Sleep was gone. No more, no less, no longer in this plane of Josephine's existence. She stared at the ceiling, unsure where above her the moon was. It was the middle of September, and earlier in the evening it had shone outside her window, the burnt orange of over-ripe pumpkins. And it was, of course, due to the forest fires blazing their way down the mountains to the south, which she felt bad about, but still loved the effects of. That glow of orange and the way it sat against the velvety midnight behind it was the loveliest thing she'd ever seen. The world was on fire, and the cool sky was the only thing keeping it from total consumption.
The air conditioner in her window blew loudly in a vain attempt to cool her attic bedroom; still, it did not drown out the crickets and the night birds. Distantly, she could hear traffic occasionally rumbling along the highway, and downstairs, her cat was mewing at the back door piteously. She ignored it.
Her feather comforter, covered in a garish flower pattern left over from her awkward stage, was in a heap at the foot of the bed, and she lay stretched out in the five-pointed, innocent star-pose of non-self consciousness she hadn't stretched out in since grade school. Her mother said she was regressing; Josephine supposed she was right. She'd started drinking juice boxes again. She had started ignoring her car and taken to riding her bicycle everywhere, letting her braided pigtails, which were a flashback straight out of 6th grade, fly out behind her as she did so. She'd even spent an entire afternoon on the trampoline, staring up at the fluffy white clouds as if they held the secret of the universe.
The light fixture needed cleaning, she decided. If, in the almost complete darkness, she could still she the dirt, a good dusting was probably past due. Too bad she was far too apathetic to do anything about it. She wandered around these days in a distantly-observant restlessness that was colored by a somewhat obtuse streak which showed itself when she needed to accomplish anything. She wasn't normally like this; she was a bit of a procrastinator, but nothing out of the ordinary for a girl of 18, usually. Lately, however, she was stuck with an inability to make herself do anything.
Graduation had been anticlimactic. She wished she could say otherwise, but she couldn't. Josephine had gone up there, shaken about a dozen hands, and received her diploma in the red leather case, just like the 437 other graduates. The after parties had been fun, she supposed, but if they had meant to make her happy, they'd missed their mark. June and July had passed, lazily and rather faster than they had any right to, but holding on to the security blanket of her surroundings had proven impossible; time and inevitability had stolen it away from her, leaving her cold and anxious in its absence.
Catharina and Emilie were packing to go to Seattle, to mingle with other people who were as cool and hip as they were. Andy had already left for New York to study his piano with the best. Simona was gallivanting around Turkey with her brother, Jacob, and was only spending two days at home when she got back in a week, before packing up and leaving as well, for yet another part of the country. Chicago would be glad to have her; Josephine would hate Chicago with the kind of hatred only jealousy can evoke. And Tristan… Oh, Tristan.
It was her own fault for putting store in a high school relationship. She hated how weak she felt about the whole affair, but he was her soul mate and her best friend; she felt horrendously incomplete without him around to tease her, and tug on her hand gently when she got carried away. Though she had put the photo frame face-down on the dresser, so she could not see it and it could not stare at her, she could still picture it in her mind perfectly. It was probably burned into her memory forever, that photo: Tristan's mop of sunny hair falling into his mischievous blue eyes, twinkling in unison with his crooked, pearly smile and his long arm, slung around her own smaller, freckled shoulders. Sunburned from a long-ago day at the lake, her face held an expression of slight bewilderment, as it usually did in photos, as if she couldn't quite comprehend how someone had managed to whisk out a camera that quickly, yet again. He'd always thought that expression the funniest thing in the universe.
But Tristan was gone too now. And it was all her own fault. In her inability to face reality and see reason, she'd frustrated him one too many times, and he'd left. His uncle had offered to let him spend a year with him on the said uncle's Welsh estate, and he'd accepted. It had been very fast. Too fast.
After that, she hadn't bothered fighting the daze she found herself wafting in and out of, like a summer breeze. She hated the whole thing. Life was lonely, and unfair, and she didn't want to deal with it.
Enter the regression. She was being made to grow up, and so she'd fought it the only way she'd known how.
She had painted herself the color of younger years, under blue skies scattered with fluffy white clouds shaped like baseball caps and elephants. With her braided hair and apple juice, the days had melted away into oblivion, and it had been easier to forget. Until night came, anyway, and she was plagued with an unaccountably sudden inability to sleep.
Rolling off the bed and walking toward the window, Josephine sat on her window-seat and searched for the moon, which did not appear in her view from the second story, east-facing window. The mountains to the south were not visible either, but the smell of wood smoke filled her nose. The night was a hazy charcoal, and thick with atmosphere. Here she was again, unable to either sleep or face the cause of her insomnia.
She envied them, of course. She wanted to be a piano prodigy, hip and cool and being blown about in Chicago. She wanted to want something as much as Andy wanted to perform. She wanted Tristan's knack for accepting the passage of time as a fixture of the way life happened. She wanted to stand on the streets of Seattle and simply be rained on by the glitter of passing moments, which were perfect simply because they were the opposite of permanence.
Sleep was gone, along with the moon and the poor, dry trees who were not able to save themselves, and time itself.
Gently, silently, painstakingly, Josephine crossed her arms across the top of her knees and cried into them.
Now, there was a misty rain falling, and soon after dissipating, and the irises were shooting up through the ground. They were green and brilliant blue-violet, the same color as the paint on the window sill, which was chipped and weathered, and curling away from the wood. Josephine's brother, August, was downstairs listening to his loud music, and the blender was going in the kitchen, sounding like her mother was trying to take out a wall rather than frappe fruit. There was a breeze blowing across her forehead, cooling the sunburn she hadn't remembered having, and ruffling the hair which was not, currently, braided into pigtails.
Rising reluctantly up out of sleep, Josephine opened her eyes and looked straight at the moon, which looked back down at her, with Tristan's bellflower eyes and quirky smile. Then, shrugging and yawning and rubbing her eyes, the moon blinked into the rosy sun, coming up off the horizon line. Day had, once again, vanquished the night. Josephine breathed in the heady scent of morning, with lungs that had never seemed to breathe before. Downstairs, the cat was still mewing.