Billie looked like a tropical fruit tree standing by the pool: white speckled limbs, big mangoes dangling, and a truffula on top. Her hair was the color of new pennies.
I never thought of myself as gay but I often thought about biting her. I wanted to know if her blood tasted the same as mine, salty and bitter like eating the tips off matches. Sometimes I wanted to bite her breasts, which look like they’d be full of sweet juice.
I watched her squeeze the water from her bikini top. She laughed and shook her hair at me. The drops flew like confetti around her. I opened my mouth to catch some.
Her arms and legs were covered with freckles. I wondered what the number of freckles meant, if it was the number of her past lives or the number of people who were in love with her.
“I want twins,” she said, rubbing the beach towel on her skin. “I want to name ’em Candy and Kitty, like the paper dolls I used to have.”
Billie has the kind of beauty that you see in old portraits and sculptures. Her body is all curves and grace. Her face is gentle and innocent looking. She could be in a painting from a long time ago, back when people thought that being plump was beautiful because it was the opposite of being a skeleton. It was the opposite of death.
I remember the day she came to the pool with a busted lip. It looked like the time I tried to use my father’s razor as a child. I picked up the little piece of plastic, light as a toy, and swiped it across my mouth like I always saw him do. I bled for over an hour. Now my top lip has a line forever down the middle. I wonder if Billie and I will have matching scars.
The whole side of her face was swollen. Little patches of purple and blue blossomed on her legs and neck. The day before, two boys had cornered us outside the pool gate.
“You fucking slut,” the short one said. He had black spots in his teeth.
“You better stop telling stories about my boy,” the other one said. “He don’t want nothing to do with you.”
“I ain’t lying,” she said. “This is real. As real as me and you.”
The short boy spit a wad of dip at Billie’s foot and pushed her into the gate. The tobacco stained her skin like a birthmark. They hopped on their bikes and pedaled away, laughing.
It was hard to think of beautiful, radiant Billie, unconscious on a table, with instruments shoved inside of her. Like those frogs we dissected last year in science class. I heard they used to dissect pigs. Little baby pigs floating in jars of formaldehyde. I wonder if their mothers wanted them back.
“It was kind of like getting my wisdom teeth out.”
She pushes herself up from the lawn chair, the IV scar on her hand shining pink in the sun. She tugs at the strings of her bikini.
“I wish I had never been born.”
Billie splashes into the water, naked, and sinks to the bottom of the deep end. I peel off my bathing suit and follow. You can’t tell how deep it is until you get there. You just feel along with your feet until the bottom opens up beneath you. And you fall.
Emily Haymans graduated with a BA in Writing and Linguistics from Georgia Southern University in 2008. This is her first publication.