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Stars Will Fade
Mary was the kind of girl who turned the volume all the way up and thrashed her head madly about, her unruly purple hair flying in as many directions as there were androgynous lead singers pinned up on her bedroom walls. Moderation, to her, was never a concept that hindered the application of mascara or the number of belts she wore with a particular outfit. She set aside at least five minutes every morning to lock herself in the bathroom and survey her carefully crafted exterior in the mirror. From the artfully abandoned roots of her hair to the distressed soles of her neon pink Chuck Taylors, Mary was what many experts in the field refer to as a bad a**.
The rhythmic thwangs and booms of a vintage electric guitar echoed down the hallway from Mary's room and could be heard that night from as far away as her parents bedroom near the kitchen. Lynn, her half asleep mother, couldn’t help but tap her feet between the sheets and the comforter. Mary had draped herself over the antique chair she rescued from the dumpster area behind her chic lesbian aunt Linda’s apartment building. She played anything and everything that came to mind. She was sipping a diet coke that tasted remarkably like vodka and playing “Silly Cat Song”, her own creation, when her cell phone started vibrating in her pocket. Startled, she hit the wrong note. Carefully placing the guitar up against the wall, she pulled out her phone and pushed the green answer button as she walked toward the bathroom.
“Hey Lucas,” she said as she examined her stylish tangle in the mirror, “I was wondering when you’d call. Are we still hanging out tonight?”
“Are you drunk?”
“Naw, I’m good,” she slurred.
“Are you all right to walk down to the bridge by yourself or do you need me to come pick you up?” he inquired.
“I’m just a little buzzed.”
“It is getting kind of late, maybe we could put it off till another time” he offered.
“I'm fine. I just want to get my crunk on, ya dig?”
“I guess I’ll see you there.”
He hung up the telephone. Mary always looked forward to her late night rendezvous with Lucas under the abandon bridge that hid between two strip malls on the highway. When having a social life prevented her from having any real friends, she found solace in the hours they spent squirreled away under that bridge. She grabbed her personal effects from the top of her stereo cabinet and stealthily moved toward her window. She knew her parents wouldn’t really care if she went out, but there was a certain rush involved in being sneaky. She climbed out the window and tiptoed through her yard toward the side walk. As she walked down her street toward a larger one that would take her to a highway she admired the carefully trimmed shrubs in the yards she passed and thought about how much fun she was going to have that night. She never knew exactly what to expect on nights like these, but she knew that illicit substances would be consumed.
Lucas was waiting for her as she climbed down the embankment towards the cavern under the bridge. He held a bottle of something amber in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Mary paused for a moment and admired the way he leaned against the concrete. She watched the dark spots of his eyes and wondered what he was thinking. Mary remembered that, when they had been better friends, he was always saying thoughtful things. She wondered why they never hung out anymore except for scattered meetings under homeless bridge.
“Well hey there,” she said as she approached the concrete slab where he sat, “Long time no see.”
“Are you ready to get plastered,” she asked as notes of excitement crept into her voice.
“Ready when you are,” he answered.
She sat beside him for a few moments. Silence filled the space between them. Lucas unscrewed the bottle cap and took the first large gulp, then passed it to her. She swallowed as much of the vile tasting stuff as she could and then belched loudly. It went back and forth this way for a time until all the liquor had been consumed. Lucas pulled a small envelope out of the pocket of his jacket and inhaled the contents through his nose.
“Do you want some?” he whispered offering it to her.
“No thank you.”
Mary had no idea what was in the envelope, but judging by the look of madness creeping into every muscle on his face and his shrinking pupils, it wasn’t good. Soon after, Lucas's muscles began jerking and he passed out. Mary looked at his face and tried to remember it before he had started partying so much. There were premature lines criss crossing it now like some sort of grotesque roadmap. She felt them creeping into hers every day. All of a sudden, she felt nauseous. She crawled toward the bushy weeds at the end of the concrete slab to vomit. She did, again and again until she passed out.
There was a noise moving closer in the alcoholic fog Mary found herself in. It took her a few seconds to recognize it as the crunching of gravel. Bracing herself for the inevitable flood of blood to her head, she blearily sat up and looked around. A homeless man was making his way toward her along the bed of the mostly-dry creek. His eyes shone through his matted, chest length beard with what can only be described as purpose. Mary stared, mezmerized by the dark gems peering out from under the brim of a tophat that had clearly seen better days. The man stopped when he realized she was looking at him.
“I’ve seen your kind before, and it doesn’t take long,” he said.
“Do what now?” she mumbled.
“There’s still stars in your eyes and hope in your heart. Those stars will fade my dear. I've seen it before.”
He stumbled away into the night. Mary, shaken by whatever it was that had just happened crawled toward the nearest puddle of almost-stagnant creek water to splash some cool liquid on her face. As she stared at her reflection she began to weep uncontrollably. She knew what the homeless man had said was true and as she stared she saw herself as she would be in years to come. Heavy sobs rose from the deepest parts of her and traveled up her spine as she saw her eyes fade into a dull watery color and wrinkles stretched themselves across her face. She fell, panting, to one side and vomited once more. A solemn promise to herself never to drink again was the last thing she heard before she passed out again on the gravelly bed of that creek. What a bad a**.