Blue Ache

By Jan Stinchcomb

I was the one who found Azure squatting in the dorm shower, the water beading up on her lovely blue skin. I wanted to run and grab my camera so I could capture the image for my photography class, but I couldn’t leave her alone. I would not let anyone else take credit for her.

We tried to figure out who she was. There were lots of people coming and going during Freshman Orientation. Was she that girl who had the aquarium filled with poison dart frogs? Did her parents drive a weird vintage car? Was she the foreign exchange student?

She kept disappearing, and then she would be found again. Or maybe all of us BlueAchewere stealing her in secret. Her eyelids moved like a doll’s; her body was barely lukewarm. I named her. We decided it was best to keep her by the courtyard pond, and so I built a rock wall to protect her delicate body.

She showed up in several classes with a “Visitor” badge balanced between her small breasts. From time to time I would see her slender blue arm sticking out of someone’s backpack. The boys would not touch her but often paused before her tranquil face and tried to say the right thing. One of them gave her a tiara.

During finals she had settled, knees bent, behind the rock wall. In the daylight we noticed a colony of tiny blue frogs perched on her back and hips. Their mating call was a lyric buzz we could not help but reproduce as we prepared for our exams.

One morning a blonde sophomore pulled a huge flap of blue skin out of her armpit as she toweled off in the dorm shower. She swayed, triumphant, waiting for the rest of us to notice. Another girl was scratching behind her ear during breakfast when she found hers, a strip of skin in audacious sapphire. We all started hoping, calculating, like little girls waiting to menstruate for the first time. I found my roommate studying her naked body in front of the mirror when I came home from a party late one night. She jumped and covered herself, but not before asking me to examine her back.

I went to the pond to look for Azure before I moved out of the dorms, but there was no trace of her. Dejected, I walked back to my room to get the last of my boxes. Girls posed on balconies and rubbed lotion on their long blue legs. Girls left campus in bikini tops that showcased their blue skin while their parents prepared for a serious discussion in the car. I climbed into the backseat of my mother’s old sedan in a tank top and cutoffs. As I leaned out the window and waved goodbye, I swore I would not return an outsider.

I noticed a patch of blue on my inner thigh as we crossed the campus gates and I felt the sweetness of relief. My mother, ever oblivious, drove on. She had no idea how lucky we were.

Jan Stinchcomb is the author of The Blood Trail (forthcoming from Red Bird Chapbooks). Her stories have recently appeared in Black Candies: The Eighties, Whiskey Paper, Atticus Review and Monkeybicycle, among other places. She is a reader for Paper Darts. Currently living in Southern California with her husband and children, she can be found at or on Twitter @janstinchcomb.

Art by Lesley C. Weston (Copic Ink, Pen and Brush)

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