At the Stars was written in fits and starts over the course of years, and it is a very special story to me.
A GIRL TRYING TO LEAVE HER PAST BEHIND
I was a normal teenager who loved music and dancing, until the day I experienced a brutal attack in my favorite record store. A few years later when my mom succumbed to depression and took her own life, I couldn’t stay in my hometown with all the memories and the curious stares. I decided to get in my car and just go – except my car decided it was done going outside a tiny place called Evergreen Grove. That’s where I found Jake. Or I guess Jake found me.
A GUY WHO CAN’T LET HIS GO
For the last eight years, all I can think about is the day I ended another man’s life. Then I manage to save Cassie’s, and I feel like maybe I’ve got some kind of second chance. To do what I couldn’t before, or maybe even for something bigger. Something like love. If only I could feel like I deserve her…
I gotta be honest, it’s one hell of a rush staring down a tractor trailer in the rain.
So much of one I can hardly breathe as hot, heavy drops batter my prickly skin. I swear even with the truck’s horn blaring at me, I can hear every freaking beat of my heart. Really hear it, like that whoosh – whoosh – whoosh sound is rushing into my ears through a set of quality headphones.
I feel… alive. Free, like I haven’t been since maybe ever.
I spread my arms out to my sides, laughing. That high-pitched, throat-searing, I’m-totally-cracked sort of laughter that you hear from crazy cartoon villains. Because I am. Crazy, I mean. Not in the wearing tinfoil helmets to protect myself from government mind-control kind of way, but, you know.
Crazy in the staring-down-a-semi-in-the-rain-at-night kind of way.
Honestly. I’m not out here in the middle of the road trying to die. I just… needed to remember what it was like. Staring that possibility in the face.
The truck horn blares again. Adrenaline surges inside me. God, this is nuts. I need to move.
I’m about to, when I hear the yell.
“Jesus, what the fuck is wrong with you?”
It’s late and dark, and I’m startled enough that at first I can’t tell where the shouting is coming from. It nearly sends me a mile up in the air.
I finally command my feet to move, but then something—someone—tackles me from the side. I land in a squelchy patch of wet grass by a busted fence on the far side of the road. Half on top of the extremely large guy who shoved me.
The tractor trailer rumbles past. I can’t understand what the driver shouts as he goes by, but I’m sure I can fill in the blanks. Stupid bitch.
Certainly, I’ll agree this is not my finest hour.
Then it’s like one of those things like you see in movies: I’m trying to get off of him, the guy who grabbed me. We’re both wet and so is the grass so I keep slipping. He’s trying to help me so the whole thing is a mess of grabbing hands and apologies and foreheads clunking into each other. I’m thinking if this was a movie and not my life, it might be the comedy portion where everyone points and laughs.
“Would you stop struggling and let me help you up?” Okay, he doesn’t sound like he finds any of this funny.
Cover photography by Michael Stokes
Cover design by Babski Creative Studios
Cover model – Adam Von Rothfelder