New Fiction: The Girls Jump Into the Pool by Kristina Zdravic Reardon
The girls jump into the pool. One by one, like slivers of glass they slide under the water. The girls jump into the pool, and the fluffed cotton tails sewn on their toddler bunny bathing suits absorb chlorine. The girls jump into the pool, framed in their mother’s vision by the pinewood edges of the kitchen window. The girls jump into the pool. The girls jump into the pool and dissolve, their hair trailing above their matching bunny suits in the waves of the water. The girls jump into the pool and drown.
The grass moves when there is a slight breeze. There is a slight breeze. The blades of grass become the teeth of a comb. The air tangles in them as it passes through. The air becomes a knot, becomes lodged into stillness. It turns quiet. The stillness is primordial. In a moment, water splashes and the blades of grass collapse. They are no longer a comb. They cannot untangle the swift-moving air. The mother looks out the pinewood window. Several more drops of water splash beyond the concrete onto the grass. The blades absorb them and from the water they draw strength, push toward the sun.
One, two, three, and we jump. We jump because we can. We jump because we like air under our feet. We jump because the concrete of the deck is hot under our toes. We jump because we like to jump. We jump because we are sisters. We jump at once. We breathe water and we choke only for a moment. We develop gills and sink to the bottom and we swim together like this for a long time. We smile and water comes into the spaces between our teeth. We see pieces of us float back to the top, but we stay at the bottom. We swim together like this for a long time. We jump because we can.
The water has arms, and it pulls them in. The girls with cotton tail bottoms. It reaches toward them and lures them to the blurry liner that looks like wallpaper. It envelopes them. It encompasses them. It draws them in, and it drinks them. Swallows them whole. The mother emits a scream and bangs on the pane of glass from the kitchen. Three toddler floatation devices and a glass of wine fall to the floor.
The mother rushes from deck to kitchen, kitchen to deck. She runs the moments again in her mind. They fit together like a stop action movie with too many gaps between scenes. Someone cut the film. In the in-between, she leaves. In the in-between, they move toward the edge of the pool. They twirl and they touch their cotton-tail bottoms. They twirl, maybe. She does not know. How do they move their arms in the final moments? Do they wiggle their toes? Do they jump together, breathe water at the same rate? What does it feel like, to sink and then float? The mother rushes from deck to kitchen, kitchen to deck. Does she call for help or dive in? Which one should she reach for first? The mother rushes from deck to kitchen, kitchen to deck. There is grass between her toes.