Written in the Stars
a Short Story by Giulio Stefano
Janine Anderson wondered how she could feel so alone in a world so crowded with people. When she was young, Janine used to have shiny, silky brown hair that she would often tie up in a messy ponytail. Her enchanting, gleaming eyes would let anybody know that she was hiding a secret. She loved to display her cheeky smile which stretched from ear to ear. She had skin as pale and as smooth as delicate baby skin. She possessed slender, long legs which contributed to her rather tall height. That was seven years ago. Now, eight years later, she was 5’7” but bore the semblance of a seemingly brooding visage with deep, sunken eyes. The eyeliner she applied on both of her eyes was always uneven. Her once silky-smooth hair had turned into a loofah, like some animal had taken residency in it. “I look like I’ve been sucked through a blackhole,” she whispered to herself.
She was not a typical 15-year-old lass from Michigan anymore, who romanticized the idea of dying for love, or one who had countless Polaroids of her and her friends hung up on the walls of her bedroom. In fact, she never had any friends, or someone to call her own. The walls of her bedroom were pitch black, as it had always been. She had already read all the books beside her bed, messily lined up in a brown, dusty bookshelf filled with yellow-paged books and novels which smelled like chocolate and coffee. It included “Pride and Prejudice,” one she was forced to read last year in eighth-grade English. She stared at the ceiling of her bedroom while lying in bed, her thoughts of loneliness and isolation from the outside world filling her head. She curled to one side of her twin-sized bed, and turned on a lamp on her bedside table. The lamp’s fervent glare burned her eyeballs, and she turned it back off. She dragged herself out of bed and into her bathroom. Her reflection in the mirror was unfamiliar. She splashed herself with the frigid, ice-cold water running down the faucet. She took a washcloth hanging from the shower rack and rubbed her face determinedly so that she hurt from the outside as much as on the inside.
She had been battling anxiety and depression for years, and there was no one she could talk to or reach out for help. It seemed that she had lost interest in all her hobbies. Her piano that was stationed in the living room has been collecting dust for the past seven months. The volleyball she used to play with her sister had fully deflated. The unopened box of oil paint she initially planned to use for painting pictures was just sitting prettily on the shelf. It felt as if the sun in her day-to-day life was hindered by her dark, gloomy clouds of thought. She was drowning in the depths of her own despair, while everyone else was shouting at her to breathe. She looked up in the internet the numerous ways she could counter her feelings of guilt and worthlessness. She attempted to do meditation, but convulsed every time she tried to position herself in the “lotus” position. She had tried journaling to combat her current state, but it ultimately failed. After just three months, the journal she bought from Paper Page, once sparkling with glitter and sequins, had lost almost all its luster. She tried writing down all her thoughts on a notebook filled with lined pages, but have up halfway like reading a rubbish novel with thirty-six chapters and ripping the eighteenth and succeeding chapters off the book. Or a student cramming for his thesis in Philosophy regarding René Descartes’ “Cogito, Ergo Sum,” only to realize that he forgot to cite all of his internet references sourced from illegitimate online websites.
“Your heart was glass, I dropped it.” - 23rd of January, 2020
“If the story’s over, why am I still writing pages?” – 8th of February, 2020
“They say all’s well that ends well but I’m in a new hell.” – 9th of March, 2020
Her journal wrote. Her family never understood the situation she was in. The Andersons were an affluent family living in a residency in Michigan. Their residency was just like any other residency in the state, except that it boasted a marble staircase that was flawlessly immaculate without a speck of dust to be found. In addition, the living room boasted a chandelier ornated with glistening lights which shimmered like the eyes of Aphrodite. Her mother, Dorothy Miller Anderson, was an eloquent, ostentatious, but extravagant lady. She always bore a Himalayan Birkin for flaunting purposes, even when running errands in the supermarket and grocery store. She was a red-headed, olive-skinned woman with a plump physique and a round face. She had always reminded her to strive in her studies and to “reach for the stars”. By stars she meant a straight A+ streak on her report card and a 1600 score on the SAT. Janine was not like any other mother’s daughter who loved wearing her mother’s high heels and pretending to be a princess in a beauty pageant. Meanwhile, her father, Benjamin Johnson Anderson, was never even part of Janine’s life. Janine never had a paternal figure to look up to, synonymous to a Juliet without a Romeo. She never had someone who could carry her in his arms and feel the breeze blowing through her hair. Neither did she have a burly patriarch who could help her harvest the pumpkins growing in their backyard during the fall. She used to host afternoon tea parties with her being the sole guest. Sometimes, her stuffed toys and Barbie dolls would keep her company, and she would even make them sit on V.I.P. seats.
On the other hand, her younger sister, Clara Smith Anderson, was an insecure 13-year-old adolescent who had innumerable freckles and zits popping up all over her face. She wore tight braces, and unlike her red-haired mother or brunette sister, she was a blondie. Ironically, she was the exact opposite of other feuding sisters. Clara was able to sympathize with her sister, showing commiseration and pathos to all her ostensibly insurmountable problems. Contrary to popular belief that siblings would start a war over petty, trivial matters, the Anderson sisters offered each other their relentless zeal and support. A few years back down the line, they would always camp together in their backyard by inflating a large air tent held together by four strings fastened firmly to the ground. They would pull an all-nighter and set the telescope to gaze at the stars and constellations in the night sky overhead. Janine learned in science class the location of Pleiades, Taurus’ eye; while Clara learned that Orion was a mythical hunter. They would laugh about the first time they went camping, when Janine unintentionally punctured a small hole in the inflatable air tent and had to patch it up with some tape at the speed of light; they would later describe it as a race against time. They also brought to light the time when Janine accidentally discarded the instruction manual for assembling the telescope, and it was like having to navigate a ship without a rudder. They lit some firewood and a bunch of twigs they found nearby for a blazing campfire beside their tent.
There was this one particular camping night they clearly and vividly remember. It was the year 2009, the age of princesses, pirate ships, and the seven dwarfs. When the first streak of light grazed the sky, they both sat up, breathless. What followed was a visual symphony, as if Zeus had shaken the constellations like dice and rolled them across the night. “Sometimes, I forget how beautiful the night sky truly is,” uttered Clara. “Me too,” Janine remarked. When she turned around, Janine wasn’t looking at the meteors. She was looking at Clara. “Those ‘pimples’,” Janine commented, “are your own constellations.”
The truth was, they were each other’s universes.
They both attended Greenhill Highschool in Michigan. A school full of depressed, anxious, and anorexic students. Most students in the school were Black Americans, who did not have the resources to afford a visa to travel to Iceland and spectate the auroras. Neither were there any students who could afford plane tickets to board an airplane to admire the cherry blossoms in Japan during the spring. The teachers in their high school mistook teaching for business. Their principal gave up on renovating the school facilities. The chemistry laboratory showcased a television set from 1993. The hallways of the school were barely cleaned. The cafeteria featured shabby seats and stale food. Basically, it was similar to the school Jane Eyre attended, Lowood School. The school sported myriad clubs, organizations, and after-school activities that no one wanted to participate in. Almost all the students in the school were loners, who had no skills of socializing with their peers, and always ate their lunch alone in their cafeteria seats just like Janine herself.
There was however, a group of bullies who liked to pick up on other weaker students. Each member of the gang featured brawny, muscular arms that could lift a dumbbell twice their weight. They were a pack of werewolves emerging from the shadows of the night, feasting on the flesh and blood of weary souls. They were tall, and often cast a shadow of fear as they walked through the hallways of the school with their footsteps marching in sync like the Queen’s bodyguards in England. The leader of the cabal, Dominic Edward Magnus, was a six-footer who always had bandaged hands. Another bully, Titus Carter, was Dominic’s sidekick and partner in crime. His enticing, luring eyes often beguiled the ladies. He owned broad shoulders inherited from his father. They always loved to pick on Clara for her freckles, calling her a “pepperoni face”. They also teased her for her braces, giving her nicknames such as “brace face”, “zipper lips”, “tin grin”, and “metal mouth”. She often attempted to retaliate, but ended up a sore loser like drunk lady lying on the streets.
They were similar to horses all galloping towards the finish line, but these “horses” weren’t competing against each other, and their finish line was a goal: Clara. She never really knew the reason why the gang was so mean to her, and she tried to kill them with kindness. She always carried in her pocket the wisdom that it’s not what’s on the outside that matters, it’s what’s on the inside, that truly counts. She remembered the truths and life lessons she learned in life from watching animated Disney films, particularly Cinderella.
The day was just like any other day in school. The sun was flaring while the wind was sultry and humid. It happened on a Friday right after the dismissal bell rang loudly with its shrill sound reverberating through everyone’s ears. It was the end of a tedious week, the week where one would have the feeling of rewarding himself with a visit to the spa and a glass of champagne. Clara was walking down the hallway, reading a novel straight after English class. Her eyes were so fixed upon the pages, jumping from word to word. Her hands were so glued to the book that she couldn’t even put it down, or seem to bother to which direction her feet were dragging her. She became oblivious of her surroundings and was unaware that disaster was imminent. She accidentally bumped into Dominic, and he glared at her with an austere countenance. That was the final blow to the loathe and detestation he had for her. It was the flying kick which exploded like an atomic bomb.
Aided by Titus, Dominic shoved her towards the locker area, and placed his hands on Clara’s neck, with the aim of strangling her. Clara, like a wild bear lost in the wilderness, grappled with the fact that the entire assembly was just staring at them, without any daring, brave soul approaching to extinguish the flames of Dominic’s furious rage. She fought back by clawing Dominic in the face with her long nails, and successfully managed to scratch his cheek. Dominic groaned in pain, and started choking her. He increased the pressure on her neck until Clara started coughing incessantly. Just then, she started seeing stars. The same stars she saw embroidered in the night sky with Janine. At that point in time, everyone was whispering to each other, conjecturing about what might have happened that sparked the infernos. All of a sudden, Janine emerged from the multitude.
Like a superhero surfacing from a crime scene engulfed in smoke and dust, the throng gasped in shock. She lunged for Dominic, and kicked Titus in the thigh. She acted as a bulwark for Clara and shielded her from the fiery dragons blowing fire to the princess without a tiara. She endured innumerable punches, a bruise on her forehead, and the never-ending taunts from the rabble. “I thought you forgot about me!” Clara said in a shaky voice, her eyes filled with tears. “I never did,” Janine declared in an assuring voice. They had passed the final test of sisterhood. Janine always thought that she never had someone to call her own. It turns out, that the person she needed also needed her back.
They only needed a star, but they gave each other a whole galaxy.
About the Author
Chinese by blood but Filipino by heart, Giulio is a senior high school student from Grace Christian College. His best interests mainly include the arts and humanities, such as singing, dancing, acting, and of course, reading and writing. His involvement in extracurricular activities has helped him hone his interpersonal and communication skills. He also engages in social work, such as mental health and global warming advocacy, which is part of his participation in the growing chorus for change. When Giulio is not busy with his college applications, he enjoys listening to Adele and Taylor Swift songs, and writing poems and short stories. He strongly aspires to write his own novel in the future.