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  • Writer's picturePayton Tilley

"Like A Star"

It's here! I'm so excited to share this short story with all my subscribers and site visitors. Please enjoy this summer flash fiction piece that I had so much fun writing. I hope it whisks you to the beach at midnight and it reminds you that blessings come and some people stay.

"Like A Star" is dedicated to . . .

the people God sends us at the right time and to those that were left alone before. Just know, the right ones don't leave and they love hard. You are seen and loved by God. You are His star.


Her world did not need him. Her orbit had been set in motion from the beginning, always alone. Escaping this confusion was her only way out.

She did not reach for the round brass doorhandle but pushed through the doors with her shoulder. Humid air smacked her, searing her blouse to her chest, while wind drove into her hair. It pushed, willing her to stay where the air condition lurked.

As if it knew the emotions driving her . . . the thoughts assailing every cell.

Ellie fought anger as she hurried further from the building. How dare he take her heart. How dare he leave now. How dare he assume that she gave one chocolate bar about when he was going back to Ireland. How dare—

Car tires squealed. Lights appeared bursting through her vision. Horns blared.

She jumped back and let the car whizz past. Her chest pounded but the haze around her wouldn't break, it pressed deeper in her soul. Being covered alive with sand would be more bearable than this.

This cursed feeling that always found her, brought on by cursed people that always left. Ellie could hardly stand it. Ignoring decorum, her feet pounded the concrete, leaving the pain. She ran till the clip of her heels traded pavement for wood.

The boardwalk was here, as always.

Not leaving her. Same nails and cracks that had hailed crabs from one side to the other. The same midnight sky Grandpapa had taught her to study.

Ellie slid her hand along the rail as the city behind her ceased to exist and the beating of waves consumed all else. She clenched her right hand, only to have paper crinkle and softly stab her.

The betrayal.

She did not spare it a glance until she had relieved her toes from the strappy contraptions, let the wind fully tangle her strands, and water brush her feet. God had to know how painful this was.

“Ah!” She kicked into a foamy mountain. “Why do I care if he leaves? I don’t.” Ellie didn’t spare a breath. “Peter O’Neil means nothing to me. Yes, the Irish accent. Sure, the way he laughs at my planet jokes. And yes, he may have listened to my overexplaining of the telescope.”

Ellie outheld the letter to the starlit sky. “But I will not be an Orion to his Pleiades. I promised You and Grandpapa to not let anyone stop me from uncovering celestial movements and bodies. He is no worthy distraction.”

“I will not stop ya’.”

His cursed voice.

She pinned her gaze on the moon, her tongue rolling over her teeth.

“What are ya’ doin’ out here in the dark? I thought ya’ were goin’ to the library to read papers?” His brogue crashed into her, just the way it had that first day they met at the stargazing festival.

The memory bound her to him, warming her. Ignore it. He will be gone.

“That I was. Until you—indeed—did actually stop me,” She said, turning. But his body was right there, locks windblown and freckles singed with sunburn - all too close. “These words from you stopped me.”

The letter became a dagger in her hands. A poison that gripped her heart as his hazel eyes flew from her face to the letter.

Ellie knew then—before the first angry tear fell—that if Peter left, a crater would form in her heart. Just like the others. Fighting the inevitable hurt, she braced herself with a steadying sigh.

“When do you leave for Ireland?”

“El, in the letter I wrote—”

“Three days.” She had known. Why had she asked?

“I was stupid to send the letter. But I had to explain. Had to tell ya’ I must leave and return. But it was stupid because—”

“Ya’ were ver’ stupid!” Ellie said, twisting her words to sound as his own. Strands of her crimson hair stuck to her cheeks thanks to the wind and her childlike emotions. “No, I am the ignorant dumb one. I hardly know you. This is what I get for my stupidity.”

Peter reached out but Ellie fumbled backwards, her steps stiff. Her stomach clenched as she inhaled, the ocean pinching her nose with the sharp sting of salt. She wiped her cheeks, shaking her head.

“Peter, I’m sorry. I allowed myself . . .” How could she force it out?

His face softened. Oh, goodness . . . She had fallen as Orion did for the sisters.

“I shall have the same ending of pain.” She whispered to herself. Escape was her best option.

But Peter’s shoulders lifted as he stepped after her. “El—I’m not Pleiades. We are not mere constellations.”

“Take that back.”

A slow grin appeared, the smirk traveling before he could hide it. Ellie yanked back and cocked her head. He threw up his hands, causing his leather jacket to stretch. The zipper clicked in sharp rhythm with the beating waves.

“El, I meant no disrespect to the stars . . . Or ya'." He neared. “I will not let ya’ be Orion and me be Pleiades. I will not disappear.”


“Lass, I’m not. I will not leave ya’ as yer’ father did. I don't run when things commence.”

She tensed but Peter did not retreat.

He continued, “The same God that created those stars ya’ get fixated by—we get fixated by—also created ya’, Ellie McMaster. Ya’ are never alone. And that letter—”

“This letter.” She raised it, tears resurfacing as if reading it afresh. The reminder of those before.

Peter’s knuckle erased the tear before the salt marred her cheek. “As I said, that wasa’ stupid letter I sent in my own fear.”

Ellie stared into the moonlight between his pupil and iris. She wanted to ask—dared to hope. If she spoke the fear of his confession ending may become reality. He couldn't mean it, a man from the other side of the world . . . nope. Yet, hope persisted within her, feeding the kindling of her heart.

A nervous chuckle escaped him. He broke eye contact, glancing to the sand and brushing his hand over his lip.

“Ya’ won’ give me the satisfaction of asking what my fear was?”

“I’m hoping it’s the same fear as mine.”

Wind whipped into them, slipping between their bodies as Peter stared at her. She knew it was crazy. Three weeks. An Irish man. American woman. Previously in different galaxies, but now they had collided. He had appeared like a comet striking across the sky.

“I sent the letter for I feared ya’ think me crazy if I asked . . . admitted . . .” His voice cracked. “I’m tryin’ to say I have fallen for ya’.’”

Her heart lit. He what?

"I have stargazed, toured this town, and

found love. Ireland never gave me sucha' luck. I

love ya'. If ya' feel the same, please say. Otherwise,

I will be Orion across the ocean ever wonderin'.

We could do this. We can. We can figure it out," He

said, words slowing. " But only if ya' want this."

Ellie dropped the letter, let the paper scrap

her fingertips and fall to the lapping. Her dose of

worry was for naught, for she wanted this chance.

Peter rubbed his neck, "Say somethin' lass."

She brought her hands to his shoulders.

"Well, Mr. O'Neil it appears the luck of the Irish is

true. I want this. I am willing. All I ever wanted was

you to try, to stay for this. " Her vision swam as sand

struck her bare feet. A hesitant smile formed as she

looked up at him. "I have fallen. Like a star."

His hands found her back, his eyes holding a

forever she had never been promised. "Like a star."

He repeated, the words holding truth in the


Ellie pulled him to her, savoring the way her

body pulsed in freedom . . . if not some small worry

over the thought beyond now. But one glance to

the studded sky overhead, forced her mind webs

to slow.

This was her now and Peter was her chance,

a gift. The one who wasn't running. A grin

overtook her as he likewise got lost in her. She

stepped closer, accepting and hoping, and they


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