What the Stars Do

After my lover fell asleep, right in the face of my new red thong panties, I left the hotel and wandered outside. So much for dating older men.

A hot wind gusted through the treetops, though the air near the ground was dead still. Branches cracked up high, electric, like a coming storm. It was the kind of sound that made you want to do something you’d regret.

The fir trees glowed blue—the moon was almost full. I’d heard a news story once about a man in Russia who had drawn up plans and made calculations for a missile that would spin the moon in its orbit so that the other side would face the earth and give us something new to look at.

I’d wondered about that. What kind of person got sick of the moon? What about the stars? The moon, at least, was a shape shifter. The stars never formed new constellations.

The world piled around me in layers as I walked. The sky was clear and free, and the treetop layer hung below it, windy and dense. Below that, I stood on the hot concrete driveway, my insides compressed so tightly I thought I might collapse. Stars did that. You had your supernovae, exploding into light and heat before forming a black hole; others simply shrunk and cooled until, at some point when no one was looking, they disappeared. Brown dwarves.

I kept walking. There was a bar at the edge of Main Street with live music blaring out and though I was underage and looked it, no one gave me a hard time about going inside.

Everything was a little dirty; even the music sounded grimy. Ratty notes buzzed from a synthesizer and the singer’s voice was ragged, like his vocal cords were decayed. The sound rubbed against my skin. Rough, like being licked all over by cats.

I ordered a beer. It was frosty and too full to pick up, so I sucked at the foam before lifting it with both hands. I imagined I was sipping a magic potion, one that would make every man in the room fall madly in love with me.

I caught the eye of a woman. She was familiar. Then I realized—she looked like me. Her hair was shorter, but her eyes and button nose were replicas of mine.

It’d be nice meet my doppelganger, I thought. A fairy godmother who could make it all better with a few magic words.

Then she was standing up, walking over to the bar. She stopped beside me. “Got ID?”

I mumbled something about having left it at the hotel.

“Sorry kid, but you gotta jet. Can’t take chances these days. You might be under cover for all I know.”

“Sure, I understand,” I said.

“Go somewhere you belong,” she said, her expression tired.

My face burned. I slid off my stool as she called to the bartender, and only when I had stepped out into the fresh air did I realize that up close, she had looked nothing like me.

Kelly Luce is an MFA-dropout currently working as a billionaire’s nanny in Silicon Valley. She was a finalist for the Indiana Review Fiction Prize in 2006; other work of hers has appeared in Fourteen Hills, The Cafe Review, Review Americana, Common Ties, and Alimentum: The Literature of Food. She lives in the woods.