When Terra opened her eyes, everything was still black. She blinked several times, thinking her eyes were still closed, but eventually she saw specs of white light above her and realized they were stars. It was the middle of the night, but for some reason the moon wasn’t bright enough to help her see. Why was it so dark?
“What are we doing here?” she asked, looking for Gravity. “Playing hide and seek?”
She could barely see anything farther than a foot in front of her, let alone make out Gravity’s face or body near her. He could’ve still been in the jungle for all she knew.
Then, suddenly, there was a whistling sound and a streak of white light as something split the darkness and dropped into the ground several feet in front of her. She jumped back in surprise and squealed in even more surprise when she saw that the thing was a girl. She watched as the girl stood straight, her body glowing in the night, stared straight at Terra, and flashed her a smile. The girl winked and a tiny flurry of stardust burst around her eye.
“Sorry if I scared you,” she said.
“Not a problem,” Terra said, glancing at Gravity, who was now visible in this girl’s light. “I’ve been through worse.”
The girl looked at Gravity then back at Terra with a knowing smile. “Girl, you don’t even gotta tell me twice.”
“What are you gonna do to her?” Terra asked. “Kill her?”
Gravity didn’t respond.
The girl stepped up to Terra and whispered, “On three, we ditch him.”
“One,” the girl counted. “Two!”
And the two of them sprinted off into the darkness, the girl’s body piercing the night like a living torch. They ran for a hundred meters, hopping logs, ducking branches, and jumping over streams Terra would’ve never seen without this girl’s light. And when they finally looked back, Gravity was nowhere to be found.
“We lost him,” Terra said, catching her breath. “Way to go. Now we can actually have some fun for once.”
As if on cue, there was a clap of thunder and rain poured instantly.
The girl chuckled. “‘Not today’,” says the universe.” She waved for Terra to follow her and brought her into a cave. They sat in the center where the girl’s glowing legs were brighter than a bonfire, setting the inside of the cave ablaze with shimmering white light.
“Thanks,” Terra said, sitting down on the ground in front of her. “I’m Terra.”
“I’m Halley,” the girl replied. She winked again and a puff of stardust billowed from her face. “How long have you been with Old Man Gravity?”
“Hard to tell. Couple days. Couple years. It feels like forever. Every time I get comfortable, he comes in and rains on my parade.” She gestured at the mouth of the cave. “Case in point.”
“Did he show you Helio?”
“You mean Julio Suavez?”
“Wasn’t he hot?”
“Like the Sun, girl!”
They both laughed and the light bounced shadows off the cave walls.
“And Leep?” Terra went on. “How are you gonna come hopping in every four years to hang out? I’m supposed to be sitting around waiting for you? Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
Halley laughed again and stardust fell from her face as she did.
The girls talked for hours in the cave about everything and nothing, from boys they’d liked to things they were afraid of, and it seemed that the harder the rain poured outside, the stronger the girls bonded inside. Terra felt a connection with Halley she hadn’t felt with any of the other two friends and realized she wouldn’t want to be stuck in the middle of a storm with anyone else.
“And then,” Halley was telling her an embarrassing story. “Right when my Dad was about to open the bathroom door—AHHHH!” She suddenly slid across the cave floor on her back and was dragged by an invisible force towards the entrance.
“Halley!” Terra screamed, diving after her. She grabbed Halley’s hands and pulled her back in away from the mouth of the cave. But whatever force had snatched her wasn’t human and it was stronger than Terra.
Soon Terra was being dragged across the ground along with Halley. Terra scrambled to her feet to get more footing and yanked Halley back inside. But the force kept pulling until Halley’s legs were in the air and Terra’s feet were skating across the ground.
They were suddenly outside and the rain had stopped. Terra saw Gravity standing a few feet away and screamed at him.
“Let her go, Gravity!”
“Terra!” Halley was screaming, clutching her wrists. There were tears in her eyes.
“Let her go!”
But it was no use. Halley’s hands slipped out of Terra’s grasp and she was flung into the sky like a slingshot, leaving a trail of stardust behind as she vanished into the night. Terra was thrown back on her backside and watched Halley disappear. The second she was gone, sunlight flooded the sky, but Terra’s tears came pouring down her face.
“What is wrong with you?!” she shrieked, jumping to her feet. She stomped up to Gravity and grabbed him by his collar, shaking him violently. “Why did you take her?!”
Gravity looked her straight in her eyes and said, “Halley is that friend that comes once in a lifetime.”
“No!” Terra screamed, walking away. “I don’t wanna hear it!”
“You don’t see them coming,” Gravity went on, following her. “And you can’t stop them from leaving.”
Terra spun on her heels, fuming. “How is that supposed to make me happy?!”
Gravity kept his eyes on her. “Some friends are only in your life for a season. Happiness comes when you learn to enjoy those seasons while they last.”