“Wake up, Fatima… Wake UP!”
“Whoa.. what… Let me sleep Amna”, my sister let out an annoyed cry and turned over.
“Okay, but then don’t blame me when I tell you I went to see the stars without you…”
“Hmmm… ok…”, her voice trailing off. She obviously hadn’t registered what I had said. But I wasn’t going to give up that easy.
“WAAAKEE UPPPP!” And then I literally got on her bed. “Wake up, wake up, wake up up up!!!”
“WHATEVER IS YOUR PROBLEM FATIMA!!!!”
“Please, pretty please come see the stars with me..”
“The what?” Amna replied, rubbing her eyes.
“The STARS!” my eyes widened by the sheer excitement of it all.
“What’s new in watching stars? If you nag me one more time I will go tell Amma and Abba about it”, she warned.
“That’s the whole point, Baaji! These stars have come down to earth!!! I just saw them out the balcony”, I thought I sounded very smart. “I want to go see them but I’m afraid I’ll get spanked if Amma finds out.”
My sister’s heart didn’t seem to melt.
“Okay, how about this…”, I tried making an offer. “Let me show you the stars from the balcony and if you spot them too, then let’s go down and see closely.”
“And if I don’t see them, you’ll let me sleep?”
“I will!” I promised and I meant to keep it. I just knew Amna Baaji would be as excited as I am.
Groggily, Amna Baaji stumbled out of bed, rubbing her eyes and muttering a barely audible threat. I, on the other hand, was hardly perturbed. I knew better!
We passed the corridor in pitch dark, and made our way past the lounge out in the balcony. Making sure we made no noise, we squeaked the balcony door open.
It opened. I picked a small chair from the corner and brought it forward so we both can have a better look standing on it. Amna Baaji raised one eye brow skeptically as she stood up on the chair.
“Look, Baaji, look!” I almost shrieked with excitement.
Amna Baaji followed the direction of my finger pointed to and let out a gasp.
“What in the world…”
“You see, you see, you see???” I jumped with joy. “Please, please, please let’s go down and have a closer look!!” Amna Baaji said nothing and silently complied.
We tip-toed past Amma and ABBA’s room, through the main door, down the stairs, careful not to wake any neighbor in our building. We knew we could be in grave trouble if someone saw us outside at this hour.
It wasn’t exactly dark outside. The moon was shining bright and so we could easily make out everything in varying shades of gray and black. Amna Baaji was still reluctant while I led the way. We lived in apartments in those days. Each block of apartment had a small but very heartening green patch in front of it; enough for someone living in these flats to come out the balcony and get coolness from the green. That was exactly where we had seen the stars and that’s where we were headed. We marched through, scared because of the rustling sounds we were making but still very excited.
And then we saw them. The stars. Twinkling gently. Very softly.
At first we couldn’t believe our eyes; we just stared. I thought stars were big and we got to see a smaller version of them because we were so far away. But no, I was wrong I guess. Stars actually were small. I mean, we were standing so close to them and we could swear on anything that they were small!
As if all this wasn’t enough for the night, I think we saw a star or two hop around. I knew what Amna Baaji was thinking because she jumped back just when I did.
Oh yes! Another one jumped! We never knew they hopped around. My sister and I both looked at one another as if we had stumbled upon a discovery. Oh, how eventful this night had been!
”Do you think we should…” Amna Baaji started when I cut her in.
“Can I hold them Baaji? Can I please?”
“Eh, I guess. Wait, let me come with you.”
We both walked slowly towards one of the stars, very carefully. After a little chasing, because the stars wouldn’t stay still and hop around when we came near, we got hold of one.
It was THE . BEST . FEELING . EVER!!!
I mean, I’ll never forget the look on Amna Baaji’s face as she held a tiny star in her hands. Her eyes were wide open and for the first time, I felt she thought me as her equal. I had always been so enamored by her in every way, she being the elder, the wiser, someone I always looked up to. I always wanted to impress her, to prove myself worthy of her attentions. And tonight, I felt like she had forgotten that she was elder and I was younger. We were finally friends. At least in that moment. The stars had done it for us, made us friends. I knew this night would be one of many that we will look back and bond over. I was too young to know we will have many more such memories that we will look back at and fondly remember, but that night with my sister among the stars was a first. And so, it was special. Very special.
We grew up. We became the kind of sisters all women become at some point in their lives: comfortable around each other, dependable, just knowing that the other is gonna be there.
We still rather call fireflies as “stars”, we still get excited at the sight of them. They will always have a part of our childhood that we will always cherish.