Pool Party (TW)
Sherry ought to have been having a good time at Jessica’s pool party, sashaying around in her caftan and oversized shades, but the dead girl at the bottom of the jacuzzi made it hard. The submerged body, a sleepy odalisque, a greek statue in a string bikini, lay on the bottom step in the fetal position. Every few minutes, while Sherry walked back and forth with margaritas in her hands or crunching on those addictive lime-flavored corn chips, she’d peer over at the hot tub and catch a glimpse of her limbs forming a giant letter “G,” like Gucci. Or Gabbana. Guests congregated at the area where the poolside pebbles met the wooden deck slats, at a respectful distance from the corpse and closer to the grill. Sherry respected their zest for life, but for her it was a downer.
Finally, while sitting on a deck chair with her legs gracefully stretched out to reveal her new pedicure, Sherry shored up enough liquid courage to ask Jessica’s boyfriend, Steve B, what the deal was with the figure beneath the ripples.
He volunteered that the girl, named Marina (of course, thought Sherry, with a name like that) had been hanging out, taking shots on the deck a few weeks ago—and out of nowhere announced that she was crawling into the hot tub for a permanent break. It was so warm, she’d told them.
“We tried to talk her out of it, poor thing,” said Steve B. “I mean Steve over there practically pinned her back, and look at the guns on that guy.” He referred of course to Steve C, manning the grill. But, Steve B continued, Marina had been so truly determined, and everyone knows no number of interventions and pleas can stop someone if they’re dead set on a self-destructive path. People have to make their own choices, and so on. Did Sherry feel him?
It was true, Sherry acknowledged.
"She was like way more tan back then,” said Steve B, nostalgic for Marina’s short life. “Chlorine can bleach a person out.”
“What’s going to happen to her?” asked Sherry, rapidly losing her buzz. “How has she just stayed there?”
“We couldn’t get her out,” said Steve B. “She just put her hands under her head like a pillow, lay down, and stuck like stone. She’s like, a fixture now.”
Sherry sensed that she was bumming Steve out by dwelling on the Marina situation. She released him to go mingle; Steve was a champion mingler.
Now she sat alone by the pool and pulled her caftan tight. In the water, her reflection wobbled, a smear of girl on the surface. Her thoughts, like magazine pages, turned to all the calories in those margaritas, and sobering up for the drive home; yet the image of Marina entombed down there by herself, the whirr of the hot tub just above her, coaxed a sigh or two from her lips.
It frightened her a little bit, how quickly she got the idea to join Marina on the bottom step, curled up like a child and eternally sudsy, and how firmly the idea stayed. She envisioned a dozen young women lying marbled in a row beneath the swirling waters, each one joining the next. Tinkling, laughing splashing sounds would serenade them, above the surface of their peace. Her heart twisted, then got the dropping feeling, like when she came to a party like this to rendezvous with some guy specifically and he finked on her—and all the bubbles inside her turned flat.
Fortunately she hadn’t had any plans like that today. A stray strand of wind rustled her hair; she recollected that there would be nights, too, when Jessica and her parents turned off the heat, the whirlpool and the porch lights, and the only whooshing sound then would come from the cold air moving across the dead leaves and rainwater on the rubber jacuzzi cover, or the rustle of animals in the well-kept hedges and trees.
Sherry considered whether being eternally alabaster underneath the surging jets was worth such solitary nights.
She shivered and concluded only this: that the thing to do now would be put her thoughts side, eat a hot dog, and then get Steve C to sleep with her. And never one to deviate from a plan, she did.
But even as the boy’s warm living hand moved up her leg in the car, she could feel her skin turning pearly and hard, and her breathing slowing as her lungs filled with chlorine.
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