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THE DREAMS OF STELLAR MARTIN

Title: The Dreams of Stellar Martin

Series: N/A

Author: Mary Maurice

ISBN: 978-1-60975-251-4

Product Code: BK0167

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 182

Release Date: March 2020

Cover Price: $16.95

Our Price: $16.95

 

 

 

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Book Jacket

 

Stellar Martin peels her eyes open as drop after drop of chilling rain pounds her forehead. Above her, sleek, granite towers, as craggy roots holding suspended trees canopy across the gorge. Why is she laying in this sunless ravine? Having no idea who she is, Stellar scrambles through her backpack, and pulling out a book, opens the pages to what looks like dreams. This dream journal is her only salvation, her only saving grace, to the mystery of her existence.

 


 

Book Excerpt

1

 

 

 

I’m staying with friends whom I really don’t know. Everything is dank and dark and I wish I wasn’t here. I go to the backyard where a river flows. For some reason I think it’s the Rio Grande in New Mexico. The water is full of leaves and garbage, and upriver, I believe, I see a bike frame poking out of the shore. I long to go for a swim, but think better of it as I smell the river’s rotten egg stench. Suddenly, I’m walking with this person I have never seen before and we come upon a dam. Trees grow from the cracks of the decaying, decrepit broken down barrier. We shuffle behind it, careful not to disturb the delicate area, and realize it’s not a dam at all, but an old drive-in movie screen. Jokingly, I suggest we climb a rusty ladder leaning against the frame, and fix the relic. The unknown person is horrified that I would make such a suggestion, as we continue creeping into the gray and dingy day.

 

 

Stellar Martin wakes herself grumbling. Her dream flashes across her memory like a lost ghost! Rubbing her hot face with her hands, she licks her chapped lips with a sand-paper tongue.

 Wrapping her head in the soft pillow, Stellar feels hot tears roll down her cheeks, as the events of last night reveal themselves through her foggy brain. “What did I do?” she whispers to herself as rumbles erupt from her liquor saturated stomach.

Quickly sitting up, she reaches for her dream journal and opening the diary to a blank page, scratches: 9-6-01-Tuesday-No recall. Stellar closes the book and studies the black cover glaring back at her. She’s been recording her dreams for over six years now, and eight out of ten times she can remember them, but usually not when she’s hung-over. And even though she can’t recall anything, she still makes an entry in the chronicle each day.

Feeling a little woozy, Stellar stands and carefully maneuvering around the bed, dashes for the bathroom where she reaches the throne just in time. Dry gags fill the air as putrid gases vapor above her head. Never again will she drink so much, she tells herself, knowing perfectly well, she will.

An angry meow echoes from the living room, followed by a disgruntled cat, as Emily bounds into the bathroom, jumps up on to the sink and rubs her face against the faucet, indicating she wants a drink of water. Twisting the knob, Stellar watches a tiny stream begin to flow, as Emily careens her neck and starts slurping. Patting her rump, Stellar shuffles to the kitchen, shaking her head over the events of last night and how out of control Annette had become.

“I’m not gay, and even if I were, I certainly wouldn’t be attracted to you!” Annette’s hateful words sting Stellar’s heart, tossing her stomach into havoc once again. The whole evening twists through her thoughts as Stellar recalls the ignition switch. If only Annette hadn’t leaned in so close, giving Stellar the impression that she wanted to be kissed. And then being pushed away amidst ranting protests.

“What are you doing? Get away from me.”

Disgust laced her words, making Stellar feel like a deviant.

Is she?

Did she, Stellar Martin, cross that line?

Not without provocation, Stellar tells herself, downing a glass of much needed water.

And even though Stellar tried to explain her actions; that she thought Annette wanted to be kissed, the defiant woman denied all allegations as she rushed toward the door, insisting that they never see each other again. Claiming, Stellar can’t handle her emotions around her.

From the beginning, when they first met, and Annette unintentionally made a pass at Stellar, (but of course denied it later), they’ve been going back and forth, forth and back about their feelings for each other. Stellar has always been forthright with Annette, but Annette, on the other hand, has never accepted their affections for each other, pretending that they are just close friends.

Stellar fills the black tea pot and sets it on the lit burner. A hot cup of coffee with help revive her senses, noticing her hands shaking as she sets the kettle down. She needs to forget about Annette Blotchnee, and focus on her upcoming show at the 501 Gallery on Canyon Road next month.

 After many years of repeated rejections from multiple galleries, saying her sculptures aren’t original enough to showcase, John and Sherie, the owners, recognized her talent, and offered her a show.

The event needs to be her main center of concentration now.

Not Annette Blotchnee!

The teapot whistles, stirring Stellar out of her thoughts. Pouring the steaming water into the Meleta filter, she listens as the coffee drips slowing into her cup. The aroma brings back memories of camping, and suddenly an idea pops into Stellar’s head.

She’ll go up to the mountains, find a trail at Hyde Park Campgrounds, and start hiking from there. A calming communion with nature will do her good. Get re-grounded. That’s what she needs.

Rushing over to the phone, Stellar picks up the receiver and punches in seven numbers. Hopefully Nadia, Annette’s daughter, can stay, or just come over and feed Emily tonight. Stellar knows she’s taking a chance that Annette will answer, and kind of hopes she does. It’d be nice to know how mad she really is.

Maybe!

Maybe not!

Stellar stands nervously, leaning against the kitchen counter as the phone continues to ring. Glancing down at her chest, she can see the outline of her heart pounding through her t-shirt.

 

*   *   *

 

Hearing the telephone ring, Annette Blotchnee dashes into the dining room, and waits for someone else to answer it. She has a feeling as to whom it might be, and doesn’t want to talk to Stellar, even though her heart is pounding out of control at the thought.

“Hello!” She hears Nadia speak into the receiver, as her twenty-one-year old daughter peers around the corner at her mother with a snarl on her face. Annette pretends to be looking for something.

“Yeah, sure, no problem. What time you leaving?” Nadia senses her mother listening.

In the silence that follows, Annette envisions last night’s debacle. Her ranting vicious words as she lost control. She was frightened, scared of those unknown sensations overwhelming her as Stellar drew closer.

Annette can still sense the almost kiss.

And then Stellar’s eyes, and how dark they became as she stormed out.

Now, Annette is really scared, scared she’ll never see Stellar again, but even more frightened of seeing her again.

“Super! I’ll stop by tonight, and then in the morning, and then pick you up at the ski basin around three.”

 Silence, as Annette grows anxious.

“Yeah, sure, my pleasure. Have a good time!”

Silence, as Annette becomes tense.

“Oh yeah, I didn’t know that. Maybe I’ll have to talk to her about it.”

Annette feels her face flush; are they talking about her?

“Okay, bye Stellar.”

Hearing her daughter hang-up and trod toward the dining room, Annette once again pretends to be searching for something.

“Still haven’t found what you’re looking for.”

“No, I must’ve set that book down somewhere, and now I can’t find it.”

“A lot on your mind, have you?”

Glancing at her daughter curiously, Annette replies. “Just the usual.” Clearing her throat, she then asks. “So, who was on the phone?”

“I’m sure you already know.” Nadia pulls out a chair and sits down. “What’s going on between you two?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean. You avoiding answering the phone, and Stellar is suddenly running off to the mountains. Did something happen?”

“No, and I’m not avoiding answering the phone. I just figured it was for you, so why bother. And I was correct, right?” Annette feels droplets of sweat streaming out of her pits.

“Listen, I have some errands to run, so I have to go.” Still wondering what Stellar said, but not wanting to ask, Annette inquires. “Do you need anything?”

“No, I’m good.” Nonchalantly, Nadia checks her new cellphone for messages, half paying attention to her mom. “Stellar’s leaving at around noon, so if you want to talk to her, you might want to call her before then.”

 “I have no reason to call her. Why do you think that?” Annette feels nervous.

 “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because you seem like you do. That’s all.”

 Annette’s face flushes as her daughter’s insinuations sting her fragile nerves. She feels tears beginning to well in her eyes. Turning toward the china cabinet, Annette chokes out. “I’ve got to get going. Will you be around for dinner?”

Not understanding Annette’s reaction, Nadia tries to be gentle with her menopausal mother. “I’m not sure yet. I have a lot to do. I go back to school next week.” Nadia’s stomach growls. “But to be honest, I wouldn’t mind getting some breakfast first. What do you think? Can you delay your plans?”

Feeling a lightness soar through her heart, Annette smiles, and brushing an abandoned tear off her cheek, replies. “Yeah, I’m not in any hurry, and I’m sure not going to pass up an opportunity to spend some time with my daughter.”

“Tia Sophia’s good?” Nadia asks, wrapping her arm around Annette’s shoulder.

“Where ever you’d like, sweetheart.” Annette’s emotions slowly calm down.

Moseying to the door, Nadia turns to her mother. “So, Mom, why did you get so upset when I told you that Stellar’s going camping?”

“It isn’t that. I don’t know what came over me. We had a little spat last night and I was hoping to resolve it before things intensify.”

“What was it about?”

“A difference of opinion.”

 Nadia studies her mother, and shakes her head. “Well, if you change your mind, you can use my cell phone.”

“No, maybe it’s for the best to let things cool down for a couple of days.”

“All right, well whatever. Let’s just hurry up, I’m starving.”

“Maybe you should experience what it’s like to really be starving and then you’ll stop using that phrase. Not that I’d wish that on you.”

“Yeah, right!” Nadia giggles and jumps into her mom’s Pathfinder.

Reaching for the door handle, Annette first touches her lips with her finger tips, recalling Stellar’s hot breath on them.

Did she make a mistake?

 

*   *   *

 

Stellar Martin slams the phone back into the cradle. “Damn-it!” She hisses. She knows that Annette was listening to her and Nadia’s conversation, she heard her gasp in the background when Nadia answered. “Chicken-shit!” Stellar throws her arms in the air, as she twirls around in dismay.

Annette doesn’t even have the guts to talk to her. That’s it, she’s done, Stellar doesn’t want to be involved with a woman without a spine anyway. She’ll go away and forget about Mrs. Blotchnee. Out of sight, out of mind, isn’t that how the old saying goes, Stellar trying to convince herself that the task at hand will be an easy one.

Stellar’s head swoons as she reaches for the phone again and dials Libby Label’s number. Libby is one of Stellar’s closest friends in Santa Fe, and they’ve know each other since Stellar first moved to the City Different.

At the beginning, Libby tried courting Stellar, but there was never that spark, so the two decided to remain friends, and have found that the decision was a good one.

“Yeah, what-da-ya want!” A seasoned, throaty voice gurgles through the line.

“My, my, aren’t you a pleasant one in the morning.”

“I told ya not to call me before ten.”

“It’s ten-thirty.”

“Oh, sorry, I haven’t looked at my clock.” Stellar hears the fizzle of a cigarette being lit, and then Libby exhaling. “Ah, much better. So, dumpling, what can I do you for?”

“Well, I need a favor.”

“Another one?”

“Yeah, right, when have I ever asked you for anything.”

“All the time.” Libby chuckles.

“You know that’s a lie. I don’t ask you for anything because I know what you’ll say. No!”

“That’s not true. You know I’m here for you.” Another giggle. “So, in all seriousness, what gives, I have to go pee. Oh, and how did last night go with Ms. Blotchnee?”

Libby is the only person who knows about Stellar’s affliction with Annette. “Not good, and I don’t want to talk about it, if you don’t mind.”

“You know, I never want to talk about it, I’m just asking because I’m trying to be a friend, and I know how messed up the situation is.”

“Why thanks, that makes me feel so much better. Not!” Stellar clears her throat. “Hey listen, the reason why I’m calling is because I’m wondering if you can drive me up to Hyde Park Campground at around noon?”

“What’s up there?”

“I need to get away for a day or two.”

“So, you’re running away to play David Thoreau?”

“No, I just need some time by myself that’s all.”

“But I thought you’d be getting ready for your opening.”

“I am, please I don’t need an interrogation.”

“Fine then. So, what happened?”

Stellar knows that Libby isn’t going to let it go. “Well, last night we were having a really nice dinner, and there was a moment when Annette leaned into me, and I thought she was going to kiss me, so I went for it, but she backed away and accused me of trying to take advantage of her and then stormed out of my house.”

“Why that little tease. I tell you, she’s not worth it. You need to stop this foolishness and start dating a woman who wants you, and trust me Stellar, there are quite a few of them, if you’d only open your eyes.”

 “I don’t want anyone else, and it wouldn’t be fair to another woman knowing I have these feelings for Annette.”

“But they’ll fade with time.”

“And if and when they do, that’s when I’ll start thinking about dating. So, enough said, will you, or will you not, take me to Hyde Park?”

“All right, all ready. I’ll be there at twelve.” Libby lights a second cigarette. “But I want all the details on the way up.”

“I’ll have to think about that.” Stellar laughs, feeling better. “See you at noon.”

As she hangs up the phone, Stellar feels a sharp pain inch its way into her brain. Gently massaging her temples with her fingers, she hopes that the fresh mountain air, and some physical activity will aid in her hang-over.

Swinging the storage closet doors open, Stellar reaches for the blue and gray nylon backpack, and swiping the dust off, realizes the pack hasn’t been used since the last time she and Jill were together, and that’s been well over six years ago.

Unzipping the compartments, Stellar reaches into the pockets hoping not to find any heart wrenching remnants of the failed love affair. Stellar knows that any scraping of old wounds will definitely infect the good mood she’s trying to resurrect.

Nothing!

Wiping her brow, Stellar briefly thinks about calling Annette to tell her where she’s going. A habit she’ll have to break. It’s funny in a way. Even though she and Annette aren’t in an official relationship, it feels like one. Always calling each other to check in, or talk about a trouble. Letting the other know where they are, where they’re going, and with whom they are going.

The only thing really missing is sex. And to be honest, that subject seems of little importance right now, as Stellar watches whatever they have, crumble like the Greek ruins.

Checking the fridge, Stellar realizes she’ll have to make a quick run to the grocery store, as the ice-box holds no camping food. Dashing upstairs, she gazes at herself in the mirror as she dresses. Ruffling her short auburn hair, Stellar pats her puffy cheeks and swollen emerald green eyes, feeling slightly disgusted with the amount of booze she drank last night.

She wanted to numb the pain, though. Dissolve her disappointment and frustrations in a bottle of tequila. But all she accomplished was several prayers to the porcelain goddess, and a rot gut feeling she can’t seem to get rid of. Not even do the Tums help.

Gazing out at the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, Stellar notices that the Aspens have begun their annual color change, even though to Stellar it seems rather early. But who is she to question nature? All she knows is that when the trees turn and the winds blow just right, the sparkling sun turns the grove into a golden forest.

Racing out the door, Stellar is comforted by the pristine beauty of Santa Fe’s high desert climate. A single cloud floats in front of the already seething sun, and Stellar knows the incubus is not long lived, for the dry air will suck the moisture up in a second.

Climbing into her 1978 maroon Volvo, Stellar pulls out of the compound parking lot, not hearing the phone begin to ring. The caller leaves a brief message, then the answering machine clicks and spins. Emily, who’s been asleep in the sink, raises her head in annoyance. Stretching her lithe body, she lurches onto the counter, accidently landing on the device and erasing the newly recorded message.

 

*   *   *

 

Tia Sophia’s is packed, which is no surprise since the restaurant is one of the best breakfast joints in town. Serving spicy green and red Chiles that can awaken an Alaskan winter sun. Annette and Nadia Blotchnee stand outside, sweating slightly in the steamy, morning air. Nearby, a small crowd mills around, remnants from the Labor Day weekend.

Noticing that her usually calm and collected mother seems nervous and fidgety, Nadia suggests. “Hey, Mom, if you don’t want to wait, we can walk down to the Plaza Café.”

“No, no, honey, I’m fine.” Glancing around, Annette turns back to her daughter. “Listen, I’m going to the bathroom, I’ll be right back. If they call our name go sit down and I’ll find you.” Annette kisses her daughter on the cheek, and wheels through the turquoise painted door.

Squirming through the packed entryway, Annette trips on someone’s foot, and almost crashes to the floor had she not grabbed onto a woman’s breast. Shocked, and embarrassed, Annette eases her hand away, and lowering her head begins to apologize profusely.

The woman, apparently a tourist, begins laughing, and in a Texas laced drawl, replies.

“Oh, honey that’s okay. If my husband didn’t have his clod-hoppers in the way, you wouldn’t have tripped over them.” The woman bounces away and then turn’s back. “Plus, that’s the most action I’ve seen in a long time.” She slaps her husband on the back and hoots, as they leave the restaurant.

Studying her tingling hand, Annette shakes it several times and continues with her pilgrimage to the restrooms. Glancing up, she’s surprised to see a pay phone in the corner and wonders if it’s always been there. A device soon to be a relic.

Should she call Stellar?

What could it hurt?

Cautiously moving closer, Annette slides her fingertips into her pocket and fishes out a quarter. Standing in front of the blue-and-silver box, Annette trembles, almost dropping the two-bits on the floor.

Sidling up to the phone, she slips the coin into the sliver of a slot, and listens for the dial tone. Hearing none, she flicks the silver lever down to retrieve her money, and notices that a phone call is now thirty-five cents.

Shaking her head, she can’t recall the last time she used a pay-phone, now with the explosion of the cell phone craze. Something Annette is having a hard time adjusting to.

Searching her pockets for a dime, she finds nothing. Taking a step back, she feels something under her foot and looks down. Low and behold, it’s ten pence. A sign sent from above telling her that she’s doing the right thing by calling Stellar.

Squatting down and picking up the slug, she drops the coins into the slot and instantly hears a dial tone. With shaking fingers, she punches the cold, square buttons and listens to the pulsating ring from the other end. She has a sudden urge to hang up, but the answering machine clicks on, so she hesitantly leaves a brief message.

Hanging up the phone like a disappointed con in prison, Annette’s whole body shivers. Is she coming down with something? Turning around, she sees her daughter scooting into a booth, and staring at her with a snarl across her lips. Annette pretends she doesn’t notice the look, and trapes through the dining area, smoothly sliding in across from her.

Immediately, Nadia stands and announces. “I’m going to get a paper.” Her words snap, like a rubber band on a wrist. “Order me a breakfast burrito with x-mas.”

Annette watches as her daughter stomps away like a spoiled brat. What’s with the sudden attitude, Annette wonders, as she’s startled out of her thoughts by the waitress.

Ordering two burritos with x-mas Chile, Annette watches as he daughter struts toward her, head down looking at the front page of The New Mexican, trying hard to ignore her mother. Nadia crawls back into her seat, as she scans the rag of a paper. Annette wonders what can be so interesting in the thin publication that is captivating her daughter. Or, is it something else?

Thanking the lord that their food arrived quickly, the two eat in silence, until Annette, who can’t take it anymore, asks. “Is there something wrong?”

“No.” Nadia snips, filling her mouth with another steaming fork of food.

“Well, there certainly seems to be. Did I do something to upset you?”

“No!” Nadia stops eating and begins to play with her food. “Who were you trying to call?”

“No one.” Annette has no idea why she’s lying.

Nadia drops her fork on the plate with a clank. “I saw you hang up the phone.”

Annette’s mood darkens again as she doesn’t appreciate being grilled by her child.

“Okay, I tried to call Stellar, but she wasn’t home.”

“What about?” Nadia wanting to get to the bottom of her mother’s turmoil.

“I just wanted to wish her a safe trip, and to call me when she gets back.” Annette trying to desensitize the situation.

Nadia knows something isn’t right between Stellar and her mom, and decides that she’d really rather not know, so she drops the subject, and takes a sip of coffee while reaching for the bill. “Breakfast is on me.” Nadia announces, much to Annette’s surprise.

“Are you sure? You should hang on to your money.”

“Yes, I’m sure. If I need more cash, I’ll just go to Dad.”

Annette knows that Nadia is right on that count. Boris will give the world to their daughter if she wanted.

Leaving the restaurant and feeling slightly better, Annette inquires of Nadia. “So, what are your plans for the rest of the day?”

“Just getting things ready for school, that’s all. Maybe go hang out with some friends later. Nothing too exciting. And you?”

Annette pulls away from the curb and heads in the direction of their home. “Just a few errands, that’s about all.” Annette feels the tension between them ease, and hopes the subject of Stellar doesn’t come up again.

 

*   *   *

 

Libby Label flushes the toilet and flies back into bed. It’s time for Martha Stewart. Her hypnotizing, slackey drawl and mispronunciation of words has always calmed Libby since the very first show of Living. She seldom pays attention to the pastries that Martha is baking, and instead usually closes her eyes and listens.

Balancing a bowl of Frosted Honey Oats on her stomach, Libby stirs the cereal, and begins shoveling heaping tablespoons into her gaping mouth. Milk escaping from her lips, drizzling down her chin like a cracking damn.

Lapping up the bottom of the bowl with her calcium coated tongue, Libby sets the dish on the nightstand, and reaching for her cigarettes, burbs out loud before lighting one.

Lying back down, she scrolls over the events of last night, and how now, she kind of wishes she’d brought that young girl home.

It’s the strangest thing how this generation of women are attracted to her. And it’s just been recently too. Maybe she’s sending off a different kind of pheromone that’s enticing them.

She should rub against Stellar so she too can attract these twenty-year olds, and get off the Annette Blotchneee wagon. That’s all she needs, Libby ponders, a good roll in the hay with a tight-skinned-perky-breasted babe!

Libby never understood what Stellar sees in Annette. She’s a washed-out housewife and mother, who can barely keep from tripping over her own two feet. And the way she dresses, like a woman with no class trying to look classy. Libby just doesn’t get it.

Now Stellar, on the other hand, is a looker. She can get any woman she wants. There had even been a time when Libby thought about making a move on her friend, when they first met, but decided against it because she knows their bond is more important. And she’s too well acquainted with the saying, lovers come and go, but best friends stick around forever!

Closing her eyes, Libby lets the soft tones of the TV lull her back to sleep. The last words Libby hears are those concerning baking powder.

 

*   *   *

 

Stellar cranks her neck as she hears the caw of a crow, and gasps as a murder sores above her. There has to be at least fifteen black birds flying against the periwinkle sky, destination unknown. Gangsters in their own right. The sight sends ripples down Stellar’s skin, as goosebumps pop up, like it’s a December morning.

An ominous omen?

Or auspicious?

Whichever, she’ll find out soon enough.

Smiling to herself, Stellar is already feeling the relaxing effects of nature starting to work on her, dissolving her foul mood.

Turning down St. Francis Drive, and heading toward Albertson’s grocery store, Stellar rolls down her window and lets the sultry, warm morning air whip across her face. The freshness swells her senses, as her eyes pool with tears. Stellar has lived in Santa Fe for six years, and the beauty still enchants her like the first time she drove into this magical state.

Stellar’s heart suddenly lurches as thoughts of Annette wash over her. Her cheeks feel flushed, and all she wants is a drink of water. Little pops began bouncing in her head like Orville Redenbacher’s famous corn.

Peeling into the parking lot of the west-coast chain store, Stellar pulls into a space and turns off the car, sitting still for a moment as she tries to catch her breath. Pounding the steering wheel with her fist, she lets out a piercing scream, and then glances around to see if anyone was in ear shot. She has to compose herself, she thinks, trying to convince her traumatized nerves of the necessity. But it seems not to work.

With shaking limbs, Stellar steps onto the black mat, and listens as the automatic door groans open, squealing like a penned pig. Still lost in thought, she yanks a cart out of the row, and wheeling through the deli section, stops when she spots Jackie Kincaid in the produce section.

Jackie was one of those fly-by-night flings where feelings were hurt at a fast pace. The month happened so quickly that Stellar never really grasped what transpired, outside of her catching Kincaid in bed with her ex. That might’ve been the key!

Scrambling behind a display of stacked Campbell Cream of Mushroom Soup cans, Stellar hopes she escaped the eyes of the firefighter. Squatting, and shaking her head, Stellar wonders why she’s so unlucky with women? Her first real relationship, ended with her girlfriend getting pregnant while they were together. And then Jill, who was having an affair for six months before Stellar found out. An on-going saga of betrayals. She’s beginning to question the search for this mystery called love.

“Hey, Stellar, Stellar!”

Broken out of her daydream, Stellar groans, and turning around replies. “Hi, Jackie.” Enthusiasm missing from her voice.

Stellar glances away, realizing Jackie’s in her gear. She doesn’t want to get turned on or anything. It’s true what they say about a person in uniform.

“How’ve you been?” Her words dripping wet with no real concern.

“Just fine.” Stellar replies, itching to get away. “Listen, it’s great to see you, but I’ve really got to run.” Turning the cart away in the opposite direction, Stellar rushes off, calling back. “Bye.”

“See ya, Stellar. Hey, maybe we should get together for lunch.”

Stellar, pretending she doesn’t hear her, turns right and disappears down diaper alley, sweat pouring out of her as she wipes the back of her neck with her hand. Can this day get any better?

Rushing through the check-out line, Stellar soon finds herself cruising down Agua Fria Street on her way home. The Chartreuse poplars sway against the azure sky, and late summer birds chirp in anticipation of the upcoming migration.

Maneuvering into the driveway, Stellar, crawling out of the car, grabs the bags of food and realizes she’s bought way too much. Entering her home, she notices the answering machine has no messages, and suddenly feels despair slip into her senses again.

Leaning her head back, Stellar tries to discourage the tears pooling in her eyes from dropping. Twangs of love invaded her heart the first time she saw Annette, even before she knew who she was. And the worst thing about it is, that the feeling has never gone away. Even after all the rebuffs and arguments they’ve had, Stellar always maintained that Annette’s feelings are just as strong as hers.

But now she isn’t so sure.

Emily rubs against Stellar’s legs, sensing that something is wrong with her friend. Bending down, she picks up the twelve-pound feline and nuzzles her nose in the soft, silky fur. “Listen, Bumblebee,” Stellar’s nickname for Emily. “I’m going camping for a night, you know, get away from all this mayhem. Nadia’s going to come over and keep you company. I know how you love her, so I figured you wouldn’t mind.”

Stellar rubs her face on Emily’s belly once more, as the cat screeches and plunges out of her arms. “Fine, be that way. Seems like neither human nor animal can stand to be near me.” Stellar grumbles, feeling even more sorry for herself than earlier.

Dabbing her eyes with her sleeve as she shuffles to the bathroom, Stellar removes her clothes, and turning on the faucet, steps into the jet pulsating stream. A nice hot shower, this should help her mood, she hopes as the water pounds thickly on her neck.

 

*   *   *

 

Annette Blotchnee ponders having a drink, but decides against it after glancing at the clock and seeing that it’s only ten-thirty in the morning. What has gotten into her? She can’t focus on anything. All she can think about is Stellar. Why isn’t she returning her message, Annette paces back and forth in the kitchen, acid molting in her gut. Stellar really must be upset; in the past she would jump at anything Annette said, but this time it’s different. This time there’s an anxiousness inside Annette that is bringing on worry. She should just go over to Stellar’s and pound on the door until she opens up. Then kiss her like she really wanted to last night, but was barricaded by fear.

And now look where it’s gotten her, on the verge of losing the only person she really feels love for, save for Nadia, but that’s different. Gently touching her cheek with her fingers, Annette imagines what it would be like to have Stellar’s lips upon hers. The thought sends ripples through Annette, as she sits down, trying to steady her trembling body. She believes the reason she lashed out at Stellar last night is because her feelings and desires overwhelmed her. Their deepness is something she’s unfamiliar with. And because of this, Annette faces the fact that she might lose Stellar, even as a friend. And strangely enough, this makes her feel like the world is coming to an end.

Annette Blotchnee has known no other life as an adult besides being the wife of Boris and mother to Nadia. She met Boris right out of high school and married him with no hesitation. No prize is Boris, but he was an out, a way to escape the horror that happened daily in her father’s house. Which Boris always reminds her of whenever she becomes defiant.

Love was never a part of the marriage. Annette believes that Boris just wanted her to produce kids, but Nadia was the sole heir. Unforeseen complications during the birth sterilized Annette, who was told she would never bore another child. So, Nadia got all the love, which was fine with Annette. The idea of having another child of Boris’ did not appeal to her at all.

As the years progressed, and the passion, if that’s what you want to call the three minute sessions, died out, they both agreed that instead of a divorce, they’d each have their own part of the house, and still be there for their daughter. And so far, the agreement has worked out just fine. Annette is thrilled that Boris isn’t sexually attracted to her any longer.

But now she’s had enough, and it’s her turn to find love. Glancing at the clock again and seeing that an hour has passed, Annette vows to herself that once Stellar cools off, she’ll go to her and tell her how she really feels. A sense of relief flows over Annette as the sun disappears behind a newly formed cloud. Annette shrugs it off, knowing that the thirsty Southwest sol will drink it up in a matter of minutes.

 

*   *   *

 

Nadia Blotchnee sits in her bedroom with the door closed, out of range from her mom, who’s peculiar behavior is starting to gnaw at her nerves. Gazing at the mess in her room, Nadia knows she has to start packing, but prefers to try and unravel her mother’s puzzling demeanor.
Whatever is going on between her and Stellar is the big mystery? Nadia has never seen her mom so out of sorts. Nervous, non-composed, fumbling with her words. Nadia has known for the past few years how Stellar’s felt about Annette, but always figured she was sniffing up the wrong tree. Her mom is straight, likes the man thing, needs to be dominated by the male force in order to feel worthwhile. Just like most women of Annette’s age, falling into that fantasy world of the damsel dame.

Annette’s acting as though she’s lost a lover.

The bottom line is Nadia could really care less. She has lots of gay friends, plus, she doesn’t think her parents have had sex in a long, long time. She’s even delved into the fairer sex a couple of times herself, but it never did anything for her, not like what men do.

Standing and studying herself in the full-length mirror, Nadia notices the freckle-splattered skin that she’s had since childhood, is now slowly disappearing from her face. As a child the other children would tease her endlessly, taunting her with the nick-name, Strawberry Freckle Face, and even though the soft tease is nothing compared with what they do today, it still hurt.
Nadia, pulling her shoulder length reddish hair on top of her head, shifts her hips back and forth, a little disgusted with the reflection. She’s never really liked her looks. Plain, blah, nothing that turns heads. But it’s what her parents gave her, and what can you say. Turning away from what she sees, Nadia reaches for her suitcase and flings it onto the bed. Grabbing a few blouses, she drops them inside, not bothering to fold them. Plopping down next to the garment bag, Nadia decides she really isn’t into packing right now, and figures she can finish later. Now all she wants to do is get a case of beer, a couple of friends, and head to Diablo Canyon, her favorite hangout. It’ll be good to get away from the house for a while, and from her mom.

 Grabbing her wallet and keys, Nadia strolls into the kitchen where she finds Annette sitting silently at the table. “Hey, Mom, I’m going hiking. I’ll be back before dinner.”

“What about packing?” Annette asks, jumping at the chance to be maternal, as she is beginning to feel isolated and alone in her world.

“I’ll do it later.”

Annette knows from past experience, that arguing with her daughter is fruitless; who on her twenty-first birthday, more or less, proclaimed her independence. “Well okay, but don’t put it off for too long. You know how you are.”

These last words kind of piss Nadia off. Yes, she knows how she is. She drums to her own beat, that’s how she is. “Hey, I’ll get things done when they get done. So, get off my ass.” Nadia’s words are sharp.

Annette’s mothering skills suck.

Opening the door and taking a step out, Nadia turns to her mom. “Listen, I didn’t
mean to snap at you. I just don’t need to feel pressured right now. There’s enough anxiety floating around this house already without adding to it. Get my drift?”

Annette isn’t sure if Nadia’s outburst is directed at what’s happening between her and Stellar, or the fact that Boris has been MIA for the past couple of days. Or, maybe her daughter is nervous about returning to college, and this is how she’s venting.

Calmly, Annette replies. “Okay, dear, go have a nice time with your friends. Dinner is at the usual time.”

“I’m not sure I’ll be back by then. Just save me a plate.”

Their once family dinners are now usually solo. Annette feeling disappointment, but trying not to show it, mumbles. “Yeah, sure.”

“Great! Love you Mom.”

“Right back at you, honey.” Annette is surprised by her strange use of slang.
Nadia disappears, dashing to her Kelly Green Subaru Outback. Jumping in, she wipes imaginary sweat off her brow, and lets out a heavy sigh. Sometimes her mom can be too much. She needs to just grow a pair, and tell Stellar how she feels.

Peeling out of the driveway, and onto Bishops Lodge Road, Nadia thinks to herself that her mom needs to just tell Stellar how she feels and get it over with. Ramming the stick into fifth gear, Nadia far surpasses the posted 45 mile-per-hour speed limit.

 

*   *   *

 

Annette Blotchnee watches as her daughter pulls away, relieved to finally be alone. Nadia can be a little much at times. The quietness of the house calms Annette as she strolls into the living room and looks out the bay window at the Sandia Mountain Range in the distance. When the sun sets, the peaks turn into a vibrant watermelon color. Annette always feels a sense of peace and serenity as she gazes out at the valleys, finding solace in knowing the lands have been here for billions of years, changing and forming, keeping life fresh. Small subtle stages that the human eye can never detect.
“It’s magical,” Annette announces, the echo of her voice bouncing off the drab white walls. Annette has always wanted to paint them in the rich colors of the Southwest, but Boris refuses, saying white is a relaxing color for him.

Tears well up in Annette’s eyes as the realization of how truly unhappy she is washes over her, like the arroyos during monsoon season. She can’t hold them back, the levees have been compromised, as Annette’s heartbeat quickens, and a chilling sweat pops out on her skin.
Fears of never seeing Stellar again begin to infiltrate her sickened mind. What will she do if this happens? Stellar is the only saving grace she has, the only person who’s ever made her feel like she’s worth something. The only person who’s ever really loved her.

Sobs begin to pour from Annette, as her heart speaks the truth for the first time. Yes, Annette Blotchnee is in-love with Stellar Martin. Standing, Annette bolts to the phone. She has to talk to Stellar, explain things, tell her that it’s taken her this long to realize how she feels, and that she hopes it’s not too late.

Her mind spins and twists as she dials the number. It feels like there are firecrackers going off in her brain. Annette feels like she’s going to pass out if she doesn’t hear Stellar’s voice.

No answer!

The machine picks up as Annette’s heart drops, and her breath becomes short. Figuring Stellar has already left, Annette doesn’t bother leaving a message, and hangs up the phone. Flailing onto the couch, she crunches into a fetal position, and once again begins to sob. How will she ever be able to handle the time between now and seeing Stellar again?

 

*   *   *

 

Soothing hot penetrating water pounds against Stellar Martin’s body. She thinks she hears the phone ring and pokes her head out through the curtain to listen. Nothing. Probably just wishful thinking, she tries to convince herself, as she yearns to hear from Annette.

Facing the shower head, she lets the now cooling water rinse away the tears that have started to stream down her cheeks. It’s over, there’s no way that Annette is going to get past this episode. Stellar knows Annette meant what she said about never coming near her again, and that’s that.

“To hell with it.” Stellar proclaims, as she twists the faucets off. “Her loss.”

Pushing the curtain aside, Stellar yelps at the sight of Emily curled up in the sink, ripping apart a dead finch, feathers and entrails splattered on the mirror and walls. “Git, git, the hell out of here!” Stellar flings water drops at the cat as she streaks away, leaving her trophy behind.

Jumping out of the tub, Stellar closes the door so that Emily can’t sneak back in to retrieve her prize. Naked and still wet, she looks around the small bath and shakes her head, as Emily scratches at the door, pleading to be let back in.

“Go away.” Stellar bellows, as the meows continue to beg.

Drying off, Stellar wraps the towel around herself and inches out the door, holding her foot against Emily so she won’t sneak back in. Grabbing the broom and dustpan, she returns to the yellow tiled death chamber and sweeps the doomed bird into the flat-edge. Scampering into the backyard, she flings the corpse into the empty field behind her house. At least the birds final resting place will be serene, and she can decompose naturally instead of rotting inside a garbage bag in the dump.

Slipping into her cantaloupe dyed silk robe and clawed apart moccasins, Stellar walks over to Emily who lays on the couch cleaning herself, and sits down next to her, gently petting the soft fur.

“Listen, I know it’s your instinct to kill, but I’d appreciate it if you would keep your victims out of the house. I really don’t need to know about them.” Kissing the feline on the head, Stellar stands, as Emily looks at her and meows as though she understands what her friend is saying. “Good, I’m glad we have an understanding.”

Trotting up the stairs, after retrieving her backpack from the storage closet, Stellar starts stuffing a few light clothes inside. Reaching across her bed, she grabs the dream journal, and opening the book, begins to read the words scribbled on the page.

I’m in a restaurant sitting across from this beautiful woman. We begin chatting and I mention I’ve just seen a movie starring Brooke Shields. We get up to take a walk, when suddenly I realize the woman is Brooke Shields. I begin laughing and explain my embarrassment. She says she understands and that it’s nice not to be recognized all of the time. I notice she has on a stylish gray pantsuit with a white blouse. She looks very sexy, and I find myself slightly attracted to her. We go to a banquet and sit down. I see Annette at another table, but she doesn’t see me. A busboy comes up and accidently spills silverware on the table. Everyone laughs. To my left, I notice a buffet.

“Yeah, right.” Stellar chuckles to herself. “Me and Brooke Shields at a banquet together-what a joke.” She’s noticed that a lot of her dreams come out of left field. As with everyone’s, she imagines. Glancing at the clock, Stellar flips the pages again, and stops when she comes to an entry with Annette’s name.

I’m going to France with Annette, but I have to do my laundry before packing. For some reason I’m distracted and can’t seem to get things together. I hurry out to the runway, where our plane sits idling, and I see all of my dirty clothes piled ten feet high beneath the fuselage. I scurry over to the mess deciding to just grab what I need and wash it once I get to Paris. As I try to pull a shirt out, the whole mass comes tumbling down. While dashing away, I run right into Annette, who is standing silently behind me. We fall, and she ends up landing on top of me. Our eyes lock; she tells me she’s glad to see me. Breathlessly I say, “Yeah, it’s good to see you, too.” I can feel my heart beating out of control. Annette suddenly gets off me, saying we need to board the plane. I look at the scattered laundry and decide just to buy some outfits in France. I trounce into the plane, and see Annette sitting in the front, but my seat is toward the back. I feel slightly disappointed, I’d expected to be sitting next to her, since we are travelling together. All of a sudden, Annette is coming my way, and sits down in the empty seat next to mine. My heart jumps again. She smiles at me, and I smile back, feeling great. Even though I have nothing with me, I feel wonderful! I then realize the seats are light blond benches.

Stellar notices that the dream is from a few nights ago dated, 8-18-01. Obviously, she won’t be going anywhere with Annette, anytime soon. Slipping the journal and a pen into a plastic zip-lock bag, Stellar snuggles it within her clothes.

Darting down stairs, she suddenly feels a surge of energy, as her excitement about going to the mountains flares. Leaning her pack against the wall, she rummages under the sink for her water filter. Finding the device, she stashes it in the lower pocket. Grabbing the bags of food on the counter, she dumps as much as she can in the top compartment, not really caring what she brings. Zipping and snapping the pack, Stellar pats the top, anxious to get going.

Unhooking a pouch from the side, she stuffs her driver’s license, a small map, watch, lighter and a pack of cigarettes, into the small compartment. Looping her eight-inch Buck knife onto her belt, Stellar fits her baseball cap on, and attaches the tiny paunch to the bag as her thoughts slip back to Annette. It’s kind of like an addiction, now, she thinks to herself.

 Maybe it’s time to let go, she muses. She’s on the cusp of breaking through as a recognized sculptor, which will take a lot of time and energy. Then, she’ll be so wrapped up in her work, she won’t give Annette another thought. It’s not as though Stellar’s heart has never been broken before.
Hearing Libby Label rapping, Stellar opens the door and motions her in. The slender blonde prances by Stellar, spanking her on the butt as she does.

“Hey, don’t be flirting with me.”

“Yeah, right, as if.” Libby responds, plopping down on the couch. “Are you ready?”

“Yup, I just need to feed Emily, and then we can split.” Filling the cat’s bowl, Stellar jots down a quick note to Nadia, and tapes it on the fridge.

“Nadia’s taking care of Emily? Don’t you think that’s kind of strange?”

“No, why?”

“Because what has happened between you and Annette. Remember?”

“Yes.” Stellar becoming slightly peeved with Libby. “That’s between Annette and I, and has nothing to do with Nadia.”

“Has Blotchnee called you?”

“No, and I don’t expect her to.”

“Have you called her?”

“No.” Stellar picks up her pack. “Now let’s go.”

Libby hears a defeated note in her friend’s voice and decides to drop the subject. “Okay, do you have everything?”

“Yes, I think so, and if not, then I’ll just have to do without it. I’m only going up there for a night, so I don’t need that much.”

“One night doesn’t seem worth the while.”

“That’s all I have time for. I just want to clear my head with a good hike. Then, back to work.”
 Stellar glances around once more, making sure everything is off, and the doors and windows are locked. Bending over and giving Emily a kiss, who lays sleeping on the couch, Stellar says. “I’ll be home tomorrow night. Be good for Nadia.”

Libby stands. “Come on, I’m sure she can’t understand a word you’re saying.”

“I disagree.” Locking the door behind them, Stellar slips the key underneath the bumper of her non-running truck, and follows Libby to her jeep.

“So, you wanna go to the Hyde Park campgrounds, right?” Libby confirms.

“Yup. I’ll catch a trail from there.”

“Why don’t you stay there and camp?”

“Because I want to climb to the basin.”

“All righty then.” Libby snarls.

As they pull out, the sun hangs high in the noon sky, stifling the air. Stellar rolls down her window, letting a late summer breeze sweep across her face. Shivers race down her spine, for she feels nothing will be the same when she returns. This foreboding sense of change clings to her like a January sweat.

 

 


 

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