Stars over the Horizon

Submitted into Contest #134 in response to: End your story with a character looking out on a new horizon.... view prompt

11 comments

Fiction Friendship Inspirational

A blaring sound rang across the small town, it was oddly rhythmic. As if it was sounding off to the tune of that one Rick Astley song. Markus couldn't remember the name but the words came perfectly to him, as the siren blared the town began to sing in a beautiful unison

 “We’re no strangers to lov– Can you turn your alarm off?”

Markus’ eyes shot open with a look of surprise and disappointment at the ending of such a beautiful dream. He rubbed his eyes, gave a big sigh and sat up slowly singing along to his alarm

 “I just wanna tell you how I'm feeling.” 

His sister was poking her head in through the doorway still adorned by her ever so classic bed head waiting for him to turn off his phone alarm.

“You know that you can at least turn the volume down, everyone can hear that lame song across the whole house” 

She said annoyingly before pulling her head back from the door and slamming it shut. 

He shrugged her off and flung the covers off himself, singing along a little louder with his alarm. He stepped on beat across his room, getting in his uniform and grabbing his headphones. He turned off the notification and pressed play on his Greatest showman playlist humming quietly to himself as he left for the restroom to finish getting ready for work. 

He headed downstairs to where his parents and sister were sitting eating breakfast, taking out one headphone to greet everyone. 

“Good Morning~” He sang. His mother tried to follow suit

“Good Mornin-” She coughed up one of the eggs she was previously chewing. A small chuckle came from Markus and his sister as his dad checked to see if she was ok. 

“Anyway” she continued “Are you ready for your classes to start? It must be pretty exciting right?” 

“Of course it's kind of exciting” Markus’ tone was quickly filled with anxiety “but I'm not sure I'm ready for that big of a move. I was thinking of just starting next semester when my nerves aren't so high y'know?”

His family gave him a collective silent look of worry before his father cleared his throat

“Ahem, you seemed so excited son, at the end of the day it's your choice but don't let the anxiety take you out of the fight before it even starts”

“Dad” his sister chimed in, “It's a performing arts school. I don't think there will be any fighting”

He gave her a look of exhaustion “Don't be a smart ass at breakfast honey”

Markus couldn't help but smile, he loved his family more than anything, he loved their dynamic, it was hard for him to imagine what it would be like waking up in the morning and not coming down to whatever this was.

“Well~” Markus sand regaining his earlier composure “Im off to work~, The customers won't serve themselves~”

The three said goodbye to him in unison as he threw on an oversized coat and flung around his scarf. 

The winter was always cold in his town. Getting into the lower 20’s, it was officially heavy jacket season. Markus never really liked the cold too much but he preferred it over summer. “You can easily get warmer by wearing extra layers, it's harder to cool yourself off.” Was his favorite line in such conversations. His home was atop a small hill so he could feel the sharp and frigged wind breeze across face as soon as he opened the front door to his house. The cold just made him even more hungry since he decided to skip breakfast and go straight into work. He went around the corner of his house and grabbed his bike from along the side wall. He rang the bell three times as he began his ride down the hill. Not many people were up to leaving their houses around this time, on a saturday to book so his rides were always pretty uneventful with the occasional waving at the neighbors his recognized, so when he had the chance he liked to practice his singing on the ride to work, he felt the wind from his speed made it harder for others to hear him belt certain high notes despite how truthful it probably wasn't. Either way it made him feel a bit more comfortable. A few minutes later he pulled into the only shopping area his town had, parking in front of a small breakfast diner. As soon as the entry bell rang Markus was greeted by everyone present one after another as he made his way behind the counter to put on his apron.

A voice sounded from behind Markus in the kitchen. 

“Last week here Markus, what do you think about starting to train your replacement?” 

It was Jeffrey, the head cook and the owner's husband. He was an ironically skinny man but tall at about 6’1. His still thick and lively hair is always fighting itself to be free from his hairnet, Markus loved talking to Jeffery, sure his father was a loving figure but Jeffrey never failed to be insightful and tended to withhold judgment despite what Markus would ask advice for. 

Markus finished tying his apron on before responding.

“Actually, about that, I was hoping to talk to Alma about that. Is she around or coming by anytime soon?

“Alma?” Jeffery shot his head up from whatever he was burning to perfection on the stove.

“Not Al? Ally? Or my favorite thus far ‘The Allinator’? Are you doing ok Markus?”

Markus gave an unenthusiastic chuckle while getting his notepads and napkins. As much as he appreciated Jeffrey’s innate insightfulness he hated how sometimes he just couldn't keep his emotions to himself. 

“Yeah, just rethinking the whole ‘Leave and never come back in less than a week’ part of this whole school thing” 

Jeffery couldn't decide if he should sigh or laugh at Markus’ apprehension so what came out was a small cough of both.

Markus stopped, grabbed the last of his straws and looked tiredly into the back kitchen. Jeffery was happily whisking away at something in a big silver bowl. He glanced up at Markus glaring at him from outside the kitchen. His eyes went back down to his work as if he had paid no mind to Markus and his attitude. 

“You don’t seem too confident” Jeffery scoffed at him. 

“What? Confident about what? I just don't want to move things along too fast” irritation could be heard bubbling up in Markus’ voice

“Where did this sudden postponement come from? You wanted to be somewhere that ‘appreciated the sound of music’ as you put it before making me watch the musical.” 

Markus groaned while making his way to the terminal next to the cash register which was located at either end of the long counter separating the staff from the rest of the restaurant. A few customers came into the restaurant ringing the entry bell, giving their greetings, with each ding Markus’ “Hello” became filled with more and more melody. He could feel it, an itch in the back of his throat that seemed to start at his diaphragm. He swallowed his notes and went along to serving the tables with a smile and hum, his mind filled with a cacophony of jumbled but satisfying chorus’ from his favorite songs and musicals. A few lines of a song or two escaped his tightly pressed lips during the frequent transits from the kitchen to the floor. 

The day passed as usual for everyone, slow and fast whenever the crowds decided. As most of the staff, the only four servers in the restaurant especially, hated the long dredge of the day and rude customers once in a while and small tips for big meals with great service, Jeffery could notice that Markus always kept a genuine smile on his face. As if he wasn't the busiest server during the lunch rush hour. He inhabited his own world of bliss. Jeffery knew why he was like that, his happy place was music, and although his comment in the morning was worrying, it was good to see that it was more cold feet than a lost passion. Only a few customers remained and any that were coming in at this late hour were regulars that sometimes consisted of Markus’ family visiting while he was on a late shift, this was a time to unwind for the staff, start the cleanup and catch up on any customer drama that happened in the day. 

Jeffery turned the heat down on his stove and walked to the door separating the kitchen from the service counter to lean in the entry. 

“You’ve got a lot of tunes going through your head to not get a degree for ‘em”

Markus chuckled as he wiped the counter clean

“It’s not a four year university. It’s a trade school.. Just a really really good one.”

“Why indefinitely put off going to a really really good trade school?”

Markus scoffed at the ridiculous notion.

“Indefinite? Who said it would be indefinite? There would definitely be a time that I would go.”

Jeffery raised an eyebrow.

“Really? When?”

Markus froze his waxing motion on the counter, he hadn't considered that if he didn't go now, when would he feel comfortable going? What would change how he felt about leaving home?

“Just eventually…”

Jeffery shot a look of annoyance and disappointment that Markus tried his best to not meet eyes with.

“What was that one song you loved to sing? The one by Julie Andrews?”

Markus looked up confused

“Which one?”

“You know, the one that's like” Jeffery sang in a single tenor note. It was about the best he could do. 

“I've always longed for adventure

To do things I never dared

Now I'm facing adventure.”

Makrus rolled his eyes, trying to resist his mouth coiling into a smile, singing with jeffrey and Alma was his favorite. They didn't have the voices of angels but they weren't afraid to express themselves with music or put some passion into it. 

“That's not how it starts.” 

“Maybe not, but you know the next part.”

Markus flipped the cloth he was wiping the counter with over his shoulder, leaned his back against the counter and picked up the song in a gentle but bellowing voice.

“Then why am I so scared?”

The few guests of the restaurant looked up from their plates, the few other servers’ attention was drawn to Markus and the staff in the kitchen crowded the doorway to see who was producing such a sound. 

“Captain with seven children

 What's so fearsome about that?”

A shout came from the end of the diner in a booth from a lone man

“Is this a diner or a theater? We came for eggs, not for whatever fruity song you're screeching out.”

With that, Markus became exceedingly aware of the eyes around him, his voice shrank from the anxiety that he could feel crawling all over from the attention. He continued the lines but at a low mumble, unable to draw the breath for any volume. The people looked on and Markus could see their faces marred with disappointment at his shrinking away and others giving sly smiles of satisfaction that he didn’t continue. The slightly rhythmic grumbling didn't last long before the entry bell rang. A tall black woman with black and white curls sorted through her hair barged in lugging behind a purse that seemed to fit her size. All the attention was flung at the entrance, Markus didn't hear the clops of high heels echoing through the diner as she approached him behind the counter. She stopped a few feet away from him, hearing his shriveling song. She shot a look at Jeffery who simply gave her a nod. She set down her purse, took a deep breath and echoed the lyrics for all to hear.

“Captain with seven children

 What’s so fearsome about that?”

Markus looked up at Alma in all her “Amazonian glory” as he liked to call it. His eyes lit up, he cleared his throat and tried to harmonize with her note. 

“Oh I must stop all these doubts

 All these worries 

 If I don’t I know I'll turn back

 I must dream of the things I am seeking

 I am seeking the courage I lack.”

The single patron in the back booth of the diner shouted over their duet once more. 

“Hey! Please, some fucking courtesy, What kind of diner is this?”

Alma and Markus stopped singing. Markus cowered a bit and went back to wiping down the counters. Alma glared at the man in the back. She was going to rebuttal but could tell Markus was no longer in a mood to continue anyway, he had always been a shy short. Easily spurred on but also easily shut down.

“So sorry dear customer. Normally I would tell you that my diner is whatever I say it is, and that the other customers seemed to enjoy the impromptu entertainment, but instead allow me to apologize for the disturbance and get you some coffee and whatever meal is in the house.”

She gestured toward the server for his table who was setting down a drink to come to her, the little server rushed over. Alma leaned in to whisper in their ear.

“Off the kids menu”

Alma took Makrus by the shoulder and led him to the back of the restaurant, pulling in jeffery as well. Behind the kitchen there was a ladder up to the roof through a service hatch, she gestured for Markus to go up first. She had long ago set up lawn chairs on the roof for the various smoke breaks she and Jeffrey would take. Markus only came up here when invited to stargaze with the couple on particularly clear nights during slow hours. Otherwise he hated the smell of smoke. The three fell into their respective chairs, sighing in unison. 

“So, I heard you wanted to stay here longer? Forgo the whole music arts performing trade school?”

Markus hesitated for a second, he kind of already knew how she would take it. Jeffery and Alma were so similar it was kind of scary. 

“Well, not forgo, just postpone.”

Jeffery lit a cigarette a bit further away as to not bother Markus and chimed in between puffs

“You mean put off? Like procrastination on a bigger scale?”

“No, I mean that I don't see the point in rushing away from friends and family when I kind of got a good thing going here.”

Alma looked a bit apprehensive at this.

“A good thing going? A few weeks ago you were complaining how only us and your family appreciate your love for music and how it'll be a good confidence booster, I don’t think that’s changed hun.”

“I think those people down there appreciated the little bit of the song we did down there.”

Alma leaned up in her lawn chair.

“No sweetie, those are regulars, they just know that if me and Jeffrey don't say nothin’ then they don't have a say. And I think at this point the other staff have just gotten used to you being a walking musical. That’s different from appreciation.”

Markus clasped his hands together and looked down as he rubbed them together.

Jeffrey put out his cigarette, attempting to pat some of the smoke off into the evening air while making his way over back to his chair. His voice was gentle as he spoke. 

“Hey, You know it’s alright to be nervous to leave home for the first time right?”

Alma grabbed onto Markus’ fiddling hands.

“You can’t let that stop you from doing something new. You have to be confident that you got accepted because you can succeed. Have the confidence that even if that’s not why you got in, that you have the talent to figure it out.”

Markus didn't have much to say. He didn’t know where else to get a conversation like this from. His parents loved him but they weren't good with words or comforting. Just supportive. What would he do without these two?

Alma let go of his hands and leaned back into her chair. 

“Good friends, good family. They will always be available no matter where you go. Don’t think that you are leaving us or your family behind. You dont stop being friends or family with someone just because you got goals.”

Markus couldn’t think of anything to say, they read him pretty good. The fear of being alone always terrified him. If he didn’t go and pursue his dream now, he might never. The thought of leaving everything behind brought tears to his eyes, the thought of being stuck forever and disappointing himself and the people who believe in his dream with him made them fall. 

He wiped his eyes and grabbed the couple's hands, standing up and leading them to the edge of the roof. The clouds in the night sky were clearing up and the lights of the small town were off for the night save for the insomniacs, enough for the stars to litter the sky above them. 

“I'm not as confident as Julie but I think I can at least give it a try now.”

Alma and Jeffrey chuckled. 

“No one was as confident as that bitch. Just have as much confidence in yourself as you can muster.”

Markus gazed up at the clear sky, burning the scene of stars above this diner and his home into his head. He looked out towards the horizon, his life starting just past it. He anticipated finding what stars littered their clear skies. 

February 26, 2022 04:57

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11 comments

21:28 Mar 02, 2022

I really liked your story!

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Kara Harrison
20:04 Mar 01, 2022

Super cute I am Markus lol

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Tasha Jones
16:14 Mar 01, 2022

I love the support system that Markus has. I could see Alma from your description. "He looked out towards the horizon, his life starting just past it. He anticipated finding what stars littered their clear skies." I like this ending. So proud. Keep writing.

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Charlie Murphy
17:49 Feb 28, 2022

Wonderful job! Great dialogue. Maybe write a sequel?

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Isaiah Wilson
18:09 Feb 28, 2022

I appreciate that. I was sketchy on how I should make the dialogue. I'm glad you liked it. I wouldn't even know where to go for a sequel from here 😅

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Charlie Murphy
18:35 Feb 28, 2022

You're welcome. Can you read mine, The Diaps?

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Katina Randolph
22:58 Feb 27, 2022

I loved the story Son... Alma and Jeffery are people I wish I had in my corner when I was younger. You have encompassed the fear of a young adult getting ready to leave home for the first time. Having those real conversations are important. Awesome Story!

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Poppy Jackson
14:42 Feb 26, 2022

Amazing! :)

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Isaiah Wilson
18:15 Feb 26, 2022

Thank you very much!

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Unknown User
14:33 Feb 26, 2022

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Isaiah Wilson
18:16 Feb 26, 2022

I appreciate that very much. Markus is kind of how I always am when it comes to pursuing something new. I get very anxious. And Jeffrey and Alma are the personification of the voices in my head telling me to just go for it.

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