It was a town tradition. On the Fourth of July, everybody came out to Chandler's Field to watch the fireworks. Except, of course, for two notable exceptions: Nell Potter and her niece, Lana Lang.
"The poor girl's had enough fireworks for one lifetime, don't you think?" Nell inquired of everyone who inevitably questioned her absence at the town's biggest annual gathering. "I'm surprised that any of you take your children there. Don't they remember?"
"No one associates fireworks with the meteor shower," they assured her, but Nell would have no parts of it. "Lana and I are not going, and that's final."
Pete's older brothers had brought sparklers and Roman candles. They weren't supposed to have Roman candles--no one was; the summer had been a dangerously dry one--but of course the boys couldn't resist. They had chosen an out-of-the-way spot at the back of the field to set them up, hopefully out of range of their parents' eyes. Pete had had to beg Sam and Mike to let him and Clark come along and watch them set off their fireworks, and in the end Sam and Mike told Pete that he would have to do their chores for a week in exchange for the privilege. For Pete, it was worth it. He loved it when he got to do cool stuff with his brothers.
They had been warned, of course. Stay far away, no screaming, and no tattling if anything went wrong. They had a small jug of water in case a fire started, but if anything should happen that was too big for them to control, they were all just supposed to run away, as fast as they could and in different directions. Pete and Clark had to swear on the Bible that they wouldn't tell on Sam and Mike, ever, even under threat of punishment. Mike had gotten out the big gold-leaf family Bible and everything.
Mike carefully set the candle in the grass. They had tried to pick a spot where the grass wasn't too high or too thick. Satisfied with his handiwork, he struck a match and carefully lit the candle, jumping back as soon as he saw the flame catch on the fuse.
Clark stood transfixed as the candle spit out white-hot sparks and golden ashes. They looked like little baby stars, shooting up into the night sky for the very first time. He wanted to catch one, to hold it in his hand, to have it be his and no one else's. He started towards the candle, but Pete saw him out of the corner of his eye and grabbed Clark's arm, pulling him back. "No, Clark! It's dangerous!" Pete admonished him. Clark pouted and continued to watch the candle until it died.
"Wow, man, that was awesome!" exclaimed Sam. He gave Mike a high five. They started to set up the other two they had brought. Sam thrust a few little sticks into Pete's hand. "Here, you guys can play with these. Just be careful." He also gave Pete a plastic lighter. "Dont let him get it," he said, glaring at Clark. Clark glared right back. He didn't like it when Sam was mean to him. He could tell Pete was mad too. They took the sparklers and walked back to the big blanket Pete's mom had set up for all of them to sit on. Pete's parents and Clark's were over talking to some other grown-ups, so no one saw the two seven-year-olds lighting sparklers all by themselves.
Clark had never seen anything as fascinating as the sparkler in his whole life. It was his dream come true--he was finally getting to hold stars! He watched as the stars jumped and danced around the little stick he was holding onto, not even noticing the heat from the sparks as they neared his skin. Beside him, Pete was spinning around with his, making silver sparks fly in all different directions. That must have been what caught everybody's attention, for the next thing Clark knew his mom was yelling and his dad was running over to him.
His dad's eyes widened when he saw Clark holding the nearly extinguished sparkler in his hand. From his point of view, it looked as though Clark was holding a ball of pure fire. Clark, oblivious to anything but the sparkly "stars," didn't notice the panicked look on his dad's face. "Clark, drop that now!"
Clark didn't look up. His dad grabbed his arm. "I said drop it, son," he ordered sternly. Clark obediently dropped the ball of stars on the ground and watched sadly as his father stomped on it to put it out. A tear fell from one eye as his dad grabbed his hand and painstakingly examined it, making sure he wasn't hurt.
All he'd wanted was to touch a star.
"I wanna go see the fireworks!" she whined to Aunt Nell. All day she had begged Nell to let her go. "Everybody else always gets to go to the fireworks! Why can't we go, Nell? Why why why why why?"
Nell sighed and silently cursed her sister for leaving her with this spoiled, petulant brat. "Fine," she said. "If you want to go, we'll go. But if you get scared and have nightmares tonight, don't expect me to sit up half the night listening to you cry."
Lana jumped up and down. "Yay!" she yelled. "We're going to the fireworks!"
Lana looked around but she didn't see any of her friends. Then she looked over and saw Clark Kent, the boy who had sat across from her in art class. His dad was yelling at him and he was trying not to cry. Lana felt bad for him. She hated being yelled at too.
When his dad left, she walked over to him. "Don't cry," she said. "It'll be okay. It's fireworks tonight!"
He looked up at her and smiled. "Do you want to see the stars?" he asked her.
She looked up at the sky. "No," he said. "The little stars." He picked up a thin brown stick and a pink plastic box. When he touched the box a certain way, a flame jumped out of it. When he touched the flame to the stick, the stick started to shoot silvery sparks into the air. He smiled and held it out to Lana like it was a flower. "Do you want my stars?" he asked.
Lana reached for the stick, but it was hot. She pulled her hand back, blowing on her fingers. "They're too hot," she said. "You can keep them."
He frowned. "Don't you like them?" he asked, his feelings clearly hurt.
"I like them. They're pretty," she said, smiling. He smiled too, and turned back to the sparkler. He waved it around in front of Lana's face, watching the stars' reflections in her midnight-black eyes. He didn't notice his dad coming up behind him.
"Clark Kent, what did I tell you about playing with those?" he demanded angrily. "Now give me that and if I see another one of these, we're going home. You understand?"
Clark nodded, chagrined. "Good." Clark's dad threw the sparkler on the ground and stomped it out.
Clark looked sadly at Lana. "He keeps taking my stars away," he said mournfully.
Lana reached out and took his hand. "Come on, I want to show you something." She led him over to the big woolen blanket Nell had brought for them. She lay down on it, and Clark cautiously lay down beside her. She pointed at the stars above their heads. "See that? It's called the Big Dipper," she said proudly. "It's a consolation."
As they lay there, the first of the fireworks shot proudly into the sky, exploding into a ring of red and blue. Clark and Lana just lay there, watching the fireworks. As the explosions got bigger, it looked as though the fireworks were right above their heads, ready to fall on them at any minute. Lana started to get scared.
"It's okay, Lana," Clark told her. "The stars won't hurt you. They stay in the sky, where they belong."
The watched, enthralled, as blue and red stars and golden chandeliers and bright white squiggles filled the Smallville skies. When it was over, neither of them wanted to leave.
They got up and started walking over to the part of the field where their parents were. Lana stopped Clark and pointed to the sky again. "There's another consolation, Ryan," she said, pointing. Clark looked up, but all he saw was a bright white light shooting across the sky. Lana screamed. "Did you see that? It was a shooting star!" She ran up to Nell, bouncing up and down. "I saw a shooting star, Nell! A real shooting star!"
"So did I," said Clark to his mom and dad, who were standing nearby. His mom smiled. "Really? Wow!" she said. "Fireworks and a shooting star, all in one night? You must be a pretty lucky boy."
Clark smiled and reached up to hug his mom. She hadn't needed to tell him that.
He already knew he was a lucky boy.
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