Stephanie was the girl next door who spent summer nights on the steps of her porch with her elbows hanging off her folded knees. She scanned the stars like George read his books, searching for a deeper meaning, looking for something with which to navigate his own life.
“I’m going to leave here, one day,” she said when he sometimes came over and sat down on the porch with her. He was careful to avoid the floorboards that creaked. “I’m going to go there,” she said and pointed at the sky and arched her path down into the horizon – the dazzling journey of a comet.
“I’ll miss you when you go,” George said. He never said if; impossible wasn’t in Stephanie’s vocabulary yet and he didn’t want to destroy her ignorance.
“Of course,” Stephanie smirked wryly, “I’ll kiss you before I leave.”
Then, George got his draft notice. Stephanie packed him lunch and walked him the long way down, around the Old Pond, to the enlistment office. When it was time for him to go to boot camp, Stephanie lingered by the fence that separated their houses.
George turned away from his mother.
“Aren’t you going to kiss me goodbye?” Stephanie asked across the pickets.
“No, because I’m going to come back,” George promised, his eyes as earnest as he could make them.
“Good. Because I won’t be here.” Stephanie smiled. She turned her back on him to walk inside. “But you’ll probably want to make sure anyway.”