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I'm driving to Rosie's house tonight and I'm trying to recall everything that happened back then — there should be a straight path leading from there to here, but that's not how friends like us work.
The air out my windows is so cool you could drink it, and the house lamps are flicked on because the light is getting blue. Rosie's a loud mouth but she's not really one for a bachelorette party, so it'll just be the two of us tonight. We aren't girls who like girls, but we still like each other.
I do go out and meet people. I sleep in beds other than my own, just not on nights when I'm with Rosie. She still lives in our town. I live one over, right across the incorporated line. I love the hometown but a little distance gives you room to breathe. I am breathing deep these days. Trying to empty my lungs.
Sometimes I go out with her and Davis. Usually he buys me a drink, we laugh about dumbshit antics passed, and I pretend I'm not surprised he's still around. But mostly it's just Rosie and me. She says it will be the same once they get married. Of course I believe her, because she's Rosie. Still, tonight feels too funereal for goddamn comfort. I am the only arrow left and I am pointing off into the country night.
I pull into her gravelly driveway. Before I can head for the door she calls out to me. She's sitting on the carpeted platform attached to her tiny, aboveground pool. She has a thirty-pack of beers on the ledge.
I sing, "Rosie, Rosie, give me your answer do. I'm half crazy, all for the love of you!"
"That's Daisy, you dumbass. Wrong flower."
I kiss her hairline and say, "Give me a beer."
She kisses the beer she hands to me. "With blessings."
The pool has algae growing all over its steel buckled sides, but the water is clear. There's an inflatable chaise lounge drifting around in there, silently bumping at the sides. I roll up my jeans like Rosie and stick my feet in. Our toes are painted the same color.
"So what's supposed to happen at an event like this?" Rosie says.
"We're supposed to be lewd and recount our adventures."
"I'd rather not," Rosie says.
"Come on. I was getting ready in the car. I was thinking about the night you jumped off the Carters' roof."
"No, I mean, we always talk about that stuff we did and it seemed fun then but now when I think about it it's sort of sad."
"Like what? What's so sad?"
"Like those cats."
"Would you shut up about the cats?"
"I'm serious. Not all of them got back. I basically killed those cats."
I check inside the box of beer, but there are only three gone.
"Why are you so fucking morose? Those cats are probably still wandering around the woods, all feral. They probably have wildcat kittens by now."
Rosie nods. "I know, I know."
"They're raising a brave new generation of forest cats and it's thanks to you."
"Shut up already. Come sit with me." Rosie takes off her pants and slides into the water. She fishes out the chaise and sits on its middle. She sinks down a few inches, water around her hips.
"Okay," I say. And I don't even bother to take off my jeans. The seat of them soaks through and it's fucking cold but we push off the side with our feet. Some of the algae comes free and swirls green in the water.
"Onwards!" I say. And we paddle to the other side, which is not very far.
"Backwards!" says Rosie. And we paddle back. We look up and there are stars. A shit ton of stars.
We each paddle on one side of the raft. If you paddle on the same side you circle in the same direction instead of going in a line. The water is getting cloudy from our paddling and the algae, but we can still see our feet, which are pale and mushroomy under the water. We stop paddling.
"We're still going," she says. "You can't always feel it but we're still going."
"Let's float the beers in the pool," I say.
We get off the chaise with barely a splash. I walk through the water, over the slimy floor, to the platform. My waterlogged jeans drag behind me. When I dump the beers in the pool they submerge, but then rise up again because they are lighter than the water.
"Did you know that if you put a watermelon in a pool it will sink halfway down and then hover there? It's exactly half as heavy as the water." I tell Rosie.
"I'm the one that told you that," she says.
We both float on our stomachs like dead men. Then we float on our backs and the beers nudge us like ducks. We stretch out our arms and the pool is so small our flared fingers touch, and then don't touch as we drift. I know that even when they drift away we are still touching each other because I am touching the water and the water is touching Rosie. We have this between us.
CJ Hauser is a spinner of yarns and writer of fiction who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has previously published fiction in The Brooklyn Review, writes for
Ins & Outs magazine, and was recently named a Top 25 New Writer by
Glimmer Train. CJ believes that New York is the best possible place to grow a story and is currently at work on a novel about fishing towns, taxidermy, and love.