Fictional Stories
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Made of Stardust & Pain

Words by Maria Stratoudaki // Featuring Juliette Bélanger // Photography by Sarah Babineau

They sat on top of their ever messy bed, him caressing her back, his fingers dancing across her spine. He didn’t so much as brush the small of her neck, tracing the constellations of her tiny freckles. Her hair smelled of lilacs and chamomile and he could see the paint marks behind her ear as she buried her head into his chest. She would tug him abruptly, step on his feet and they would dance all across the floor of their cluttered apartment, knocking over blank canvases and spare pieces of furniture. She had to tiptoe to kiss his chin; she was so small, but her spirit was towering. She was like fire, like ocean waves, uncontrollable and fierce. She could scorch his soul, steal the air out of his lungs with just a touch. He loved her uncontrollably: He loved her crooked eyebrows, her lingering smell of stale coffee, the star-shaped birthmark on her collarbone. He loved how she sang along to his songs, no matter how crappy, with her husky voice and a gleaming pride in her face and how he could make out nothing but the blue haze of her eyes when they were rolling on their battered old couch, playing one of their silly tickling games.

They had met at one of his concerts, a dull, melancholic Sunday. He remembered catching sight of her electric, watchful stare among the sleepy crowd in the run-down hippie cafe he was performing. She wore that absurd daisy dress that made her look like a careless child and a violent woman at the same time. She’d walked up to him, with a mischievous smile plastered on her face, whispered “I loved it, I loved it, I loved it!” in his ear and slipped in his hand a dirty napkin, with her number and an odd caricature of him on it. Needless to say he was so ecstatic, he called her that same night. She’d refused when he asked to “take her out”; instead she just grabbed him by the hand and they ran and ran and ran, breaking the invisible dark curtain of the night, until she led him to that deserted alley, overlooking the gray misty canal. They sat there, by means of an unspoken agreement, and they talked in the intimate way only strangers that may never cross paths again do. The sun was idling on the horizon when she rose, planted him a kiss and left. He should have known.

He would never forget that day. Just like that other day, two years after, it would haunt him until he’d seize to be. It was well past midnight, he’d just finished this week’s gig. He stopped at the funny French vendor, just around the corner of their flat, to get her the strawberry croissants she liked, extra filling like always. He hopped up the stairs, humming a song so as to disguise his goofy smile and avoid spilling the beans. The minute he walked in though, he could sense the danger in the stiff heavy air, hanging around him. She had her back arched over a dark, undecipherable object a suitcase it would turn out. She was wearing these blue overalls that were twice her size and had a brush pinned in her messy bun, the way she did when she was in a rush. Maybe she was just off to another spontaneous trip “to find herself”, he thought to himself, relieved. It would be the fifth within three months but still he felt like oxygen was again sucked into the room. She must have sensed his presence, for she turned around with a sad smile, locked her eyes on his, long enough to make his heart skip and wrapped her delicate arms around his chest with all her strength. “I know you know. We’ve both knew all along”. Had they? “You know, I’ve always believed that being the raging water, hitting against the rocks would be easier than being the rocks, hit by it. Well, apparently it isn’t. I swear I’ve loved you, long and hard, but I’ve grown to hate myself, because I’ve conned you into thinking there will come a day I’ll look at you the way you look at me, like you no longer need to cut a glance at a thing again. I doubt I’ll ever feel that at all.  You can keep everything, the paintings too. Burn them if that helps. I’m sorry”. And off she went, like the deadly predator she was.

He’d changed so much since then. Maybe for the better or maybe not. He had survived. He was now propped up against the balcony, drinking coffee as dark as his demons. He liked watching the sun rising, resurrecting himself from the abyss. He wished he could do that sometimes. The incessant chaos of New York in its early hours underneath him somehow soothed him. He grabbed his guitar and strummed at it and started reciting, reluctantly at first then braced with confidence:

“Made of stardust and pain
you pronounced our love
violent it was until
the ropes were cut
now we both breathe again
I miss you choking me
but not for long”

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