Peer Review by sophiacollins (New Zealand)

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By: seaomelette


FREE WRITING

The party at Marie’s house is near ending, and the inebriated guests are dwindling down the porch and swaying down the road. I stand on the porch and watch them go, as the humid Florida night presses down on my bare shoulders and sweat trickles down my face.

The door behind me is open just a crack, but the pounding disco inside spills out and sparks tiny tremors on the worn wood planks beneath my heels. Thump…thump…thump. I slouch against the railing and ponder my half-empty cup of spiked punch. I’m in the 20-dollar cocktail dress I bought last Friday at the mall, but somehow the zipper’s jammed now halfway down my spine and its floral glory of a skirt is glued tightly to my thighs, and the fancy half-updo I tried is coming undone and sticking to my neck. I shift uncomfortably and wish for a cool gust of wind. None comes, and I’m left swirling the punch like a tea-reader.

My eyes cross, and the world eddies about me like a whirlpool as I struggle to recall its flavor. The trees righten, and I remember. Strawberry stirred with vodka. The punch smelled wonderful two hours ago, when Marie had passed out the dripping pitcher and whispered theatrically that she’d put something special in it, but now it’s cloying and choking me with its scent. I pour it into the rose bush and throw the plastic cup far out on the lawn. The crinkled cup falls without a sound, muffled by the moisture and the creaks of the crickets in the night.

I’m waiting for Dan to pick me up in his father’s truck. He’d promised me he’d return at midnight, when he drove off with the reek of beer in his mouth and his arm wrapped round someone. He was gone before the betrayal could register in my foggy mind. But it’s 3:00 AM and I’ve figured I’ll stay.

I’m tired of draping myself on the porch like a wet T-shirt hung out to dry. I feel empty, but I muster strength to stumble round to the backyard, where the pool is. I trip on the damp grass and mumble a curse as the stiletto on my left foot snaps and I skin my knees on the ground. The pool lights beam murkily in the dark, and the muddy cerulean water lies unstirred beneath the cloudless sky.

I abandon my heels on the grass and stand by the pool edge. The rough-hewn tiles are cool beneath my aching feet, and I let my heavy head fall back to gaze at the moon. A breath. Inhale. Exhale. I wade into the pool, and the water over the first step swirls about my raw ankles. Inhale, exhale. I sway down the second, and the third, and the fourth step. The water’s up to my shins now, and the trailing hem of my party dress dips dangerously. The last step, and I’m floating, almost. Water rushes up my sweat-damp bodice in a silent, darkening tide, and tiny cascades ripple outwards across the pool.

With a tinge of reckless abandon, I dive forward and shut my eyes tightly. Under the surface, it is quiet and calm. My hair comes loose in an ebullient flow, and borrowed bobby pins fall and dart away. My skin is speckled with greenish light, and my sleeves slip down my elbows. I laugh freely, and crystalline bubbles flicker to the surface.

I follow them upwards, and lie floating, dawdling a while. Above me, the moon is full and voluptuous, and a now a faint breeze stirs the tree leaves, painted with the drips from streetlights and an inner silvery gleam. I inhale the scent of chlorine, of longing, of frustration, of a pure drunkenness wafting through the atmosphere. I forget about Dan. The moment exists only for me.

My mind is clearer now, as the night breeze sweeps away my fears, my worries, my doubts. I smile, and a crazed joy bubbles up inside me.

              “I’m the dead girl in the pool!” I shout at the moon.

I laugh, and it’s hoarse and slurred and stupid-sounding, but laughter, nonetheless. I stretch languidly in the cool water, and luxuriate in the sublime feeling of being utterly powerful, like a potent siren in the sea. My sea is chlorine-flavored and salt-less, but to my drunk mind, it’s a sea buoying me upwards, caressing my once-sticky limbs, and whispering soft ripples in my ears. I close my eyes and just breathe.

The porch screen squeals suddenly.

              “Delaney!” a voice calls in the distance.

Footsteps, getting closer.

              “Duh-laney!” says Marie, as she cranes her swan neck over me with her arms akimbo.

I blink slowly.

              “Oh my god, Delaney,” continues Marie, frowning emphatically. “Where the hell were you? I thought there were racoons canoodling in the pool or something—”

She stops and looks at me with that mother hen gaze of hers.

              “You look like crap, Delaney.”

Marie’s eyes soften then, and she grabs my hand and tugs me out of the pool. She leaves me there, standing and shivering on the patio, while she disappears into the house for a towel. I look down at myself, with my melted mascara running down my face and my plastered curls dripping water on the tiles and my ruined dress weeping quietly at its demise. As the haze wears off, I realize the sky is beginning to lighten.

I think of Dan. Later, I know I’ll break down, huddled in borrowed pajamas, crying into Marie’s shoulder.

But for now, I look up at the fading moon. And smile.

Partly inspired by "dead girl in the pool." by girl in red and "Summertime Sadness" by Lana Del Rey.

Message to Readers

Is there anything I can revise or improve? Please let me know, I really appreciate it!


Peer Review

The descriptions of the night through the lens of this character is vivid, personal and poignant. Her mannerisms are relatable and original. I understand the piece to provide a voice for the complexities and near- madness of our generation. This is extremely well written and paced perfectly.


I think you could consider eluding to the character's turmoil early on. You've already done this well but a small and specific extra adjective which may strengthen who the character is outside of the context of the party.


Reviewer Comments

Wow! I was blown away by this piece. It is personal and relatable, technically perfect, and uses language to draw the reader in. I could suggest longer paragraphs for variation, but I'm sure you have used these short paragraphs for effect. Perhaps if it were longer, extended from the front, a long mundane prose could be effective. Congrats. I am excited to read more of your work. :)