* * *
Waves rolled in.
The tide had been going out, but wasn’t, anymore.
Peter Brightman skipped stones from the shore; the ocean’s waves had grown sluggish and half frozen, icefrothing on the sand, pounding and slapping like the flesh on flesh of a desperate fight, moving well up past his ankles, soaking him through to the skin. Soaking him to the bone. His feet weren’t cold, and he didn’t know why, but he took advantage of it, wading in. Remembering summer [the AC had been on in the house but everything else had been off and it had been dark inside, blinds drawn against the sun because monsters don’t like the light] and warmth. He fished rocks from the sucking sand at his feet, wet fingers slipping over the gritcovering of the smoothly rounded stones. It had been the height of summer not long before, and he had gone somewhere.
He had gone somewhere, because he needed to vacation with his parents. They needed to breathe. They needed somewhere new to breathe [or just to watch the slow suicide of their marriage] while the cleaners came and undid all the things that had been done, so they could pack up so they could run so they could get away, because his sister [bit out her fucking tongue, that’s what she did] couldn’t sing anymore, because his little brother [so light he was held up by yarn, you know, blue in the stairwell, cat’s cradle, can’t you just still see it, har dee har har] was in the ground.
Because the cat had been [wrapped in plastic otherwise it would’ve been messy but it meowed it kept meowing it wasn’t dead and gone when it went in there, maybe she thought it would stay fresher, longer] in the crisper.
Because it was time to take deep breaths and go under, because that was what was expected, now.
Because you couldn’t be baptized without going under.
“Why?” he said aloud, tasting salt on his lips. He’d been standing outside for so long, and walked forward to meet the sea, icy water whorling around him, pulling him in, a welcoming greeting, a hungry embrace. “Why?” he repeated, looking up at the winterdomesky.
“Because, dear boy,” Anna said, because she was always there, had always been there, twining her cold fingers with his. “Isn’t that the best answer?”
Under the water, he still heard her voice as the cold went into his ears, his eyes, his mouth, and it sounded like singing, like a music box that would never be closed.
“Don’t forget to breathe, my darling.”