Hailie Lombardo Mitchell and her cousin Colin Thackery Mitchell had been sitting up later than their normal bedtime because it was traditional, according to their babysitter. Hugs Stanfield usually watched them but she hadn’t been expecting to babysit tonight. They were expecting Hailie’s brother Jay, then he said he wasn’t coming back so Hugs came over. They should have been in bed but had been allowed to sit outside by the pool until Hugs called them back inside. Hugs did not seem happy.
Without knocking Garrett from across the street opened the door and walked in. Her brother Jay was a few steps behind him in the dark behind the porch light, and he stayed a few steps behind.
“Come on in,” said Hugs with a tone since they were already coming in. “What’s going on?”
“He needed a ride,” Garrett explained, and he was grinning. Jay and Garrett were not friends. If Garrett gave him a ride, her brother would owe him, and Hailie knew enough about the cost of favors to understand this was an expensive one.
Jay walked past Hugs, reached down for Hailie, wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tightly. “I’ll always make sure you’re okay Hailie, don’t ever doubt that.”
“All right,” she said, her small voice muted against his shoulder. “You’ll be safe too Jay. Don’t worry.”
Garrett winked at Hugs. “You need a ride too?”
“Not right now,” she said and without the tone. Once Garrett had sneaked in when Hugs was babysitting; Hugs didn’t care if Jay owed Garrett a favor.
He laughed, said, “later,” to Hugs and “you’re welcome” to Jay before he walked back out of the house and drove off.
Hugs crossed her arms and looked at Jay. “I thought you weren’t coming back. That’s why I’m here, and I wasn’t planning on babysitting tonight.”
“Plans change. Go home or wherever you’re going. I’ve just got a couple of things to get out of the garage; I’m here for the night.”
He looked at Hailie again then back at Hugs. “Start watching the sky for falling objects.”
She did not exactly laugh. “You don’t have to warn me about watching for falling objects. That’s my superpower, staying out of the way of things.”
He stood there, surveying her. “Hugs, get in the damned way of something important for once in your life. I’ve got something to take care of, so go home.”
Jay stepped out onto the porch, Hugs standing there in the half-open door.
Jay paused, turned and suddenly just walked back and pulled Hugs into his arms and kissed her.
To Hailie it looked astonishing, it looked like the kind of kiss she saw in a movie when someone was going to war and maybe never coming back. It looked like fear and pain and hurt, like falling off the end of the cliff at the back of her house into deep water in the dark. It looked like when her father and mother kissed behind the lantern when they thought she didn’t see them. It looked huge.
And Hugs kissed him back as hard as he was kissing her.
Then Jay turned around and went down the steps and walked away. “Say goodnight to Garrett for me,” he called out over his shoulder, sounding like he was joking, heading toward the garage without a backward glance.
Hailie watched Hugs touch her mouth where her brother had kissed her. Hailie smiled; she liked Hugs, and she loved her brother.
The air around Hailie sparkled and twinkled as she stood in the dark corner and thought about the two of them together. She was used to the sparkles. When she was happy, she always saw them unless she blew them out like candles. It was an important thing to always remember to do, and she would do it now, once Hugs finally stopped watching her brother walking away.