darling is sure that she is staunch. she has been completely motionless and compliant for the last
few hours, standing in the sea and allowing each one to cross her, the apex of each wave dividing
between her legs.
if she knew about the rusted battleships buried in the sand, she would disappointed. some things i keep to myself: i sing, flip my tongue rather than tell.
i look at her, even though she hasn’t moved. i watch her as i often do. i shuffle in the sand, making noises that don’t quite reach her. the house on the cliffs above us is dark: duchess has been persuaded to turn out the lights. duchess is walking in the inner perimeter, holding up her skirts, stopping at each window. trying to find the best view, stumbling over shadows.
there is something too close, near presence: something wrong. when i glance up, a glitch: long black hair hanging from a window. a stiff mountain, a poisoned comb. there is no one besides darling
and i am
and there is venom running down darling’s neck.
i am feeling wondrous, enormous pain.
i don’t realize it is blood until a drop begins to slip from the corner of my mouth. i wonder if it is enough.
a few minutes pass. are you there? says darling
her body has swollen, lewdly ripe, the flesh possessive of its organs. her body beyond lace curtains,
i am still grimacing
and grunting - it makes her nervous, now that she can hear me.
it feels like i am still biting her.
this throbbing, these symptoms. all the times i have made her nervous; i kept interrupting her pacing from room to room. i have never had to answer. i know her typical activities - enough to last me a long time. i wonder if i can keep watching, all the way until the end.
my flesh has become warm. i can feel pain in my joints - startled, the crying starts with a wail and a whirlwind of dust.
a purple flume, her halted breath.
darling returns to the house despite the fact that it is still progressing. her hands are unable to move. there is a tight air in the corridor and a certainty that it will take her a couple days to recover. a paper moon, a paper heart, floundering in the fire.
her unwashed hair, damp from the fog.
some girls have fallen into a coma from such a bite.
duchess not really looking at the sea - looking at the window, the glass, the water caught there. you have to stop,
duchess says. sounds she doesn’t recall making, too concerned about the possibility of broken glass. she closes
her half-open mouth, sends darling to the only room she knows. the room is alarmed and monitored.
duchess is regretting her vow. if she could leave the house she could have covered darling’s eyes with her own hands, lifted her hair and wrapped it around her neck, snake of silk. duchess, suspended between the roof and the floor, is no longer convinced that she can answer the question. what happened here?
i was wrong about the pain subsiding. completely wrong. i have lived, hoping to be found, guiding my light through the mist to the first granite stone. i have been here ever since, unable to contain the scream: from my mouth comes a red dress.
some of it must be real. i can’t believe this, otherwise.
darling limping down the hallway, walking on sharp stones, bare feet. her tendons severely stretched as if used for the first time. she did not expect her inclination to cry.
she was quite nauseous, but that has passed. soon darling will go to bed wondering whether she will wake tomorrow experiencing something completely new that she hasn’t even thought of, or if tomorrow will be one of many ordinary days. some heaving and then some fumbling. none of this is darling’s fault. she didn’t ask to be put in this situation, and merely reacts out of fear. any fault, if there must be any, is mine.
Roxanne Carter is searching for a woodland cabin to move in in the front range. She currently lives in Denver where she is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Denver. Her writings have been included in Caketrain, La Petite Zine, Finery, and The New River. She can be found prancing around at www.persephassa.com.