By Mackenzie Stratton
I am obsessed with pretty things. Bright colors, sparkles, gems–you
name it; I love it. If something shiny or colorful catches my eye, I
will investigate. That's how I found my star.
It didn't look like a star. It only looked like a piece of common
quartz crystal when I first found it. As I was playing in my newly
bloomed spring garden, I saw a glint of light in the dirt. I had to
find out what the shiny thing was, so I bent down in the flowerbed
to pick it up. Although it looked like quartz, it definitely wasn't,
since unpolished quartz doesn't shine like this crystal did. I
didn't give much thought to the gem after pocketing it, though. It
would become just another part of the huge array of stones and gems
on my desk, a part less pretty
than the highlights of the collection: my piece of pyrite, my
snowflake obsidian, and my amethyst geode.
That night, I awoke to a bright light, far brighter than the moon.
The light was pure, glittering white like the sun’s reflection after
a snowstorm. It radiated from the crystal on my desk, the one I’d
found earlier in the garden. I barely had time to process my wonder
since the light didn't last long. Once I was awake, it dimmed a bit,
and the crystal started to shake. Suddenly, it flew into the air and
started orbiting around my head. My eyes tried to follow it as it
finished its orbit and zoomed across the room, searching for its
final destination: a small watering can filled with sunny marigolds
on my bookshelf.
It rattled against the lavender tin, making a noise like a snare
drum, before settling down and tucking itself within the flowers. It
gently burrowed into the soil and started to glow again, softly this
I knew what I had to do. I grabbed a flashlight and trowel, put on
my slippers, and crept out to the garden with the crystal in hand.
Except by then I knew it wasn't a crystal–it was a star. It simply
couldn’t be anything else. By the same logic, I knew I had to plant
it, so I chose a place right in the middle of the garden surrounded
by little beds of marigolds. I didn't know what would grow or what I
needed to do to care for my star, but I planted it two inches deep
and watered it. As soon as the water touched the ground above the
star, it turned into what looked like liquid silver dissolving into
the soil, glimmering in the moonlight. As I stared dumbstruck at the
spot, a sparkle in the corner of my eye demanded my attention. I
looked up. Brilliant, white, shimmering stardust had started falling
to the garden ground like rain. The dust was cool and light on my
skin, making me sparkle, making every freckle on my body glitter
like a sequin. Despite the coolness, I felt the warmth of my
excitement mixed with something I could not place. I stuck out my
tongue like I do during snowstorms to taste the stardust. It tasted
exactly like magic.
The next morning, my parents found me asleep in the garden, covered
in the silvery white stardust. I'm sure they made up whatever
excuses grownups do to explain what had happened because they didn't
ask any questions. They just told me to clean up. I didn’t mind how
the shower’s hot water carried the dust easily from the surface of
my body, making it pool almost like dirt as it waited to drain. Even
when the dust was gone, I felt it in my skin, making me shine,
making me pretty like a star. As soon as I reached my room, I threw
out my favorite fairy princess shimmer powder. I didn’t need it. I
was watered by the stars.
My star grew and grew. After only two weeks, it was taller than I
was, standing like a Christmas tree literally made out of lights or
snow or diamonds. Its glimmering surfaces of crystal branches and
tinsel-like white needles reflected light and scattered rainbows
across the garden, intensifying every color. My star was the most
beautiful anything I’d ever seen.
I spent my childhood playing in the garden, specifically around the
star. It was the glistening fountain in the courtyard of my palace.
Its branches became my wands and sceptres when I ascended to my
throne as queen of the garden fairies or queen of whatever needed my
leadership. Its needles intertwined with my hair, making it sparkle
in the sunlight. Its cones became jewels, my very own treasures that
I would protect from danger. Its silver sap always covered me by the
end of the day, making me feel as the stardust did. The year I
planted the star was the
year I stopped wearing my pretty costumes to play.
But in six years’ time I was wearing pretty clothes again–by that
point, it wasn’t like I had to worry about them getting worn and
dirty from playing in the garden. Every morning, I passed a dull
grey tree without thought on my way to school. The ordinary tree
didn’t glitter white with sparkling magic as my child self loved to
believe. It was just a tree with droopy branches that made it look
pear-shaped, ugly. So I traded in my outgrown overalls and jeans for
leggings and skirts, my hair ties for hair product. The girls at
school congratulated me for “finally catching up with the times,”
and their compliments meant the world to me. I really looked up to
them–they seemed so sure of themselves. Sure, confident, pretty.
Perfect. They taught me tricks to improve myself, to cover up my
flaws. With every technique I learned, I started to like my
reflection more and more. I always liked pretty things, and the
girls taught me how to make myself a pretty thing I could like.
Other people started to like me, too. I had always been the weird
girl who always played in her garden, but once I changed, more
people started to notice me. I was accepted into a large group of
friends, and we were the group who owned the long rectangular table
in the middle of the cafeteria where everyone could see us. We had a
group text where we would talk for hours about nothing at all, and
the simultaneous ring of our phones reminded others of who we were.
We were unstoppable as we strutted through the mall, loudly talked
through movies, and stayed at the diner for hours eating only side
dishes. When I was with my friends, I felt like I did when I played
with my star. Their approval made the stupid tree unnecessary.
By the time I was 16, the hideous tree-thing I’d once called a star
looked like death. It was so dull it looked closer to black than
grey, and it drooped so low it looked half its height. I couldn’t
say much else about it, since looking at it for too long made me
sick. Often, I thought of cutting it down altogether, removing it
from my life completely. Its extraordinary ugliness ruined the
beautiful garden. But I never found the time to get around to it. I
was always too busy texting my friends, going out with my friends,
or preparing my face to go out with my friends. When I would return
home late at night, it would be dark enough for me to forget the
disgusting thing existed.
However, one early spring night the moon was too bright for me to
forget. As I trudged up the walkway to the house, I noticed the
miserable tree and felt a strange mixture of pity and nostalgia,
which I immediately shook off as I walked through the front door. I
was too tired to care–my friends and I had spent the night
surrounded by the bright neon lights of the sparkling city nearby.
As I washed the makeup from my face, I
noticed something glimmering out of the corner of my eye by the
window. I told myself it was probably some shimmer powder reflecting
the moonlight–I wear so much I tend to shed it all over the place.
The light shining through the open window kept me awake for hours,
and just as I was finally drifting to sleep, an even brighter light
pulled me into consciousness once more. “No way,” I whispered,
shocked, as a star seed started whizzing around my head. It didn’t
fly around the room like the one eleven years before; it just stayed
in its orbit around my head, even as I tried to slap it away. I
leapt out of bed and tried to run away from the nuisance, but it
chased me as I ran down the stairs and out of the house. “Ooh,
you’re good,” I muttered as I realized it had forced me into the
garden. With its mission accomplished, the seed settled down at the
base of the tree–no–at the base of the star.
The moment the seed touched the soil, the same silver liquid I had
seen that first night coursed through the tree like blood through
veins. It shimmered as it filled the branches with light and life,
raising them from their droopy state. New, thin, hairlike needles
emerged from the branches, reflecting the moonlight with the most
beautiful shade of silver. The needles grew in bunches so thick they
completely hid the branches, filling in what had looked empty for so
long. The star took a full shape, a shape different than before.
It was definitely the same star, though–it had the same skeleton
beneath, the same roots, the same veins. It looked completely
different, but it was just as beautiful as the star I loved as a
child. Perhaps it was even more beautiful. In awe, I approached the
star. I wanted to touch it, to see if its beauty could possibly be
real. It was. It was new. Instead of glittering snow, the star
looked like ice, like a frozen
waterfall. It shone blue and silver, its thickly bunched needles
creating textured mirrors that reflected the moonlight, the stars
above, the deep night sky, and the colors of the newly-bloomed
garden. It reflected my face, my naked face. It captured my entire
body from my raggedy pajamas to my frizzy pillow-hair. I didn’t turn
away from the reflection, though, as I had grown used to doing. I
looked at the girl in front of me with the bare face I barely
recognized, and I saw someone stunning. She smiled at me, and her
smile didn’t look forced at all. It didn’t feel forced.