I think I’ve always been in love with the moon. When I was younger, I used to beg my mother to take me out star-gazing. Nearly every night, we would hike up the hill next to our house, lay out a checkered blanket, and stare up at the night sky. She would point out each of the constellations, telling me their stories. Most of the time, I hung on her every word.

But on nights when the moon was full, I couldn’t help but find myself distracted. I wondered what it would be like to live there instead of here, to walk along its cratered surface and see the sky from a different perspective. More than anything, though, I felt as though the moon were alive. On the night when we couldn’t go star-gazing, I would watch it from my window, wondering if it could see me – if it knew that I was looking.

Eventually, I started talking to it. I spent many sleepless nights perched on my windowsill, telling the moon about my day. I shared everything with it, good and bad. I knew that it was silly, that the moon couldn’t actually know what I was saying. But there were times when it felt so real. In those moments, the moon was my friend. For a kid who had none, that was monumental.

Sometimes, I imagined there was more to the moon than anyone realized. I sincerely believed that it was a real being – not human, maybe, but something similar. My mother having been enamored with Greek mythology – hence the knowledge of the constellations – she had told me about the moon goddess, Selene. I gave that name to the moon during our talks. There was a warmth to it, a sort of beauty. It felt right, somehow.

As the years passed, however, my talks with Selene became fewer and farther between. For a while, my family moved around a lot – my father struggling to find a stable job in a struggling economy – and I spent most of my time worrying about fitting in at new schools and making real friends. I would think of Selene often, lying awake at night, but following that old routine felt strange. Childish. I couldn’t take it seriously anymore.

Then my mom got sick. In the months before she passed, I couldn’t help but fall back into my old habits. I didn’t want to burden my friends, my family. Talking about the situation – my fears for the future, my anger at the illness that was slowly killing my mother – was too much, too difficult. But Selene was always there for me.

There was a seat nestled beneath my window, now. Most nights, I would fall asleep there, Selene’s soft glow like a night-light – a childhood comfort. In those moments, it felt as though nothing had changed. I was a kid again, in love with the night sky, begging my mom to take me out star-gazing. I was innocent and hopeful and life was good.

Now, on the night of my mother’s passing, Selene and I are talking again. I’ve made the trip back to our old house, walked to the top of the hill. Everywhere else was too tight, suffocating. Too real, in a sense.

Lying down on my worn-out checked blanket, I tell Selene everything that’s happened. My mom’s final words, telling me that she loved me, that everything was going to be alright. My father’s grief, his refusal to enter the room after it happened, his begging me to go home without him – to give him time to think. My own feelings are building up inside my chest, too much for me to bear.

I cry, and Selene listens. She watches.

Eventually, though, all becomes quiet. No rustling in the trees, no breeze whispering in my ear. I can barely hear my own breathing. For the first time, I truly focus on the sky above. There’s a light flickering in the distance. I stare upward, squinting, as things begin to fade.

Pushing myself up into a sitting position, I wipe the tears from my eyes, my cheeks. When I look up again, it’s all gone. No fuss. No chaos. A moment of flickering, and then nothing. Nothing but the moon, bright and full above me. Nothing but Selene, watching me as I’ve watched her all these years.

A halo of light encircles her, and I feel my stomach flip – something pulling deep inside of me. Almost of its own accord, my hand stretches outward, open, toward the sky. My fingers wrap around something, its heat burning my flesh. But I don’t feel it – don’t notice. Selene is smiling at me. I can see her, in the distance. I open my mouth to speak, trying to understand.

But then I’m flying, floating up into the sky, and she’s there. I know it’s her, standing before me. Not a moon or a person, but something else – like I’ve always known. She’s bathed in a soft, glowing light. Stars twinkle in her silvery hair.

I should be afraid. I can feel that. But I’m not.

Instead, I take a step forward – a move to embrace the woman standing in front of me. She opens her arms, and I fling myself against her chest, clutching at her flowing, white dress.

I have always been in love with the moon. And she’s always loved me, too.

Sam Bixler is a first-year student. She won the 2017 Academy of American Poets Prize and also has a short story in this issue. She plans to major in English or creative writing,
and hopes for career in writing or designing video games. Currently, she’s playing
Fallout: New Vegas and having a heck of a time exploring the Mojave. Mozzarella sticks are her life.