Masha is a neuro-artist, so she can’t just send a break-up message like a normal person. That’s why a memory of last night, cropped and augmented, is blinking in Bess’s inbox. She knows she should delete it. She doesn’t.

They’re in a car together, winter swirling past the windows. She sees herself in profile, wearing her recycled pink coat, rubbing balm on her chapped lips then leaning in to rub it on Masha’s.

The car maneuvers onto a frozen field, tires squealing and crunching. They pile out. Her face is electric with excitement, but even though she’s deep in the memory now she can’t feel anything from Masha. Not when her arms wrap around her from behind, not when their heads nestle together.

“I wonder if any of these stars are already gone,” her voice says. “Like, gone, burned out, but we’re still seeing the after-images.”

Finally, she feels Masha feel something: realization and dread and resignation all mixed together. Masha’s head tips up to the heavens, the glowing constellations, but Bess knows now she was only seeing the after-images of something bright and beautiful.

She tastes her own cold lips when Masha kisses her. She exits the memory.

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