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My boyfriend and I bonded over our mutual love of astronomy. We met through the astronomy club, and took to calling each other after the stars. My nickname was Tegmine, after a word that meant clover. He always said I was really lucky.
It was late into the night when the strange man appeared. The full moon, far from where I was, cast little light into my dark, messy room. The man had eyes the color of the sky on sunny days, but I could see the galaxy reflected in them, the way I could see it if I looked through a telescope. There was a small mole underneath one of his galaxy-eyes, and ebony hair framed his young, unearthly face. He stepped into my room, quietly at first, and a sensation of peace settled over me, as if he had as much right to be there as I did.
“Violet,” he said, softly, as he scanned my room and saw the shattered mirror, the desk thrown across the room, and the broken picture frame sitting by my bed. He didn’t comment on them. “Do you want to be a star?”
The question was random, and I should have been caught off guard by it, but it was familiar to me, and I knew the answer well. He also knew my answer. “Who are you?” I asked, simply.
His face lit up suddenly, but I got the impression that his cheerful smile and raised eyebrows were lies. He was not smiling on the inside. “I’m Apus,” he replied, pointing at himself.
“Like the star?” I raised an eyebrow at him.
“Exactly.” He took my hand, slowly, as if careful to startle me. “I am indeed a star.” He continued to smile, but the curve of his lips looked more and more misplaced as he did. “Would you like to join me in the sky? Today’s the perfect day.”
I agreed with a slow, unsure nod. I didn’t doubt him. He came off to me as something more than human. What I doubted was his ability to make me a “star”. Apus led me out of my room and the world seemed to shrink, focus only on the young man holding my hand. When I looked up again, we were in a forest. I didn’t remember the walk down the stairs in my apartment, or how we ended up in such an unfamiliar place. The soil underneath my bare feet was wet from rain, and the trees around us looked like tall, thin humans, their branches, like arms, outstretched towards the sky. It got darker as we walked, and fear began to tangle up inside me, making the trees become deformed. They began to look like looming, evil creatures. No longer were they reaching for the sky. Instead they leaned towards me, their branches scraping against my skin and clothes. I felt my feet sink deeper into mud with every step I took, and a horrible idea occurred to me- maybe I was going the wrong way. Maybe this wasn’t the way to the sky. Maybe he had lied to me.
Apus’ grip tightened on my hand when I got the urge to turn back. “We’re almost there,” he said, calmly. The look in his eyes unsettled me, but his voice unburied a desire to trust him, and I kept walking.
We reached an opening in the middle of the forest, where a lake sat in silence, the moon large and bright in its reflection. The evilness of the trees died away, leaving a peacefulness behind us as we stepped slowly into the water. Upon feeling the rush of coldness at my feet, something inside me unhinged and I lunged backwards, startled. Apus grasped my hand so tight pain pulsed through my bones. “It’s right there,” he said, pointing at the reflection of the moon, his voice uneven now.
I closed my eyes and saw a man with a familiar, pale face, his eyes closed and his arms crossed over his chest. This was where it happened. This was the place I never wanted to return to. I left him here, alone.
“Don’t you want to see him?” Apus’ voice was loud now, to the point of yelling. He gripped my arm with a terrifying force, but he didn’t pull me forward. I stepped back, until my feet were no longer touching the water, and shook my head fiercely. My face was wet with hot tears, and in my chest was a sharp, unbearable pain. “You don’t want to see him?” Apus asked again.
My knees gave out underneath me and I sunk into the mud, shaking. “I want to.” My boyfriend and I used to talk about the “magic of stars” a lot. We had a theory that stars were really the glows of someone’s soul after they had died, and said, with childish sureness, that we would go to the sky once our time was up. He had gone up early. Without me.
“Then, come on.” Apus tried to pull me to my feet, but I refused- or rather, couldn’t- get up. “Violet?” He bent down so he could see straight into my eyes.
“He… wouldn’t want me to,” I whispered and wiped my face with the back of my hand. “I don’t want to yet either.”
Apus smiled. This time, it didn’t look wrong. This time, I recognized him. He brushed back my hair, like he used to when I had a bad day, and said, “Okay, Tegmine.” He kissed my forehead, softly.
I closed my eyes.
When I opened them, I dropped the gun that was pressed against my temple and got out of bed for the first time since he’d left.
I picked up the broken picture frame by my bed and dusted glass shards off the photo. My chest welled up with warm, immense thankfulness as I kissed the picture, where his mole was, underneath his galaxy-eyes.