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Fantasy Contemporary Fiction

She lived at the top of Toucan Hill in a mini mansion. The front entrance was designed with bushes in intricate swirls and a small fountain made of fish spouting curls of water. Quinn walked up the porch and rang the bell. Mrs. Goodwin answered in a long black silk robe which reached the floor. She hugged Quinn, purring Quinn’s name into her neck, sooo good to see you. The house was freezing. Mrs. Goodwin walked ahead of Quinn, her robe traipsing the floor, floating behind her. They passed the curved staircase adorned in a long red carpet, and the portrait of Blair and her dead sister, Margaret. It hung above the fireplace and took up most of the wall. Blair and Margaret were dressed in twin ivory dresses, their eyes vacant, a small hummingbird added to Margaret’s right shoulder, a squirrel at Blair’s feet.

Mrs. Goodwin and Quinn sat at the kitchen table, Mrs. Goodwin’s nipples poking the thin silk like two chocolate chips. Quinn tried to avert her eyes.

“Well,” Mrs. Goodwin said. “Are you hungry? Thirsty? Can I get you anything?” Quinn shook her head slowly. She found she couldn’t speak; her movements were laborious and heavy as though she were moving through molasses. “I wish Blair would come home,” Mrs. Goodwin said. “She has such a beautiful room here just waiting for her. You remember it, don’t you? The four poster queen bed, the white canopy with feathers, the Santorini blue walls?”

“I remember,” Quinn finally managed. A plate of cookies suddenly materialized before her. She nibbled on one of their scalloped edges. 

“Blair tells me you’re going to be a writer, one of books. It’s all just so exciting, isn’t it? Will you write about me? No, no I’m just kidding. Blair is so much more exciting anyway, don’t you think? Let’s go in the backyard by the pool. It’s so nice out today, hmm?” Quinn followed her to the backyard where a large, rectangular pool was set deep in the fake grass. Four lounge chairs sat in front of the pool. Mrs. Goodwin made them martinis at the bar cart to the side of the pool. “Have you had lunch yet?”

“No.” It was eleven am.

“Ah, well. Cheers,” she said, clinking her glass with Quinn’s. Quinn noticed it was plastic. Mrs. Goodwin crawled onto one of the chairs beside Quinn and closed her eyes. She raised the glass to her lips and drank the whole thing. Quinn tossed hers back too, grimacing at the basically plain vodka. She popped open a jar of green olives from the bottom of the cart and dipped her fingers into it, eating some.

“I never knew you used the backyard,” Quinn said. “In fact I’ve never seen anyone swim in the pool, ever.” Mrs. Goodwin refilled their glasses with straight vodka, not bothering to give the illusion of stirring or shaking anything. She took off her robe and gave Quinn a daring glance before cannon-balling into the pool with the glass still in her hand. Quinn imagined the pool water mixing with the vodka. She watched as Mrs. Goodwin stretched a toe underwater and raised it up, snatching a green olive that had fallen out of her glass, and popped it into her mouth. Her stomach was pilates-taut, a little mushroom cap of a belly button protruded from her skin. 

Maria, the housekeeper, shot out of the house and came running across the lawn. She grabbed the bottle of vodka and refilled Mrs. Goodwin’s glass. She waved hello to Quinn then ran back inside, closing the sliding glass door behind her. Quinn took off her shorts and top and dove in beside Mrs. Goodwin, who was splashing the water and laughing. The light blue ocean glimmered in the distance. They sat criss crossed and sunk underwater, pantomiming a tea party. Quinn thought about calling Blair on her drive home, telling her about how she’d just had an underwater tea party with her mother.

“I hope you don’t judge me,” Mrs. Goodwin said to Quinn, pouting. Quinn looked up at the house. It was a dark lemon color. The bushes around them were manicured and shaped to look like flowers and dolphins. She thought of the few nights in high school she’d spent there after Margaret had died. Mrs. Goodwin always passed out on the couch downstairs. Once, she’d trotted into the living room when Blair and Quinn had just arrived home. She had taken Ambien and was asking Quinn to lie about Blair’s dead guinea pig, who hadn’t been alive for several years by that time. Blair stood staring at her, her arms crossed, her gray eyes squinted at her mother, disgusted. Mrs. Goodwin had screamed, wailing, “Lola is dead! She’s really dead. I can’t lie to you anymore Blair baby.” Blair had pushed her mother back so that she fell against the foot of the stairs. Then she walked up to her room with the Santorini blue walls, leaving Quinn downstairs.

“Are you alright Mrs. Goodwin?”

She wagged her head back and forth, clutching onto Quinn’s wrists, digging her fingernails into her skin causing small crescent moon indentations. “It was all my fault. Take me instead. It should be me instead.” She had curled up on the stairs and fallen asleep.

“No, I don’t judge you,” Quinn said. “I don’t know what it’s like. I don’t know what any of it is like.”

“I don’t sleep. I can’t, do you?”

“Not much,” Quinn said. Mrs. Goodwin stared out at the ocean in the distance, spitting pool water onto the lawn. Quinn leaned her head back, dipping the crown of her head into the water and letting it spread against her scalp like fingers gently playing piano keys. She sunk lower and lower beneath the water as she watched Mrs. Goodwin climb out of the pool and pad back toward the house. 

When Quinn woke, she was trapped underwater. The car door wouldn’t budge; she couldn’t push it open. She was already so sleepy. She closed her eyes again and felt herself drifting.

The rectangular pool she had been in bled into the ground. She was between the pool and the dirt now until suddenly she was propelled to the other side of the dirt, atop it. She was sitting in her friends’ backyard petting the tabby cat. 

They were eating bowls of pasta salad and drinking from a carafe of ruby wine. Her friends’ lips were stained purple. Margaret was there, pretty Margaret until she turned around to look at Quinn and Quinn saw that half of her face was devoid of flesh, the bone and gristle sticking out like sharp pieces of coral. She pointed to Margaret’s face, but her scream was silent, blocked; she sounded burbled. Her friends stared at her with blank faces, spooning the spirals of pasta into their purpled mouths. She tried to tell them something was wrong with Margaret, something was wrong with her face, but they all began to melt. There was an extraordinary pressure in her head like an iron rod trying to expand between her temples. 

Their faces and their clothes began to ooze and slide, a brick of cheese held to an open flame. The colors made her dizzy. She moved slowly from the grass to the table and tried to hold their faces and their clothes up but they ran too fast. Mrs. Goodwin walked through the trees glowing and naked, raising the triangle glass martini to her lips and tipping it back. Quinn sat back on the grass defeated, her friends in puddles beneath the table.

She plucked waxy leaves from the trees and ripped them apart, letting them scatter on top of the cat’s fur. He turned to look at her with eyes the color of a green Sprite glass bottle. “Quinn,” he said. “Quinn?” She coughed, sputtering, and sat up.

She gathered dust in her hands letting it spool out like threads in the dry air. It was hot, and the sands swirled around her forming an hourglass made of sand, dispelling sand. She walked through it, letting herself be absorbed by it. Her body was swept up by it and scattered back out again; she was Lot’s wife turned to salt, she was the physical manifestation of time, she was the iris of the cat’s eyes, green and translucent, seaglass washed out to shore and sucked back in again.

On land, her lips were the color of clear crystals, white-washed blue. They closed her eyes and zipped her up and carried her off.

February 26, 2020 18:17

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1 comment

Roland Aucoin
02:19 Mar 05, 2020

Stunned, am I. Twist truly surprised me. Great story, great word selection throughout. A constant flow of pictures then BAM! the twist. Nicely done.


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