The party was still going when I got back. Seven years in New York, five in L.A., one in Milan, another traveling, and when I finally returned home, the party was still going. Breasts were wilting and hairlines receding, but everyone was still there. They still hadn’t invited Suzy from across the street who couldn’t speak without stuttering, Lena was dumping Erik for the umpteenth time, and Jeremy was still trying his luck with whoever the youngest legal in the room happened to be – now it was 26-year-old Maggie, Elena’s accident sister. Maggie was just a kid when I left. She was the only person not having the time of her life. 
  Maggie smiled when she saw me, made her way over with two red plastic party cups. We clinked our glasses, producing a shallow sound like the bump of plastic shovel against plastic bucket that reminds you it’s only a sand castle. Her shoes stuck to the stalepopcorngumbeercan conglomerate that had become the floor. “The punch isn’t so great. I got whiskey instead of that cheap Vodka and it doesn’t mix well with much.” Maggie was the one who made the necessary trips to replenish supplies, because Maggie was the only one who left. They all knew she’d come back, telling herself it was just for a night or two. She started to cry. She was fifteen when she first snuck into the party, eager to be just like Elena. She didn’t want to be here anymore.
  “We’ll just leave tonight,” I said. The solution seemed simple.
  “It doesn’t work that way.” Her nose dripped snot and she rubbed at it with her sleeve.
  “Of course it does.” Still, she shook her head. “Let’s just get a breath of fresh air, okay?”

  Outside, I looked up. I’d missed the stars when I first moved to New York. My stepmother mailed me a build-it-yourself star projector to keep in my room and I turned it on every night, thought about returning home to see the real stars. Now, home for her funeral, staring at those dots of luminance, I found they were a dull simulacra of the unreal thing, meeker and less plentiful than the projector’s image. Still, I feigned awe. “Do you see?” I asked Maggie. I held her hand and pulled her gently towards the sidewalk, the road, away from the apartment.
  She nodded, looking at Erik’s basement apartment, the nearly covered windows winking between warm orange glow and shadows of movement. You could see glimpses of Christmas lights, hear the energetic howls of the group. Happy like you only could be when you were drunk and in high school and surrounded by the people you think you will be surrounded by for the rest of your life. As I pulled Maggie by the hand, her feet turned heavier and heavier until I thought she was turning to salt.
  “You go,” she said, staring back at the apartment. “I’ll follow in a minute.”

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Problem Child offers an alternative medium for publication of poetry, prose, artwork, essays, and other creative media by semi-annually publishing the Problem Child Literary Magazine. Problem Child aims to publish and promote individual original thought by creating and hosting a creative community.