A Billion Dead Stars

A Billion Dead Stars

Originally published for SOW by Lara Khoury

Length: 4 pages

‘Are you going to take me to prom?’ she’d said.
‘But we don’t go to the same school,’ I’d answered.
‘I don’t care. Do you?’
‘No. I don’t care either.’

Cheesy love songs made us sick, so did my classmates who couldn’t handle a drink. Oversized kids made a big deal out of a cigarette and a glass of vodka. Obnoxiousness everywhere. Fools marveled at tacky fireworks gleaming on the surface of the swimming pool. A stench of whiskey, smoke and chlorine defiled our nostrils. And the drunken shrieks, our ears. We decided to escape it all and took a stroll on the beach. Strode down a long wooden deck leading toward the sea. Took off our shoes when we reached its edge and drowned our feet in the soft, cold sand. Moved further down and dabbled in the water. Then she grabbed my shirt and pulled me close and whispered: ‘let’s do it.’

I stared at her and couldn’t believe that six years had passed. Six years that we’d been inseparable. Not a single day without her, and each one of them had felt like the first time we met. The same fascination I later realized was love. I gazed at her standing there in her emerald green one-shoulder dress. Emerald green matching her eyes. Long lashes reaching out. Slick hair back à la runway model. A gorgeous pout. And the young girl gave way to the woman. And my best friend gave way to my lover. Of course, the sex was clumsy and we stopped halfway because the sand was nasty. And we laughed it off. We learned that first times and beach lovemaking are overrated. And I knew why she’d picked that moment: because it was forbidden. And we got away with it.We dashed back to the party and caused chaos. Pitched purses in the pool. Set the corny singer’s jacket on fire. Stole the principal’s wig and passed it around the dining tables. Dropped laxatives in a few drinks. Kissed endlessly and kissed again. Smeared cake on the dance floor and watched everyone slip. Tossed shrimp rolls at the teachers we hated. Keyed random cars on our way out. Got away with it all, like we always had. Drove to our favorite spot outside town and made love, for the first time properly, under the ghostly lights of a billion dead stars.

The phone rings once and I’m startled, still lying on the bed, my eyes closed. My fingers rove over my shirt, trace my waist, climb up my hipbone before grazing down and disappearing in my pocket. My hand feels something and I sigh, relieved. Something small, round, cocooned in fabric. I’m able to fumble with it but I can’t grasp it, and I soon remember that my pocket is empty, that the object is underneath my pants, stuck to my leg. I crumple my shirt, exposing my abs. A gust of wind slinks in and I shiver. I slide my hand inside my slacks and peel the tape off my skin, freeing the ring and bringing it up to my face level. I open my eyes and smile. The ring’s been living on my skin for a few days now. Body heat warm. Silver and beautiful. The sun beaming through the window, shimmering on the band’s edges.

The phone rings once again and stops. The ring drops on the hardwood floor and starts rolling away. Reality shifts to slow motion. Everything darkens and everything slow motions. The rolling sound grows louder and images flash in my head. Vividly. A woman in a bridal gown races through a meadow, giant pines arching on both sides of the frame. The wind bays at the sun to set. The soil trembles. The rolling sound deafens me. And as the trees sway wider and the wind bawls lustier, the bride reaches the edge of a cliff. On the other side of the room, the ring hits a large suitcase and collapses. And everything stops. The images vanish. And time resumes its natural course.

In the bathroom I notice a tiny hole in the wall. Flashback to the Bates Motel in a Hitchcock movie. And I blench at the shadiness of this place. I cover the hole with a wad of toilet paper and lose my clothes on the tiled white floor, keeping my flip-flops as I step on the disgusting shower tray. I twist the faucet knob and warm water pours down, stinging my shoulders and massaging my nape. The endless stream of water blends with my tears and I realize that I’m scared. That there’s no turning back. I’m scared for the first time in a very long time and there is no turning back. I leave the shower on and step out of the tray. Pull up the same black harem pants, the same white shirt and the same black jacket I’ve been wearing for days. It doesn’t matter if they’re filthy as long as my shoes are polished. And my shoes are always polished. I leave my hair unkempt because who gives a shit. Wipe the last tears off my face and find the ring on the floor. Put it in my pocket and grab the suitcase. Before dashing out, I expect the phone to ring again and it does. It keeps ringing until I pick up, and she starts speaking:

‘It’s me. Is everything alright?’
‘Hey, yes. It’s all set.’ I’m struggling to stay composed. ‘How are things on your end?’
‘I’m going to head there now. Don’t be late. It won’t be long before they notice my disappearance.’
‘Don’t worry,’ I lie.
‘Yes.’ A pause. ‘It’ll all be over soon. You do remember how to get there, don’t you?’
‘I do.’
‘Good. Once you enter the woods, keep moving forward until you see the sky.’
‘I know. I’ll see you at 7 sharp alright?’
‘I’ll be there.’
‘Cool,’ I say, but I can’t keep on lying. ’Hey…’
‘If anything bad happens…’
‘Don’t say that,’ she hampers.
‘Don’t worry, but just in case. If I’m not there at 7:15…’
‘Don’t say that. Nothing will happen. I’ll see you at 7,’ she says.
‘Just listen to me. If I’m not there at 7:15, it means they caught me. Don’t wait. Find a way to reach the port without me, and find the boat SOW 15. It leaves at 8 and will take you to a safe destination,’ I say. Long silence.
‘I’ll see you at 7,’ she says.
‘Yes.’ I sigh.
‘I love you.’
‘I love you.’

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5 thoughts on “A Billion Dead Stars”

    1. I’m happy you enjoyed the read Anne, a new story is out in Contributor Magazone, check it out on this website – I hope you like it!

      R x

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