The Two Stars Collision is available for pre-order on Amazon: http://mybook.to/two-stars-collision
The travel slumber in the bus from the airport brought the sweetest half-dream I’d ever dreamed. He, though I couldn’t tell who he was, walked between the seats and his hand brushed against my shoulder, startling me awake. He blurted an apology before our eyes met, and we both blushed.
Yet, when I opened my eyes, he wasn’t there. Just a dream. The bus engine hummed and a couple of girls behind me giggled at a video which played loudly on one of their phones.
I closed my eyes and pictured turning around and giving them a piece of my mind. “Don’t you know how rude you’re being?” I would ask them. “Oh, was that loud? We’re so sorry,” they would say; and I could go back to dreaming about the blushing boy whose hand had brushed against my shoulder.
Instead, I pursed my lips and looked out the window. It was another twenty minutes before I got off the bus and hauled my luggage up the stairs of a small, rundown apartment building where Sheila and I lived.
As I dropped my suitcase and duffel bag by my sides and fumbled for my keys, experiencing a quick panic attack at the surreal thought of having lost the keys, the door flew open, and Sheila swung a bottle of something transparent with a massive eighteenth-century ship painted on the label.
“Happy twenty-first, Boo,” she shouted.
“I see a quarter of that drink missing,” I said as Sheila pulled me into a hug. “Should I even ask?”
“Darling, I’ve been here for seven hours already,” she explained. “You’re lucky it’s only a quarter.” She handed me the bottle. “Happy birthday. Here’s three quarters of your gift and before you ask, we’re splitting it in half.”
I barked out a laugh as she hugged me once again, squeezing the last of the air out of my lithe body. “Thanks,” I gasped. “Th… That’s enough… I’m suffocating…”
Sheila let go of me and helped me drag my luggage inside the apartment. Our rooms were shoe-box tiny, exactly across from one another, with a narrow hallway leading to the third room which tripled as living room, dining room, and kitchen. To the left was a little bathroom one had to squeeze in when using. It would have cost me an arm and a leg had Sheila’s dad not offered to help us out with the rent. She was the only child and I had been her best friend since kindergarten, so Mr. Brooks was more than happy to help if it meant the two of us would be together. He was even happier when he learned I was gay with zero interest in Sheila in that way.
She tucked away my luggage in my bedroom, dropping the duffel on the single bed and leaving the suitcase in front of my desk. “I hate you for not letting me organize a party.”
I sighed internally. A party? As if she could find more people to invite than the two of us. Maybe my Dungeons and Dragons buddies would come, but that would result in a four-hour game where Sheila had little to do. In fact, I hated that my birthday coincided with the start of the semester weekend because it meant I was among people who thought birthdays were special days in need of fanfare.
I was twenty-one and did not need a reminder. At this age, everyone else had had a relationship or two under their belt, big groups of friends, and walked around like they owned the whole city.
“You won’t hate me for too long,” I said, my eyes on the bottle. “What is that even?”
“Gin. Pure and perfect.” She handed it to me and dragged me to the living room, turned up the volume on her portable speaker, and set two glasses on the small table. “You never forget your first.”
My right eyebrow shot up as I held back a smile. “Are you sure? I think people tend to forget a lot when they do shots.”
“Ah, you’ve got much to learn, my young Padawan.”
I burst out laughing. “First of all, you’re only two months older, so shut it. Second, since when do you quote Star Wars?”
Her eyes narrowed, signaling some unholy thing she was about to unveil. “Since I researched a gift for you.” She jumped off the sofa and pranced to her bedroom, then carried over something solid and rectangular covered with a twice-folded bed-sheet. She set it on the couch and put the hem into my hand. As I tugged the corner to reveal it, eyes wide open and heart pounding at the gesture, Sheila jerked away. “Wait.” She handed me a glass of gin and raised hers. “To the sweetest Boo in Bootown. May you live a hundred years more and may the Force be with you.”
Our glasses clinked together and we drained the gin. I couldn’t tell which caused my eyes to tear, the gin or the sheer, unfiltered love this girl had for me. “Sheila, I…”
“Shut up and look what I got you,” she said.
My heart dropped to my stomach as I pulled the bed-sheet away. As soon as it dropped, my hand let go of the hem and slapped my mouth. Tears shot to my eyes as I stared at the framed promo poster for Episode III with Anakin and Obi-Wan wielding their lightsabers; the lava of the fiery world of Mustafar menacing in the background. Over the brightest spots of lava at the bottom edge, in black sharpie, there were signatures of Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor.
My head jerked away and I covered my face. “You did not!”
Sheila cackled and poured us another shot. “You bet your sweet ass I did.”
I turned around, the initial shock passing through me, eyelids blinking fast to chase away the tears. “I don’t even know… I mean…” My mouth gaped open as I inspected the poster again, then looked into Sheila’s bright eyes. “I don’t deserve you.” Then I frowned. “When the hell did you do this?”
She bit her lip. “June. It doesn’t matter, I’m just happy you love it.”
“Love can’t even come close to what I…” That was when my mouth went wonky and I forgot what words were for. Instead, I hugged her as tightly as she’d hugged me at the entrance. “Thank you.” As I cleared my throat and sipped on gin, I said, “I owe you big time.”
“About that,” she said with a wicked smile. “I was thinking we could go to the start of the semester party and celebrate there. It’ll be fun, I promise.”
My face heated up. A party? In a club full of college students? And me? Sheila would fit right in because she fit in everywhere, but I wasn’t that gifted. I’d never been to a club, let alone a student party. Those things were huge and all I felt were needles in my stomach.
Then I looked at the poster again. Episode III was my absolute favorite movie of all time and for as long as I could remember, I went between crushing on Anakin to crushing on Obi-Wan. I could even remember a time I crushed on both of them at once and felt guilty about my inability to choose. To the closeted teenager who could only ever imagine a relationship with a fictional character, it wasn’t so crazy to be guilty about betraying said character by crushing on another fictional character; and that summed up all my high-school years.
“Fine,” I growled. “I’ll go to the party.”
Sheila squealed and emptied her glass, but I couldn’t match that pace for the life of me. I licked my gin and frowned. The first shot was taking effect and it felt like my muscles relaxed a little. Everything seemed a bit lighter and I had a strong urge to laugh out loud.
“I gotta wash off the travel stink and we are set to go,” I said and took a deep breath. I was going to a party and the words kept rattling through my head, refusing to sink in. The shower was clumsier than most due to that one shot and a lick of gin, so I stumbled out of the bathroom and had a tall glass of water to clear my head. I was far from drunk, maybe… Truth was, I couldn’t even tell. This was the first time I’d tasted alcohol in my life.
Sheila was ready to go when I rushed to my bedroom with nothing but a towel around my waist. As the door closed and I bent to open my suitcase, the towel dropped to the floor and my ears heated up. Pull yourself together. You’re alone in your room. You can be naked. Still, I hurried to find my boxer-briefs and put them on, then dug through the suitcase for anything I could find that looked like it could pass at a party.
Just as I finished dressing up and put on cologne, the knock came. “Did you fall asleep, Boo?”
I opened the door and found a beaming smile of approval. Sheila cocked her head to the side, then ruffled my hair. “You don’t want to be too neat.”
All I could do was blink in confusion, then nod and follow her out. The party was at the club closest to the campus. The club had some awful name like Okay! or YASSS and I could already picture the night ahead. Everyone would get drunk if they were legally allowed to; all those jocks would crash the party, get all sweaty, and talk about football, basketball, soccer, and whatever, over the deafening music. Folks would go home with girls or guys in their arms and I would go home with Sheila eagerly anticipating Monday so my actual life could begin.
Boy, was I wrong. As we entered the club, the music was way louder than I’d expected and it made my entire body shake at every beat and drop, the screeching of the auto-tuned trap made me cringe, and the air was a thousand degrees hotter than outside even though the place seemed to be air-conditioned.
Sheila dragged me by my elbow and got us the last unoccupied table with a total of zero chairs around it. A group of people stood around the tables to all our sides and I felt like I was surrounded in enemy territory. Though dim and full of artificial smoke, the lasers cutting through the air revealed a few faces, none of which I recognized. Not a single Physics or Math student was present.
To say I was a fish out of water would have been the understatement of the era. I was so out of water that I could feel an eagle’s claws in my back dragging me to the heights never before seen by the figurative fish.
Sheila yelled at the waiter for two gin and tonics and he yelled back to confirm the order, then she yelled at me to say I would love it, and I didn’t yell because I stood no chance against the music.
Finally, after our orders had arrived, the music took a sudden shift toward Lady Gaga’s golden days of music which I was secretly familiar with. I would be double damned if I let anyone know that dirty little secret, but as Bad Romance came on, my heart inflated and I grinned so wide not even the glass pressed against my lips could hide it.
Sheila nodded her approval and let out the loudest WOOHOOO in the history of woohooos, raised her glass high, and cheered me on. As I raised my glass and shifted my weight from one foot to another, the whole night got ruined. I accidentally crossed paths with a fierce blond girl who bumped into me. The glass flew out of my grip and the cocktail I’d barely tasted rained down on us both.
The girl screeched and slammed her hand against our table, fire blazing in her eyes. “What the hell? Watch your steps, nerd! You ruined my favorite top. GAWD!”
I opened my mouth to apologize, but no sound came out. All I could do was stare at her while my cheeks burst aflame, wishing the ground would open and swallow me whole.
She screamed from the top of her lungs one more time, then stormed off through the dancing crowd.
I looked at Sheila for a sliver of encouragement, but found none as her jaw had hit the table when all the mess had happened. She stared at me and I realized that the bitter cocktail with a sour kick trickled down my face and dripped from my chin, my shirt completely soaked, my hands sticky. “I… I’m sorry…”
Sheila burst out laughing from the top of her lungs, her head falling back, hands holding her stomach.
Feeling nothing but mortifying embarrassment, I turned around to check if every pair of eyes was on me. To my relief, nobody gave a damn about it, except one tall, broad-shouldered guy with a painful cringe expression on his face. He was wading through the crowd in our direction and I glanced left and right to check if he was simply approaching someone near us, but he wasn’t. He kept looking at me apologetically until he stopped one pace away from me.
The stunning physique, the dirty blond hair, and the strong jaw on this guy cut my breaths short.
The cringe expression melted away by the warmth of his amused grin. “Hello there.”
Don’t say it.
Don’t say it.
Don’t say it.
“General Kenobi,” I said.
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