Emily stands at the edge of the water and watches. The four silhouettes chase each other around the folly on the cliff, their laughter bouncing off the tower and down into the bay. One of them is Anna. The others are men that Anna didn’t introduce Emily to, though Anna hadn’t known them when they invited her to play volleyball. Only her.
Emily didn’t wear lipstick to the beach, or a halter-neck bikini with a sweetheart neckline. She didn’t tip her head back and tease cherries from their stems, or sweep her toes through the hot sand like a languid cat, playfully swishing her tail. And she didn’t stare at the men whose hard bodies glistened as they punched the ball backwards and forwards.
Rolling onto her tummy, Emily had wriggled to contain the flesh spilling over her waistband and pouring onto the crushed towel beneath. She read the same paragraph several times as Anna shrugged and prowled towards the beckoning men; as Anna squealed and pushed her breasts into a cleavage to spike the ball; as Anna tipped her head back when the man who retrieved the ball from the water shook droplets on her, from his shoulder-length hair.
Now Emily raises a fleshy hand in a crooked salute as the sun dips behind the ruin. The men scale the folly, each hauling themselves onto a ledge, and bending their knees before they spring into the burnt orange sky. They puncture the denim sea at an angle and surface in shards of exhilarated spray.
“Shit, it’s freezing, hahaha!”
“C’mon Anna, come in!”
Emily watches Anna climb and find her balance on the crumbling edge, curling her toes into the stone.
Anna reaches skyward, her ribcage rising and falling for a few beats before she moves into a crouch and stretches forward.
Emily doesn’t shout stop, and she looks away before Anna’s pantomime shriek becomes a deep howl on some solid place, between the air and the ocean. Gulls scream overhead, as Emily presses her tongue into a cherry and bursts the dark fruit in her mouth. Crimson stains her nails.