The meadow was alive with the sounds of late Spring and the air was thick with midges. Slanting rays of evening sunlight filtered through the yellow-green canopy of an old oak tree. Beneath its reaching boughs lay a small herd of cows, idly flicking at the air with their tails and shifting awkwardly under the pressure of the biting insects.
Our little fire chewed away on a tree stump, while we passed the time talking about nothing in particular. She poked at the embers with a tender stick of willow, watching as the leaves curled up at the edges and turned brown, sizzling slightly. A shiver passed through her body, hunching up against the chill that had taken the air. I reached across and passed over the thick rug that lay beside me.
“Thanks, I guess that’s the last of the sun for today.”
She pulled the rug around her shoulders and squirmed under its weight.
“Nice and warm from the fire.”
“But it’s a bit itchy.”
I nodded, leaning back and sinking into the soft grasses. Tiny insects began crawling across my skin, but I paid them no heed. My eyes were fixed on the sky above, watching as the sunset flickered pink across the scudding clouds. I turned to her, smiling gently at the compact form huddled beside the fire.
“Do you see any stars yet?”
She spread the rug out behind her and lay back, folding it across her body, tucking each corner in, a chrysalis of sheepswool and auburn hair.
“No.” she paused, craning her neck backwards, then looked over at me, a half smile flitting across her lips. “Do you see our star yet?”
I smiled and pointed over to the east, where the light was fading fastest.
“It should rise over there tonight. It’s been earlier and earlier each night this week though. I wonder how long before we see it.”
She sighed, her chest falling gently.
“I heard that they’re thousands and thousands of miles away from us, the stars. That they’re just like the sun — blinding balls of light far out beyond our world, cast into the heavens by the creator.”
I laughed and rolled my eyes at her.
“And who told you that?”
“It was the kid from London, you know, the one who comes to the market with the fishmonger. He said that there were people who stared at the sky through thick glass, revealing all its glory.”
“Him? He told me that the trout was fresh that morning, and it was high before I even got it back home.”
She huffed indignantly and looked away, her body twisting in the grass, coming to rest a little further from mine.
“Listen, I once heard a story about how the stars were made. My grandma told it to me when I was a little boy. She traced the heavens with her hands and told me that there was an old man who lived up on the hill. That he lit the sky up every night, one star at a time.”
“Rubbish. Which hill?”
“Up on Colmer’s.”
“The one with the trees at the top?”
“That’s the one.”
I sat up suddenly and caught her gaze.
“We should go there this evening. You and me. We could watch him doing it. He’s probably got a very big ladder.”
“But it’s late. It’ll be cold.”
“You’re all wrapped up now, and anyway, what better time to see him lighting up the sky?”
She looked at me doubtfully, then her expression subtly shifted and she daintily reached out one hand. I pulled on it hard, jumping up to my feet. She rose up out of the grasses in front of me, bumping into my chest, laughing. Her face tilted up to mine, eyes sparkling with excitement.
I smiled and we walked off through the meadow, the crickets leaping free of our feet as we headed into the gathering dusk; east, to Colmer’s Hill.