A Star in Every Sky, by Chloe Zeldin
February 26th. It was that kind of day where the air is cold, in a way that kind of bites. It bothered him. He doesn’t like the cold. He wanted to escape the chill and the wind, and he wanted coffee. So, he started to walk towards his favorite coffee shop- a warm haven in the cold. He walked in, and started to take off his gloves. But his hands froze mid action when his eyes met a familiar face. Not just any familiar face. Her familiar face. She was here, in his favorite coffee shop. His favorite coffee shop.
He felt anger rise in his chest. Why was she here? She lives on the other side of town. He was baffled. The anger quickly faded and was replaced by a new feeling. He noticed her hair had gotten much longer. He remembered when she cut it short for summertime; their adventures in the lake and on the beach. But it has grown all the way back now. It fell down her back like soft ocean waves. He couldn’t help but wonder... what else had grown in his absence? He then noticed her eyes were shining like the stars they would sneak out of their houses at 2 am to see. When they would go, he would just look at the stars, but she would look at him. She always told him his eyes were the only sight she wanted to see. He never really paid much attention to her eyes before. He started to wonder if they had always sparkled like this.
Her dainty hands lightly flipped a page in her book. He couldn’t tell what book it was.
All he knew was she was reading something that made her smile. It was making her smile that
same smile that creeped onto her face when her lips unlocked from his. The smile she gave when she handed him love letters. The smile whenever she told him about the places she wanted to go with him after college. That same smile. How could she smile that same smile at a book? He didn’t know why, but seeing that smile on her face was unsettling. He never knew she liked to read. He began to picture her room and recalled a tall bookshelf with various books of different sizes and colors. It was not anything he ever thought about, or noticed at all. Has she always loved to read?
The initial anger was now completely gone, but replaced by a feeling even worse. He couldn’t quite put his finger on what this new sensation was. Maybe it was regret, maybe it was the desire of the unattainable. Maybe it was jealousy, or maybe it was just a feeling that something was missing. All he knew was that it hurt. Bad. The longer he stared at her, the stronger the feeling got. Her silent beauty radiated from her sweet lips and hazel eyes; he couldn’t look away. He wondered if she has always glowed this way.
His trance of infatuation was interrupted by a shout of a name; a barista, probably. He then remembered he had come for coffee, and realized he was blocking the doorway. He walked up to the counter and ordered. He wandered over to the pick-up counter and waited for his drink. His mind began to drift, and he started to think about the way her voice sounded when she screamed as they jumped into the lake in Nevada over the summer. She shouted with the sweetest melody, and followed it with the most eccentric laugh. He couldn’t stop replaying that moment in his head.
His coffee was finally ready. He grabbed it from the counter and peered her way to see if she was looking at him too, if this feeling was mutual. She hadn’t even noticed he was there. Her eyes were glued to her book, her lips pursed in interest. He couldn’t decide if this was for better or for worse. All he knew was that this terrible horrible feeling was getting stronger, and he just couldn’t look at her any longer. It was too painful. He took one last look at her, and turned around without looking back.
He walked slowly out of the coffee shop. But then he started to jog. And then he ran. He ran as fast as he could. Down the street, around the corner, up the hill, down the block, all the way home. He stuck his key in the door, twisted it until it clicked, flung the door open, and stumbled inside. He continued down the hall into his room, his bed made for two neatly made, and two bottles of beer sitting still on the dresser. The feeling from the coffee shop had followed him all the way home. He sat on his bed with his head in his palms as he tried to calm himself. But before he knew what he was doing, his hand was reaching to open her designated drawer he still had not cleared out. He forgot about it, like he did her. Her red scarf, her lip balm, her favorite cd. It only now occurred to him that he should have returned her belongings.
He tentatively took the red scarf out of the drawer and held it up to his nose. He took a breath, and he accidentally breathed her in. It was just vanilla with a hint of lavender, but it took him somewhere. The feeling in his heart was too much; it was too powerful and consuming for confinement. The feeling hiked up his throat, to his eyes, and came out as water. Large droplets of water, falling fast. The tears rushed out like a waterfall. He could not remember the last time he cried. But this was not just crying. No, this was sobbing. This was falling apart when you thought you were completely together.
In the midst of his breakdown he could feel everything come back. The sound of her voice cracking on the other side of the line as she begged him to stay, the ringing of his sadistic chuckle echoing in the hallway after he hung up while she was still bawling, the confirmation alert on his phone that her number had successfully been blocked, and the irritation of his eyes as the smoke from the fire in which he burned all her letters fogged his vision. The wall he had built around his heart that allowed him to be numb to anything that could hurt him came crumbling down. With her scent coursing through him, he could vividly envision her in his head, and for the first time it made him feel something.
The overwhelming feeling he still could not name became stronger and stronger. What is it, what the hell is this? He didn’t know. He didn’t know why he suddenly missed her now after all this time. He thought that their love story was over, that their journey was done. He didn’t understand. He didn’t know why he didn’t hold onto her for dear life and treat her how she deserved to be. After seeing her and feeling that awful feeling, he now knew. She is the star in every sky. Every time he lets his calculated rough exterior break for just a moment and looks to the stars for answers, he will see her. And he will feel that feeling he still cannot name.