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I lie backwards in the soaking tub, my head lolling on the rim, my legs thrown over the high back. A rising tide of bath water washes along my belly as I smooth my hands from jutting hip bone to the buoyant flesh of my breasts.

Lavender and rosemary scented fog obscures the starry darkness out the picture window. There is no rustic, Yankee frugality in this room.

Scarlet’s wedding week begins tomorrow. I am serpentine in this bath, shedding my skin so as to appear soft and unstained for my family. Palms down over my pelvis, fingers brushing the tops of my thighs, and the water draws away the fantasy for hire. Palms up over my ribcage, water sluicing past my clavicle, coming ashore just under my chin, submerging me in my sweeter, lost self.

Palms down over my belly and the water banishes Hugo’s ghost. Palms up over my breasts and I brace for days of Jeremy’s company. We don’t know how to be with one another since Hugo left us.

My sister won’t understand if I decide to attend alone. Hugo, Jeremy, and I were all gone from our childhood homes when Scarlet was young. She never knew Hugo well. I imagine her pout, spoiled and beautiful in distress. But Bianca, it’s all arranged. Jeremy is your date. What do you mean he’s not coming? Of course he’s coming. I can’t have odd numbers at our table.

Palms drifting on the surface tension, bath water pooling in the hollow of my navel. Palms drifting. Drifting.

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