The boy loved seeing the tent from outside, lit up by firelight, glowing brightest where it was wearing thin.
The sky was a tightly woven blanket of stars pulled between mountains. The air felt light and clear when the boy put his head out of the flap of the tent. He sat there, body warm inside and face cool outside, smelling the waxy plants. The fabric of the tent was rough against his neck.
They finished their tea at the same time, and without speaking they rolled out their sheep’s wool beds. At first, the boy had slept on Arno’s bed and Arno had gone on the floor; then when the boy was healthy he’d slept on the floor; it had been a time when he wondered if he should go his own way. It was a good moment when they’d come to a little town tucked in the mountains and Arno had asked a shepherd if they could have some raw wool, then sat with the boy and sewed it roughly into a mat like his own. That was how he knew he could stay. Now the boy carried it strapped to his back along the hills. He loved the way it smelled. Like oil and woodsmoke. He laid a blanket over the top, and sighed comfortably. The fire made quiet sounds, and the wind pulled and tugged outside.
Tomorrow, said Arno, creakily, we make the crossing.
Yes, hear that wind? Weather’s changing. It’ll be too rough soon.
The boy thought he wouldn’t mind rough weather. He loved these hills with their cobbled towns and the white church towers through the olive groves, the tall stands of cypress trees that cast long lilac shadows. But Arno had to move. He always had to move. He would go back to the same place if he had to, but mostly he liked to stay a couple of weeks at most and move on. He didn’t say why. Now they were going to Africa. Arno had found a man in the harbor who said he would take them across if they helped him sell fish on the other side. An old man and a scrawny boy don’t make heavy cargo, the boatman had said. Often people helped them out. Arno had the kind of way about him that inclined people to kindness. He’d ask quietly and smile his creased smile.
So everything would change tomorrow, the boy thought, suddenly aware of the shape of his body in bed, the tingles that made up his legs and feet when he couldn’t see them. But everything changed all the time and still it stayed the same, so it didn’t make much difference.
The wind and the fire had died down. The hole in the top of the tent was a starlit circle. The soft walls seemed to breathe around him. He had a swooping sensation and suddenly felt he was inside a great being, and the hole was the eye, and they were flying through space, streaming along streams of stars into nothingness. The diamonds of the tent would weave themselves into the fabric of the night sky, and the boy and Arno and everything that had ever happened would be woven into the pattern too, and there they’d be forever, a tapestry among the stars.
Tallulah Pomeroy is an English illustrator and writer. She graduated from Falmouth School of Art in 2014. Hallelujah I’m a Bum, a book of Callie Garnett’s poems and Tallulah’s illustrations, was published by Ugly Duckling Presse in 2015. Her poetry has been published in Daniel Owens’s magazine Poems by Sunday, and Coldfront magazine. She now lives in Somerset.