The stars fell in a silver rain, leaving sparkling trails that quickly faded from the night sky. Brooke sighed happily as she lay on a picnic blanket in her backyard, watching the meteor shower. All around her, peaceful silence reigned, undisturbed by the rustle of a breeze or the rumble of a car engine.
“Perfect ending to an amazing day, huh?” Alex asked as the last of the meteors faded away.
Brooke glanced at her best friend and grinned. “Definitely. Though . . .” She looked back up at the sky. “Maybe I’m crazy, but I feel like something even more special’s going to happen before tomorrow gets here.”
Alex peered at his watch. “Well, if it’s going to happen, it better happen soon. We’ve only got about fifteen minutes left in the day.” He paused. “We didn’t forget to do something today, did we?”
Brooke shook her head. “Nope. It was the best sixteenth birthday I could want, especially since you came over.”
Alex grinned. “Good.” He reached for the soda can sitting by the blanket and frowned when he picked it up. “Empty. I’m going to go get another drink. You want anything, Brooke?”
Brooke nodded. “If you can find any more cream sodas, I’d like one of those. If not, just my water bottle from the fridge, please.”
“I’m on it.” Alex stood and walked over towards the house. He pulled open the door and stepped inside, shutting the door behind him.
Once he was gone, Brooke turned her gaze back up to the star-filled sky. A bit of movement caught the corner of her eye, and she looked to see one last shooting star arcing across the sky. This one appeared bigger and lower than the others, and it almost seemed to be coming towards her. Then it faded from sight, just as the others had.
Suddenly, there came a noise from behind her that was both musical and mechanical at once, followed by the sound of something heavy settling onto the ground. Brooke sat up and turned to see what had made the sound. She gasped. At the edge of the yard, a large, torpedo-shaped capsule had appeared. Its surface looked as smooth and polished as silver, and seemed to glow with the same light as the stars. There was a single porthole-style window set into it at about head height, but all she could see through it was a warm, comfortable golden glow.
She stood and approached the thing curiously, but cautiously. When she was less than a foot away and nothing jumped out at her, she reached out a hand to feel its surface. Just before her fingers touched it, however, a line appeared in its side and extended to trace out the shape of a door. Brooke stepped back as the door swung open and revealed a golden-haired man standing in the doorway.
The man looked her over and smiled. “Hello, Brooke. I’ve been waiting for you.”
Brooke’s eyes widened. “You have?” She felt as if she should be frightened, but she wasn’t. Just curious and cautious. “Why?”
The man’s eyes sparkled. They were honest, ancient eyes, though the man himself looked quite young, and gave Brooke the feeling that this man could not lie at all, even if he wanted to. “Because I have chosen to Call you, but you have not been ready until tonight.” He held out a hand. “Will you answer?”
Brooke hesitated, looking from the man’s face to his outstretched hand. “Calling me for what?”
“To come with me, of course.” The man seemed genuinely surprised by the question. “To travel with me in my ship. There are hundreds of adventures to be had, Brooke, hundreds of wrongs to be righted, and I can’t do it alone.”
Is this it? Is this the special something I thought would happen? Brooke felt it had to be, but she didn’t say yes. “But who are you?”
“I am a Guardian,” he replied, simply, “a protector of Good and a wanderer of the worlds. Surely your mother has told you something of my kind; she knew us well enough at one time.”
A Guardian. Brooke remembered her mother mentioning them once or twice, though never in any great detail. All she’d ever said when Brooke asked for more information was that “saying yes to one will break your heart eventually, but it’ll be worth it. It’s always worth it. And if you say yes and break your heart, it’ll be healed again before long.”
Brooke had never known her mother to steer her wrong. Still, she didn’t say yes. “What about my parents? What about Alex?” What about everything here?
“Your parents will understand,” the Guardian replied. “I have spoken with them, asked their permission to Call you, and they gave it. As for your friend, you will have to say goodbye to him for now, but if all goes well, you will see him again.” He paused. “Brooke, understand this. If you come with me, I cannot promise you that you will not face danger and hardship. Just the opposite, in fact; I am certain you will. But I can promise you that I will do my very best to protect you through it all, and that whatever happens, it will not be without a reason.”
Brooke bit her lip. Is it worth it? She didn’t want to leave Alex. She didn’t want to leave her safe, comfortable home. But at the same time, she wanted to say yes to the Guardian. She wanted to go with him, have adventures, find out how her mother knew about the Guardians and why she said that saying yes to one would always be worth it. What do people say? Nothing good is easy? And I guess you can’t really have adventures without facing danger too. Only Alex remained to hold her back now. “Couldn’t Alex come too?”
The Guardian shook his head. “No. Not yet, at least. Perhaps one day he will be ready to be Called, but not today.” He looked steadily into her eyes. “You are ready, Brooke, and I have Called you. Will you answer?”
Brooke took a deep breath. She looked back at her house, back to Alex and her family and all she’d ever known. Then she looked at the Guardian and his ship, into his kind, honest, ancient eyes. She looked back at the house once more. Then she made her choice and took a step.
It took Alex longer than he’d hoped, but he’d finally managed to find a cream soda for Brooke. Carrying her soda and a Coke for himself, he pushed the back door open and started to step out into the backyard, but stopped short. In the far corner of the yard, he could see Brooke being helped into a silver torpedo-like thing by a strange, golden-haired man. He dashed out, dropping the sodas in his panic. “Brooke, no!”
He was too late. She glanced back for a minute from the doorway and gave him a smile and a wave before stepping all the way inside. Then the strange man nodded to Alex, walked in after her, and shut the door behind them both. There was a hint of a rumble and a musical sound, and the silvery glow around the craft intensified near the ground. The thing began to lift into the sky, leaving a trail of light like stardust and moonshine. Alex could do nothing but watch as it rose above the trees and up into the sky until finally it looked like nothing more than another shooting star.
Only when it was lost to view did Alex lower his head and notice a faintly glowing sheet of paper on the ground. He walked over and picked it up, and for a moment, he thought he heard Brooke’s laugh; saw her eager face staring out an immense window at the stars. Then laugh and image both faded and all he saw was the letter, written in Brooke’s familiar, curly handwriting.
I’m sorry I couldn’t stay. I’ve been Called. I could’ve said no, but I think I would’ve regretted it if I had. I’ll miss you so much, and I hope that you’ll be Called too so we can have adventures together. If you aren’t, I’ll see when I get back. Until then, keep me in your heart and I’ll keep you in mine. Your best friend,
Alex stared at the letter for a moment, despair slowly crushing the faint hope that had risen in his heart. Then the paper began to slowly disappear from his hand. He watched sadly as it faded away until it was all gone, just like Brooke.