Between Us and the Moon - Rebecca Maizel


“WHAT’S THE POINT OF DOING ALL THIS MATH JUST to track a comet?” Scarlett says and squints through the lens of my telescope. “It’s a fuzzy white speck.”

“The whole point is to use pen and paper to predict the comet’s perihelion.”


“It means the comet’s closest position to the sun.”

“But you have your school computer,” Scarlett says. She motions to the SUMMERHILL ACADEMY loaner laptop that’s open on a small collapsible table.

“I program the telescope with the computer. That’s it,” I explain.

“I would definitely cheat.”

It took ten minutes to get Scarlett out here, so now that she is, I want her to look through the telescope and see exactly what I see. I want her to know how hard it is to project its coordinates every single night. I’ve been working on this experiment since the Comet Jolie first streaked into our skies eleven months ago.

“The math is what makes it precise,” I explain. “Any old computer can be programmed to take a guess.”

“I suck at math,” Scarlett says. Her deep red lipstick is so pretty. If I wore that tonight, I’d get it all over Tucker and probably my clothes. I’m not graceful, not like my sister.

“When it finally reaches its perihelion and streaks into the Northern Hemisphere I will have tracked it over forty million miles.”

“Northern . . .” Scarlett stands up and sounds out the word. “Hemissssphere. Doesn’t that sound epic?”

“Well, yes, technically speaking the Northern Hemisphere has the most land. Two-thirds of the Earth is actu—”

Scarlett laughs and laughs.

“You have zero perspective, Bean,” she says with a flip of her hair and turns back to the house.

“This comet is the brightest comet to pass by the sun in a hundred years,” I say, but I am talking to her back. The moon is waxing crescent tonight, so it’s a sliver, but still, Scarlett’s blonde hair glimmers down her back. I swear, every year Scarlett gets more and more beautiful, like a freak of nature or something.

“I want to do this old school,” I add. “You know, Galileo style. Okay, not quite as old as Galileo, but pen, calculator, anti-vibration, internal GPS, hi-res optics style.”

She glances back at me before disappearing into the house.

“It’s definitely cool,” she says, though it’s clear she is just trying to be nice. I’m doing fine! Besides, it’s easy for her to say—all Scarlett cares about is ballet. “But you need to get your head out of the stars once in a while.”

“Bean!” Mom calls. “Tucker’s here!”

Took him long enough. The forecast predicted rain after eleven. No clouds yet, luckily. I run a hand over my Stargazer. In under one month the Comet Jolie streaks across the sky and we can see it without a telescope.

I lay my nightly coordinates sheet down on the ground on top of my favorite blanket. When Tucker gets here he can see how complicated it was to locate and identify the comet’s position in tonight’s sky. I know how intricate it is, but it’s nice to have my best friend, my boyfriend, who happened to score six points higher than me on the PSATs, see what I am capable of doing.

I wait for it—there’s a squeaksqueak, squeaksqueak as Tucker makes his way through the living room.

Our old Victorian has mismatched floorboards. Most are original which means they creak loudly.

“If you ever sneak out,” Scarlett once told me, “avoid the red Oriental rug. All original floor. It squeaks, you know what I mean?” At the time, she stopped and shook her head. “What am I talking about.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Little Miss Stars and Planets? Sneak out?”

Scarlett passes by Tucker and says, “Tell Trish to call me when she gets home. No excuses.” Scarlett points at him and he nods. Trish is Tucker’s sister and Scarlett’s best friend. Inseparable—well, until now.

Tucker has to dodge a tower of brown and red suitcases piled high next to the kitchen table. There are six: one for Mom, one for Dad, one for me, and three for Scarlett. On top of Scarlett’s sit two pairs of pointe ballet shoes. The thick satin laces lie across the suitcases and unfurl onto the floor. He walks past Dad, who, as usual, is reclining in his leather chair in front of the TV. He’s watching a show on the Discovery Channel. Gray wisps of his Einstein hair stick up and point in every direction.

“Every year you guys bring more and more stuff to the Cape,” Tucker says and comes off the patio