"Stars in the Glass" - Short Story Submission

Shadows deepened as the fluorescent lights began to flicker on around the university campus, and the warmer lights shown down from the dormitory windows above.  A soft November rain began to fall as students and visitors retreated indoors.  A lone campus security guard walked briskly down the sidewalk holding a radio.  Flashlight and keys hung from his belt.  Suddenly, a young man raced by, nearly knocking the guard off his feet.  The runner barely paused, and then bolted towards the eastern edge of the university campus.  Before the guard could make pursuit, he tripped over a hidden sprinkler head.  The young man was already fading into the dusk.  The radio lay shattered and quiet along the path.

 

David Martin ran like he had never run before.  She was his first love, and now she was utterly gone.  He put out a burst of speed, but slid on some moss and nearly lost his balance.  Her blond locks of hair on porcelain skin were like a raging fire in his mind that refused to be extinguished.  He raced across Nickerson, almost hoping to be struck and killed by a speeding truck.  Unfortunately, traffic was light.  Only one Honda’s brakes squealed, and he barely noticed the blaring horn and the driver’s gestures.  The math and science building lay just ahead.

 

Why did Laura do it?  Why did she take those pills, and why did it take all day for her parents to call him—like his feelings didn’t matter?  He would never stroke her hair or kiss those warm lips again, and he could barely remember the scent of the sweet perfume she had worn on their last date to Golden Gardens.  Her laugh, oh, how he ached for the sound of her laugh!  David’s legs lost it, and he hit the pavement, nose striking the sidewalk.  A rivulet of blood streamed out and mixed with a tear, as he stifled a sob.  His head ached almost as badly as his heart.  A figure was locking the doors to the science building up ahead.  It was Dr. Jenkins, his astronomy professor.  David fished a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at his bleeding nose as picked himself up and headed for the double doors.

 

“Dr. Jenkins!” David called, running towards him.

 

“David!” Dr. Jenkins exclaimed.  “You look awful, son.  What happened to you?”

 

“I had a bike accident by the canal,” David lied.  “I just need to use the restroom and wash up, if you don’t mind.  I might stop by and check lab experiment, too.”

 

“I’ll call Campus Security for you,” the professor offered as he withdrew his cell phone from his jacket pocket.  “They’ll be here in no time.”

 

“No, please don’t do that.  I’ll be fine--really.  Could I just borrow your keycard, and I’ll return it tomorrow in class?  I already know the access code from the lab project.”

 

Dr. Jenkins glanced uneasily at his watch before making a reply.  “My wife wants to take the kids to a movie tonight, and I have to make it Mercer Island in half an hour.  Make sure you lock up and arm the system before you leave.  There may be one other faculty member still grading papers.”

 

“No problem,” David said.  “And thank you.”

 

“That’s fine.  You might want the nurse to take a look at that gash on your forehead.  It’s still bleeding.  You may need stitches, you know.  I’d hate for your parents to think we’re not taking care of our students, you know.”

 

With the front doors locked, David entered the welcoming darkness of the hallway.  Under the green light of an exit sign above, he dropped to his knees on the carpet and buried his face in his cut hands.  The sobs that racked his body had very little to do with his cuts and scrapes, but the pain began to dull slightly after crying there on the floor.  The clicking sound of a door closing somewhere caught his attention, and he leapt to his feet.  He didn’t want anyone to catch him as he was.  It was bad enough that his roommate had an inkling of what was going on; no one else needed to know.  He quietly climbed the stairs to the deserted second floor of the science building.  As far as the exact reason for his visit, David wasn’t even sure himself.  He often felt more at ease with math and science than he did with questioning people.  It just seemed like the right place to be, a place where he could lose himself in the research and leave the people behind for a time.  It was a retreat from reality, or depending upon your perspective, a return to reality.

K.E. "Stars in the Glass" - Tuscany Prize 2015 Short Story Submission



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