It's late. A man and woman are sitting in the back of a chauffeured limousine heading for the airport. They were childhood friends who, forty-eight hours ago, have met again for the first time since high school. He's riding along to see her off.
"It stopped raining," the woman observes.
The man looks out his window. "You'll have a smooth flight."
She reaches over to a control console and flips a switch, causing the sunroof to glide back. Where there had been clouds for the last several days, now there's a clear night sky. "Look at the stars," she murmurs. "There's Orion."
"The mighty hunter," the man replies.
She smiles at him. "I bet if I ask, you'd tell me all about that. The mighty hunter." As she's talking, she removes a sweater from a small travel bag at her feet. He reaches over, takes the sweater from her and helps her into it. She looks up at the sky again and says, "When I was a child, I had a book of stories about the constellations. How they got their names."
"I know. I was going to borrow that book. I spent my entire boyhood wondering what it'd be like sitting on your front porch. That book gave me the excuse I needed -- I waited there while you went looking for it. "
She thought for a moment. "That's right. Mother and I searched, then I came out and told you we couldn't find it."
"At which point I invited you out for a Coke," he said.
"Did I go?"
"No, you were packing to leave for your freshman year at college. Bad timing on my part. As it happened, couple of years later, I bought a copy of that book. Or one like it."
She sank back into her seat. "When I left, did you miss me?" she asked.
Diana was goddess of the moon and of the hunt; her brother was Apollo, god of the sun.
Orion was a giant -- not quite a god, but certainly more than a man. He was the greatest of all hunters, perhaps the greatest who ever was.
It was his undoing that the goddess of the moon should fall in love with him. Apollo discovered this, and, for reasons of his own, became jealous.
Not long after, Orion decided to swim in the sea, and he swam out to a point where he appeared no bigger than a speck on the horizon.
Apollo, seeing his chance, lured his sister down to the shore. "Look," he said to her. "See that floating on the water out there? Bet you can't hit it with an arrow. You're good, but that's too far even for you."
She raised her eyebrows. Diana was the daughter of Heaven, her special gift being perfect accuracy in the hunt. The goddess drew back her bow and released a golden arrow, which sprang skyward, gaining altitude until it reached the apogee of its flight. Suddenly, sunlight struck the shaft, and at that moment it was visible from miles away.
"The airport," she says. "This is where I begin wondering if I really have my ticket."
"When you were packing, I saw you put it in there. Your purse, I mean."
She smiles at this. "I thought you were watching the game."
"I was," he replies. "But after three quarters, you were definitely more interesting. I don't really care about professional sports."
"You're an odd duck." She's now poking around in her purse. "Here they are. Right where they should be. Naturally."
As the vehicle pulls to a stop in the passenger-loading zone outside the terminal, she looks over at him. "The driver'll take you back to the hotel. If you have to go," she says.
"I've got that four hour drive ahead of me," he replies.
"Will we see each other again?" She asks this question as she examines her ticket in the dim light.
The arrow gained speed on its downward path, but when the moment of impact came, all was hidden in a trough between the waves. Apollo, saying nothing, disappeared from Diana's side.
Earlier her giant had promised to meet her on the very spot where she stood, and though the hour was growing late, she waited. The sun was setting when she heard a seabird call out below her. Diana looked down and there, his head cradled in the surf, was the lifeless form of Orion, whom she loved.
The chauffeur opens the door and she gets out of the car. As her bags are checked in nearby, she begins walking to her departure gate. Thoughts of him do indeed linger for a few more moments, but she's looking forward to returning home and getting back into her routine.
Diana was inconsolable. Eventually, realizing she couldn't bear to live in a world without him, she placed Orion in the sky, among the stars, where he became the most glorious of winter's constellations. His loyal dog Sirius follows him and he chases the sisters of the Pleiades, who are forever just beyond his reach.
There is an emptiness about him.
-- END --