Watching Dana and James make out, trying not to look or look like I’m not. The ice has made everything hyperreal and distinctly absent. I have the sensation that I’m hovering inside myself, separated by a buffer of nothing that feels like falling. Air in a vacuum.

I miss her tongue already.

Five minutes ago she has me up against the bathroom sink, her fingers slinking beneath my skirt. Her lips upon my neck, heavy petting, hot and breathy, saying, I have to have you. Panting and pawing, frenetic, messy, passion riddled moments, melding together as she moves against me, thigh parting mine, stirring my insides, jarring me alive. I shudder and lose track of time.

Somebody turns the music up and I feel myself bump against the world. ‘Is it just me or is it crowded in here?’ Nobody listens. I need to move or I’ll die, so I finish my wine. The kitchen seems so far, but it’s fine once I force my feet to work and persuade my head to stay on straight. I’m walking when somebody stops me.

‘Hey, do I know you?’

Slouched against a wall, slumped though comfortably so, Dylan, slur-smiled and easily unaware. Golden trellis hair laid in disheveled crown of thorns, framing drugged eyes that I can’t meet. ‘Not really.’

‘Nah, not so. You’re Sally’s sister, no?’

Two years ago, hiding at a seek party, wanting not to be sought but resenting the thought. Stuck in a closet, drinking to drown, swallowed by darkness. Though I can’t see a thing, I can feel the music through the floor. It moves through me like the vibrations of a muffled drum, insidious and rhythmic, frustrating itself in the stillness of my body.

‘I can’t believe I found you.’

I want anything other than this. Pressure pawing over me. Calloused hands screaming for satiation across my skin, twin freewheeling pinions. I can’t move. My mind collects my senses and projects them behind closed eyes, a vivid and ferocious, transcendental conglomerate of horrors. I wish them gone or me away. Within and without, stripped apart and reassembled against my will. I try not to think, to breathe, to survive. I hope for nothing and lose track of time.

‘Janey?’

Sitting in the shower basin, drenched and empty, salt running from her skin. Standing there, prune skinned and withered in the steaming air, looking for myself in the mirror’s fog, thinking I can’t cry again. Her words, dampened in the water’s patter, reach me muffled, out of sync, hovering in the heat.

‘Where did you go?’

Dana, standing by me with a hand on my shoulder. Mascara, run since I last saw her, darkening her eyes. Her smile still shines, lightened in relief. Pulled to her, embracing, the pulse in her neck a timpani thump I feel in my heart. I am stretched taut around her.

‘Even when I’m not here, I’m there.’

One day soon she drives us to the beach, rattling there in that old Volvo beater, listening to a scratched copy of Garbage she swears is stuck, an auditory witness to her supposed ignorance as she sings every word. Only she enjoys pretending she isn’t enjoying herself. We throw our towels down on the sand and face up to the sun, our arms outstretched and our fingers just not touching. Sedated by the crushing softness of the waves falling upon the shore with meditative persistence. When she smiles it’s genuine and I take it for my own. Nobody will ever see it again.

A little too early, nobody here and nothing to do. I pour myself a wine and wander through the house, finding James in the lounge room living up to its name, draped upon a weathered chaise and staring down the ceiling. He looks so serene, I want to disturb him. ‘Dana isn’t far away,’ he says. Neither of us does anything.

Somebody hands me something and says, ‘you’ll be fine.’ I smoke a pipe and lose track of time.

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