rhythm of the waves and the cold wind blowing through the dune grass.

“I’d be lonely,” I say. “And I bet she’s tired of the quiet, too.”

“She’s very old,” my mother tells me, “and very wise. She sees all of us, and our joys bring her joy. She’s not lonely, with the whole world and the moon and stars to keep her company.”

My family has lived on this island for as long as anyone can remember. We’re as tough as the sea and as sturdy as the land, my mother says. Together here, we’ve made it through ferocious storms and sweltering summers. We’ve learned how to live on the outskirts, on the edge of the country, and all that time, we’ve passed down the story of the lady and her home in the winter sky. And tomorrow, I’ll leave her, and my family, and this island, forever.

“James is a good man,” my mother says, “and he’ll take care of you. You’ll make lots of friends. You’ll have pretty babies, and you’ll be happy.”

She always could read my mind.

“You can come to visit,” she says. “A boat ride across the bay isn’t a trip across the ocean.”

“I know,” I say. And I do, but right now, the bay feels a lot like an endless, angry ocean, dangerous and impossible to cross.

“The lady was scared, once, too,” my mother reminds me. “She had to leave her home and family.”

“The stars needed a guardian,” I answer back, parroting the story I’ve known my whole life. “And she was chosen among all her people to be that guardian, and she accepted, because she was brave and smart, but also because she was kind.”

“Most importantly because she was kind,” my mother clarifies.

“I’m not kind,” I say. I sit up and fidget with my bootlaces. “And I’m not brave, either.”

“You’ve never been afraid of the waves,” says my mother.

“I can swim.”

“And you’ve always taken care of the gulls,” she says.

“I can’t stand to see them hungry.”

“Other people would call them a nuisance,” my mother tells me.

“I find other people to be a nuisance,” I say.

“You want to argue,” she says, “and I understand. The lady didn’t think she was brave or smart, or kind. She ran. You’re not planning on running?”

“No,” I say, and sigh. “No, I’m not going to run away. Where would I even go?”

“See!” my mother says with a laugh. “You’re very smart.”

I lie back and look up. The stars shine bright white, like diamonds on black satin.

I know what it’s like in the city, where the stars hide from the streetlights. I’ve read about it, and about the crowds and the noise.

“The lady tried to hide,” I say, continuing the story, “but the moon found her, and reminded her that imperfect things can still light the way in the dark.”

My life will look very different from my mother’s, and from what I envisioned when I was small. Back then, many families called our island home, and children ran on the beach, and lovers huddled together on the dunes, and old grandfathers sat at the pub to drink ale and tell stories. Most of them have gone now, and there certainly weren’t any men of marriageable age left for me to choose from when the time came. And so my father chose for me, a well-to-do man on the mainland, with a nice brick house and an old family. Like ours, but not like ours at all.

“The moon lit her way into the sky and walked with her to her new home,” my mother says. “And there, she cares for the stars and watches the world.”

“And they say,” I add, finishing the story, “that if the world should ever need her, strong and caring guardian that she is, she will leave the sky and walk the earth again.”

“There is always a path home,” my mother says. She reaches down and squeezes my hand. “But you might find you like your new one better, and that it gives you purpose and something to care for, just like the lady.”

“The lady isn’t real,” I whisper.

“She’s as real as you and me,” my mother says. “She’s as real as this island and the ocean, and as real as the moon and the stars.”

“She’s just a story.”

“And like I said before, you just want to argue.”

“I don’t,” I say. “I really don’t. I’m just pointing out the truth. The lady isn’t real. I’m leaving tomorrow. Everything’s going to change.”

I stand up, walk out to the water. I let it slide over my boots, and I can feel the cold through the leather. I’ve probably ruined this pair. I don’t care. I hear my mother behind me, her steady steps in the sand. She places a hand on my shoulder. I turn, and she sweeps a stray hair off my cheek. My cheek is damp, and I realize I’ve been crying. She does, too.

“My brave, smart, kind girl,” she tells me. “Your life will be just as beautiful and vibrant as you want it to be. That’s your choice to make.”

“And even the lady had a choice,” I say.

“Your father chose James,” my mother says, “because he is a good man. You can choose him, too.”

James has written me letters and sent me pictures. He’s told me all about the life we’ll lead together, and how excited he is to marry his island woman. We’ve exchanged books, and shared our favorite memories. I don’t love him yet, but I know I can.

“I do,” I tell her. “I have. But I wish I could have both, James and this island. His home and mine. Why do women always have to choose?”

“Because only women are strong enough to do it,” my mother says. “But don’t tell your father I said that.”

We smile together, and turn back towards the dunes. It’s time to go home, for the last time.

“Someday,” my mother says, “I hope you’ll tell your children about the lady. I hope you’ll tell them about this island and our life here.”

“I will,” I tell her, and I mean it with every fiber of my being, right down to my soul. “I will.”


Thank you for reading! This is the second of twelve stories I’ll write as part of my 2022 Short Story Challenge. Twelve months, twelve stories, and the theme this year is: Folklore

Here’s the first story, if you’d like to read it:

The Winter Woman

I hope you join me in the challenge! I think it’s going to be a very good year for stories. But just reading is good, too, and I’m glad you’re here.

The next story will be posted at the end of March.

A Pre-Spring Break

Yes, indeed. And much needed.

Graham and I are heading to the coast later this week, so I’ll be taking a bit of a writing break. But I’ll be back next week – I’m sure with lots of stories and pictures – and February’s short story will be posted on Monday, February 28th. It’s a good one, if I do say so myself. So, check back next week, and in the meantime, happy creating, y’all!

Found Friday #42: What are these, exactly?

Graham and I stopped into my favorite antique and vintage shop over the weekend, and these little cups caught my eye:

I bought them and brought them home, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out what they’re meant to be used for. Are they sake cups? Maybe they’re for sugar? I don’t know! They’re Nippon, based on the maker’s mark.

But a quick Google search doesn’t turn up this pattern, so who knows? Regardless, I just think they’re neat. And different, given their shape, pattern, and colors, than anything else I have in my china collection. So, overall, a pretty cool find.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: A Good Laugh

“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” –Lord Byron

I love to laugh. I think a good laugh can work a whole host of miracles – cheering you up when you’re sad, releasing tension, just generally making the world feel a little less daunting, and also, decent pictures of me actually existing.

My friend got a new phone over the weekend and snapped this picture as he was trying it out. I don’t know what I was laughing about, but I’m glad he captured the moment. And I figured I’d share it today, just in case anyone reading also needs a good laugh. You never know, right?

There Is Love

Everywhere. All around. In the brightest and the darkest places. Written on the faces of fathers and mothers, siblings, partners, and friends that become family. On every road, down every path, no matter the wrong turns and false starts, it’s still out there.

And you’re worthy of it.

You deserve it.

So, here’s your reminder, if you need it:

In this world, there is love. Yes, there’s hate, and fear, and anger, and sadness, but also, there is love.

You are loved.

Sunday Supper #7: Snowing and Reading

It’s been a lightly snowy Sunday. Not much in the way of accumulation, but a few showers every now and again.

I’m enjoying it, and I suspect it might be our last snow of the season. Yesterday was sunny and almost 60 degrees (Fahrenheit), so it was a little strange to wake up this morning and see snow on the ground, but I’ll take it!

Overall, it’s been a relaxing day. We’ve got a fire going in the fireplace, and I’ve been reading the latest from my brother-in-law: a web comic called Traveler. I’m super excited to see this work get published, and I hope it really takes off. If web comics are your style (or even if they’re not, because it’s always fun to try new things), I’d definitely recommend checking it out!

And that’s my Sunday, I guess. Reading, relaxing, and watching it snow. And for dinner? Some kind of garlic-y pasta, as is snow day tradition for Graham and me. 😊  

Fool’s Spring (Or, Some Thoughts and a Poem)

I don’t know if this is a thing that happens in other places, but here in Virginia, before we get on with actual spring, we usually have a first spring, or what some people call a “fool’s spring.” And, well, I think we’re there.

It’s beautiful and sunny and in the 60s (Fahrenheit) today, and will be tomorrow as well. But I don’t think winter’s quite ready to let us go, and it’s supposed to be cold and possible snowy on Sunday before warming up again next week. So, I guess we’ll see.

Virginia, y’all. She always keeps her people guessing.

Anyway, I wrote a poem about it, because it just felt like the right thing to do.


Winter’s chill softens.
The sun and air and wind
turn gentle and warm
and the ground begins to thaw.
All around the sounds of new life –
a world rife with breeze and birdsong –
but first impressions
can be wrong
and beauty’s a fickle thing.
Here in Virginia,
it remains to be seen
whether this is truly spring.

Two Friendship Pareado Poems

Another one for the poetry challenge over at Fake Flamenco!

The challenge for February is to write a pareado with the theme of friendship. Well, I’d never written a pareado before, and y’all, it was a lot harder than I thought it would be! But friendship certainly has a place in my heart, what with the Better Friendships podcast that I co-host with one of my besties. So, even though it was difficult, I had to give it a try. The results?

A true friend is a guiding star
who lights the way even from afar.

No one walks life’s path alone
who has a friend in heart or home.

…Not my best work. But it was still super fun! And if you want to participate, the challenge is open until February 12th.

Going Gray (A Poem)

When my child asks
why my hair is going gray,
I will say:
“Those are my stardust streaks.”
I will tell her we’re all made
of earth and star stuff,
and one day, once again,
that’s what we’ll be.
And I’ll remind her
that it’s not a tragedy
to say goodbye, even though
it’s sad for a time,
because she can always
find me in the night sky.

*I read Star Mother by Charlie N. Holmberg this morning. It clearly left me feeling inspired (see: this poem, above), and I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for something to read this week.*