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Bret Zawilski

Fiction Workshop 1

Professor Maddox-Hafer

20 January 2004

By Starlight

“Aren’t you cold yet?”

Amy wasn’t a person to be easily annoyed by most standards, but every day John managed to do something that got under her skin.  The stars overhead shimmered faintly, and it would’ve been a relaxing sight if it hadn’t been for the ass beside her, who whined constantly.  She ignored his latest remark and went back to searching for constellations.  It did nothing to slow his endless braying.

“How long till this starts?”

Amy shrugged.  “Maybe an hour.”

“I’ll be frozen solid by then.”

“Just as long as your mouth freezes shut,” she mumbled.

Unfortunately John heard the comment and launched himself into a furor of moping.  That had to be his most refined talent, and it could be annoying as hell.  Even if they went inside, she knew John would press forward in his moping.  No matter what they did, it was always the same routine.  Of course he would have no idea what they should do, she’d suggest something, and he would bitch about it the rest of the night.  You could call it one of those cosmic patterns that never changed, but the thought of his actions mattering in that large a sense was far too funny.

Pay attention to me, John was saying, wordlessly.

Go to Hell, she retorted with a strong glare.

Low in the sky, near a dimly glowing horizon, a bright streak flared into existence and drew a small line behind it, which faded moments later.  Even self-centered John gaped at the sight of it and forgot himself for an instant before continuing his Vigil of Pity. 

“There’s another,” John exclaimed, pointing to the east.

Amy followed his gesture and caught the last fading moments of the shooting star.  John looked very smug for a moment, almost as though he was gloating that he’d spotted it first.  Suddenly she realized that she was feeling very bitter, and couldn’t single out a reason for it.  Of course John was the cause, but she didn’t know why.

What had happened to those nights when they’d stayed up all night under the stars, trading stories and warm kisses?  Now they just stood there; both of them miserable and seething inside.  Whatever spark they’d nurtured in summer had sputtered and died by the time winter arrived to stake its claim.  Yet there was nothing so strange about failed romance.  It wasn’t nearly as fantastic as in the movies; it was the usual.

Another streak crossed the sky, higher this time, and much brighter.  She would have been in awe had her stomach not been gnawing away at her so ferociously.  It bothered her that they couldn’t talk anymore. Sometimes it felt like they’d shared all their stories and were out of material, but once upon a time they’d actually discussed things.  All those big questions, such as the meaning of life, thrilled her, and they had talked through the night about it all.  Now just the thought of it was painful.

“Hey, hon.” His hand snuck its way to her shoulder and squeezed lightly.  “You about ready to head in?”

Gently she tried to shirk him off, but he was holding her tighter than she’d suspected.  Amy shook her head and tried not to even look in his direction.  “It’s barely started.”

“You see one, you’ve seen them all.”

“Just shut up,” she said, louder than intended.

Instantly his hand fled from her and she could sense his hurt without even seeing his face.  For a moment she regretted the words, but no apology escaped her lips.

“Not like you have to be a bitch all the time,” he scolded.

Surprisingly she barely felt the force of his words.  Maybe she was a bitch, but she was long past caring.  All she felt now was a dull pain in her stomach that she’d known for months.

Amy turned around and faced him.  She met his gaze, trying to read his blank eyes, but that had always been a hopeless effort.  Did he feel the same, or could he just pretend that nothing between them really mattered?

There was nothing but silence all around them, and she could hear the sound of his breath.  For a brief moment his spirits flared, and hers followed along, but again he asked, “Can we go inside?”

She stared at him, feeling only traces of anger, which was surprising.  Instead of flying into a rage as she would normally do, Amy shook her head slightly and allowed the smallest of smiles to touch her lips.  But she was far from being happy.

“Goodbye, John.”

Amy waited for some kind of reaction, but there was none.  Of course a faint look of shock crossed over his features, but it disappeared in another moment, leaving him nodding slightly.  The breach between them was already too great to cross, and a pang of sadness ran through her.  Slowly she backed away, then began walking out further into the field.  John stood in the same spot for at least a minute before making his way out of the clearing.

Again she turned her eyes to the sky, and caught another glimpse of a shooting star as it made its inevitable path overhead.  The image was faintly blurred by a few stray tears, for which she quickly scolded herself.  Relief filled her, intermingled with a dim sadness.  It was a feeling she wouldn’t be able to shake off soon.  The dark night sky was a silent witness and offered no counsel, but the stars closed round her and gave her some small measure of solace.