Once upon a time, there was a little star named Stella. She was so small, nobody on earth could see her. And this made her feel sad. And insignificant. So she decided she needed to grow, only she didn’t know how.
“I know,” she thought, using her imagination. “I will stop breathing and hold my breath for as long as possible, and all the air that can’t escape will make me grow bigger and bigger.” Stella took a deep breath, puffed out her star cheeks as large as they would go, and held it. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven…” she counted in her mind, all the way to twenty-one. And she could have kept going! Except she noticed her light was starting to flicker and dim, like a candle when a lid is placed over it. Fire cannot breathe without oxygen. So she quickly let out her cheekfull of air, and started breathing again, and immediately, her light got brighter.
“Hmmm,” she thought. “If holding my breath makes my light go out, maybe blowing really hard will make it get bigger.” Stella was a logical little star, even if her experiments didn’t always work. Because as soon as she started to blow, and blow, and blow, until her slightly red hue turned slightly blue, her light started to flicker again. This time like a birthday candle, on a birthday cake, extinguished by the gusts of birthday wishes. Stella loved wishes. But she didn’t want to be blown out. So she stopped blowing, and her light came back.
“Maybe I can ask someone for help,” Stella thought. Because in addition to being a logical star, and having a good imagination, Stella was also smart. And smart people ask for help when they need it. “Cosmo’s a really big star. Maybe he can tell me how he got to be so big.”
Stella found Cosmo hanging out by Bode’s Galaxy, where Ursa Major lived (because everyone knew Cosmo had a crush on Alioth, the brightest star in the constellation and 33rd brightest star in the universe). Luckily, Cosmo didn’t mind answering Stella’s questions, even if she was interrupting his stargazing.
“Oh that’s easy,” Cosmo answered, when Stella asked how he got so big. “I just bought some gas at the star store.”
“Gas?” Stella asked.
“Yes. A special mixture of hydrogen and helium to create a brighter thermonuclear fusion.”
“Sounds complicated,” Stella said, disheartened.
“Not at all. It comes in a canister. You’ll probably only need three or four to get really glowing.”
“Thanks, Cosmo,” Stella said, once he pointed her in the right direction and told her how to find the store. She was so excited to have an answer, she forgot she didn’t have any money, or even credit cards, until she wheeled her grocery cart full of gas canisters to the check out line to pay.
“That will be 18.25 please,” The old lady star said from behind the cash register. Her flames were a little bit grey at the edges, but her eyes still shone brightly.
Stella gasped “But I don’t have any money. How am I ever going to pay for all this?”
“You don’t pay in money at a star store,” the old lady star said. “You pay in wishes.”
“I don’t have any of those either,” Stella cried. “Nobody on earth can even see me. That’s why I want to get bigger. How can I get wishes if nobody even knows I’m there?”
“That’s easy. Find a constellation. Hang out for a while. I’ll bet some wishes get thrown your way. People love constellations, and they don’t know the names of the individual stars they’re wishing on. I’ll put your gas canisters aside, and they’ll be here waiting for you when you’re ready for them.”
“Thank you ma’am,” Stella said, gratefully. The old lady star hadn’t gotten angry at all that Stella couldn’t pay for the canisters, and she had been really helpful. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
And she was! It took only two nights for Stella to acquire enough wishes for her gas canisters. She’d chosen Cassiopeia, because she liked the shape of her: a giant W in the sky, and because she was rumored to harbor the ghost of a beautiful queen. Apparently lots of people on earth must have liked her shape too, because after only two nights Stella had collected 21 wishes, aimed haphazardly towards the constellation and landing directly on her.
Stella loved the way wishes felt. Warm. Loved. Seen. She also loved how fragile they were, carrying the hopes and dreams of little boys and girls on earth, and sometimes, even the dreams of their parents, or at least those who hadn’t forgotten how to dream. Stella wanted to gather her own wishes and take care of them. She didn’t want to give a single one away.
“But if I don’t get bigger, nobody on earth will ever know I’m there,” she thought on her way back to the store. “I’ll pay my 18.25 wishes this one time. And then I won’t need to spend any more.”
But when she walked inside the store, she saw lots of lovely, shiny, things, designed to make stars brighter and more beautiful: special star dyes to change a firey hue blue, or even green; glittery powders to dust in flames and make them sparkle; eternity mirrors to hang on all sides, to multiply reflections indefinitely. And at first, Stella thought about how much easier it would be for people on earth to see her if she were even bigger, more colorful, and sparkly. And for another moment, she was sorely tempted to return to Cassiopiea for some more wish gathering. But luckily, the old lady star had noticed her come into the store, and broke into her thoughts by waving and calling her over.
“I’ve saved them for you. Just like I promised,” the old lady star said, pulling a bag from under the counter and setting it on the black rubber mat that rolled the star groceries past the scanner.
Stella shook her head to clear her mind of her selfish thoughts. “Thank you again for all your help. It didn’t take me as long as I thought to get enough wishes,” she said, handing her wishes over.
“It never does,” the old lady star said, smiling as she gently took Stella’s wishes and laid them inside the cash register’s drawer, lined with clouds and softness.
“What happens to them?” Stella asked, concerned once again for the dreams she’d handed over.
“Don’t worry. We give them to Polaris. He always knows how to help people find their way.” The old lady star looked thoughtful as she squinted at Stella from behind her glasses. “Not many stars ask me that question,” she said, “You’re going to be one of the good ones.”
“Good ones?” Stella asked, but the old lady star had already turned to help the next customer, although she did give Stella one last wink as she walked out of the store with her bag of gas canisters.
That night, as Stella opened her special hydrogen and helium mixture, she felt the loss of her wishes deeply. Their warmth and love and hope had become precious to her already, in the few hours she held them. She looked in the mirror and saw that she had doubled in size. “I’m never going to give away wishes again,” she said to herself. “I might not be as big or as shiny or as colorful as the other stars, but now that people can see me from earth, I’m big enough.”
And she was. Because although Stella was not the brightest star, or the most colorful, she was the most careful with wishes. Hope is Stella’s favorite feeling, and she cherishes every wish as though it were her first and her last.
Every wish wished upon Stella comes true.