At some point, Tamsin had to ask Iris: “what the fuck are you waiting for?”

The scene with the tub – that had been Tamsin, all along – was Iris really naïve enough to think that August was capable of exposing that sort of emotional vulnerability? August was a virgo, after all – she was calculated, a perfectionist, unaware of what it was like to feel the flakes of one’s skin & ego fall away in a bath, her nudity her most pure truth, her corporeal testament.

No, of course not. Tamsin had wrapped herself in August’s image like a flimsy bathrobe & had stepped into the tub, the sleeves of fabric flesh soaking & stained with the fallibility of the illusion but Iris had been eager to believe it, her hunger had made her rapturously blind to the folds of translucent cloth that gathered at August’s wrists like someone else’s skin.

Tamsin glared at her now, her slender form appearing hunched against the shallow slanting walls of the attic. She wore a conservative cream-colored blouse, though it was yellowed with age like the jaundiced body of a forgotten victim of war. Her eyes were lined with kohl, perhaps zeitgeist for her bygone era, but she still looked striking, the intense pallor of her complexion at odds with her dark labyrinthine eyes, her hair falling on her shoulder in tangled plaits. Her eyebrows were furrowed with the anger that grows in someone who is still emotionally immature & doesn’t yet fully understand the nuances of the fickle human heart.

“Did you really think that was her? You know how narcissistic she is – I can’t believe how often you waste your thoughts on her. I’ve seen you sitting before your notebook, the color gone from your face & the magic gone from your eyes. We may be equals in years but I rival you in moments: I’ve lived in the instants before the sun collapses against the horizon & I’ve died in the seconds after the moon takes flight in the sky.”

Tamsin looked at Iris, who for once, perhaps, was speechless, listening to someone other than herself harangue her (though it felt as though the sounds of the other girl’s voice did originate inside her head, inside her mind, as though Tamsin’s tongue were pressing against the fleshy pink parts within her skull) –

“How could I have thought it was anyone but her...?” Iris began pragmatically, her internal voice of reason confronting the absurdity of her current situation, while still aware enough of her recent mental state to acknowledge the possibility that this might be some sort of mental break, that fissures in her mind had finally shattered like that mirror in the basement bathroom all those years ago, and now the jagged shards were reflecting streaks of her psyche onto cob-webbed walls like –

“Just stop,” Tamsin spat, evidently exasperated by the sanguine flush that was creeping across her powdered cheeks, as she leaned towards the other girl. Iris could smell her breath, which was dry & arid & spacious like the desert sand, but also sweet & funky like a fermented tea. Tamsin stared Iris in the face, her brow still furrowed & sullen, the creeping warmth of her cheekbones a rash that needed scratching, & Tamsin thrust forward her arm, adhering her palm flat against the wall above Iris’s shoulder blade, pinning her to the gray-green boards that uplifted the ceiling. Iris was still & quiet, feeling the quickness of her heart beating at odds with the absence of the other girl’s organ, the sound in her ears like a fast drum in the woods at night.

Iris was tracing the laces of Tamsin’s blouse with her gaze, uncertain if she should look her in the eye, knowing the other girl was unmoving, had tethered her to the wall, & was still breathing heavily with the frustration that the bathtub scene had caused her. But why? Did Tamsin miss baths? Did she long for the simple pleasure of warm water on skin, the swirl of lazy currents around ankles while submerged in a vessel of porcelain & soap?

“Don’t be so vapid,” Tamsin hissed, reading Iris’s thoughts. “You value bodily pleasures, but I’ve experienced things you can’t even begin to imagine.”

Iris blushed scarlet, aware that she’d been read. The warmth of Tamsin’s breath on her mouth was hot & unknown.

“I haven’t yet learned how to censor my thoughts,” Iris began apologetically, genuinely sorrowful for her lack of knowledge on how to interact with a specter like Tamsin. She prided herself on etiquette & on understanding cultural nuance, & so she found her words fluttering from her lips like startled butterflies from a jar, “please tell me how...”

...until Tamsin pushed her mouth against Iris’s & her words were sucked from her lips as though they were love letters falling through a mail slot, & Tamsin willed her to stop talking, to stop thinking, & instead to allow the immense gorgeous gaping chasm of existence to pick them both up gently in its prodigious hands & hold them there like gold coins in ancient palms, until Iris gasped for breath, & her eyes flickered open like street lights coming on at dusk or like the faint rumblings of a nearly undetectable earthquake. Iris opened her eyes & found that she was alone; Tamsin had disappeared.

read the full story from the beginning here