What it meant for Annabelle to emerge from the water after three days was her pale skin had grown paler, a fresh undercurrent of lavender, her water-soaked flesh now fleshier, sponging to capacity, bearing the weight of ocean, Annabelle’s forelimbs folded together, wrists to shoulders, elbow joints roped with ocean foliage, Annabelle’s mouth bulbing with fish, water streaking from her lips, Annabelle’s hair, thick with wet, Annabelle’s dress, thick with wet, and Annabelle, up the beach and into the city for her husband, for me, a mop-trail of ocean behind her.
I thought that three days was too long to sleep in a deep deep ocean out loud, hand palm-out at my forehead. A formal, defendable nudging. I’d previously placed Annabelle in the bath before leaving for work, salting the water on my lunch, then pulling her from it in the evening, but she’d dried too quickly and still was marked by skin that clung in willowed curvatures between her bones—curves within curves. It wouldn’t do. I sought after a more permanent wetness, and curves that were curves alone, not doubly curved. I was desperate. She obliged, silent as ever, and into the ocean she trenched.
Meanwhile, work as usual. Papers. Staples. Signatures. Cheap metal cabinetry. HR delivers formal invitations to each of our desks.
She’s back by my lunch break on the third day, into the coffee shop, slopping the floor with ocean, her dress clinging handsomely at a glance. I finish the final sentence of an email and look up: My dear! I pull out my measuring tape around one of her arms, they look so nice. Right there in the coffee shop. A fine measurement. The increased circumference of her ocean-soaked arm (and this is common of all her extremities, her torso and the cheeks of her face), my, how it conceals the pulse of marrow beneath, erasing those dimpled impressions, the curved curve of thinning.
It’s a miracle. It appears three days is the precise ticket. I’m suited up now, tack-sharp for the night. Everyone’s there of course. I whisper into Annebelle as we enter, catch her by her cold wrist, mark out the management team spread across the dining room. Annabelle still pulling ocean everywhere. Management catches me in their sights, approach smiling. I smile, and Annabelle, comely Annabelle, maintains, for fear of splitting the seam of her lips and spilling her fish, her pout.
Annabelle’s skin, gloriously, still porously sipped.
We embrace in raucous handshakes before one of them inquires: And who may I ask is this fine cod?