September Girls by Bennett Madison
Publication Date: May 21, 2013
When Sam’s dad whisks him and his brother off to a remote beach town for the summer, he’s all for it– at first. Sam soon realizes, though, that this place is anything but ordinary. Time seems to slow down around here, and everywhere he looks, there are beautiful blond girls. Girls who seem inexplicably drawn to him.
Then Sam meets DeeDee, one of the Girls, and she’s different from the others. Just as he starts to fall for her, she pulls away, leaving him more confused than ever. He knows that if he’s going to get her back, he’ll have to uncover the secret of this beach and the girls who live here.
None of us remember our home anymore except to know that it’s very far away— and to know that when we were home, we were happy. This is not our home. This could never be our home. We have been here as long as we can remember.
We remember our mother, but only a little. We remember that she was beautiful and patient. We remember that we loved her. We have been told that she was a whore, although we can’t remember who told us that and we often find ourselves arguing over the true definition of “whore.”
Sometimes language confuses us. We search for words and find only shells and sea-glass. We search for “comb” and find “fork.”
We’re all afraid of the water. There is an endlessness about it that frightens us, and we know what’s down there. (We have a hard time remembering, but we know.) From time to time— afraid or not— we meet late at night on a dark and moonlit beach and strip our clothes off and lounge naked in the tide in orderly rows, not speaking to each other, feeling the freezing cold water lapping at our hipbones and breasts. We stare at stars and pretend they’re jellyfish. We don’t remember the word for “jellyfish.”
We’re too frightened to swim. None of us knows how to swim, and we know that if any one of us ventured into the water past her thighs she would drown. It happened to Donna, although only one or two of us remembers Donna. Sometimes the rest of us wonder if she was ever even real. But it happened to her. We are sure of it.
In the warmth of the sun we are often too frightened to even look at the ocean’s horizon. When we venture onto the sand in daylight we try to keep our eyes on the dunes.
We work as waitresses, checkout girls, hotel maids. We’ve grown accustomed to the burn of ammonia in the back of our throats. We have grown accustomed to sleeping two-to-a-bunk and stepping over each other on our way to the refrigerator in the mornings. None of us like each other very much anymore. There’s too much at stake for friendship. Sisterhood is dangerous.
We are sisters anyway. Yes, we dislike each other but at least we are comfortable together. We protect each other. We feel uneasy amidst the Others: women who speak to us with suspicious contempt and men whose eyes sting like chlorine. We like the boys, but they’re few and far between and they always bring trouble with them— often in the form of older brothers. We hate the girls most of all.
We come and go. Every summer there are more of us; every summer some of us are gone. We barely remember the ones who disappear. Donna becomes becomes Kelly— or was it Brenda?
After awhile we stop bothering to keep each other straight. There is really no point. We are not happy here. We are filled with emptiness.
But sometimes, on rare days in the sticky fog of summer, one of us will step off of the boardwalk and onto the sand and turn her back to the sea and find herself sinking to her knees in astonishment at the generosity of this place: at the cool wind twisting in her yellow-green hair and the sun on her brow and the bead of sweat that forms at her widow’s peak and inches down to her lips where she licks it away and is grateful for the salt. This place that has lent us what little it has of itself with such forgiving aplomb.
She might look down only to find a piece of sea-stone, smooth and perfect, robin’s-egg, and pick it up and roll it between her fingers and think: I could stay here. She might think: I could be happy here.
That’s when she knows it’s time to go home.