I’ve brought some silly stickers with me to the party, stars with a pattern of the American Flag. In good spirits, I walk around and put one on each person I see.
I spot Claire sitting off to the side with a woman I’ve never seen before. “You are a bright, shining star, and don’t you ever forget it,” I say gently.
“My star is burning out,” she says sadly.
“No. It’s brighter than ever,” I say fiercely. “You have much energy left, and you’re going to use it to change the world. No, we are going to,” I correct myself. Claire laughs through her tears.
“And I’ve never met you before, but I’m sure you’re a star, too,” I say, smiling at the stranger as I affix a sticker to the front of her shirt.
“This is Chantelle. She’s a pop star, and part of the Saratoga group. But she hasn’t been here in a few years. And this is Katherine,” Claire introduces us. “Katherine used to work for the Times, but now she’s part of the team that’s helping get this place re-opened.”
I shake Chantelle’s hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise. Man, it’s such a shame that you’re turning this place into a clinic!”
I freeze. “Excuse me?”
“I just mean, this is such a great party. It’s too bad that this is the last one,” Chantelle says.
“This won’t be the last party,” I say carefully. “We will still have parties. It will just be… different.”
“Well, yeah! That’s what I mean. You’ll have all those sick people here. Don’t get me wrong, what you’re doing is like, really noble or whatever,” she says, “but it seems like a waste to give up such a good party!”
“Uhh…” I’m dumbfounded. “Okay, well… it was nice meeting you.” I walk away before I say something I know I’ll regret.