• The street outside Lute’s home used to have a solitary light with a metal shield that kept the sea turtles from crawling to the artificial glow of false hope and blocked the intrusive colors from her window so she could see the stars trying to shine—trying to shine through the atmosphere, through millions of miles to reach them in hopes that one person would look up into the oblivion above and admire their faint blushes through the haze of the city skies. Lute always looked upward at those stars, gazed at their light, coveting their ability to shine and shine with no falter until they died. That is why at a young age she vowed to be like those glints of radiance in the lighted night sky. She would shine until someone saw her, until anyone or anything would gaze at her as sailors used to gaze at the mass of stars above.
    Every day after the routine of school Max would cast off his bored, yet admirable face, he would toss his bleached blonde hair and trade it for the short surf of the Atlantic Ocean, a wet mop head and the only surfboard he could call his own. In his passage of day-by-day leaps, he saw nothing but the waves, sunshine, and a tidal pool of good times on the land. Occasionally he was chained to the menial chore of staying in a concrete simulation of the ocean, where his brother would skateboard the solid waves caged by a reflective chain link. His eyes never found interest in anything but his own life, the waves, and spending the hours of daylight between the hours of sleep and school on surf or stereotypical entertainment. Then he would sleep soundly and wake up ready to search for the next day.
    The Sun and Moon never stay in the sky for very long, and when the moon meets the Sun we fear for it, we dance and pray for the Sun to return and are relieved when it does, although we pretend not to realize how close we came to losing it forever. Yet, one by one, the stars give up and go out, and we may never see them again as they flash their final burst in hopes that a passing glance would revive the warmth in their hearts. Some start anew smaller, meeker than before and some turn into wraiths, eliminating the kindness of those that orbit it until all that is left is a cold, dark place.
    It was by chance that Max began to see Lute; he was at the skate park when a glint, like that of a mirror, caught his eye. A golden glare, it was Lute swinging on the multi-colored swing set of the playground next to the skate park, her bare feet pointed upward to the sky. Oddly enough, he had never seen her before so he took no notice of her beauty; it would be gone soon enough anyway. But then, as the sun was fading and it was time to go back home to sleep, he saw her there still, and thought her demented. The very next month he saw her at school, in his own math class, while his eyes were meandering around the room traveling to find some other source of entertainment and he remembered that brief flash of gold in his mind. But despite his seeing he did nothing, merely glanced at her in passing or said hello as indirectly as he could in her direction. He only ever thought about the ocean and the blue of daytime sky and the surf and life ahead. There was going to be a party to celebrate the coming summer, and of course, his face and body were invited to go. His mind and soul would’ve rather been at the beach, or in the sun or sleeping in the dark of night. They went anyway, but didn’t stay long, while the people were dancing to the low beat of the songs and drinking and talking and playing he rested his head on the lawn chair by the fence, out of the way a little to keep his head. He closed his eyes at first, intending to sleep, but a laugh reminded him of where he was and who he was in charge of, so he stayed awake.
    There was a rustle in the trees above him and a tiny light twinkled, something was hanging little paper lanterns in the sky. The leaves rustled and from the tip of the tree emerged the form of Lute, glimmering in her skirt and top as she landed on the tip of the fence, like a cat in the night. Involuntarily he shot up and gasped, “Hey!” almost causing her to lose her balance and fall, her night sky eyes were wide as she sat down to regain strength.
    “What?” Lute’s voice was trembling and quiet, as if she was startled to have him notice her.
    “What are you doing here?” Max tried to cover his surprise with something else entirely.
    “I live here,” She returned nonchalantly, as if climbing trees and lighting lanterns was a normal thing to do.
    “In this tree?” Max sat up to talk to her, his wit lacking due to such a surprising situation.
    Lute merely glanced down and back up to the lanterns, or the sky, and sighed. “No, in the house next door.”
    Max could tell she was getting annoyed, probably because of the party, but then again, he had never seen this child at a party before. “Do you, uh want to come over?”
    Lute smiled a half-believing, innocent smile that barely showed her joy, “ I don’t know, I’m not sure the host would like it.”
    “Forget the host, I have to have someone to keep me awake.”
    “Well, if you insist, I’ll probably be just a bore as this party, but I’ll try to keep you company.” Lute stood up again, “Can I have some help down?”
    Max leapt up in a hurry to hold her waist and swing her from the heavens to the Earth, but she just gave him a far away smile as he pulled her to the ground. She sat on the neighboring lawn chair, knees up pristine and cut right out of a fantasy. As Max looked at her, she seemed to fade into the reflection of the water of the pool. But just as quickly she tore herself away from her reverie and pulled out another small paper lantern and lit the candle inside.
    “Why are you putting lanterns in the tree?” Max asked her, trying to keep the sudden isolation away.
    Lute stared softly into his eyes, “It’s from when I was a child, I thought that the stars could see my lanterns and grant whatever my wish was. My mother says it’s a tradition from the Chinese New Year.”
    There was a silence between them unaffected by the noise of the party around, even the raucous fight between two lovers inside. Finally, to break the ice between them Max said, “What do you wish for?”
    Lute gazed at him through her long lashes and said nothing, but Max didn’t need her words, he slowly leaned forward to brush away her hair, time seemed to slow down and the night sky seemed to hold it’s breath. The impulse continued and he slowly leaned forward and brushed her lips with his own.
    When he pulled away, Lute sighed and a brilliant aura surrounded her as she gazed into his eyes and blushed.
    “Hey!” The noise from the party distracted him, “Max, you got to come see this.”
    Max stumbled up; stunned by his glimpse of Lute and the boldness it gave him and replied to the intrusion quickly. By the time he turned back around to invite Lute inside, there was nothing left of her presence but a single painted lantern. He picked up the lantern, his friend peered over his shoulder to see, “What is that man?”
    “Do you have a lighter?” Max replied, not paying attention to his friend who handed over his lighter. He lit the small candle inside and reached to place it on the fence, and whispered softly; “I wished for that too.”
    Before he went inside, he looked up at the darkened trees and heavens to see the faint glow of the stars.