The Cosmos This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

“I hate my freckles,” she says.

We’re on our backs on the roof of her car. Her honey blonde hair is tangled with her necklace, falls smoothly over the sides of the car and away from sight. The weatherman said it was supposed to be only seventy degrees this afternoon, but it’s definitely bordering eighty at this point. She’s wearing shorts that proudly show off her skinny legs and knobby knees, the developing sunburn on her thighs, the little scar on her left ankle. One arm is thrown haphazardly over my stomach; another leg is tangled between mine. It’s too hot outside for friendly cuddling, and I want to tell her so, but she is so nice to look at that I have to hold my tongue and keep quiet.

She says it casually, so about five minutes pass before my brain catches up and processes what I’ve just heard. I look down at her- she’s wedged her chin into the space between my neck and shoulder, I never knew that could hurt so much- and try to make sense of it. This is how we feel when a girl we like complains about her looks; we want to grab her by the shoulders, shake her hard and scream 'I have never known someone so beautiful inside and out' until she finally gets it. I don’t like her like that- not that much, anyway- but shaking her like a rag doll probably wouldn’t win me any brownie points in her book.

Her hair parts crookedly in the middle of her scalp. Why do I find that fascinating? “I don’t understand,” I tell the crooked part in her hair. “I like your freckles. They’re kind of pretty.”

She sighs. Her chin digs just a little more into my neck, and I am mentally kicking myself- 'kind of pretty, oh, you’re really laying on the charm'- and crying in pain. “Because,” and she’s probably rolling her eyes here, “I have way too many of them. And they’re everywhere. And basically, I look gross.”

I roll off to one side, sit up straight, and pull her towards me. She looks confused, slate grey eyes darting up from my grip on her arms to meet mine. ”What are you doing?” She asks. And I reply, “I'm going to show you the universe.”

It is on her, within her. There are constellations of freckles spread like maps across her body: Orion on her shoulder, the lion’s skin draped over her arm; Draco on the bridge of her nose; Gemini on the back of her neck; Hercules trailing down her spine; Andromeda on her elbow and Pegasus right above it; Ursa Major on the side of her stomach; Ursa Minor on her hip. I point these out to her as the sun beats down upon us, these galaxies embedded into her skin, and she tosses her hair and laughs.

“That’s pretty neat, but I don’t think I’ll remember all of those,” she confesses gravely. I watch her trace the Pleiades on the back of her hand. “It’s okay,” I tell her. “I’ll remember them for you.”

The sun shines brighter, and she smiles.





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