“Come on, come on.” I whisper to myself anxiously. “Where are you at?” A minute passes and then a flicker of light appears rising out of the grass. It was like a drop of the sun had risen up with a mind of its own.
I can hardly contain the excitement in my chest. I leap forward, extending my arms out to the little droplet. It swerves up and out-of-the-way, like it was going up to join the stars above.
“Come here little firefly.” I say and attempt again to catch the little lightning bugs. My eyes dart around and I spot one on a cornflower. I cup my hands around it, then angle it toward myself to take a peek. As they were known for, the firefly’s rear end was glowing a bright yellow, lighting up my hands. In an instant, the insect takes flight to join its friends. “Bye!” I say and then turn to find more. Dusk went on with many attempts to catch fireflies. I frolic through the grass, leaping and twirling like this was my own firefly ballet.
Out of nowhere, I hear a rustle in this grass. My body tenses, and my heart begins to beat faster and faster. Was it a fox? A coyote?
“Is anyone out there?” I say and wait for a response.
There was nothing.
Still no reply.
Now I felt like a detective. I start to survey the field to look for any trace of the creature. Was it an alien? A grass monster? I swing my arms around at the grass in hopes of finding the mysterious creature. Other buzzing insects fly and jump away as my hands whack the grass. My arms start to grow tired, so I kneel down and knead the soil beneath my fingers.
I hear a rustle again; I turn and examine my surroundings. Nothing. Why do I even bother to look? I slump, saddened; there’d be no mysterious creature to catch.
I find myself on the ground, the cold damp soil seeps into my clothes. Something was pinning me down. “Ah please don’t hurt me, alien! I’m only just—wait I knew something was out here, but don’t hurt me!”
The creature just giggles and snorts in response. “I’m not an alien, silly. I’m a girl.”
She laughs and brushes aside her thick, reddish blonde hair.
I start to laugh too.
“What are you doing out here?” She asks and offers a hand.
“Well I was just being a detective to find the mysterious thing in the grass, but it turned out to be you!” I respond and take her hand.
She giggles. “Well, you found the ‘mysterious creature,’ but why else were you out here?
“Catching fireflies,” I say, “it’s really fun!”
“I do that too!” She says and begins to squeal.
“Wanna catch them together?” I ask.
The girl takes my hand and we dance through the grass, catching fireflies and then watching them fly away to wherever they are going. “Look at this one! It’s so big!” I say excitedly.
“There’s something even better!” She exclaims and grabs my wrist and tugs me along. We run up a hill and just stop there. “You’re going to love this, it’s amazingness!” She says and plops me on the ground. Intrigued, I excitedly wait, looking up at the sky.
Suddenly, it seemed like thousands upon thousands of fireflies, or perhaps millions rose up to touch the sky. It was like they covered up the sky with their yellowish glow brightening up the darkened clouds.
“There are so many!” I cry out. “Like a billion-zillion!”
The girl giggles again. “Yeah! I knew you’d love to see them!” She pauses, “What’s your name?”
“Ben.” I reply. “What’s yours?”
“Wanna be friends?”
I take her hand, she grasps it and we skip through the field; fireflies dance past us.
Over the years, we continued this tradition out in the fields. Some would call us ‘childish’ and immature,’ or even worse, ‘grow up you two.’ But who are we to listen to them? Emery and I loved being out here. Something about the magic of watching fireflies was special. It’s our thing.
“You ever wonder what the world would be like if there were no more fireflies?” Emery said, as we lay on the cold grass looking up at the sky.
“Obviously the world wouldn’t be as magical in the nighttime.” I answer.
I roll over on my side and look at her, eyes locked. I pluck a wildflower and tuck it over her ear. She smiles and bats her eyelashes. A few fireflies dance around us; one drifts down to Emery and rests on her hand.
“The fireflies really do love you.” I chuckle. “I’ve never seen them act like this.”
Emery laughs. “Maybe they think I’m their queen.”
“You are a queen, so regal and beautiful.”
“Well then you’re my king,” she says and smiles..
I smile back then ask, “Are you ready for homecoming tomorrow?”
She starts to grin but it fades into a frown.
“What is it?” I say.
“Remember how I told you that my mom’s cancer returned?” She replies.
“Yes,” I say, “but she’s being treated right now so that’s—”
“Well, it turns out the cancer has progressed into stage three, so they want her moved up into a better hospital.” She inhaled and exhaled slowly, trying not to cry. “So, we’re going to move up to New York, where she’ll be at a more advanced hospital so they can give her better treatment.”
“I’m sorry; I just forgot about homecoming—I forgot to tell you—”
I inch my hand toward hers and grasp it. “Hey, hey it’s okay. I know it may be hard, but if it helps your mom get better then that’s what matters.”
“But, I don’t know when I’ll see you again.” Emery says and her voice cracks.
“When are you going to leave?”
“Monday, but I’ll be packing all day tomorrow,” she replies.
I stand up and turn to her. “Then how about a dance? For your last days here?”
“Sure.” Emery says and wipes some tears off her cheek before taking my hand.
She puts a hand on my shoulder; I put one on her waist.
We go into a slow waltz, dancing across the grass. Fireflies rose from the ground and swirled around; it was like they were trying to teach us how to dance. Their glowing yellow light reflected the stars up above.
We continued to dance, Emery rested her head on my shoulder; I could feel my shirt become wet with her tears.
“It’s going to be okay,” I say reassuringly. Though deep down in my heart, I felt like it wasn’t going to be okay. I’m going to miss her so much.
“Will it?” She sniffles.
“Yes, it will,” I say, “we can text every day and call too, so that we’ll never be apart.”
Emery only nods as she continues to weep on my shoulder.
The fireflies subdue their dancing and are now hovering around Emery; it was like they were trying to comfort her. Some land on her arms, as if they were trying to hug her. A few land on me, surprisingly.
“Look at the fireflies, Emery,” I say softly.
“Hmm?” She finally lifts her head up and looks around. “Oh, they’re so beautiful.” After gazing at the fireflies, she turns to me and we simultaneously lean in for a kiss. Our lips caress, wet from both of our tears. The fireflies seem to buzz in the moment, like they were waiting for this to happen.
We continue this sad, firefly waltz throughout the night. The fireflies are always by us, giving their thousands of hugs. I hear a buzz and Emery pulls out her phone and gasps. “It’s already midnight! I-I’m sorry, Ben, but I need to go. My dad’s going to kill me if I’m not back home by now.”
“It’s all right,” I say.
She smiles weakly and leans in for one last kiss. I hold her tight as we hug, yet it doesn’t last long as she breaks away my grasp and runs toward her house. She waves goodbye as she runs; all the fireflies begin to fly away with her, their golden glow begins to fade. My eyes begin to flood with tears as I watch her go, the fireflies too. The field feels so lifeless without them.
A couple years pass and I look around at my empty room. I’m leaving for college; it’s in New York City, where Emery is. She’s been posting a lot on Facebook and Instagram for these years we’ve been apart. She’s posted many photos of her university and college friends—she’s working at a medical school to become a nurse. She wants to help people who are struggling with sickness, like her mom was with cancer.
“How are you doing?” My mom enters the room.
I jump out of my skin, startled. “I’m doing fine. I’m just. . .hoping I’ll be able to see Emery up in New York.”
“I’m sure you’ll be able to.”
“Well I’ll leave you be, I just wanted to check in on you.”
“Oh, and one other thing,” she says, “we’ll be leaving for the airport in about ten minutes.
Mom leaves my room and I’m left with my thoughts.
I exhale softly and pull out a crumpled picture from my pocket. It was a picture of Emery and I as kids. We were smiling, even though we were completely soaked from trying to catch some fireflies that were hovering over the water. I remember that like it was yesterday.
I look up from the picture and at my room, remembering how Emery and I would come in here and mess around. The left side of my room, where my electric piano used to be, was the main attraction when she came over. We’d spend hours trying to come up with a masterpiece, driving my parents crazy with our horrible playing. The thought makes me giggle.
I turn and gaze out the window, which shows the field that held the most memories. That’s where Emery and I first met.
We spent so much time out there, our parents thought we practically lived out there. But who wouldn’t want to be out there? It felt like our little world. The fireflies would come and go, but they always stayed near, swirling around us.
I really do miss them. I haven’t seen a single firefly since Emery has left, which proves how much she had a connection with them. Oh, Emery. I really do miss her. Will I even be able to find her up there? Will she recognize me? Maybe there’s a way that I could try and see her again. I think for a minute, letting ideas swirl around me. It was like a light bulb. I pull out my phone and go to her contact.
Hey Emery, umm question what school do you go to again?
I put my phone in my pocket and make sure I’ve gathered all my belongings. A few minutes pass and I feel my phone buzz. I feel my heart skip a beat. I anxiously take out my phone and look at the text.
Hi Ben!! I go to Weill Cornell Medical School. Why do you ask?
It’s a text from Emery! I almost fall to my knees in joy.
Oh that’s right. Sorry lol I forgot
You silly goose, haha
Why did you want to know?
I was just wondering
I exit out of my contacts then go to Google and type in Weill Cornell Medical School to figure out the schedule. If my plan was going to work, I’d have to make sure I knew when she got out of school.
“Ben?” Mom calls out, “Ben, we’re ready to go—do you have everything?”
“Yes,” I reply and take one last look around my room before I leave.
When my flight arrives in New York City, I couldn’t help but feel anxious. The streets are crowded, as I pull along my luggage. People are briskly walking past me, heads down and talking loudly on phones. There are so many buildings squashed together, it blocks out all the greenery. How could people not miss that?
I keep trekking ahead, trying to part my way through the sea of humans. The sky is beginning to darken with red and purple hues.
I finally arrive at my dorm room, I start to unpack and lay out all my belongings. My roommate isn’t there yet, thankfully; I have some time to myself. I take a rest for a minute and peer out the window. There seems to be a yellow glow rising up from the buildings. It is a strange sight. The sun is supposed to be going down; why did it seem like it was coming back up? I press my face to the window to get a better view of it all. I squint and I realize that it isn’t the sun: it’s fireflies. Fireflies. What are they doing here in New York City?
It is mesmerizing to watch as they swarm the air. I fumble around to find a jar. I hadn’t packed one, but luckily there is a mason jar on the desk that was holding some pencils. I take out all that’s in it and dash out of my dorm. I run down onto the sidewalk. It looks like I am not the only one who is in awe of the fireflies’ behavior. I sprint toward Central Park where the fireflies are gathering. I clutch the mason jar tightly.
When I reach Central Park, I see the massive clump of fireflies. There are so many. It looks like there are ten million! I walk a little ways and stop. Emery always said to be patient if you want a firefly to come near you, similar to butterflies. So, I sit down in the grass and wait. The fireflies begin to fly around me, curious. I continue to wait.
Then, one little firefly flies low, near the jar. My hands quiver as I slowly grab the jar and raise it up to the firefly. I try and stay calm. The firefly stays in place. I raise the jar more, and now the firefly is in it. I quickly cup my hand over the top.
I race back to my dorm and put a piece of paper over the top and tape it down. Then, I poke some holes in. I gaze and look at my handy work. The firefly was calmly flying around.
The next day, I could hardly contain my excitement. I roll on my side and stare at the jar, relieved that the firefly is still moving. I might as well, I think, finish unpacking my things.
When it got close to 3:00 I jog out of my dorm with the firefly. Some passersby are casting strange glances at me when they see the jar. I ignore them. I check my phone to make sure I was going in the right direction to the medical school. People made it look so easy to know right where to go in this big city. I briskly walk down the streets, checking the signs and street names continuously. The college comes into view and my heart starts to beat rapidly. I quicken my pace and find a place to sit. All I have to do now is wait.
The world feels like it is turning slowly at this moment. This moment I’ve waited for. I twiddle my thumbs as I sit on the bench. The firefly is zooming around in it’s jar, banging against the glass. “Whoa,” I say, “calm down it’s okay.” I feel a little stupid talking to the firefly, but then again Emery talked to them all the time. I check my phone again; it reads 3:00pm. My stomach turns into knots and I turn to the doors. A few people start to walk out. I anxiously watch. More people walk out and I almost couldn’t believe my eyes.
She still has her reddish blonde hair, long and thick. I calmly walk toward her, hiding the jar behind my back. I almost forget to speak. “Umm, h-hey, Emery.”
She drops her books. “B-Ben? Are you—you’re-you’re here!” She pulls me into a hug. “I-I can’t believe you’re here!”
“I know,” I reply, a few tears run down my cheeks, “I’ve missed you so much!”
“I’ve missed your too. Everyday it was just—unbearable to not be with you.” She responds.
I take a step back and hold up the jar. “I-I caught this firefly for you. . .they were all around here.”
Emery’s eyes lit up. “Oh, oh it’s so beautiful.” She wipes a tear from her eye.
“I thought you’d like it,” I say.
“Now let’s release it,” she says and smiles, “so it can go join its friends.”
I nod and peel off the paper. The firefly darts up out of the jar, but then turns back as if it were saying goodbye.
“Go on,” Emery says.
I watch the firefly hesitate before flying up and out of sight. I turn back to Emery and we lean in for a kiss.