by Grace Huang
Art by Joy Song
Issue: Scintilla (Spring 2019)
School felt wrong without Anemone present—Annie, as she was better known. Her absence affected all of them deeply. It just didn’t seem right, the others claimed. Steorra swallowed down the feelings threatening to erupt out of her heart and agreed reluctantly.
“Think she’s liking Oklahoma?” Louis asked one day.
“Dude, there’s literally only cornfields and tornadoes out there. I really don’t think she would enjoy that,” Catriona answered cynically, flipping through her physics notes.
“You never know. I mean, she was always the scenic type,” Steorra commented.
Louis only let out a vaguely acknowledging grunt and returned his attention to his phone. Steorra glanced back at the romance novel she had been reading and found she couldn’t stand it anymore.
“She said she doesn’t want me to visit.”
Louis glanced over his shoulder, ensuring that Catriona was on her way to get them napkins and spoons, before rolling his eyes. “That’s dumb.”
“I don’t blame her.”
“I do. Who holds a grudge that long?”
“It’s not a grudge, Louis,” she ground out from behind her gritted teeth.
“It might as well be. You told her, what, four years ago? And she’s the one who agreed.”
Steorra swallowed back the painful memories. “Louis, stop.”
“If Annie doesn’t want me to go, I’m not going to go,” she snapped, annoyance digging into her. “And don’t call me ‘Star’ anymore.” He of all people should have known why.
“Okay, I’m sorry.” He sounded like he was talking back to his dad, but she could tell he didn’t mean it from the way he let the argument drop and helped her finish her ice cream.
If Catriona noticed their unsettling silence when she returned, she didn’t say anything.
Steorra set down of her basket of supplies on the conveyor belt and stared the registrar dead in the eyes.
“Wow. I wasn’t expecting to see you here!” she exclaimed sarcastically.
“Yeah, yeah. It’s good to see you too.” Louis rolled his eyes as he picked things out of her basket, mechanically scanning them.
“I hope you know that your office supplies are overpriced. The only reason I came here was so I could see my good friend, Louis.”
“I’m honored.” Despite the deadpan voice, she could see the slightest smile on his lips. He held up a pack of binder clips. “These are buy one, get one free. Want to get another pack?”
“I’ll get one on my way out.”
“Will do.” He dropped the pack into a plastic bag, already half-packed with the other things she’d bought. “How’s… Annie?”
“She’s good, I think. We’ve been talking a bit. She said she got a full scholarship to law school.” She felt an immense wave of gratitude for Louis’s once-lost tact having finally popped back into existence.
“Mm. Good for her.” Louis scanned her pack of pens and pushed it into the plastic bag. “How’s packing coming along?”
“Okay, I guess. It’s tiring, though.”
“I’d imagine. Thirteen forty-four.” She stuck her credit card into the machine and waited. “When’re you leaving?”
“August fourth. Next Wednesday.”
“Taking the train?”
“Mhm. From Trest Station.” The machine beeped, and she removed her credit card. He handed her a plastic bag filled with the items she’d bought and a receipt.
“I’ll see you there then, Star. Don’t forget your pack of binder clips.”
He’d forgotten he wasn’t supposed to call her Star anymore. Some traitorous part of her heart didn’t mind.
Steorra’s phone began to buzz. She finished shoving her bags into the overhead compartment and took a seat by the window as she answered the call.
“Hey, you,” Louis answered.
“You said you were going to be here and see me off.” She glanced out the window. Catriona was sitting at one of the benches at the train platform and waved once she saw Steorra. Steorra waved back.
“Someone called in sick, so I had to take their shift. I got off literally a minute ago.”
Neither of them spoke. Steorra spotted Victoria, the student council president, pushing through the crowd in an attempt to find a seat at the benches.
“I waited for you,” she finally said.
“I’m sure you did.” His oddly sincere response, which she usually would have laughed at, elicited a sense of sorrow in the back of her throat.
Silence again. Victoria had taken a seat beside Catriona and was now also waving to Steorra. She waved back before turning away from the window, staring blankly at the seat in front of her.
“I’ll miss you,” she managed to say, because she hoped he would miss her and forgive her for everything.
“I know, Star,” Louis said with a sigh, because she was certain he would and he did. “I know.”
Steorra listened to the gentle static of the phone every time he took a breath, let it hum in her ears until he told her he needed to go and there was nothing left. Her phone fell into her lap and her gaze turned to stare out the window.
With a lurch, the train sped away. She closed her eyes and left.