The sky hung heavy in the pines. The dark of night was so dense that even the moon struggled to poke through the branches to illuminate our bodies glistening beneath the frail moonlight.
The whirring of the midnight creatures gave the night a pulse that was felt, and it reverberated through the woods and collected in the air over the expanse of the lake. My grandparents own a small house on Lake Sinclair, and I convinced Giselle to go skinny dipping one night.
I didn’t have ulterior motives, but Giselle floating on the surface of the water gave her an air of infinite peace and made her desirable beyond compare. Her skin was so fair that she seemed to glow, easily outshining the moon.
Even though she was indecent, she emanated a sense of stoic class with the way she turned up her face to the sky to exhale the smoke from her clove cigarette. The smoke clouds couldn’t swim fluidly through the thick air and loomed over her shoulders, giving her the appeal of a black magic witchy woman who casted spells on her subjects for a laugh and put men she desired in trances.
Women like Giselle belong to the night because their beauty is too intense for the light of day, and only they can pierce the black night when the moon is feeling shy.
As the smoke dispersed, her seaweed green eyes gazed out over the lake as if her underwater kingdom bowed before her. Her jaw flexed, concentration broken, and she said, “I wish I could stay here longer.”
“Why can’t you,” I asked.
“Because when that sun comes up, it’s back to reality.”
She scoffed. “This is far from reality. This is the other side. Darkness is always used in comparisons with death, but no one ever considers all that comes alive at night,” she said with eyes reflecting the green of pine needles.
With that, she stood up and walked to the far end of the dock closest to the shore. When she reached the end, she twirled around like a fashion model about to take her first walk down the runway, and then she lunged forward into a full on sprint toward the lake.
Her strides were long with perfect form, landing on the balls of her feet with each step. The snakes on her head were in frenzy and hissed as she picked up speed. As her feet left the edge of the dock, her body lost its mechanical form.
Her head of snakes submerged, and the atmosphere felt calm and fell to a whisper. She floated to the surface and let the water carry her weight for a little while.
It was so late into the night that even the night crawlers were beginning to simmer to a soft pulse. The branches sashayed in the light breeze, and the owls hooted back and forth to each other. Giselle was almost right—this was the other side, but only real for those who listen.