A Star Or A Planet?
Eight days prior
“Sydney! No barking,” Bree scolded reaching for the front door.
“Hey, you,” Eric said briskly. His blue eyes twinkled with mischief. “You look beautiful.”
Bree wrapped her arms around her friend’s neck and kissed his freckled cheek. He smelled of woodsy and citrus cologne and it relaxed her, filling her senses.
“¡Gracias!” She twirled playfully before him. The wraparound, red blouse and black jeans clung to every one of her curves.
He cleared his throat shifting his eyes. “You ready to go?”
“Almost, you gotta give me a few minutes. I was about to take Sydney out back to pee,” she pointed behind her with her thumb. “It’ll only take five minutes.”
Excited, Sydney gave a couple of turns at his feet. Eric bent at the waist to pet her behind the ears. “Hey, Syd! How are you, you little troublemaker?”
Sentiments of affection traveled through Sydney’s whimper.
He brought his eyes back to Bree’s sunny face. “Yeah, sure. I’ll use the bathroom real quick then.”
“Yeah, go right ahead. Want anything to drink before we go? Wine? Beer? Water?”
“Nah.” He shook his head and casually waved a hand down dismissing the offer.
“Okay. I’ll be right back. I’ve been walking her into the greenbelt lately and now she won’t go otherwise.” Bree rolled her eyes. “She waits for me at the fence gate.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s fine, I’m in no rush.” He vastly grinned and a crease formed at the bridge of his straight nose.
“Come, Sydney!” Bree tapped her thigh with the palm of her hand a few times and opened the back door while her pup happily trotted behind her.
She opened the gate from the backyard to the greenbelt and Sydney zoomed right past her. Bree giggled attentively following the dog with her eyes.
At eleven years old, Sydney demonstrated the energy of a young dog. She loved chasing squirrels and watching the deer graze at the greenbelt in the late evenings. It was too early for any of them to be around, as it was still light out, but when Syd notices them, she stands frozen on three legs. Her front right paw curled under her chest and her eyes focused with attention similar to the way an English pointer breed dog would except, Sydney growls and barks.
“C’mon girl, stop smelling and pee,” Bree said under her breath rushing, her.
The dog opted instead to munch on some leaves, sniff, and scent a fallen tree trunk nearby.
Bree curved her neck down and rubbed at the base. She’d had a long photo shoot downtown that day and was tired but Eric and she had planned to go out one last time since they found out they’d be in lockdown for a while.
I need a massage, she concluded with a heavy sigh, Badly. But, of course, now, she rolled her eyes, I can’t go anywhere to have one done.
As unreal as it sounded she’d recently heard in the news everything would be closing up by Monday.
“Stupid virus,” she grumbled.
If it wasn’t for Covid-19 she would’ve been on a plane headed to South America early that morning for an all-expenses-paid photoshoot of a few different cultural festivals and delicious food. The festivals had been canceled and so had her flight.
She urged her dog again, “Avanza, Sydney! You gotta do your business. I’m gonna be gone for a while.”
Giving a deeply frustrated exhalation she stretched the back of her neck some more by tilting her head upwards when she noticed a large bright light in the distance.
“What the hell?” she whispered squinting her eyes.
It was clear out and there were no stars shining yet. There was nothingness in the sky except for a few dusky clouds and the blue grayish hue on the horizon with a light pink glow atop it.
For a while, she stared in wonder contemplating if the object was a planet or a star.
A―star ... No, no. Has to be a planet. Definitely, she thought in confusion. I’m pretty sure if it was a star, there would be other stars too—right? She questioned herself.
“Mars for sure,” she said turning her head towards Sydney. “Right?”
She crossed her arms at her chest and cocked her head slightly to the right trying to understand what the shiny, little thing was while it silently and brilliantly hovered high across from where she stood.
Where’s my phone when I need a camera? Damn it ...! Where’s my camera when I need a camera?!
For a long while, she studied the globe. At times it looked like its light flickered at her. Similar to a wink. She couldn’t take her eyes off of it.
“Eric!” I should get him.
She’d forgotten about Eric—he could guess with her, perhaps. She searched around for Sydney. She’d ventured away further than usual.
Bree ran back to the house swinging the back door open. He jolted out of his skin and looked back at her with bewildered eyes.
“Fuck, Bree!” he said. An open palm held his chest.
“Eric! Come! I need you to see something.” She motioned to him from the doorway.
“What is it?!”
“I think it’s a UFO.”
He laughed shaking his head. “No way!” he responded running out with her.
A blanket of dark grey and a few shimmering stars now canvased the evening sky.
“That one.” She pointed straight ahead.
“Where?” He turned his head every which way.
“Right in front, facing us.” She pointed.
“Wait—what the ...?”
“It’s too shiny to be a star and too big,” she said. “Isn’t it?”
“Yeah, um ...” Eric didn’t say anything for a long while.
“It’s been there since before there were any stars out so ... Is it Mars?”
Eric frowned. “I, I—guess so ... Man, that thing is bright.”
“I know! Seriously though, you think it could be a UFO?”
“And huge,” he continued.
“So, aliens?” she pushed.
He chuckled, “Naaah!” The honey brown curls on his head shook and he made a face at her.
“A planet then?”
“Yep. For sure.”
With a grin, Bree waved at it as if saying hello.
“What?! Don’t do that!” his tone wavered.
“Haha! If it’s a planet, what does it matter?”
Eric laughed and Bree lifted her shoulders. She gave a shake of the head and her eyes opened wide as if asking, what?!
“I don’t know, just don’t. Gives me the willies.”
Bree snorted making him chuckle. “Damn it! I forgot my camera again.” She snapped her fingers.
“C’mon. I’ll walk inside with you.” He looked deep into her brown eyes sweeping the curls of her hair off her back then looped his arm across her shoulder and kissed the crown of her head.
He feels nice, smells good too. Also good-looking, she thought distractedly.
Bree was beginning to forget the floating light. Briefly, she placed her head on his shoulder then quickly lifted it. She shouldn’t get comfortable with him that way. She wasn’t ready for a romantic relationship. Leading him on would be wrong.
Sydney trotted behind them and stepped in before either of them entered.
“That dog ...” Bree rolled her eyes and grabbed her camera. “I’ll be right back.”
“Mhm, okay,” he smiled. “Hey, you wanna stay in instead? Order a pizza or something?”
Her eyes grew wide and she bit her lower lip. “Do you mind?” The right side of her lip curled. “I’m pooped. I’d love to stay in.”
He waggled his head. “Nope. We can watch a few movies too”
Her smile deepened. “I rather. I’m a little concerned about this Corona Virus thing.”
“Really? That’ll blow off in no time.”
“Yeah, of course.”
“Hmm, I don’t think so. I think it’ll last a year. At least.”
“What?! Naah.” He shook his head. “You’ll see.”
“Well, I think so ... Extra cheese and ham?”
“Extra cheese and pepperoni?” He put his hands together as if praying.
“Fine!” she adjusted her red-rimmed glasses. “We’ll compromise. I’ll be right back. Can you call it in?”
“Of course.” The smile he gave was sweet and she lingered in his eyes.
Taking a deep inhalation she turned her camera’s flash off and walked to the spot she’d been before. The light was gone. Bree thought perhaps the clouds covered it and she searched for a little while longer but nothing stood out to her.
The breeze carried the sweet smell of honeysuckle and profoundly intaking Bree’s lids shut momentarily as she relaxed. It was a cool, clear night. A few bats flew above her feeding on insects and she enjoyed them for a few more seconds. Looking up at the heavens one more time, Bree turned her neck left and right.
The planet was no longer there and a chill ran down her spine.
Next time, if there is a next time, I’ll have my camera ready.
When she walked back into the house Sydney wagged her tail and cried excitedly as if she’d been gone for an hour.
“You are ridiculous, Sydney,” she laughed.
“Pizza will be here in about thirty minutes.”
“Thanks for doing that.”
“Glass of wine?”
He nodded. “Mhm.”
“Red or white?”
“Red. Did you get a good picture?”
“Couldn’t take one.”
He took the glass from her hand. Their fingers brushed in a slight caress. “Why not?”
“It—wasn’t there any longer.”
He quietly studied her face. “Oh?”
“Kinda freaky, huh?”
“Probably behind a cloud or something.”
Bree didn’t want to argue about something she knew was not a possibility. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and he knew that. She took a seat next to him on the gray, leather sofa and slightly turned to face him.
“I don’t think I ever asked before,” quickly she glanced at his face then turned her attention back to the half-full glass of wine. “What if it was a UFO? Do you believe there might be life in other planets?′
He gulped down the bold-flavored liquid before answering. “Never really thought about it.”
Bree widened her eyes in confusion. “You haven’t?”
Eric shook his head. “No.”
Her eyes furrowed. “Why not?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Not, of course, Bree. Many people don’t think about that kind of stuff.”
“What? Really?! That’s insane.”
“So?” she persisted.
“I simply don’t. With all the shit that happens on Earth, why would I want to think about beings in outer space?”
“Because that exists.”
She waggled her head. “Nevermind.” Bree did not find his smallmindedness appealing.
Eric sighed and scooted closer to her but she was already getting up from the sofa. “Do you want more wine?”
The air felt tense between them. She picked up the bottle of Merlot from the coffee table and poured another glass for each of them.
“Listen, Bree. I—I think there might be a probability of life somewhere else, but no, I don’t think they are traveling to Earth to drain cows from their blood, visit, abduct or waste their time drawing crop circles,” he concluded matter-of-factly.
“Fair enough. I wanted to know your opinion about it, I mean—it was there and then it wasn’t.” She wouldn’t lift her eyes to look at him. “But forget it. I don’t want to talk about it any longer.”
“It’s not important,” she smiled mildly.
Bree was disappointed at his reaction. It was unexpected he’d shut her down like that. Usually, he was different. Attentive. Normally, he would’ve asked her what she believed it was as well. Perhaps even a nice conversation about it would’ve ensued.
“Bree—” he whispered her name and their eyes met. Only inches apart she noticed his breath shortened and he looked timid. “I’m sorry. I don’t feel like myself.”
“Why not?” her eyes did not waver from his.
“I’ve been thinking about tonight all day. I was a bit nervous.”
“Why would you be?” she murmured. The smell of his cologne was intoxicating and it affected her thought process. “We’re friends.”
Don’t kiss him, Bree ...
She brought the wineglass to her lips to create a gap between them. He didn’t move back an inch. Instead, he shifted closer as soon as she lowered the glass to her thigh.
“Friends, yes but—I’ve been thinking about this ...”
His lips fell upon hers pressing gently at first. Smoothly, his tongue made its way to her mouth and she let go enjoying the moment. She opened her lips invitingly and relished in the smokey taste. Grapes, cloves, and a hint of cinnamon.
Her lips engulfed his and her breath deepened. She wanted to stop but he tasted good. Smelled delicious. Of cologne and soap.
Stop Bree, she begged herself.
They had something good going and this, this could tamper it. It felt wrongfully right.
“Mmm, Bree, I—”
“Eric—” she gasped between kisses. “I don’t think we should ...”
“Don’t think, Bree. Feel.”
His kiss deepened and her head swooned. Before long they were lost in each other but her conscience pushed back, questioning her actions.
“Eric, I shouldn’t.”
Briefly, he stopped and opened his blue eyes. A look of sadness vailed them. He knew what she was going to say. Their mouths sat millimeter apart and their heavy pants lingered in the air.
“I can’t,” she said out of breath.
He silently looked at her for answers but she had none. At least not the verbal kind and Bree hoped he would read in her eyes what she could not express.
“I really like you, Bree.” His breath was ragged and deep.
“I like you too, Eric. But not this way. I’m not ready. I think I was with him too long and I need time,” Bree murmured aware he understood she spoke about her ex.
The doorbell rang.
Sydney gave a loud bark and ran towards the front door but neither of them moved. A few unusually long seconds ticked by before the doorbell rang again. Sydney raced to and fro in the hopes one of them would get up and open.
Finally, one of them broke the uncomfortable silence.
“I’ll get it,” he said.
Unable to move, she stared unblinkingly at him and nodded. But, the moment was gone.