The Little Astronaut

“Excuse me ma’am, but do you happen to have any moons for sale?”

The Shopkeeper looked up from the book she had been reading to see a small astronaut peering up at her from the shadow of his silver helmet. Crossing her legs, the young woman leaned back as she apologetically smiled.

“I’m very sorry, but I’m afraid I just sold the last of my moons to a planet in the next galaxy over.”

The Little Astronaut’s mouth fell open, obviously aghast with the disappointing lack of planetary satellites available for purchase. Tipping his helmet back, he frowned as he threw his hands up into the air and surrendered them to the gravitational pull of the planet he had temporarily alighted upon.

“Well, where am I supposed to get my moons now? All of the other shops have run out too.”

The Shopkeeper tapped her chin with a manicured finger. Humming to herself, she thought for a bit, all the while carefully avoiding the Little Astronaut’s huff of exasperation, until she gasped aloud. The spaceman stopped his rotation immediately and pounced into her lap.

“What is it? Did you just remember you have one?”

“No.” But she quickly added, “But I might know someone who could have an extra moon or two. I think she’s been keeping them in her pantry for a rainy day, but maybe if we persuade her, she can donate one. But it’s not going to be cheap. What have you got to pay with?”

He dug into the pocket of his pants before pulling out a fistful of caramels, buttons, and the odd cat hair. She sifted through the collection before slowly nodding.

“It’s going to be tough, but we might be able to make it work. Ready to go meet my friend?”

“I was born ready!” And, shoving the candy and buttons into his pocket, he shrugged on his jetpack before taking her hand. “Just in case. You don’t want to get lost in space.”

“Of course,” she replied as if that was only the most natural explanation ever for holding hands while crossing the checkered belt and then catching the comet thereafter that would take them to her friend. “Thank you,” she added. He replied with a firm nod, and before long, they were off.

. . .

“Excuse me ma’am but I have been in search of a moon since I woke up this morning, and I haven’t been able to find one yet. Do you think you could help me find a suitable moon?”

“For what purposes are you searching for a moon?”

“It’s a secret. I’m not allowed to tell you.”

The Shopkeeper curiously studied the Little Astronaut as he held down his much-too-large helmet and shook his head. Her friend crossed her arms.

“Surely you could offer a hint. It is my moon that you’re taking, after all.”

“Once I take it, it’ll be my moon though, so I don’t have to tell you.” Grinning at his clever weaseling, he raised his chin so that his helmet slipped back slightly. The Shopkeeper gently placed a hand behind his head so that it wouldn’t smack into his forehead and temporarily blind him.

“Hmm, I see… Well I don’t see why I should give you my moon. Who knows what you’re going to do with it?”

“I won’t do anything bad with it like blow it up,” he said innocently. “I already did that once before. It wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be.”

“But how can I trust you? I barely know you!”

He froze as if he had never really considered what their first acquaintance suggested. Helmet spinning, he looked all around them with a sort of desperation that would have made the Shopkeeper smile if not for her curiosity. She remained silently by his side as he searched for some way that would prove his trustworthiness, when he saw a glimmer just past her friend’s silhouette.

“Ha! Cookies! You were baking cookies!” Pointing a finger at the incriminating evidence, he triumphantly jumped up and down. “I can bake cookies with you then! Then you’ll know that I’m telling the truth!”

“How so?”

“Liars don’t bake cookies!”

Both women nodded their heads with grave expressions. Of course. How could they have not known? Everyone knew that liars didn’t bake cookies. How could such evil people do something so good and holy as to bake chocolate chip cookies?

“Well, come on in then, and we’ll get to the cookie baking right away. And then maybe I’ll consider giving you one of my moons.”

With a gleeful crow, the Little Astronaut bounded into the depths of the Cookie Baker’s home and made a beeline for the dough. Stepping inside after was the Shopkeeper who silently expressed her gratitude to the Baker for her willingness and quick wit. The Baker closed the door behind her with a soft smile of her own as if she were trying to say that she didn’t mind at all before she invited her to join the Little Astronaut in the business of cookie-baking and trust-proving.

. . .

“That was nice of your friend to give us the cookies. Even if she didn’t have a moon, I’ve decided that I like her.”

“You’re really not disappointed that you couldn’t find a moon?” The Shopkeeper studied the flash of dismay that came and went on his face. She hadn’t expected for him to hold onto the moon quest for so long. It was very strange behavior. Even for men who travelled from planet to planet and from galaxy to galaxy.

“Well…” He sighed. “Yeah, I am kind of sad… I really wanted a moon.”

“I might have some more tomorrow.”

He shook his head. “No, no. I have to have it today.”

“Why today?”

“I told you,” he said exasperatedly. “It’s a secret.”

The Shopkeeper thought for some time before slyly asking, “Could we draw one maybe?”

“No, no, no, it has to be the moon. It can’t be fake!” He began panicking. “It can’t be fake at all! If it’s fake, I’ll get in big trouble!”

“Trouble? With who?”

But he wouldn’t tell her. Instead, he gave a short wail before running to his room. He had even forgotten about the cookies and his space kitten, so lost was he in his misery and disappointment. Worried (this was not usual behavior for him), the young woman stood up to follow when she noticed a slip of paper lightly floating down to the ground near the feet of the chair that the Little Astronaut had just flown away from. Stooping down, she picked it up and read the words written in dark blue crayon:

I love you so much I’ll give you the moon and the stars. Love Leopold

and below it, two crudely drawn figures – one large one and one small one – holding hands as they smiled from where they stood on a moon much too small for them.

C.C. frowned. Why would Leopold make a card? He was a sweet boy, but he wasn’t sweet enough to doggedly search for one single object in spite of distraction from cookies and the like. It wasn’t anyone’s birthday, and it certainly wasn’t any holiday today so…

When she read the fine print on the calendar, her heart nearly faltered and exploded in her chest all at once. Brows knit together, she let out a soft Oh before carefully folding up the card and slipping it into the pocket of her dress. Brushing her hair away from her face, she squared her shoulders as she quickly ran some simple calculations.

It was doable – if they started now and worked fast enough. Tight, but doable. But surely it was no match for a little astronaut, shopkeeper, cookie-baker, and space kitten. Right?

Right.

. . .

When Lelouch came home, he found it strangely dark. Initially his mind was drawn to the worst possible conclusions, and he felt a heavy pit of violence seed in his core, but as he slipped his shoes off in front of the door, he soon relaxed. C.C. was fine, and by default, so was Leopold. Everything was fine.

Still, it was slightly strange that all of the lights were off. The worst of winter had worn off that the darkness wasn’t so overbearing but even so, spring hadn’t quite yet taken over, so there shouldn’t be any reason that the lights would be off in the early evening. Shrugging off his jacket, he was about to ask for an explanation, when he felt a hand on his arm. He looked up to see her holding up a blindfold.

He was slightly skeptical at first but he didn’t question her and simply tied it on. Knotting the fabric, he held out a hand and waited to feel hers in his palm. Lacing their fingers together, he allowed himself to be led through the impenetrable darkness as he wondered just what was waiting for him and why. It couldn’t be an anniversary, and it wasn’t anyone’s birthday. Nor was it a holiday. It could just be a celebration for the heck of it, but for some reason, that didn’t quite fit. But nothing else that he could think of also sat comfortably with him. It all just seemed a little…off.

His fingers lightly traced the thick texture of the doorframe. Passing through, he stood still in the complete darkness. Somewhere off to the side he could hear suppressed giggling, a mew, and some tinkling. From behind, he could feel C.C. untying his blindfold, and from inside the building anticipation and curiosity for what awaited him.

“Surprise!”

His eyes widened as he looked all around him and saw the dozens and dozens of lights strung all around the dark room, at the countless stars glowing from their walls, and at the paper mâché moon twinkling and spinning in the center like some celestial, homemade disco ball. He stared all around the small room, taken by wonder, but he didn’t smile until he heard a thump and then a “Surprise, surprise, surprise! I got you a moon!”

“You did this for me?”

“Well, it was half Lulu’s idea, but yup!” Shyly covering his face with his hands, he peeked out as he giggled. “Do you like it?”

“I love it,” he replied softly. He reached down and lifted him up so that they were eye-level. “Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome,” he replied with a proud smile. “Anytime.”

Lelouch looked all around them, mesmerized, as he listened to Leopold rattle on and on about the stars and how long it had taken for everything and the way that Lulu had started playing with the moon before the paint had dried and had made a mess everywhere but it was okay because it was funny seeing her goof around until she started licking the paint and then that was when things weren’t so funny anymore because…

He watched him explain the whole story as he backtracked, sidetracked, and skipped forward, his story punctuated every so often with a burst of laughter or an excited Oh! He memorized the way the lights shown in his bright eyes and how flushed his cheeks were as he wiggled around until he was let down and then rushed to his bed and jumped up and down on the mattress as he pointed to see, that star all the way in the corner that he had put up all by himself! Could he believe that he’d done that all by himself? He couldn’t believe it, much to Leopold’s delight, and made the fact very well known. Lelouch could only smile in reply, and, when C.C. came up beside him, watch their son together as he kissed her on her forehead and she whispered to him something that they had both forgotten but that their precious little star hadn’t.

Happy father’s day.

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One thought on “The Little Astronaut

  1. Sean O'Brien says:

    Well, this was adorable.

    I love Leopold going around in this astronaut costume asking for moons in what is the sort of seriousness only a child could have for this sort of thing. Where something that should seem silly is perfectly natural to do. Seeing him have this little narrative arranged in his head while he goes along on this mission is just one of the things I love about seeing his perspective in comparison to the adults with their very real and often life threatening events happening with them. It provides breathing room really. A brief respite if you will.

    It’s also incredibly sweet seeing C.C. go along with her son’s game. It helps strip away that weariness she must have with all that is going on and just let us see this happy family moment outside of all the organized crime. I like that she opens with that line playing along but not really involving herself until he gives his little huff and she decides to fully play along.

    This kid always has caramels on him doesn’t he? Not sure what’s up with the buttons to be honest, but I think that might just be a kid thing I never did. You also know he is serious about this mission of his if he’s willing to part with them, which I thought was a small nice touch.

    I have to wonder how elaborate this costume of his is, but the imagination holds no bounds I suppose. I can only imagine him making jetpack noises while they are on their way. I do love how Sayako (who I actually didn’t realize lived so close by till you mentioned it. I thought she lived close by but not the same building) immediately plays along as well which is fitting since she had taken care of him quite often and clearly thinks highly of him as well. The touch where they make sure he isn’t smacking his head against the helmet was nice too. Glad that Leopold doesn’t enjoy destroying moons though.

    His assertion why making cookies would make him trustworthy was very cute and funny. That he got the cookies too was an extra bonus though for all I know she was already planning to give them away or at least let Leopold eat some. And that this is what clinches it for Leopold in this story of his that he likes her.

    The motion back to reality when Leopold runs to his room was well done I thought in that it didn’t feel abrupt at all with the switch, which easily could have though I suppose I may be used to his perspective on things. The card is incredibly sweet, especially upon the reveal of who and what it is about and the way C.C. immediately puts together a plan to get Leopold’s mission done was a good display for her and how quickly she can get stuff together and done.

    No wonder Lelouch might first go to the worst possible scenario before quickly calming down. The description and reveal of what all this was for was a good ending I thought and I enjoyed that Leopold was the only one to notice the holiday and make all these plans to celebrate it. No wonder his parents didn’t remember since this situation is new and it’s not as if they had any reason to pay attention to it either.

    I overall thought this was a lovely interlude and side story from the main plot.

    Thank you 😀

    Like

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