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Suspended and floating, she arches her back, reaching her face towards the bottom of the lake. She clenches her fists, full of weights, and pushes herself towards the rocks below, wishing that she could lie down and wait it out. Her eyes open and she watches the light break the water, prisms dancing around her, touching her cheek lightly, laughing and she remembers all the years in the lake, all the years of dancing prisms. She hears the voice of her sister yelling from the shore, a light giggle, and a “Come back in!” from her mother. Her mother’s been dead for years now. Her sister lives in Minnesota with her husband and brood of eight young boys, all blond.
Wonder what Eleanor’s up to.
Eleanor is the sister.
Probably carting the boys off to soccer practice.
And me? What am I doing?
I’m dying. Been dead though. I’ve been dead. What have I felt in the last few years? Nothing. Numb nothing. My mind has been dead for ages. Since the accident. My mind has been frozen and dead. I didn’t mean to hurt her. You know? I didn’t mean to hurt her. I turned and it- it was just an accident.
The accident had left two dead and one buried.
She cries out but no one hears because she lives alone, isolated and enclosed in the woods. Her husband is dead.
There is a bizarre bliss that holds her body in its arms here, under the surface and although breath is seeping out quickly, like smoke seeping out under a door and although, her body is turning blue, she smiles, a grin of rows of pearly whites, the smile of the model she once was, the teeth of a young woman. She sees her hands are wrinkled.
I am an older woman now. I grew up so fast.
She remembers the first time she went out to New York to pursue a modeling and acting career. She remembers the many pornographic videos she starred in, too naïve to realize that men with business cards that read “Pretty Girl Video” are not model scouts for the lovely, but for the girls who push their chests out and prance in stilettos. She was not the type that would’ve normally been looked for had it not been her abnormally large chest and so she starred in pornographic videos, took off her clothes, and laid her bare back again itchy sofas with red stains and wet spots. And she worked so hard because she thought that this was how all actresses started out.
I was so unconvincingly sexual back then. I would’ve never gotten off to my mousy hair and pointy nose had I been a man. I wouldn’t have been able to work one out to that.
She giggles because in some strange way, some bizarre way, it’s funny to her. She watched the videos many times. Often at night when her husband slept, watching her back arching and her hands grasping.
I probably look the same here. I think my body looks the same now, arched and grasping, turning blue, and an ever-present smile.
She was famous for being able to tie cherries with her tongue. It was a talent she had learned sitting at the long wooden table that was still in her mother’s old house. She had stained her lips and learned to tie knots, she and her mother shrieking in delight as they popped the little stems out of their mouths. It was a talent that carried on into her days as an actress, though the days were brief. She looked fondly on years with her mother, as well as years in front of the video cameras and lights. She had loved to act and model. She was never quite good and her movies rarely played at any of the good theaters. She had once met Judy Garland.
Now, she had a smile. That Judy Garland.
And Elizabeth Taylor.
Oh gosh- those eyes! If only I had had a defining feature, aside from these ridiculous breasts.
She looks at them, the way they hover above her body, floating.
They were the only thing that ever got me a job and I never starred in a movie where they weren’t mentioned. If only I had just had them reduced. Oh nonsense- I never would’ve been in “Pretty Girl Video” then!
She giggles again, blowing bubbles. She sinks a bit further into the water and realizes that she cannot breathe anymore, her lungs strain suddenly and she feels panic.
She doesn’t drop the weights from her hands though.
Because I’m already dead.
A horrible image seeps into her eyelids and she watches it play like a movie. She feels the small hand on her back. “Mommy,” she hears. She sees the vegetables, freshly washed before her, laid out on the cutting board of dark wood. She feels the handle in her hand.
She screams but there is no air in her lungs and so her body just shutters like a stalled car.
That’s me. A stalled car. Been f***ing stalled for years now.
“Mommy,” the child’s voice says again.
Mommy! Mommy! I’m drowning!
Her mind screams but sound is gone, just a slight gurgling of bubbles, every last drop of air escaped, the depths of her lungs incredibly hollow.
The water is silent except for the child’s voice. “Mommy.” “Mommy.” The weight of the handle is in her hand. Her hand is empty. Her fist clenches, trying to grasp an invisible object.
Eleanor calls from the banks and she is back in her childhood, smiling underwater. The sizzling of the grill is almost audible. The smell of fresh shrimp fills the air. She inhales in her mind, but reality won’t allow it. Without air, one cannot inhale. Water fills her mouth and she tries to cough. Without air, one cannot cough.
Her foot scrapes against a rock as she flails momentarily. Blood begins to rise in a slow cloud, like deep red ink snaking its way, a smoke serpent, writhing to the surface. Cherry red.
Mmmm. Cherries. I wish I had one now.
She moves her tongue through the familiar motions of tying a cherry stem, purses her lips to pop the invisible stem out of her mouth, and she begins again. Over and over and over and over, she ties cherries.
I wish tying cherry stems had been a more marketable trade. Would’ve been more successful, but was that what I actually wanted?
Her mouth stops moving, mid-tie, and she turns, feeling the child’s hand pull away from her back, the weight of the knife’s handle in her back
The child. Her child. Her little girl floats before her. She looks at the little hands and feet, the oxford shoes, the white socks with the lace trim. But the girl is not fully there. Her coloring is off, bluish with the serpent of red blood drifting up through the child’s body.
She closes her eyes, flash of the handle, the vegetables, the water running, “Mommy,” turn too quickly and the knife just slides across the child’s chest. Freshly sharpened knife slides across the child’s chest. Silver freshly sharpened knife slides across the child’s chest. And blood seeps out the slice in the child’s pinafore and runs like a waterfall down to the ground. And they meet eyes and say nothing and the girl collapses.
She didn’t say anything to me. Even at the hospital. She just stared. She didn’t cry. She just looked at me.
They tried to stitch it up, fix her like a rag doll, but nothing worked and the waterfall continued to pour red and the child died thirteen hours later in Pleasantville Hospital. There was nothing pleasant about the f***ing place.
It was an accident. I was. I just- I didn’t. I can’t. I want. I won’t. I go. I am. I will. I push. I pull. I give. I take. I took life. I took breath. And now I take my own.
She looks up, watching the prisms dance and slowly fades out.
The woman floats on her back, face to the sun, feet relaxed and pointed, knees slightly apart, arms out, palms open, the weights floating downstream. Three fisherman find her a week later, floating along, smiling a row of pearly whites, and those breasts, those large breasts, bobbing up and down, announcing her fame.
“Isn’t this that girl from Pretty Girl Video?” one asks the other two. And they all nod, grinning, realizing that they’ve found a famous actress.
“That one with the goddamn cherry trick.”