The Second Star
Marcus was plugging in our new alarm clock when I noticed his tattoo. He was wearing a thin white T-shirt and I could see the star, small and blue, through it.
“What’s this?” I asked and swept my hand over his back.
“I’ve had it a week,” he said. He pushed the nightstand back against the wall. The new alarm clock still flashed twelve.
Over the next few days, I thought about getting a tattoo myself. I had no idea where or of what, but I was infatuated with the way that star looked on him. It was the size of a dime and right at the center of his back. At night, when we made love, I would reach around and feel for it like it was palpable, and in the morning, before the alarm went off, I would kiss him at the center of the star, in the blue space between the five points.
I noticed the second star a month later. Marcus had just gotten out of the shower, and there it was, sitting over the center of his sternum. “Another one?” I said.
There it was, sitting over the center of his sternum.
He looked down. “Now, this just can’t be,” he said and ran back into the bathroom.
The next morning he had two more stars over the lymph nodes on his neck. We both called off work and went to his doctor.
“Everything’s shipshape,” the doctor shrugged.
“What about the tattoos?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t have gotten them,” he said.
“But they weren’t there last night,” I said. “They just appeared.”
He took a step back and looked at us. “What are you two trying to pull?”
We looked at each other.
“Never mind,” Marcus said.
The doctor looked at his clipboard with great concentration, then regarded the two of us.
“You know, I’m only a dermatologist,” he said.
What are you two trying to pull?
Every morning after that, Marcus would wake and find a new star on his body. One night, I stayed up drinking coffee and watched him sleep. I wanted to see one of the stars appear suddenly, or slowly fade in, but I had work in the morning, clients who wanted my undivided attention at eight a.m.
Not long after that, Marcus lost his job at the bank. The official reason was his unprofessional appearance. Of course, his suits were pressed and his hair groomed, but by that time he had stars on his forehead and chin, one on his eyelid and on his cheek. He did not look like a man people could trust to refinance their mortgages.
I tried to take Marcus out to dinner the night he lost his job.
“Amber,” he said, “you don’t celebrate failure.”
Instead, we ate soup from a can and drank wine. Marcus barely touched his soup, but finished glass after glass of wine. We’d gone through three bottles by the time he stumbled off to bed.
He did not look like a man people could trust to refinance their mortgages.
Later, I went into our bedroom to check on him. I pulled off his jacket and pants, and saw the stars scattered across his body, up and down his chest, his arms and knees. I took a red marker from the nightstand and started numbering them. I numbered them as they appeared: first his back, then his chest, then the two on his neck. After the first thirty or so I lost the order, but I guessed as best I could. When I’d finished, I connected them all, drawing long lines from one to two, two to three, and so on. Twice Marcus shifted. He snored, and for a moment I feared he was on the verge of waking.
“Shh,” I whispered in his ear.
I kissed him on the cheek and he settled down.
And then, just when I’d connected the last two stars—from his shoulder to the nape of his neck—I saw it: a perfect, dime-sized star on the back of my hand.
“Oh, no,” I said. “Look what you’ve done.”
I numbered my star, 192, then climbed into bed, wrapping one arm around him. With my free hand, I drew a squiggly line across his body and onto mine.
Brad Eddy lives in Pennsylvania, where he writes fiction and nonfiction. He has published fiction in The Normal School, The Masters Review, The Saint Ann's Review, and elsewhere.
Illustrated by Meghan Murphy