Note: The prompt for this was to write a story based on the first line on page 99 of the closest book, which happened to be Jean Cocteau’s L’opera.
Vous ne vous trompez pas dans vos calculs d’étoiles
Ciel glacé sur la mer
Comme je le voudrais que vous comptiez mal
A cause de l’amour.
(You don’t deceive yourself when counting stars
Sky frozen on the sea
How I would like for you to miscount
Because of love.)
- Jean Cocteau
Reggie’s doorbell buzzed. He opened the door and Stella glided in, her energetic aura already encompassing, draining his.
“Looks like the party started without me.”
Reggie hurried to clear off the couch. He’d told her his plans for this Friday night included Bukowski and a six pack, but that didn’t stop Stella. Ever since Curtis’s death the invitations to hang out had slowly dried up, from everyone except Stella.
“Don’t go to any trouble on my account.” She smiled at him, the bright smile that still confused him as to why it was directed at him, of all people.
“You would’ve loved Curtis.” He cautiously sat down on the couch next to her. Curtis was the fun one, the one with the connections that got them into the best parties, the one who made new friends with enviable ease. Reggie was the serious one, the quiet nights at home with a book one, the no one. “He — ” Two months later, it was still hard to talk about him.
“I brought a book.” Stella pulled it out of her bag, gracefully changing the subject.
Reggie glanced at the cover; some fluffy chicklit thing. He took in her perfectly imperfect hairstyle, her casual-yet-perfect outfit, her beautifully perfect smile. He took in all of her, and a wave of despair washed over him. It wasn’t something new for him. He’d always been aware of the distance between him and people like Stella and Curtis. But against all odds Curtis had been his best friend, until the end when he wasn’t, and he knew better than to press his luck. So he wrestled the wave of despair into anger, finely channeled so it wouldn’t drown him.
“Why are you here?” he asked as emotionlessly as he could muster.
“To hang out with you.” Her expression was a mix of sincerity and bewilderment.
“I told you not to come over.”
“No, you said you were reading.” She held up her book. “I can read with you.”
“That’s a stupid book.”
She looked at the cover, then took a swig of the beer he’d opened just before she arrived. “So read me yours.”
Reggie looked at the book in his hands, then at Stella. She leaned up against him and he hesitantly slipped his arm around her, then began to read aloud, his voice growing more confident as Stella’s own wave embraced him.
E.D. Martin is a writer with a knack for finding new jobs in new places. Born and raised in Illinois, her past incarnations have included bookstore barista in Indiana, college student in southern France, statistician in North Carolina, economic development analyst in North Dakota, and high school teacher in Iowa. She draws on her experiences to tell the stories of those around her, with a generous heaping of “what if” thrown in.
She currently lives in Illinois where she job hops while attending grad school and working on her novels. Read more of her stories at her website.