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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Star
 
        
 
by Cezarija Abartis            
 

"The end of the matter is in the beginning," Star said.
 
   "Huh?"
 
   "I mean it’s always present at the start, at the birth."

   "Honey darlin, don’t talk about things you don’t understand." His eyes lingered on the red-haired woman bringing beer to the next table.

   Star banged her glass on the counter. "I understand us perfectly well. I understand you boffed that waitress. I understand you boffed her sister. I understand you’ll never change. What I don’t understand is why I thought you could change."

   "Someone’s been telling you stories. Somebody jealous of what we have."

   "Even now, even now you’re not telling the truth."

   "Honey darlin"–and here his innocent blue eyes opened wide–"honey darlin, you’re the only one. You’re my needle in the haystack. You are my Star. I am so lucky." He reached for her soft hands.

   "I almost believe you." She sat back on the barstool and put her hands around her glass of red wine, the color of poisoned love, she thought. "Why do I need to believe you? What is wrong with me?"
 
   "Nothing's wrong with you. You’re perfect, that’s why I love you. Now let’s dance to this. 'Stand By Your Man' is playing. What? What? No, I didn’t request it. Blame fate." He raised his hands like a holdup victim.

   "I haven’t finished my wine." He looked beautiful as a rose in his cowboy shirt. He once made her happy. He lifted her out of a many-armed embracing despair and told her she was smart and beautiful and funny when she needed to hear that. They drove to Mexico and he    "There’s a hatpin holding it on. Be careful, or I’ll pull it out and stick you. I can make you bleed. Be careful. Be very careful." Star finished her glass of wine. showed her a new world, but now they were back home. The music thumped in her chest.

   "I love your hat. Very sweet and old-fashioned–like you. What do you call that style?" His eyes searched behind her in the dim, enclosing light. The red-haired waitress brought a basket of chips to the table across the room.

   "Nothing. A cloche. It belonged to my mother. My father bought it for her before he abandoned us."

   "Now, now, honey darlin. That was another lifetime. Don’t dwell on the past. Look to the future. It’s going to be beautiful, I can tell."

   "Remember? This is where we met. This is where we said we’d be in love forever. And you were already involved with her sister." Star motioned in the redhead’s direction.

   He shrugged. "Take off your jacket. Take off your hat."

   Star gave a quick sharp smile, removed her jacket, and hung it over the back of the barstool. She wore a gauzy red blouse.

   "The hat too."

   "I thought you liked it."

   He brushed at the rim with the back of his hand. "It won’t come off."

Logic

by Cezarija Abartis 


The room unfurled and swirled and curled around Alice.
If she could make it to the bathroom and then come back she thought she might wait out the flashing lights and swerving windows and be able to walk out of The Eden. How her friends could have left her she did not know.

   Wait, there at the end of the counter, was Mariette, leaning into a big guy whose shoulders shook with laughter at what she said. Dolores appeared beside Alice and asked, “Are you all right?” Her green, deep eyes were her best feature, and now they were sharp as razors, anxious and narrow in the purple light.  “Are you all right?”

   “Probably.” 
 
   It was her twenty-first birthday, and her roommates had taken her out to this bar. She was wearing her favorite jeans and the ivory bracelet her grandmother had given her for her First Communion. In her pocket was the lace handkerchief Cody gave her last year. She held her head in both hands for a minute to stop the spinning and drank the espresso that Dolores put in front of her. She figured she would still be drunk, but wide awake.

   They had sworn off men for the evening. Alice wadded the handkerchief damply in her hand. At the end of the counter, beside the laughing guy, Mariette winked at Alice and Dolores. Dolores brought her another espresso. “Drink this, Allie.”

    The neon lights flashed “Drink” and “Eat” and “Coors” and “Budweiser.” Through the open door, she could see the smoky twilight tunneling off to a storm cloud. The music throbbed in her chest. The espresso tasted earthy and bitter. Cody loved espresso, Turkish coffee, American coffee, even instant coffee. "I like to be awake," he said. She liked to be asleep, she told him. She pressed the handkerchief flat on the counter with her fingers.

    She had a logic test tomorrow. She would flunk it. Her head ached. “All men are mortal. Socrates was a man. Better Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. Therefore Socrates was a pig.” Cody made her laugh when he talked like that. When Cody was alive. What was the logic there, Professor Aristotle?

   He sat beside her in Intro to Philosophy last year, and then she sat beside him in the hospital. And then he was mortal.

   Mariette was bringing the laughing guy to join them. Dolores patted Alice's hand. “It will be all right.” Her eyes belied her promise. “It will be all right.”
but informative.