Brother Snow White

"Illa que dolet verequi sineteste dolet."

Marcus Valerius Martial

"Blue skies, shining on me, nothing but blue skies do I see."

Ella crooned from the black speakers, filling the room with her signature scratchy voice. The stereo remote balanced precariously on milk-white porcelain, dangerously close to the bubbly water. Next to it stood a flute of cheap champagne and beyond that was a book draped over the lip of the bathtub. It was a Tom Clancy novel, spine whiskered white with use and pages edged wet and dark.

Faint sounds drifted through the bathroom's back wall, just audible under Ella's blue skies. Laughter, clinking bottles and Dick Clark on a TV screen – there was a party going on next door. She didn't really care.

Long fingers swirled the bubbles, painting quicksilver patterns in the pink froth. Her golden skin was slick with soap and flushed with hot, hot water. She liked the tickle of the bubbles and the steam that rose and brought drops of perspiration to her brow. It made her feel decadent.

New Years was approaching on swift blue-black wings and Miko took another sip from her champagne flute. Through a small window just above the tub she could see the sky; it was alive with stars.

He had always liked the stars. When they were little he had memorized the constellations and won a sleek silver telescope in the Young Astronomers Contest. He had stayed up all night with it that first night and had gotten grounded for his pains. He had wanted to be an astronomer and discover a hundred new nebulas, a thousand new suns, a million new planets. He excelled in science in school and a few colleges had been sniffing around before –

Miko frowned and picked up the book. Her thumb left a round print on the tan page and the ink wavered. Her brown eyes followed the line of a sentence, but the words might as well have been in Greek. She would not forget him that easily tonight.

She wondered sometimes, on nights when the memories would not leave her alone, whether he enjoyed the night skies in Vietnam. She imagined him at night, dying, his red blood seeping into the soft brown earth and his eyes open to the stars. It was the kind of last image he would like.

Miko did not think of maggots or bloating flesh. Saints didn't decompose after all, so why couldn't he perform the same metrical? He was a golden Snow White, waiting for her to come and dislodge the bullet from his throat.

The bathwater rose by two teardrops. He had died on New Years Eve. One full year – 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days… - since he had looked at his stars for he last time. Miko raised her glass in a toast as cheers from the other side of the room signaled the turning of another year. Happy New Year, brother.