“You crane your neck to see and then you take my hand in yours, and you squeeze hard. So hard it hurts. You’re on to me, and this is your way of saying what you mean to say without really saying anything at all.”— Britney King, Dead In The Water
Dead In The Water released last week. Thanks to all who made it wonderful.
Below you’ll find a short (ish) excerpt along with one of the images from the book done by my better half.
You’re the life of the party, taking turns dancing with any woman who will have you while I pretend not to care. But you know what? Fuck you. Because we’re about to tango, Jude, and you ain’t seen nothing yet. In fact, I’m buzzing in more ways than one, and now these women have insisted on a get-together in the ladies’ room. It shows they’re interested, and so even though I’ve never understood why women seem hell-bent on making the process of elimination a group affair, I go anyway. After all, new friends are hard to come by when you’re neck-deep in children and murder, and society dictates that the more friends one has, the better.
It’s not that I care about making new friends per se, but for the kids, I do what I have to do to fit in. Unfortunately for me, according to the internet, this means being chummy with the other moms. The thing is, I don’t like being chummy, and I don’t particularly like these moms. I don’t tell you this, of course. But you probably know. And in any case, at least it provides a challenge. For instance, currently, it’s a nice diversion from you and your sick need to win.
“Hey,” one of them says, cornering me with her predatory smile. I think her name is Sharon. I’m pretty sure I’ve run into her at Bunko Night, which I quit going to because it never turned out well. I was damned if I do and damned if I don’t. You know me, I don’t like to lose, and they didn’t like it when I always won. But I’m not willing to be a loser—so in the end I said fuck it.
Anyway, immediately I can tell that this Sharon lady, she’s out for blood. I recall beating her a time or two, and she doesn’t seem like the kind who likes to be beat. “So…” she says, and she lowers her voice, going for the hushed tone effect, but it doesn’t quite pan out that way. “I hope you don’t mind… but I just have to know… how often do you guys…” she asks, looking away and then back at me. She lowers her voice further, so much that I can barely make out her words even though I already know what she is going to ask. “How often do you, um…you know?”
I cock my head to one side and smile sweetly. “Fuck?” I reply, hitting the nail on its head. Aside from the occasional run-in at Bunko, I haven’t known most of these women long. They’re friends of the bride and groom, who we also don’t really know even though they live just down the street. It’s not that I’ve tried to be antisocial, it’s just that I’ve been busy getting my hands dirty. However, I’ve been told that if luck has it, our kids will be in preschool together. I wonder if it’s such a bad thing to want to be unlucky?
They each giggle at either the ‘F-word’ or at my bluntness, likely both, and it’s all the same. I’ve made them uncomfortable, but why skirt around the issue? They glance around at one another, hoping someone will say something to make the uneasiness go away. How old are we, I wonder? I don’t say this, of course. Instead, I wait for one of them to come up with something better.
“Well, yeah… that,” Claire says, finally.
I meet her gaze. “Usually, once a day,” I offer with a shrug. “But sometimes… twice.”
“No. Seriously?” Two or three of them utter in unison and I can tell they think I’m lying. But I can also tell there’s a tiny part of them that believes I’m telling the truth, and this is what makes it hard to know which way to go.
“That’s the truth,” I assure them. I put my hands up in my defense. They stare, their mouths gaping, and immediately I realize I should have taken the other route.
“Every day?” The one they refer to as ‘June’ says. “Wow. That’s crazy.”
“It can be,” I say.
“How do you find the time?” another asks. “I mean, when do you find the time?”
“She skips out at weddings—that’s how,” Anne interjects and I meet her eyes in the mirror. She’s reapplying her lipstick, blindly, because she’s glaring at me.
I shrug. It never occurred to me that people might actually want to know about our sex life. Not to mention the fact that I hadn’t considered that they’d be this shocked by the answer. “We manage,” I say, looking over at June and then I return Anne’s gaze in the mirror. “And, yes, sometimes that means sneaking off for a few minutes to ourselves,” I confirm with a smile and a nod.
They watch me closely. I wash my hands and dry them without a word. Eventually, I turn and address my audience. “But honestly, that’s about as much as I want to say about it,” I admit, checking my reflection in the mirror. They seem confused at my bluntness, and so I eye them curiously. “I guess I just haven’t figured out how it’s anyone’s business,” I conclude, focusing my gaze on Anne once again. She doesn’t meet my eye, and I realize that while Sharon might be out for blood, it’s Anne who’s the dangerous one.
It gets awkward quickly, so I tell them I’d better get back. I dry my hands a second time and I’m awfully confused by this turn of events. When did a little mystery stop being a good thing?