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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Four Nov-Dec 2023.
Faith, story Dirk van Nouhuys.
It was the day before Thanksgiving. Celia was an orphan since her grandmother had gone to Wisconsin, and no kin offered the ritual turkey. She had been invited to Thanksgiving dinner both by the family of her high school friend The Pretty Girl, who would be back for the holiday, and by her suite mate Angelique. Angelique was a fellow math major whose mother ran a café that featured food and music from the Azores. The subject of the holiday had not arisen between Celia and the guy she was hooking up with. Celia had committed to dinner with Angelique, who seemed to her to open toward another world.
She returned to her dormitory after her morning classes to find one of the girls in her suite, Debby Leigh, lying on the floor weeping. Debby was not close to Celia who remembered her mostly attached to her boyfriend—like a parasitic fish, Celia thought. She did not even know what Debby’s major was. She was surprised to see her in the dorm at all, because she knew that she had planned to travel with him to her home town in the California gold country. Debby did not seem to notice that Celia had entered, as she sprawled abandoned on the tile in paroxysms of weeping and choking, her moans as physically immersive as passionate lovemaking.
Celia knelt and put her hand on Debby’s shoulder, as much puzzled as distressed. Debby twitched as if startled by a loud noise, then rolled over on her back and looked up.
“Did you hurt yourself?”
“Fred broke up with me,” she said through her sobs.
“He won’t go with me to see my parents.”
“Can you stand up?”
Debby got to her hands and knees.
“He was the one person I thought would never hurt me.”
“You’ve been hurt?”
Angelique came in. “What’s happened?”
Debby stood, wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, and spoke out, “What’s happened? Like, I loved him with no beginning, no end. Like, I loved him as if he was an organ in my body.” She was smaller than her guy, with a round, pretty, carefully made-up face, which Celia always remembered seeing nestled in the shoulder of the young man. “Like, I loved him as only a girl could love a boy. Without fear.”
Celia turned to Angelique. “Fred broke up with her.”
“Like, I wanted nothing in return, except that he would keep me in his heart. Do you understand that? His eyes gave me freedom.” She crumpled into a chair.
Angelique turned to Debby and said, “I think you should take a shower.”
Debby nodded obediently, stood, and went into her bedroom. Cecilia and Angelique exchanged looks that neither understood.
Debby nodded obediently, stood, and went into her bedroom. Celia and Angelique exchanged looks that neither understood.
Debby reappeared in a robe. Angelique embraced her, enfolding her terrycloth shoulders. Debby stood still as if drained of every impulse. Angelique dropped her arms and said quietly, “Go on.”
She went on into the shower and they heard the water start.
“Poor Debby,” Angelique said.
“Fuck it, she shouldn’t have…” Celia couldn’t at first find words for what Debby shouldn’t have done. “She shouldn’t have had so much fucking faith.”
“He seems like a good guy. Do you know him? He seems like a good guy.”
“I despise her,” Celia said.
The shower continued to run.
© Dirk van Nouhuys
Dirk van Nouhuys is a native of Berkeley, California. He writes short stories, some experimental forms, and occasionally verse, but mostly novels, which have been published as excerpts or serially. About 100 items of fiction and a few poems have appeared in literary or general magazines. He has a BA from Stanford in creative writing and an MA from Columbia in contemporary literature. He worked for decades as a tech writer and manager for SRI’S Augmentation Research Center, Apple, Sun, and others. This century he devotes full time to fiction. He occasionally publishes translations and photography. http://www.wandd.com/about_me.html