In The Water

In The Water
Photo by Rachel Adams via Flickr
Photo by Rachel Adams via Flickr

We are naked and in the water when Liz, who has the idea first, throws the ball in a high glittering arc over Sara’s head. Sara who doesn’t dare reach and risk exposing a shiny wet breast. Modest Sara who turns first, giving us her nude back, silver-slick with lake water and moonlight, before sloshing after the ball. Liz, with the movement of her hands and the urgency of thought, conducts us and we, girls and boys kicking naked in the water, receive her psychic transmission and, with one mind and motion, duck beneath the soft curl of surf.

No one counts for us, but we count together, telepathically, with one rhythm. Hours might be passing in the dry world above us. We won’t surface until we have to, until we all have to. When we do, we laugh as we explode up out of the water at the joke that passed between us that we all miraculously have just enough breath for. But Sara is a gray shape against the shore, every hanging part of her pulling pathetically through white sand to crawl into the tent we all share.

Fuck Sara, we say with our eyes in the moonlight. We didn’t want her here in the first place. Who invited her? Liz, we think. By mistake, she tells us. And by then it was too late to tell her no; we’ve gotten enough grief for being “bitches” as is. And the boys were too polite to say it; we must get new, better boys. We will let her pout while we swim. We let the boys come only so close, just enough to hear each others’ voices without shouting, before wheeling away, shy, clutching our breasts. The boys are careful. They never come close enough to touch us or each other.

We make the boys wait in the water while we make shore and dress. We are cold and sobering and this is our last night before returning home, so we decide to make peace. Liz goes first into the tent to make her apologies to Sara, to see, in not these words exactly, what the fuck her problem is. She comes right back out again. Sara isn’t there. Sara has told us the story of being kidnapped when she was little, riding in cars with a stranger for days before someone who paid attention to Amber Alerts and was used to seeing children’s faces on cartons of milk, saw her on the news then later in a station wagon in a Food Lion parking lot. That is what our mind goes to immediately. The boys come hesitantly to shore, cupping their junk, but, when we tell them what’s, missing their hands fly to flashlights and pocket knifes and car keys, their dicks bouncing until we hand them their shorts.

We walk up and down the beach, calling her name. We look for strange footprints, but they’re all strange to us. We check among the tall dry grass of the dunes, but it is vast, like the lake’s twin. Liz and one of the boys take a car and drive up and down the country road. They stop at the nearest gas station, thirty minutes from our spot on the beach, and ask if anyone has seen anything. They have not.

The light is coming up on our last morning camping on Lake Michigan. We consider that she has drowned. No one knows who to contact, who to tell. We are her only friends that we know of. We decided to call no one. We have spent the night sober, fucking no one, daring nothing, and then Sara comes walking out of the dunes like some kind of holy apparition. We can’t help but stare at her. Liz and the boy she took with her come down the hill just in time for her return. Liz is relieved. She comes running to join us at Sara’s feet, and she feels what we feel. A brief reconnecting of the oneness we shared in the water in the dark. We are pissed. How does it feel? Sara asks us. Her nose is in the air. We are standing in a loose circle in the sand at the bottom of the dune when Liz, who has the most to lose, grabs up a bleached length of driftwood and swings. No one stops her. We all get our licks in. There is blood on us all by the end.

Tim Buchanan

Tim Buchanan

Tim Buchanan is from Kalamazoo, MI where he attended Western Michigan University earning degrees in Creative Writing and Spanish. He now lives in Greenville, NC and attends East Carolina University as an MA candidate in English. His fiction has previously appeared in Monkeybicycle and has short stories forthcoming in Puerto Del Sol and Cheat River Review.

Tim Buchanan is from Kalamazoo, MI where he attended Western Michigan University earning degrees in Creative Writing and Spanish. He now lives in Greenville, NC and attends East Carolina University as an MA candidate in English. His fiction has previously appeared in Monkeybicycle and has short stories forthcoming in Puerto Del Sol and Cheat River Review.

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