The water edges closer, and there is nothing she can do to stop it. Nowhere she and her daughters can go.
Once at the very rear of the property, fenced in by sedges and cypress trees, it has risen past its own borders and laps at the ground only a few feet away from the back porch. Funny how the pond itself reminds her of her daughters, neither girl held anymore by the boundaries of childhood, of dollhouses and that insatiable little-girl-need to nurture families of stuffed animals and generations of digital pets, and, yes, occasionally, an actual baby doll with a permanent marker black eye. Now they too have risen, both girls taller than her, their curved bodies full, overflowing jeans that were once baggy, spilling out of bra cups that were once collapsed. It’s time they knew.
On this overcast day of no wind and no fog, the earth has slowed its breakneck spinning to a crawl. Inside the house, the girls are silent as usual. Lately it seems only their bodies belie their presence—the shuffle of bare feet, the hiss of hair and fabric. She calls them now, leads them outside, shows them the water.
“See?” She points. For the first time the water, usually cloudy and a green so dark that it’s a color without a name, is perfectly clear. They can all see it. Past the snails that are close to the shore, past the reedy legs of the wood stork, past the coral rocks and sandy beds of the bluegills, they can all see the dark, see the place where the bottom has given way. It is there that two eyes shimmer at the edge of darkness and rows of teeth as wide as trees, as sharp as razor grass, open and close slowly, and yet the surface of the water is undisturbed, still as death.
“This is here,” she tells them. “Even when the wind blows across the surface and makes glittering waves and swirling eddies and whips your hair across your face and rustles leaves so that all you hear is that seductive call to shhhhh. Even when the sky is bare of clouds, a blue so blue, it penetrates the murk, fools you into seeing some other color. Even when the water is so still and the sun is so bright, you can gaze down and see yourself and the sky together. Even when you are smiling down at your own pretty face and at your very own cloudless sky. Even then.”
She tells them, “Beware.” The girls nod solemnly, and they all go inside. But it’s much later, when the night has come and the winds returned and the earth has gone back to its delirious spin, that she hears them.
They are laughing, giggling, just as they once did and always seemed to do. And yet their laughter is different, and that difference stops her, hands suspended over the fish she has just fileted. She listens, her fingertips on the delicate feather of spine and ribs the knife has exposed.
“Now it’s my turn,” the younger of the two cries out. “You sit here, lie across the floor, and I’ll crawl to you.” And in a moment, there is a roar followed by a scream.
“I am caught, I am being pulled under, there’s no saving me.” The girls’ cries are filled not with terror or sadness but with ecstasy, pure delight.
She takes a deep breath, tries to calm down, tells herself there’s time before the water gets too close, before it sinks down into the earth, undermines the ground beneath them, swallows everything up in one satisfied gulp. But before she can stop herself, she is pounding on the door to the room the two girls share.
The girls go quiet, but she can’t help herself. She is shouting, telling them it’s much too late for screaming or laughing or playing of any sort, crying out that the time for all of that is over, and all that is left for them to do now is go to sleep, even though it is early still, even though she must still cook their dinner and watch them eat the fish she prepared, urging them with each bite to take care not to swallow any bones.