Drowning in Stars - Debra Anastasia
THE SOUND OF a man’s body hitting the pavement five stories below shouldn’t be in a love story. We never did anything the right way—he and I.
The fire painted his face with an orange glow. I didn’t want to look to see what had happened, so he did. I watched as his childhood dripped off of him like perspiration.
His jaw tightened as he clenched his fists. I watched as he mouthed something to the form below.
I swallowed my own childhood as I made way for my next words. “Is he dead?”
“Yeah.” He spat from the window, and I would bet my life that he’d hit his mark below. He was great at spitting. “Too fast for him. Too easy for him.”
I leaned toward the window, all of a sudden compelled to see.
He turned and blocked the open window, grasping my shoulders. “Nah. You don’t get to carry that image in your head. I’ll do it for both of us.”
I moved closer to the window, which was also incidentally into his arms. He was an amazing hugger.
“Maybe I should be crying? Am I doing this right?” I bet I was in shock.
He petted my head from the crown to the middle of my back. “You can cry if you want.”
He wouldn’t judge me. Never had. Never would.
“We just murdered a man.”
And then the truth flowed from me, like it always seemed to with him. He was like speaking to my own reflection. Things were only between the two of us. “No. He deserved it.”
He got me. He knew what I was asking. I wanted a trophy of this monster’s death. Deserved it. God help me, I’d earned it.
I hugged him again and listened to his heartbeat as the building next to his sizzled and burned. The beat was steady despite the burden it carried.
I hoped we only had to share this one death.
6 years earlier . . .
THE BUBBLES I aimed from the novelty gun from the dollar store were flying true tonight. I always focused on the open window across from my bedroom. A little game I played when I was up. It was a sticky, hot night. No air-conditioning. In our neighborhood, it was a luxury.
I made a wish as the bubbles went cruising through the open window that didn’t have a screen, just like mine. I looked up at the moon and winked at him. It was hard to see the stars in the city, but the moon always made a spectacle of himself.
I wished for...something. A feeling, not really a wish. I wanted the easy hope that came to the rich girls at school. The careless tossing of a cell phone, the sureness that their stomach wouldn’t growl in the middle of math. I wanted hope and carelessness, I guess.
I tucked back inside my window when I heard footfalls beneath me. I was five stories up, so I was pretty okay. But habit. Here you stayed out of sight to stay safe. The eyes looking at you might not have anything nice in their thoughts or plans. And it was three a.m., according to the alarm clock I had on my floor. Even at that time, people would be out in the skinny alley below me.
I wanted to try my luck at scoring another wish. Today was my birthday. Well, I mean, I guess I would have to go to sleep for it to count, but it was past midnight. My bubble gun was my present. Even though it was the start of summer, the gun had been in the clearance section.
I popped my head out and saw that the alley was clear of people. The dumpsters were overflowing. There was trash that was close to them, but not actually in the bins.
I saw the flash for an instant, but I couldn’t move fast enough. I was drilled in the forehead with a Nerf bullet.
“Ow!” I rubbed my head and gave the boy in the window the fiercest look I could. I even gave him the middle finger.
“What? You’re shooting me! I was sleeping, and the next thing I know bubbles are in my face and my freaking eyes!”
I spied below, and the people who had been loitering there had moved on. I held my gun out. “If you were sleeping, how’d the bubbles get in your eyes? Your lids would have been closed.”
The new kid was lying. I could tell. He put his hand through his hair, smoothing it down. “I was trying to sleep. It’s