She stood, letting the steam envelop her, hearing the drumming of the hot water thunder in her ears, watching as heavy drops, almost solid in their purpose, slammed onto the stone floor, smashing and shattering around her legs. Warm puddles collected on the terracotta tiles, her suntanned feet pale against their burnt depth. Her pink toenails – Tahiti, the brand calls the garish colour – made bigger, brighter by the dim light of the bathroom.
She faced the stream, the scorching water striking her eyelids, rolling over her cupid’s bow, making its way over her small breasts and down, beyond her rounded stomach.
Then, like a wind whipping a sail, she jerked, heaved forwards and tried, willed herself, to cry. Creasing her cheeks, she stood, naked, alone, grasping for the release, the relief. She buckled, yearning for a sob that wouldn’t come, that refused to emerge from her belly, her heart, her guts.
‘Mim, you ok in there?’ Genevieve is at the door, gentle and urgent at once.
Mim feels pain searing through her palms and sees she is clenching her fists, digging her fingernails between the strong tendons below her riverine, young lifelines.
She is grimacing, trying with everything she has – muscles clenched, mouth pulled wide and downturned at the corners – to comply, to force a teardrop away from her body. To add to the flow.
‘Mim? Are you alright?’
She knows she has to answer. ‘I’m ok. I’ll be fine.’ It comes out aggressively, loud.
As sudden as the pressure change at the end of a squall, she lets go, spreads her hands, inhales and arches her back. She drops to her knees, exhausted, and hunches forwards as a different, equally powerful, force takes over. A laugh explodes from her chest, convulsions snatch her face and force her mouth open into a clownish grin.
Her shoulders shake and she laughs and laughs, imagining how she must have looked as she failed even to cry. How she looks now.
She straightens up, feels the water ricocheting from her wet hair. ‘I’ll be fine,’ she says to the row of plastic bottles, the sandalwood soap, the limp, green flannel.