By Roy Hudson
Much to my dismay, that girl in the club was everything Cole liked in a woman, so close to his ideal it was scary. Her long, thin legs were toned and so smooth that he could see the dim lights of the club reflecting off them. She wore a skintight black miniskirt and a simple baggy black tee-shirt above it... sexy, yet mysterious. Her hair was very short, bright red and teased so that it seemed to spring up from her scalp like wild flowers. In other words, my opposite.
I’d never had trouble getting a boyfriend; at least, until my senior year in college, when the only guy I was interested in was Cole. I had my share of guys interested, but not my type. I guess a lot of creeps find blondes with glasses appealing… not Cole, though.
The Cream was where the students of the Manson College for the Arts gathered whenever the need to party hit, and being that this was September and the student body was just getting used to things, that was practically every night. I’ll admit it, I was a party girl in college. For Cole Marsden, party time was only about twice a month.
We were at The Cream that night with three of Cole’s friends. One of them was saying something about a hilarious moment in class yesterday when the elderly teacher’s toupee was knocked from his head when the scrolling chart sprung up too fast and nailed him on the nose, but Cole heard none of this. His attention was solely focused on the girl sitting at the bar; Star. It annoyed me whenever I tried to talk to him that night.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” he said, though his three friends at our corner table hardly noticed. I think I was the only one who did.
Cole was a tall boy at 6’6.5” exactly. Extremely skinny, his movements were so lax that he seemed to be made out of rubber, but most noticeably that night. That’s when I knew. In his mind, it was love at first sight. What was I, then?
He shambled his way around the dancing crowd toward she whom he deemed the girl of his dreams. He pushed his shaggy brown hair back behind his ears, beneath the stems of his rimless glasses. He swatted at the front of his clothes so as to make sure there were no food remnants or beer stains on his tee-shirt or khakis before making his move. His face flushed and his brown eyes darkened as he tapped her on the shoulder.
I followed him to the bar and struck up a conversation with another guy who stood between Cole and me, so that Cole wouldn’t notice my spying on him. I’m sure the other guy wouldn’t have appreciated my ignoring him, but he was a mean to an end.
She looked at him with bright blue eyes and smiled. “Hi,” she said softly.
He smiled back. “Hi. My name’s Cole, and I just had to come over here and tell you how beautiful you are.”
I could hear her smile broaden as she said, “Thank you, Cole. I’m Star.”
“Star,” he repeated, savoring the sound of it. He grinned. I felt my temperature rise. “I like that.” He pointed at her empty wine cooler and asked, “May I buy you another?”
She laughed at this, then said, “I’m sorry, it’s just that I haven’t met anyone so polite.” She then nodded. “And yes, you may buy me another.”
He asked the bartender for another Strawberry-Kiwi cooler for Star and a beer for himself. They started casual conversation, and decided to go for a walk after they finished their drinks. Cole didn’t even say goodbye to his friends, who didn’t seem to notice his absence. I apologized to the other guy while he was in mid-speech and closely followed in the shadows.
Walking down the street from the club toward the campus, Cole started some casual conversation. “So are you a student here?”
“Yes. I love it here.”
“Yeah? Where are you originally from?”
Her voice wavering ever so slightly, she replied, “I had some bad experiences there. Far away. I’d rather not talk about it.”
He nodded sympathetically and said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was a sensitive subject.”
“That’s okay. Are you originally from around here?”
He nodded again. “Yep. I wanted to go to a school of the arts in California, but the tuition costs prevented me. This is the only local school that I can hone my talent for computer graphics and design. What’s your interest?”
“I love to paint. Of course, I like everything here. The visual arts, the theater, the music... it’s all so great.”
“Yeah? What’s your favorite kind of music?”
“Oh, I love just about everything! I’m not too fond of country, rap and polka, but everything else is great.”
Cole laughed at her reference to polka. I knew about our shared aversion to country and rap and was suddenly jealous. I thought, It’s as if she’s been stalking him; then I realized that was exactly what I was doing and returned my focus to their conversation.
“I have to agree with you there,” he said.
She continued, “If I had to pick, I’d say my favorites are oldies.”
He marveled, “Mine too.” That was a lie meant to help the two bond. I knew he was partial to 1990’s grunge rock, which is far from what Cole would have considered oldies. “You said you like theater, what are your favorite plays?”
She shrugged, then said, “I like them all, but my favorites are the tragedies. Especially the ones by Shakespeare.”
“MacBeth is my all-time fave,” Cole exclaimed, obviously forgetting that by Elizabethan standards, MacBeth is considered a comedy. Or maybe he was just hoping she didn’t know the difference. “What about movies? Are you into those?”
“Of course,” she said. “I like all types, except for science fiction.” I noticed her shudder slightly. “Those I do not like.”
“I’m not too fond of them either,” he said, another lie; “but I do like slasher movies. And comedies.” This was true.
She replied, “That’s more like it.”
I think Cole felt that it probably seemed odd to her, his asking for an entire list of favorites the same night he met her, but it seemed to me that he was certain she was right for him. “How about your favorite food?”
By her sudden hesitation, she must have been wondering why of all questions he would ask this one, but answered it all the same. “Pretty much all kinds; Mexican, Italian, seafood... I think I’d have to say my absolute favorite is pizza.”
Cole said rather confidently, “One night you and I are going to have to go out for a movie and a pizza.”
Star laughed again. “Sure.”
I could tell just by looking at him that he felt himself soaring. She had just agreed to go out with him. I imagine he now felt on cloud nine and could do anything. Then he realized that they were in front of his dorm and decided it was best to quit while he was ahead. Smiling, he turned to her and said, “Well, this is it for me, unless you want me to walk you back to your room.”
She shook her head. “No, thank you. I have an apartment across town, I’ll just walk back to the club for my car. Do you want my number?”
Cole’s face went red as his grin spread even further. “Of course!”
She reached into her small black leather purse for a notepad and pen, then scrawled the digits down for him. “Here you are,” she said as she handed him the paper.
“Thank you,” he said. “I really enjoyed talking to you tonight. It was great meeting you.”
She smiled again. “I enjoyed meeting you, too.”
“Would it be presumptuous of me to ask for a goodnight kiss before I go up to my room?”
She hesitantly said, “Um, there’s something I need to tell you, Cole.”
Oh good, I thought, she has a boyfriend. I’m sure that by the tone of his voice, though, Cole was thinking the same thing, only he didn’t find it good at all. “What is it? You have a boyfriend?”
“No, I don’t have a boyfriend.”
He felt somewhat relieved, but there was still that ominous presence of the something she needed to tell him. “You’re not... a lesbian, are you?”
“No. Cole, I really like you, but I don’t want to deceive you. You’re the nicest person I’ve ever met, so you deserve to know the truth right away.” After a moment of hesitation, Star said, “I might as well be blunt. I’m not really a woman, Cole.”
Cole’s jaw, as well as his heart, dropped. Mine, however, beamed. I felt victory was surely mine. At the same time, however, I couldn’t help but feel bad for Cole. He simply said with a thick voice, “Wow.”
“I’m sorry,” she exclaimed. “I didn’t mean to disappoint you.”
Trying to play it cool, he said, “No, it’s okay. I’m glad you were honest with me. I have a few gay friends, so I’m cool with it.” This was another lie, as I’d noticed Cole’s homophobic tendencies. “That is, if you still want to be my friend.”
I could hear that smile of hers again. “Of course I do.”
He smiled thinly. “Alright then. Like I said before, I’ll give you a call and we can catch a movie and get a pizza.”
“Okay.” She then hugged him and said goodnight before turning back towards the club.
“Goodnight,” he sighed. And then, with tears in his eyes, he started up the steps to his dorm.
I felt it would be in poor taste to approach him as soon as Star was gone, so I waited until the following day. Naturally, I pretended to have no knowledge of the events of the previous evening. He didn’t mention Star to me, though he seemed sad. Her confession really shook up his world, and not in a good way. I felt bad for trying to celebrate my victory so soon after his heart was broken, so I decided to be patient. That didn’t go over so well, though.
It took him over a month to get over the disappointment that the girl of his dreams wasn’t really a girl at all, but I guess he finally decided that being bitter about it wasn’t going to help anyone. Besides, his feelings weren’t the only ones at stake. He had promised to be Star’s friend, and he always made good on his promises. That was one of the many things I liked about him. And so, one night at The Cream near the end of October, he swallowed his pride and pulled out his cell phone.
I asked, “Who are you calling, Cole?” I already knew by the anxious look on his face, and I was actually surprised.
“Just… a friend,” he replied vaguely. “Excuse me.” He stood up and stepped into a quiet corner and I leaned back in my seat, focusing my hearing on his voice.
He dialed the number and the wait seemed fathomless. Finally, someone answered and he nervously said, “Hi, is this Star? … This is Cole Marsden; we met at The Cream about a month ago?”
His body relaxed. She remembered him and had obviously been waiting for him to call. He blushed and grinned. “Well, I’ve been real busy with my classes, and then the hassle of friends and family. So how about that movie and pizza?”
I was surprised and somewhat bitter. I hadn’t expected him to go out with her, but he did. Apparently, the idea of her being a man didn’t faze him as much as I’d figured it would.
Not only did Cole and Star continue a friendship, but it was a very close one. She was introduced to all of his friends and family, including me, simply as his good friend. I acted as if I was seeing her for the first time when we were personally introduced. Since he had not yet asked her to be his girlfriend, I decided to take initiative.
We went out a few times, but no matter how much I tried to get him to loosen up, he was distracted by thoughts of his good friend. The longer their friendship lasted, the more he loved Star. And in April, the inevitable happened.
Cole asked me to speak to him in private. I sensed that he was “breaking up” with me, which would have been a feat since we weren’t officially an item; but he revealed his true feelings for Star. Believe me when I say that I was not the first person whose feelings were on my mind. I was genuinely worried that he was making a mistake. I decided to risk our friendship by revealing all.
“Cole,” I said, “you’re probably going to hate me for this, but… I know about Star’s secret. I followed you two out of the club the night you met.”
He turned scarlet, but I wasn’t sure if it was from anger or embarrassment. He simply said quietly, “So then you know that I fell in love at first sight.”
I sighed. “Cole, if you turn your back on your sexuality tonight only to have her tell you that she doesn’t want that kind of relationship with you, you’re only going to get hurt; and I don’t want that. I know you haven’t really noticed, but I really care about you.”
He scoffed, “You have a funny way of showing it, spying on me.”
I smiled benignly. “That’s how a lot of girls react to their feelings of desire over a guy.”
He sighed. “I’m sorry, but Star is the only one I have those feelings for. I see myself growing old and dying with her.” My heart ached for him. “I’m going to a party tonight at Jeff’s house and plan on telling her how I feel.”
“I know,” I said quietly. “I’ve been invited, too.”
He curtly replied, “Go if you’d like, but I’d prefer if you wouldn’t spy on us tonight.”
I agreed, though I knew I was lying. I had to hear first-hand what would happen when he told Star the truth.
I guess he figured that revealing his feelings for Star would make him bisexual, but at this point, he didn’t care. He wasn’t quite sure what Star’s reaction would be, but he never possibly could have anticipated what happened, and neither could I.
I watched from a distance, so as to not be noticed. It worked. He asked her to speak to him in private, so they went to Jeff’s bedroom. Now, a word about Jeff. He had a reputation as a sex maniac, and there were rumors that he had a video camera set up in his closet for sexual escapades. This rumor turned out to be true, and as Cole and Star entered his bedroom, Jeff exited with a girl. Apparently, he didn’t want to arouse suspicion, so he left with the camera still recording; for better or for worse. Had he not recorded Cole and Star’s meeting, I wouldn’t have believed it.
After I heard the scream, I ran to Jeff and got the key. What I saw broke my heart. This is what the video camera revealed:
Beside the bed was a table on which sat a lamp, and across the room from the bed was the television. Against the wall to the left of the bed was a bookshelf, and to its right was the door, through which Cole and Star passed. Prior to entering the bedroom, the two of them had had more than their fair share of beer and wine coolers. In fact, perhaps they’d had too much.
Rocking back and forth on wobbly legs, Cole and Star both fell into sitting positions on the used bed, neither noticing the wet spot. Cole then took her hands in his. He took a deep breath, then said, “I brought you in here to let you know I love you.”
Star’s mouth slowly opened, then she said, “But I told you, I’m not—”
“I don’t care anymore,” he said. “I admit, when you told me the first night, it upset me. I went into my room to cry because I’d found the girl of my dreams and then found out I couldn’t have her because she was the wrong gender. But over the past six months, I’ve learned that you and I are meant for each other. I loved you from the first night, and now I don’t care about the fact that you’re really a guy.”
Star was now shivering. She had no idea what to say.
Cole put a gentle hand on the lower part of her left cheek, then leaned in to kiss her before she could say anything. He slipped his tongue into her mouth and found that this was a sensation she rather enjoyed. Being drunk, they fell over onto their sides on the bed, where Cole wrapped his arms around Star’s waist, rubbing one hand up her back and the other down her hip and thigh. It upset me to see this… especially since I was watching it after the fact.
Her senses were too slowed by the alcohol for her to realize his intentions. He was unbuttoning her jeans and sliding his hand down the front. It finally dawned upon her what he was doing, and she jerked away, but not quickly enough. He had already found what he was not supposed to find.
He looked at Star with wide eyes and gasped, “What the fuck?”
Her jeans completely unbuttoned and unzipped, when she pulled out of Cole’s grip, they fell down to her knees. She wore no underwear, exposing the crotch. There was nothing there. No hair, not even stretched skin from where her supposed male genitals would have been tucked.
She sighed, tears rolling down her cheek. “I’m sorry, Cole. I told you I didn’t want to deceive you, but I had to. I wasn’t lying when I told you I wasn’t a woman. But the truth is just something your people can’t know of.” She reached up and pulled tightly on the bright red hair on top of her head. When the wig came off, he saw that her head was more oval-shaped, and that the hair had concealed it. She stepped toward him, and he scrambled backward on the bed. As she got closer, the light from the lamp showed these new features more plainly. Her eyes were no longer clear blue, they were cold black voids, almost like hollow sockets.
Shaking with fear, Cole was unable to speak.
Looking at him sadly, Star said, “I’m sorry, Cole. I have strong feelings for you, too. But we never would have been able to act on them. Like I said, I’m just here as a student. I love everything about your culture, except for how your science-fiction movies depict us. But like I said, I suffered where I was from... far away. They can be cruel. But now I think the risk of human exposure is just too great. I have to go back.” She stripped the rest of her clothes off to show a body lacking nipples, hair, or any skin blemishes.
Cole was still unable to move. The naked being leaned forward and gave him one final kiss. It then held up a hand with a set of claws for fingertips. “I’m sorry,” it whispered before ripping its claws across Cole Marsden’s throat. He managed one scream before he bled out, which is what called everyone to the door.
I screamed at Jeff, “Unlock it! Now!”
Hesitantly, he did. It broke my heart to see Cole lying dead on his friend’s bed in a pool of his own blood. I looked around for Star, but she was nowhere to be seen.
Moments before we entered, the thing that had called itself Star walked to the third-story window and opened it. Those cold black eyes cast one last gaze at Cole. “You were too good for this world anyway,” it said as it jumped.
Upon seeing nobody else in the room, I ran to the window and looked down. Unsurprisingly, there was no crash or scream on the ground below, as nothing had landed there. There was a shooting star, though. “Star,” I whispered. She went home, leaving death in her wake; a death that will haunt me to my grave. Although, I suppose Cole got what he wanted. He didn’t grow old, but he did die with her.