underwater they are mermaids. patterns of poolwater-caught sunshine dancing in soft-edged white upon their long legs (tails). red hair like ocean fire and fingers ever reaching for the bubbles, like pearls but from out their mouths. darting up between their fingers.
there are places here, beneath here, beneath the sound of their mother yelling at their father and the loud rough of the neighbours dogs bark, where they can breathe. breathe the dead leaves in water whirlpools beneath their feet and breathe the chlorine, leaving eyes red and hair green at the tips. breathe the quiet of their bodies and their imagined underwater world, so colour-dipped and alive.
their eyes are closed tight and they press their heads together, on the pool steps. one holds the others hand and together they love a love that is shimmer on water waves edge, pink casing on sundown clouds and toe nails with pink polish peeling. they love and in the silence of their love (and sound of life a-fight around them) they are just one.
when they are both fourteen one sits by the pool with a towel wrapped close around her, but half naked beneath. drawing circles with a stick in the water. and the other lies pretty under the falling sun, smoking light cigarettes and making an o with her lips, trying to blow smoke rings.
what are you thinking about, madeline?
oscar wont love you. she breathes disconnected circles.
she traces his lips in the water with the stick and she leans down so her own lips and nose drip wet with a new found lust. the other suspires and closes her eyes against the heat. she is burning.
when the sun loses its warm and the sky loses its blue, they sit together with their toes in the water. mother calls dinner from inside but it is only a distant screech-crash sound of car collision in their heads. she stops calling.
you have sun cancer.
no i dont.
yes, look. cancer red, and its everywhere. its spreading all across your chest and shoulders and on your nose too.
its not so bad.
yes it is. please dont die.
well, good. because i would kill myself if you died.
me too. how would you do it?
maybe in the bath. remember when i fell asleep in the bath and nearly drowned? like that, but really die this time. or id swallow all the pills in the medicine cabinet. how would you?
i never really thought about it.
maybe you should.
i dont have sun cancer.
it is a school picture day and the twins are at the far back with the taller boys. madeline and maria dawes, like trapped deer with large eyes unblinking and awkward footing. madeline is not breathing. she is not because she is not sure how to breathe. oscar is holding her hand.
below her stomach is red heat and over her face is red heat and she tells herself, this isnt skin cancer, this is love. and she is so certain she whispers into marias ear.
i love him.
i dont like him.
well i do.
and maria steps on madelines foot, digging with her heel. but madeline does not move, oscar is holding madelines hand. oscar leans over and whispers hot tickly breath words across her neck and ears. butterflies flutter-fly out her fingertips.
its getting dark and she is still face down and naked on his bedroom floor. she cannot move, there is a sleepy nothingness in her thoughts and she is not there at all.
she has to spit and when she does it is blood and cum and saliva. oscar wont love her, oscar does not love. she coughs into her palms and lays unfeeling.
what if i told you i wanted to kill myself, but i didnt want you to die too.
maria lays on her mothers bed reading and madeline rests her head on her stomach, watching the ceiling fan.
im not kidding maria, i really will do it you know.
when they are quiet a long while madeline shuts her eyes, half feeling the air beat down upon her face. she is vague and wispy and she does not think in sentences any more. she is thick fog. soon maria puts down her book and they lie under the covers with their faces close.
why do you want to kill yourself?
i just do.
i dont know.
is it because oscar doesnt love you?
no. i dont want oscar to love me. oscar hurts me and oscar tastes like sick and i dont want anyone to ever love me but you.
what the fuck did oscar do?
oscar raped me.
maria screams into the pillow while madeline is still, she shouts curse words, punching the wooden headboard until her knuckles are red-white and then kicks her legs against the bed like a child until she is sobbing with weak. madeline is still quiet. maria wraps her arms and legs around her, kissing her hair.
my pretty little sister. youve been so quiet, why the hell didnt you tell me this before? why now madeline? i want to kill him. jesus. i really want to fucking kill him.
so how should we do this?
no, only me.
its always us. i cannot be just me, you know i cant live like that.
i cant live.
then there is nothing else.
there are places, underwater, where they can breathe. and under here they float. heavy rocks tied to ankles with string. they press their fingers together and let their pearl-breath go. and with this love heavy and all-present in the water around them, they drown. they are n(one).