When Stacy Came Back
Now she’s back in front of me, and I can hardly think of what to say to her. For years she’s been gone, two incredibly long years.
I think I might have done everything within my power to keep hold of her. I set alarms for the odd hours of the morning, the 1:00 ams and 2:00 ams, and I would wake up when the sky was still dark; he whole world seeming stale and tired from underneath my drooping eyelids. I would FaceTime her with my earbuds plugged into my phone and hope-wish-pray that she’d answer. At first, she did every single time. By now, a little less.
I kept everything; screenshots of our old text conversations, the scraggly pieces of lined paper we’d use to pass notes during class, covered in her tiny, swirled handwriting, all the ugly selfies that she’d send me when she was bored, tucked somewhere deep inside my phone pictures. I’d look back at them sometimes, and play our favorite songs really loudly and wish she were there to sing along to them with me.
But none of that, none of the endless hours of FaceTime conversations and phone calls made when even the night itself was tired, none of that could prepare me to see her face again.
When Stacy boarded the plane and left two years ago, she left with dirty converse sneakers stained a tarnished pink from when she’d spilled hair color on them while trying to dye her hair. When she came back, her heeled ankle-boots clicking against the noisy tile of the airport floor, her hair flowed and twisted out about her in such a way that anyone could see that not an inch of it had been anything but shimmery blond in months.
Stacy is not Stacy anymore. She’s Anastasia--for once, the name fits her. But Anastasia is not my best friend. Stacy was. Stacy was the sort of girl who laughed until her chest ached at puns she’d Google online, and who would sneak bottles of whipped cream into the movie theater and eat it with a plastic spoon, and who would roll down a huge slope of grassy hill and land at the bottom with a bee sting.
But she’s not Stacy anymore, she’s Anastasia, and she’s beautiful. Her eyes saw the lights overlooking Paris, caught them up, and carried them all the way over the waters of Venice and mountains of China. Her cheeks are flushed with the colors of painted sunsets from skies far, far, away from here, and she stills smells slightly of the Indian spices from crowded market stalls. But there is no bit of dust clinging to her from dirt roads. There is not a single trace of imperfection on the whole of her entirety.
I don’t hug her, though she reaches her arms out to me. I don’t even touch her, because I’ve read enough signs outside of museum art saying, “Don’t Touch the Artwork,” and that’s what Stacy is now. Artwork. Painted by Picasso, her face outlined in the swirl of a master’s brush until he became everything he wanted her to be: a masterpiece.
Somewhere in her eyes, behind the lights of Paris and scents of India, I can see a trace of Stacy. But she’s hardly there at all anymore.
Through the gauze covering the front door window, the kitchen is bright. The dull darkness of the evening turning into a shiny, polished glow as it crosses the threshold. The light drifts around the kitchen, lingering on eyelashes and the smoothed polished vase.
Inside the kitchen, a couple is dancing. She loves everything about him: the way he laughs, his hand’s warmth against the small of her back, the scent of his cologne lingering on his suit, the few strands of his hair that don’t quite stay in place no matter how many times she smooths it out with a twist of her finger.
The way that he smiles at her instead of the camera as their daughter snaps photos.
She did her hair up for today, put on a nice white blouse and pretty black skirt, the one that clings to her in all the right places and swirls out around her legs in a beautiful mesh of fabric when she walks. And she smiles because she knows she looks good for him but feels happy because she knows he would look at her just the same were she less dressed up.
Oh, the way he looks at her. It sends little chills all the way up to her chest. It’s almost like when you drink soda and the bubbles come up to your nose: fizzy, exciting, makes you laugh, so sweet you taste it on your tongue.
The kitchen is full of memories that day. There used to be four china teacups displayed inside the mantlepiece, but he broke one teaching their son to play football inside the house. He was five then. He played until he broke his arm in high school tackling another boy on the field, and switched his attention thoroughly to academics. He moved to California and became a lawyer, and he came back home for today to kiss his mother and make dinner in the kitchen, the scent of warm cornbread lingering in the air even after it’s been eaten.
There are white roses in a bouquet on the table, she held the same kind walking down the aisle to him. The petals tickled his chin when he leaned over to sweep her over and off her feet.
She’s kissed him on their first anniversary in this kitchen, and they had made a scuff mark on the floor jolting the table as they danced to their favorite song three years after marriage in this kitchen. They’d repainted the walls together five years after. It had smelled of fresh paint for days and the scent made them dizzy. Their second daughter had taken her first steps in this kitchen, then she’d fallen onto the floor and wailed loud enough to be heard outside. When the children moved out they hung their photographs on the walls of this kitchen.
They’d been married eighteen years today, and they still play their favorite song, but now they waltz to it slowly. They were in love. They had fit the whole world into the palm of their conjoined hands, and tonight they were happy and in love and together and laughing in the glowing light of the kitchen.