Greetings, all! As of this writing, there are just 25 days left in the Kickstarter campaign for my first YA novel in verse, STILL THE STARS. I shared the news in a recent announcement, but I wanted to also take the time to share the first chapter of the book here on my blog, since this really has been the home for this story for these past many years.
This chapter is also available to read on the official STILL THE STARS website, but if you want to just scroll right on and read it, you can do so below! I hope you enjoy, and be sure to let me know your favorite verses in the comments if you have one!
STILL THE STARS
a YA space fantasy novel in verse
by Elayna Mae Darcy
Chapter One | Moonlight
Mom and Dad called me Moonlight…
the brightest thing in their sky
on their darkest nights.
It always sounded pretty,
but the real me feels much
rougher around the edges.
Anxiety’s carved out craters
in my surface, the dark side of me
more depressed than deep valleys.
My freckled face is framed by a storm
of Mars red hair, my curls wild & reckless
as if they’re determined by the tides.
If I were a lunar phase, I’d be ever full,
my fat body full of curves and waves
with hips like rolling hills of moonrock.
Moonlight sounds gentle like silver,
but my body and I, we clang like brass.
At my size, I could never be a crescent sliver.
Even though the nickname always felt
too sweet to describe me, my parents never
tried to change the way the Artist made me.
I just wish they were here now to see
that the me I’m becoming without them
is so much tougher than a moon beam.
She was out of this world in every
sense of the word, her home a
planet across the cosmos.
She lived through the birth & death
of galaxies—an immortal who chose
my dad & me & Earth instead of eternity.
When she held me, I felt universes worth of love
in her touch, but since she’s been gone,
I’m left reaching for a hand I fear I’ll never hold again.
He was as Earthly as could be,
born & raised in Philly, with a laugh
that sparked with all the warmth of a hearth.
But Dad had eyes that were ever skyward.
He taught me the names and shape of stars,
with his astrophysicist’s passion for the heavens.
He regarded even space debris with wonder,
as if every comet were a father like him,
kissing Earth’s forehead before tucking her in to sleep.
LIES MY PARENTS TOLD ME
1. We’ll never leave you.
2. Don’t worry, the mission will be safe.
3. We’ll see you soon.
WHERE ARE YOU
The day they left for the mission
they never came back from,
something in my spirit knew…
I might never see them again…
I wish I had trusted that instinct then.
That I had clung to them tighter,
begged them to stay with me.
Pleaded with them not to
chase something to another
solar system that they
might not return from.
The worst part now is not knowing.
Wondering if they are still alive—
if they could still be out there
waiting for me, fighting
just to survive.
I hate not knowing if my family
will ever be whole again.
ALONE, BUT NOT
Even though I spend
day after day after day
wondering if I’ll ever
see my parents again,
they didn’t leave me
with no one.
Most of my family
has always been found,
my two godmothers
and their daughter are
the loved ones that
I share no blood with,
but who I would give up
entire worlds for.
THE BALLAD OF KATH & BECKS
Romeo and Juliet had nothing
on my queer godmothers,
two women who defied every odd
to fiercely love one another.
I can’t imagine that two
love-crazed teens who took their lives
could ever look into each other’s eyes
with the passion of two such loving wives.
No romantic heroes of the ancient pages
could hold a candle to their light,
their strength and love forged
in the fire of an intergalactic fight.
Kath, the Captain, headstrong and true,
a leader, mother, and believer of hope,
she tethers our family together
with all the strength of iron rope.
Becks, a brilliantly minded medic
has gentle hands that mend,
a force of kind, unapologetic joy,
our family is the garden she tends.
When I had no one else,
they were always there,
guiding forces of resilience
with infinite love to share.
Though loneliness eats at me often,
their warmth has chilled my frost,
without them and their daughter Obie,
by now, I would be lost.
FIRE & EARTH
Obie Costa-Song is volume
kicked all the way up while
wearing her moms’ combat boots.
Her heart is bombastic and reckless,
fearless of whatever opinions
anyone tries to have of her.
She’s got bold rainbow locs
laced through her dark hair,
bright energy always blazing
like a late summer bonfire
on a starry midnight beach.
Obie is the sister I never had,
the truest friend of a lifetime,
often feeling like the only one
who truly sees me for all I am.
Where I am grounded earth,
sometimes burying myself away,
she is an ever burning fire,
illuminating my shadowed days.
She believes the best in me,
even when I don’t feel I deserve it.
Sometimes she’s the only reason
that not giving up feels worth it.
Spending my days at Norristown High
when I could be across the universe
makes it hard to make other friends.
Obie gets me, but that’s because
we both know the truth about
what our parents do,
so we are all each other has
when it comes to this deep secret.
The interstellar nature of my family
isn’t really something I can share with the class,
since according to the government,
the MELIES project doesn’t even exist.
Mom and dad always said that
keeping Alteria a secret was
more important than anything,
but when I’m bound to hide
my favorite part of myself…
how am I ever to learn
to love myself?
THE TRUTH ABOUT PIXIE DUST
The first time I used my enarya, I was only six, and I did it after jumping off the roof.
I’d been watching Peter Pan, because ever since I was little, I was in love with the notion of never needing to grow up. I wanted to fly like Wendy, so with a hearty handful of purple glitter dusted over my hair and my pale, rosy cheeks, I climbed out my window and made my way for the edge of the roof, still so small that it felt like the edge of the world.
By the time my mom realized, it was too late. “It’s okay Mommy! I’m gonna fly!” I cried, as I took my life’s first major leap of faith.
I sometimes wonder if that failed jump is the reason I find faith so hard to keep, because my reward for all that trust was the crunching sound of my leg snapping beneath my body. Mom ran to me, as I lay sobbing in the dirt, “Oh love, what did you do…” she whispered as she tucked me up into her arms.
But the moment she did, something strange began.
Right around the wound, my skin began to glow.
My teary eyes widened as I watched the warm golden light sparkle and spindle around the gnarly wound, feeling like a feather tickling my atoms. In moments, the gash was gone. Though dried blood and the tear in my jeans remained, the injury itself was nothing but a memory.
“The pixie dust…” I marveled.
But that was the day my mom sat me down and made me swear to be more careful, because what happened had nothing to do with pixie dust. My gift to heal and protect is a truth of me that I could never tell anyone beyond our family. It was the first time I learned that until me, there was no such thing as two world children, and so that part of my identity was to be kept secret to keep me safe.
Earth still believes itself alone in the cosmos, with only those few who’ve travelled between here and Alteria knowing the reality that the universe is wider than they ever imagined. The secret agents of MELIES are the way my interplanetary parents met—not even NASA or the government knows about them, or of me. If all of Earth were to learn of the worlds beyond them before they’re ready, it could mean catastrophe.
So instead, I hold my enarya inside my chest, a dormant magic that I pray I’ll get to use one day.
Depression makes me diminish myself,
like a match that can’t quite light,
but which if lit, could burn cities to the ground.
Losing my parents and hiding
my magic was hard enough,
but to move through this world
in a body that society hopes
would wither away just makes
every day a fresh hell.
I hate how many times
I’ve wished myself smaller,
dreamed of disappearing into nothing,
just to evade the feeling of
eyes on me that think they know me
simply because they can see the size of me.
Every fat person knows “The Look”.
It happens at school,
at the store,
on the street…
wherever you exist,
there It is.
The Look can be defined
by the way everyone sizes you up,
like the space your body occupies
should be a punishable offense.
Sometimes the Look is laced with disgust,
like they wrongfully assume you sit there
all day doing nothing but consuming
every piece of food you can reach.
Other times, the Look is made up of pure pity,
because they ignorantly guess that at your size,
you’ve never experienced happiness…
they imagine that your every last
thought must be miserable,
a full stomach of loneliness.
Then there’s that one Look that is rare,
but beautiful; when someone sees you
for the whole person you are.
They look you in the eyes and
see you for all your value,
without judgement or scorn.
Obie has always looked at me this way,
because she has grown up knowing
the heart of me before ever caring
about arbitrary numbers on a scale,
and she’s always there to
put into place anyone who
dares make me feel like I
should take up less space.
I’m used to the Look and It’s many permutations,
but the one that The Stranger gives me that fateful morning—
intense, knife-edged, and alert,
waiting for something—
is one I have never seen before,
and it chills me down to my bones.
⧝ ⧝ ⧝
To read more, support the book on Kickstarter!
Disclaimer: Please note that these are not the final edition pages, and there may be slight edits and alterations between this first chapter sample and the final version in the book. © 2021 Elayna Mae Darcy. All rights reserved.