When Jamir first turned the engine over and pulled the truck out of the driveway, he’d never known how dark that it could get. Not like Jules. She’d been there and back again, around the world twice with another trip planned.
“Yeah, I’m thinking about hitting Eastern Europe this time, then maybe riding a train across Russia and coming down through China to Australia.”
She talked about it like it was nothing, jet-setting of to some distant land with little more than a backpack, a kind word, and a dream. For Jamir, just getting out of the city was adventure enough. All that other stuff was years away, even he could even scrape together the cash — if he even wanted to do it at all.
He wasn’t sure about that, but he certainly didn’t plan to let Jules know.
“Yeah,” he said, “that sounds great!”
She grinned at him. She was always gorgeous when she smiled. Leaning down, she cracked a window. A tuft of brown hair whipped into her face and she laughed. Jamir laughed, too, caught up in the magic.
“Turn here,” Jules said, pointing to an exit ramp on the highway.
Jamir signaled and took the lane. He ignored the sliver of fear tingling up his spine. He glanced at Jules. She sat in the passenger seat, enjoying the ride and his company. That, in itself, was panacea enough.
The exit dumped them onto a four-lane highway, which receded to a two as they drove westward. As the city and the suburbs fell away, Jamir found himself driving through empty farmland, into a corridor of the setting sun.
“Careful around here,” Jules said.
Jamir tightened his grip on the wheel. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she said. “Deer like to move around at sunset. They’ll freeze in the road if they see your headlights.”
“That’s . . . terrifying,” Jamir said. He’d never seen deer before, except on those nature documentaries where the cheetahs and lions stole out of the brush and tackled one. Or were those gazelles? He couldn’t remember.
Jules grinned. “It’s not that bad. Their brain shuts down or something. Sometimes, you have to get out of the car and smack them on the ass to get them moving.”
Jamir glanced at her to see if she was joking, but it was already too dark to see her expression. Instead, he focused on the road, staring down the headlight beams for any movement along his periphery.
This was quite the adventure already, Jamir decided. He’d lived in the city his entire life, usually relying on public transit to get him from place to place. But he’d always wanted a vehicle, always wanted to see the world outside the city. He’d scrounged together the money for the truck, the license, the permits — even the parking fees! — and after two long years, he’d managed to make the purchase in cash.
Jules played a bigger role in his purchasing decision than even Jamir wanted to admit. She was only a few years older than him, but she’d spent those years going out and seeing the world. Five years after purchasing his truck, Jamir had barely managed to leave the city until he bumped into Jules at the coffee shop and the sparks began to fly.
Jamir glanced out the window and looked up. More stars than he’d ever seen were spreading across the sky and more seemed to wink into existence every few seconds. He started to say something but caught himself. Jules hadn’t mentioned the stars. It was probably old news to her and, not wanting to sound like an amateur, Jamir kept his mouth shut.
“Turn here,” Jules said, pointing at a wide dirt road.
“Am I allowed to turn there?”
Jules shrugged. “There aren’t any signs. We only have to go down a little ways. There aren’t many street lights around here.”
They drove about half a mile with only the truck headlights to guide them before Jules tapped him on the shoulder. Jamir pulled as close to the curb as he could, making sure not to run into the ditch, and cut power to the engine. By habit, he flicked the headlights off.
Darkness fell on them like a curtain, intense and overwhelming. Jamir had never seen it like this, so immediately pervasive. He found himself blinded by the lack of light, and the notion disoriented him.
“Let’s just wait a few minutes for it to pass,” Jules said. “You brought the telescope, right?”
“It’s in the back.”
“Awesome. Saturn is out tonight, so you’re in for a treat. I’m pretty sure I can find it.”
The world came back into focus as the seconds passed. Jamir could see the fields, the outline of the truck against the starlit darkness, even Jules leaning out the window as the cool autumn air rolled in.
“Okay,” he said.
“Let’s do it.” He could hear the smile in Jules’ voice as she opened the door and climbed out.
They rounded to the truck bed, and Jamir climbed in. After a moment of searching, he cursed at himself. Where was the telescope? He could’ve sworn that he put it in here right before they left. Sucking in a breath, he turned to Jules, who was standing beside the tailgate.
“It’s not here,” he said. “The telescope. I’m sorry.”
Jules was quiet a moment, then said, “That’s okay. I can show you the stars anyway.”
She pulled on the latch and dropped the tailgate, then sat on it and motioned Jamir to join. He settled down next to her while she began to point out the constellations in the stars.
But Jamir wasn’t thinking about that. Nothing fazed Jules. She just found another way to do what she was always going to do in the first place.
And that, he decided, was magical.