Long ago, humans saw her as a goddess,
an intelligence watching over them.
She missed that...
Leah collapsed into the most comfortable chair in her house, dropping her purse on the floor with a thud that was probably audible downstairs. She leaned back, letting the chair take her weight, and letting her gaze soften. With the lights off — she hadn’t bothered turning them on — the full moon shone through the window. The silver orb was almost absurdly detailed, more textured than a heavenly body had any right to be.
The moon looked down on many. Thousands, millions of people fell beneath her light at any given time. Yes, most of them were asleep, but she watched so many people eat dinner, make love, and stay up late. She watched them binge on secret vices from ice cream to alcohol, or celebrate with laughter and friends. But few ever gazed back.
Yes, people looked up at her now and again, and commented about her presence in the sky. Amateur astronomers looked through telescopes, but they saw a bright light in the heavens, just a celestial body. It had been hundreds of years since humans saw her as a goddess, a divine presence, an intelligence watching over them. She missed that. Tonight she felt a tug of that old recognition. She narrowed her focus down to one city, then one street, then one window, and saw a woman gazing out. Her eyes shone with unshed tears, and more streaked down her cheeks. But there was something else there, as well, a longing in her eyes that the moon could understand.
She shone a little brighter, just for her.
Leah hated that she was crying over nothing. So her co-workers had not invited her out to trivia night. So what? Socializing with your co-workers was weird, anyway. Work and life should be separate. Except that ever since she’d moved to the east coast, work was all she had.
The moonlight was soothing, but she turned away, leaning down to pull her phone out of her bag. No new email. No notifications. No texts. No sign that anybody remembered her. It had been two years, and her old friends rarely returned her calls or texts. When they did, she kept up the facade that everything was fine, that her new life was as vibrant and fulfilling as she had hoped. Even her sister thought that Leah was happy.
When she left, she’d thought she needed new air, new environs. She’d thought she could find happiness and flourish out here, but instead she’d fallen on fallow ground. She’d created this mess. She had no one to blame but herself if she hadn’t gone out enough, made enough of an effort to make friends.
She looked back up at the moon, and wished she could be that cold and distant. The moon, she was sure, did not hurt like this. The moon needed nobody and cared for no one.
The moon recognized the loneliness on the woman’s face. She wished she could dry her tears. Back in the day, she’d been able to manifest on earth, interact with humans in a way they could understand. Now she could only observe. Still, she filled her gaze with all the warmth and tenderness she could muster.
Leah felt something shift, and the trickle of tears became a torrent, desperate sobs seeming to tear her apart from the inside. She brought her legs to her chest, feet on the soft chair, and sobbed into her now damp knees. She hadn’t let herself cry this hard since the night before she left Portland. With the move so close, she’d started to regret the decision to leave. Her old life looked brighter through the new haze of nostalgia, and she’d driven to her sister’s house. Miriam held her, let her cry on her shoulder for almost half an hour, before making them both Earl Grey tea and telling Leah how much she loved her, how much she believed in her. Yes, the move would be hard, but Leah was strong. And so was their bond.
Alone in her apartment, a continent away, Leah could feel her sister’s arms around her again, the physical touch light and lingering. She took a steadying breath and turned her face back towards the window. The light of the moon bathed her in silver. It was silly, but she felt like she was drawing strength from that light.
Leah breathed slowly — in, then out — gazing up at the moon. Had she thought it was cold and distant? The light felt warm, and a tingling spread through her chest the longer she looked at it, like a hot drink on a cold night. Still, she needed something more. When she was ready, she brought out her phone again, and called her sister. Miriam picked up on the second ring. The twins were in bed, her husband was working late, and the joy in her voice made Leah realize that she wasn’t the only one who ached from the distance.
The moon watched the young woman speak animatedly into her phone. The misery left her eyes, replaced by hope, and maybe even strength. She was glad that the girl had been able to make a connection, to reach out to someone, and only a little jealous that she could never do the same.
The next night, the moon checked in on the young woman, once again narrowing her focus down to one window. Except now, that window was adorned with a piece of glass. The moon gazed at it for a long time, marveling at how pieces of cut glass — some clear, some clouded — could so artfully mimic her own round face, surrounded by dark sky and tiny marble stars. She had no way of knowing what moved the woman to put that up at this time, but she let herself believe it was gratitude, the first tribute she had received from a human in a long time.
Joanna Z. Weston lives outside Boston, where she writes, reads, and reviews fantasy and science fiction stories. When not engaged with the written word, she knits socks, goes for long walks in her local cemetery, and gazes at the moon.
You can find her on Twitter at @jzweston,
and she sometimes remembers to blog at www.joannazweston.com.
Cover: Amanda Bergloff