“The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes” by Marina Shugrue

Every morning I look in the mirror and hope for a different reflection. The problem with makeup is that it doesn’t cover every scar. And I’ve got a lot of those on my face. When I was little, my sister accidentally made me trip into this small bonfire we were burning in the backyard, ‘cause we were playing tag and she was It and I was running away, and, well. I fell in face-first, and I’ve been scarred ever since.

I don’t mind the scars, though. I’m used to them. They just make my skin look a bit plastic-y, and kind of wrinkled. Most of the redness is gone, since the accident was over ten years ago. What gets me are the looks from strangers, sometimes sympathetic, mostly fearful. One time this kid stopped dead in the street, right on Sunset, just stopped dead before jumping back and screaming. I tried explaining that I just have skin that doesn’t do a good job of being skin, but it made no difference; he ran away before my deformity spread to him. I felt my heart sink, then it just went all numb and indifferent, and I went to my class heavier.

Today I’m at the doctor’s again; I’m always getting sick ‘cause illness spreads like wildfire on campus. I’m sitting in one of the plush chairs waiting for Doctor Beatty, trying not to think about all of the sick people who’ve sat in this exact chair today. There’s on other person in the lobby which I hope means it’s been a slow day here. He sits facing me, slumped back in the chair, with the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up over his head. He looks like he’s trying to become his chair.

A clock in the office chimes three o’clock. The boy lifts his head, revealing a large scar that arches from the center of his forehead to the middle of his cheekbone, going around his eye. Our eyes meet briefly. I glance down quickly.

I sit in silence, glancing at the boy every so often. He’s staring at me. Probably wondering what’s up with my skin. Probably thinks I’m hideous. I fidget in my seat. Wish he’d look somewhere else.

“I can see you, you know,” I tell him.

He chuckles. “I can see you too.”

I shift my shirt around, covering up as much of my skin as possible.

“Do people ever ask you what happened?” he asks.

“Yeah, all the time,” I say. “Even strangers.”

“Sucks, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

I look at his scar in more detail. It’s fresh; the bright, angry red contrasts sharply with his dark skin, like the red stripe of a rainbow’s been embedded into his skin.

“Does it stop? The questions?” he asks.

“I’ve been getting them for about thirteen years, so no, they don’t.”

He nods, touching his scar. He stands up, changing his seat to the one next to me. He smells good, like the forests back home in Maine.

“I’m Taye.”

“Astrea.”

It’s quiet. I fidget my fingers, looking anywhere but Taye. I don’t know why he sat next to me. Most people see me and walk the other way.

“I have a weird question for you,” he says.

I instantly panic, and I can’t get words to come out of my mouth, so I nod instead.

“Would you allow me to touch your skin?”

“What?” I whisper.

“May I feel it?”

I think my heart stops. And I don’t know why, but I nod my head, agreeing to his proposal. My mouth is dry and ashy as he reaches for my face.

“Can you feel that?”

I shake my head. “Not really.”

I feel the pressure of his hand, that there is a weight and a life surging through the tips of his fingers, and I know that something is resting against my cheek, but it has no texture. No temperature. As far as I am concerned, there is no way to tell when my skin stops and his begins.

Slowly, I see his hands move down the column of my neck. How strange it must feel under his palms. I put my scarred hands on top of his, surrounding him with ruined skin. He reaches the bottom of my neck and slides just under my shirt, grabbing my shoulders. I’ve never let anyone touch me like this, and my heart’s trying to bust out of my body. If I could blush, I’d be bright red right now. Any second he’ll pull away. Tell me I’m gross. He’s fine now but he’ll panic soon.

“Did you know you have stars in your eyes?” he asks, looking right at me, right through me, past all the pieces I don’t like.

“No,” I whisper.

He smiles. “You do. Stars in your eyes.”

I take a deep breath, trying to calm my heart. I feel seen.

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