Murgatroid the Cat and I slip from the bed, careful not to wake Cheyenne. It is dark, still, and even the birds are silent, though dawn can’t be long in coming.
Murg pads silently through the open door to the screened porch. I follow, wrapping my sweatshirt-soft kimono tightly to keep in the bed-warmth. The gibbous moon, not yet full, set hours ago, and I make my way in the dark by habit.
The polished terra cotta tiles are cold under my feet. Murg growls, a low rumble. Something skitters under the brush outside. I open the screen door, and she is off in a flash, her dark, shiny coat catching little light as she streaks across the path and into Merilee’s back yard.
The breeze is brisk. I pull my robe closer, tightening the sash, but the stars are compelling, and I stand in my bare feet, shivering on the step, awed by the glimmer and sparkle.
A meteor shoots across the sky, followed closely by another. A little trill of delight passes through my body and, involuntarily, I exclaim, a single syllable, “Oh!” A second later, Cheyenne is beside me, her warm arm circling my waist.
“You’re watching the Orionids?” she asks.
“Yes, but by accident. I’d forgotten about them.”
“Hold on,” Cheyenne says, and disappears silently as a cat inside. She returns almost instantly with our big quilted comforter and a wool blanket. We spread the blanket on the grass, to keep us warm and dry from the dew, and wrap ourselves in the comforter.
“Cozy as bugs in a rug,” Cheyenne says, and giggles, knowing what I’m thinking. We both love clichés, when they are just right, and hate them when they’re off, even a tiny bit.
We snuggle under the bright, starlit sky and another meteor arcs from one side of the sky all the way across to the other, out of sight behind our house. Across the path, we hear Tracey’s excited whisper, “Did you see that one, Mom?” and Merilee’s response, “Shhh, Darling. You’ll wake the neighborhood.”
“Don’t worry, Merilee,” Ralph calls in a stage whisper from his rooftop next door. “We’re all up, watching the show.”
Cheyenne puts her arm around me and pulls me closer, giggling again. She smells deliciously of strawberries. “Let’s stay quiet,” she whispers into my ear. “Even though we all know we’re out here, let’s stay quiet and watch like we’re the only ones on Earth.”
Occasionally over the next hour we hear others gasp and exclaim when a particularly bright light swoops across the sky, some so low it feels as though we could touch them. The air is crisp and clean. I dart my tongue out to taste it and draw it back immediately, cold. The sky between the stars is so black I feel as if I could fall into it, but the ground beneath us is solid, anchoring.
“Wow! Wow! Wow!” Cheyenne says, forgetting her intent to be silent. “Wow!” A burst of meteors explode across the sky. Tracey claps with glee. Ralph says, “Well I’ll be!” Merilee laughs out loud. Across the village, simultaneously, our friends and neighbors erupt with glad exclamations of awe and wonder. “Did you see that?” “I’ve never seen anything like that!” “Wow!”
We chatter a moment, calling across the way, “Yes, we saw it too!” “Amazing!” Moments later, we all fall silent, watching, waiting. Snug in our cocoon, I feel drowsy. Murgatroid returns from her rounds and curls up on the blanket at our feet. Sated, she purrs loudly enough to warn away the most unsuspecting of her prey.
The sun is cresting the hill when next I waken. Cheyenne opens her eyes and smiles into mine. Birdsong heralds the new day, and somehow, all the way up here, I smell bread baking.