Stars Fell Across the Sky

They graduated from college that beautiful spring day, all of them fresh and young and hungry for the future. They threw their caps into the air and hugged each other. They couldn’t believe it was over even though it was still only the beginning, but they had done it. Not by themselves, of course. They were good upper-middle class kids graduating from a good private school. They had options, many of them heading off to prestigious Ivy League graduate programs and law schools. They shared a circle of privilege and were all destined for great things. These were the days of their lives.

Ava and Nathan were of that charmed group whose bright futures were already waiting for them in high places. Graduation was their coronation. Nathan’s parents had given him the place for the weekend and Ava fretted about who to invite. Invite everybody we fucking know, Nathan had said, thinking this would be the last time in a long time he would see all his friends together. Ava insisted on something more exclusive. What was the point of throwing a die-to-be-invited-to party if everybody got to come. She got her way. They invited a few of their closest friends and some others from the cool set around the campus. They grilled steaks and ribs that night and drank beer and booze until they saw the sun. In the afternoon they took the boat out and watched the sun drop below the crimson sky. They popped more beers. The girls began stripping off their bikinis.

They swam in the cool lake under a black carpet of sky filled with stars. There would be a meteor shower later tonight and some of them dropped acid in anticipation of it. They puffed fat marijuana cigarettes and turned up the music. Ava and Nate puffed weed. They dropped LSD for the first time and waited for the light show. Nate had a light show of his own. The diamond ring sparkled under the moonlight the way the moonlight cut diamonds across the lake. Will you marry me, Ava?, he said coolly, when they were lying by themselves on the deck. He was holding the ring in his hands. She looked at him and sat up. He slipped the ring on her finger. She put her hand over her mouth and gazed at him. Oh, my… Nathan?, she said. Then she was giddy. She hugged him. I’ll take that as a yes, Nate said, or does that mean you’ll think about it? She looked at him, smiling, full and radiant. I’m just so surprised, she said. I knew we’d talk about it, but…I’m just surprised, and yes, of course yes.

They decided to tell the others in the morning, and with that, Ava kissed him, let out a little whoop and dove into the pond naked. Nathan stripped off his trunks and was about to jump behind her when he saw Jabo, one of his frat buddies, passing around a syringe. He walked over, still naked. Throw it overboard, he said. Jabo looked up at him. Hey come on man, Jabo said. Just a little shit. Want some? He held out the syringe. Not out here, Nathan said. I don’t want to find you floating on the pond in the morning. His eyes narrowed. Fuck me, Jabo said. He threw the syringe off the side. Nathan turned without another word and walked across the boat. Ava was not there and he didn’t see her in the water. He jumped in and looked around the surface. The water was suddenly still.

He ducked under and caught site of her floating off the starboard side just beneath the surface. He moved quickly and got her up; he called to the others and they got her onto the boat. She wasn’t breathing. He held back panic and blew air down her throat. He pumped her chest and kept doing that until she vomited up a plume of water, coughed, and opened her eyes. She sputtered, dribbling water out of her mouth. What the hell happened?, Nathan said, cradling her face. I hit my head on the bottom, she gasped, breathing heavily. I’m OK. Nathan looked at her for a second, then fell back on the deck, exhausted, relieved. The others left them alone and went back to drinking and passing around joints, the scare already forgotten. The two of them lay there looking up at the sky as the meteor shower started high above them. They were feeling the LSD now. The sky was brilliant, on fire for nearly an hour. When it was over Nathan said wow. Ava said baby? Nathan took her hand, holding it, feeling the ring on her finger. Yeah?, he said. Baby, she said, I can’t move my legs.

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