“Kelie! Come quick, you’re gonna miss it!”
“I’m comin’, I’m comin’,” Kelie said, slipping onto the porch, a tall glass of sweet tea in each hand. Ice clinked against the glass, its rustling unnoticed in the stupor of that hot summer night.
“Getcher butt over here, doll,” Brayden said, thumping the patio step next to him.
Kelie handed him a glass, swept her skirt out and sat. Brayden scooched over, draping his free arm around her shoulders. She leaned into him, felt his heartbeat against her back. He took a sip of the sweet tea and sighed, beads of condensation dripping onto his thigh.
“Ain’t this the life,” he said.
“Mhm.” Kelie murmured. She was thankful for the temporary peace between them.
Behind them, the radio crackled to life. A gruff, older man’s voice hollered “ALERT, ALERT,” over and over again. “Whatcha reckon that is?” Kelie asked.
“Dunno,” Brayden answered, “but it sure as shit’s annoyin’ the hell oughta me.” He got up, ripped the radio’s power cord straight out of the wall and sat back down. “More ‘n likely it’s just some idiot deal about the fireworks. ‘Y’all don’t blow yer arms off now,’”he cackled, doing his best city-slicker voice.
Brayden sure thought he was a lot more clever than he actually was. Kelie nodded as he settled back in next to her, pulled her back into his arms. “Pretty moon tonight, ain’t it?” she whispered, keeping the talk small.
“Full, I think” Brayden agreed. “Say, there they go!” He pointed off at the distant horizon, where a dozen or more trails of smoke were shooting off into the sky. The roar of their launch came blasting across the field seconds later, drowning out everything else. “They’re lightin’ the fireworks! Happy Fourth, baby!” he shouted into her ear.
“Right,” Kelie said, pushing his arm off her shoulder and getting to her feet. “You gonna go say the same to Jayla later tonight, after you got me squirreled away in bed?”
“What the hell are you talkin’ about?” yelled Brayden, a scowl mean as a snake coiling around his face. “You better getcher head on straight.” He shot up, hurled his glass against the screen door. Tea and glass flew everywhere, a stray shard nicking Kelie on the cheek. She winced.
Brayden gave another bone-chilling scowl and stormed inside, the screen door banging shut behind him. Kelie was left alone in the sticky night air, a thin stream of blood trickling down her face. She closed her eyes, let the night air carry her away.
Sometime later she came to, a sound like a thunderclap bringing her to her senses. “Huh?” she stammered, rubbing at her eyes. Had Brayden come back out?
It was still dark out, darker then than it had been earlier, if anything. “Clouded over, maybe,” she muttered, glancing around. She was alone. She looked down at her glass; filled with little more than a puddle of melted ice. She held the glass to her lips, drained the lukewarm water, the tea dregs following lazily after.
She hopped down off the porch, her bare feet sinking into the moist earth, damp grass curling around her toes. She looked out across the field, but it was far too dark to see much of anything. She walked forward slowly, felt the dirt and mud squelch underfoot, warm, comforting in its embrace.
Something hard pelted down against her scalp. Hail? It sure wasn’t the right time of year for that, but it could be, she supposed. She glanced up, looking for the storm clouds, looking for the moon to peek back out from the shadows. But no, there it was, alright, a perfect crescent casting down a sickly yellow glow. “Odd,” she muttered. “How long was I out for, anyway?”
Something flitted fast across the night sky, catching her attention sure as a fly getting lured into an open jar of honey. “A shootin’ star,” she said. “Make a wish, I guess.” She took a deep breath, let it out nice and slow. “I wish that scumbag would go an’ die.” As she stood there, watching, as more and more shooting stars flew down out of the sky. The sky was full of them. Hundreds, maybe even thousands burning up right over her head.
Suddenly, the door banged open and Brayden strode out across the field. “Now, listen here,” he shouted. “I…” A massive boom cut him off as it echoed across the field, a cloud of dust mushrooming into the air.
“So that’s it, then,” Kelie said, staring up at the night sky.
“Um,” Brayden muttered, “Kelie, look, I’m real sorry and all. I love ya, doll.”
“That don’t matter now,” Kelie said, pointing up. Brayden followed her finger. All around them, chunks of rock were falling from the sky, impacting into the Earth, sending up clouds of smoke, deafening to the ears.
Directly over their heads, a massive meteor as big as a skyscraper was hurtling down overhead, flames licking up hungrily into the night sky.
Brayden screamed, wrapped his arms tight around Kelie and sobbed. “I’m so sorry,” he wailed, but Kelie pushed him away, that sickly yellow light from what remained of the moon illuminating her twisted smile.