After she records the video, Mae scrubs her makeup off.
The rest of the house is quiet; her mother left hours ago for a night of tending bar, and in the silence a stubborn drip from the shower mingles with Mae's own breath in a bleak duet.
Her bare face stares back at her. Not ugly exactly. Just different. Childish. Less defined. But the high cheekbones are still there, the pointed nose. Without makeup she looks less like Courtney, perhaps more like her father. In this black hole of self-examination, time slows. Flaws rise to the fore. Small pimples around her chin; uneven eyebrows; stubborn dark roots poking through her scalp. Something must be done about her hair. Roots, over an inch long at this point, are not the same texture as the rest of her platinum blond strands. She's been dyeing her hair since middle school, hours in latex gloves, trying to not breathe in fumes as she smeared tinted goo all over her head.
In the closet above the washcloths is a pile of mildly useful, cast-off tools: a rusty curling iron; nail clippers in various sizes; stray cotton swabs. The scissors are larger than Mae prefers, but they'll have to do. After the first liberating snip, a half hour grows and expands into itself. The dull chime of slicing scissors fills the vastness. She pulls clumps straight to reach roots. Coarse blond strips float to the floor. After a failed attempt at using a hand mirror, she gives up and cuts the back blind. Eventually, all the blond is gone. She expects the remaining dark strands to stick straight out like shorn Barbie doll hair, but they lay flat against her head in blunt chunks.
Mae doesn't bring much with her—keys, lip balm, a can of spray paint from the garage, packed in a petite clutch. The wheels of her bike slice through speckled leaves into wet earth. She keeps pedaling until the steel bridge emerges from the darkness, marked by two lamplights that flicker as she approaches. The Kankakee River is unusually still. Beneath the moon, muddy water settles like sand, as if Mae could take off her boots and walk to the middle and feel it creep between her toes. She is struck by how beautiful the scene is, glowing geometry against a backdrop of tree silhouettes. With a blink, the image etches onto her mind like a painting, where it hangs haphazardly within dark depths.
From the bridge the Harrington estate is all but invisible yet Mae stops anyway, to stand on her toes and peer at the island. Narrow and haphazardly trellised, the structure rises a bit in the center and Mae stands at its highest point, trying to admit what she came here to do. Around a bend, the Harrington estate appears as dramatically as always. Mae cocks her head to inspect it in its gently-lit perfection, and now she stands at the front door, one hand hovering over the doorbell. Her gloved index finger strokes shapely brass. Ringing would be a mistake.
Instead Mae wanders toward the tennis court, where frozen rackets and a tube of balls lay discarded on the clay. Mae chooses a smaller racket and tries to keep a single tennis ball in the air. Some overhead light switches on. Illuminated, Mae drops the racket. The ball bounces toward the swimming pool. Nothing happens. Must be an automatic sensor.
Eyes follow the tennis ball across the lawn. In the night, the pool glows blue as sapphire, calling to her. The video loops without warning and Mae sees herself on the edge, feet in water, head slumped over. She needs to know how it felt, and so she follows the light until she stands over the pool, looking down. Boots and leggings slide off. Both feet dip in at once, with conviction. Scooped toes push back lumps of water. Mae's not sure what she expected. Even when she closes her eyes and forces her body limp, she still feels like herself—aware of tense muscles and a racing brain. Nothing like the girl in the video. She opens her eyes finally, expecting to be discovered. Only silence. Leaning over, Mae peers into the depths. Clear water, pebbled floor. The light invites her into its brilliant clutches, beckoning with unbreathable air more bearable than the suffocating world out here. She longs to be at the bottom.
So she peels off her sweater and slides off the edge and allows the water to engulf her. Eyes open. Air bubbles escape to the surface. To sink is to float. Her back rests against the floor and, for a moment, this is how she imagines they will find her: pristine, impeccably lit, as pale and innocent in her underwear as the waifs in a million fashion ads.
No, a more urgent voice reminds her, that's not how they will find her. As soon as she opens her mouth water will rush in, will overwhelm her lungs, will bloat her body. They will find her floating, discolored and unrecognizable and no longer alive. There is no beauty in death.
Water rushes up her nose. Arms push away transparent walls. Lungs burn. The back of her brain buzzes. Heavy legs push against roughness and, finally, the surface of the water collides with her face and she is back in the darkness, paddling. Waves quiver in stillness. Each gulp of air tastes like chlorine. Mae pulls herself out with effort and sits on the stone, shaking, teeth chattering. She can't get warm, no matter how tightly she wraps her arms, and she can't spend all night here, freezing. Grabbing her boots and clothes and bag, she searches for heat.
Around the side of the house sit two shapely yet probably locked cars, and next to those is the door she walked through the first day she visited, with Shelby and a massive bag of tacos. Mae turns the doorknob and it clicks open easily now as then. The hallway stretches long, kitchen to the right. She huddles on the floor, pulls her clothes on, rubs one hand against numb lips til feeling returns. The room comes into focus as Mae's eyes adjust to the darkness: two coffee cups on the counter; empty sink; that massive stove range. It does not escape her that Ethan forced a drink down her throat on this very floor.
She opens the refrigerator, takes a swig from a carton of orange juice, and impulsively pours the rest all over the stove top. Is juice flammable? They'll find out. She is munching on a wedge of brie with one hand as if it were a slice of bread, chewing silently by the light of the fridge, when she spots the carton of eggs. Two dozen of them, extra large.
Feverishly, Mae drops the first egg onto black granite. It splatters graciously. She kneels to view the yolk at eye level, where the viscous yellow quivers atop beautiful stone. Each egg feels heavy and perfect in Mae's gloved hand, and each is aimed carefully and thrown with earnest intent: onto the kitchen floor; an heirloom rug; squished into the folds of a curtain; released over a sofa; cracked above the television to drip down the flat screen.
When no eggs are left, Mae remembers the spray paint. The can rattles when shaken, Mae discovers, though by now she senses she'll never be caught. In careful, shaky letters, she writes the same thing above the fireplace, on the dining room wall, onto the largest window, black against glass. As she cycles away, sticky gloves clutching handlebars, Mae is pleased to see the sentence clearly visible even from the lawn. I am one of you.