Fireflies at Night

YA Contemporary

67,000 words

One choice. One bomb. That’s all it took to permanently change seventeen-year-old Emma Loukas’s life. After opting to stay home instead of accompanying her family to a minor league baseball game, Emma is not present when a suicide bomber detonates a bomb at the entrance to the game just as her family is entering. In the months that follow, grief therapy and the sad looks from friends and family do nothing but drag Emma further down into the rubble left behind by that single May afternoon.

In order to escape the sadness and the reality of her new life, Emma decides to head out to California to live with her grandmother. Though her aunt and uncle protest because Emma’s grandmother is showing early signs of dementia, Emma ultimately prevails. However, almost immediately upon arriving, Emma fears she’s made a big mistake and feels her life crumbling even more. But when the keepsakes on her dresser catch her eye, Emma realizes the way to make sense of her life and to honor her family is to carry out their dreams. So she sets out to live the lives her mother, father, and brother should have had, and in the process she just may discover who she’s supposed to be.

I once heard that dandelion seeds carry your thoughts and dreams to loved ones when you blow them into the air. So one summer when we were ten, my friend Callie and I hunted every dandelion in our neighborhood and sent a barrage of fluff into the sticky Ohio air. I aimed my dreams and wishes at Billy Martin, but now I wish I hadn’t wasted them on some boy I forgot about three months later. I wish I’d sent more thoughts and dreams to my family. I’d like to do that now, but how do you send a lifetime of thoughts and wishes in a single breath?


My fingers twirl the dandelion I found at the base of the faded brown Sycamore Hill Community Center sign as I wait for my aunt or uncle to pick me up from tonight’s therapy session. They’re usually late; with six kids, there’s an endless to-do list. I feel badly that I’m just one more responsibility for them. It’s one of the many unfair things about this situation.


My phone buzzes in my back jeans pocket. Maybe they’re on the way. It’s a text from Callie instead. How r u doing? L There’s always a sad face these days. I haven’t seen an LOL or a laughing emoji in almost two months.


I text back, Okay J Just waiting 4 my ride. Call u when I get home. I’m not lying when I say I’m okay. My aunt and uncle insisted I enroll in this teen therapy group. They said it would help me process my grief and move forward. I don’t know that I need help moving forward; time doesn’t allow for anything else. But it has helped to share a few things. They say I have something called “survivor’s guilt.” Maybe that’s true. It seems more like logic to me. I’m not sure why everyone treats me like the victim when I’m the one who is still here. I’m still alive. How can I be the victim?