at the peeling paint on the old wooden stairs of the stoop. She stood there, cigarette gripped between her fingers as it burned slowly. The ash trickling down like miniature snowflakes, fluttering in and out of the porch light.

She shivered, the wind suddenly biting against her shoulders in a reverberating gust that drew her back to reality.

One too many drinks, she thought, I always have one too many drinks when there’s a party here. Her head was swimming.

The star-filled sky danced above her watery eyes, her cheeks freezing from unexpected tears.

She didn’t belong.

Within or without the world she wandered.

Laughter burst at the seams of the house, begging her to return. The party was alight with dancing and jokes were strewn about like the beer cans that toppled from the trash. She heard the faint whirring of a blinder, a delightful sound that beckoned her to gather up that unshakable facade and rejoin the masquerade.

She felt it strange, that no one had come looking for her. Surely her boyfriend would be out here soon, right?

Her stomach twisted in knots, a wave of nausea slowly curling up her chest.

Surely he would.

Her trembling hand discarded the dying cigarette.

She looked longingly at the door, not wanting to return while simultaneously wishing for the warmth beyond. As she strode forward, her feet tangled and a roller coaster of dizziness disoriented her. She turned and slid down the wall of the house that held the doorway, paint chips cascading into her long hair. Her boots made a final squeak of protest as her butt hit the cold, untreated wood of the deck.

I don’t belong.

The door creaked open, light spilling into the darkness.



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