Becky returned, stepping out the screen door onto the patio and someone whistled. It wasn’t me, but it could have been. She was a shocking sight in the striated sunlight beaming through the slats of the patio cover. The golden brown of her tanned skin took on a peculiar tint against the yellow of her swimsuit. It was a combination which even I knew was wrong. She reminded me all too strongly of a banana ready for baking into banana bread.
The scowl she shot at my parents went largely unnoticed. I was distracted watching her slop another cup full of punch and didn’t notice Diana show up. Diana joined Becky at the punch table and laid a hand on her shoulder. By the look on Becky’s face, I guess she would have killed to be wearing the brown bikini Diana had on.
Diana said, “Hey Chiquita.”
Becky was not amused. “You must be so brave,” Becky said, looking down Diana’s body. “I would never wear a bikini if I had that much fat hanging on my sides.”
Diana tensed and said, “It’s okay, tight bathing suits make me bitchy too.”
Becky shoved Diana to the side. “That explains a lot.”
Diana gasped and stumbled, barely catching her balance on the punch table. A quick glance around told me I was the only one watching the scene. I fixed my gaze on Becky feeling a surge of anger I knew I should have swallowed, but with Diana around and being the object of my cousin’s attitude, good judgment slipped away.
“You know,” I said, speaking way too loudly for a backyard party, “just cause you look rotten doesn’t mean you need to act that way.”
Becky showed me a finger version of a bird, then she squawked. “Ooh, look who has finally grown a pair. Just keep in mind, the bigger they are, the easier they are to kick.”
“Try it and we’ll see who is sorry,” I said and splashed water in Becky’s direction.
Becky screamed like the droplets of water were pure acid. “Do that again and they’ll never find the body.”
Diana came up behind Becky. “You need to relax before your Aunt decides you need another whipping.”
“I guess with a nose like yours,” Becky said, “it’s kinda hard to keep it out of other people’s business, but that’s probably why you weren’t invited huh?”
Diana said, “Why don’t we join Ritchie in the pool and you can cool off before somebody hears you and decides to start a fire instead?”
Becky growled. “I got a better idea. Why don’t you climb into the pool, suck my cousin’s face and leave me the fuck alone?”
I decided Becky could use another splash of cold chlorinated water. It was also probably the only thing that kept Diana from ripping hair off Becky’s scalp. The downside turned out to be Becky meant what she had said before or at least thought she meant it. It was about a half second after I sent a wave of water crashing into Becky and Diana that Becky stormed over to the side of the pool where I was smiling and laughing at my good aim. She grabbed hold of every inch of hair on the top of my head and plunged me under the water.
It remained funny for another ten seconds. If she had let me up about then all would have been forgiven. It was a party after all and sometimes stupid things happen at parties. Becky, however, decided to keep me pushed under the water and despite my superior strength, I was helpless with no leverage and no way to break her hold of my hair. I gargled water and sent bubbles to the surface before getting really desperate and splashing water with my arms and legs in some futile effort to empty enough water out of the pool to allow me to breathe again.
My eyes started to sting and images of all the bad things I had done in my life began to float before them. I figured it was all over and I actually had the crazy thought of wondering if she would succeed in hiding my body. Would Diana remain mute or would Becky drown her as well? What about my parents or any other witnesses? Was Becky cold and cruel enough to eliminate anyone who might know what she had done to me? The answer seemed to be in her grip on my hair, and in a word, it was unflinching.
And then it was over. No, I didn’t die, I didn’t even stop breathing, well except for those long seconds while being held beneath the water’s surface. It ended because my Dad had seen, heard, and understood exactly what was happening. I supposed he figured it was all fine until Becky dunked me.
He grabbed hold of her and yanked her away from the pool and I popped to the surface, grabbed onto the side of the pool and gasped for precious air. Diana ran to me and helped hold me to the side of the pool while caressing my face in a way that had only happened in my dreams previously. I blinked and sputtered and tried hard not to turn red with the embarrassment of having been done in by a girl.
Dad snapped his head in my direction. “Are you alright?”
I nodded, not quite ready to speak.
Becky tried to pull free of Dad’s grip and pointed a finger in my direction. “He started it!”
Dad slapped her pointing finger down. “And I’m going to finish it.”