Shimmering under the luscious aqua of chemical-rich water of the pool, the back of a young girl contorted like the waves of the ocean. Dozens of eyes bore into her pliant form, shining in utter adoration as they wished to move their bodies under the liquid as elegantly as her. But amongst the crowd of silent envy were a pair that focused just on her. The bend of her spine, the tiny dip where her hips flowed into her thighs, her smooth salmon-colored skin; everything about her made these eyes ooze over with syrupy sweet devotion.

“Mary, help me out, would you?”

The owner of those love-filled eyes snapped her head up and scurried to the edge of the pool, offering her hand to the voice that had called for her. Her hand shook slightly, clammy with sweat and anxious to hold the hand of the nymph-like girl she had been staring at longingly.

“Mary, you don’t have to be so scared. I’m not going to pull you into the water, you know.”

Mary nodded curtly and pushed her hand further out towards the voice’s owner.

“Mary, look at me. I’m not taking your hand until you look at me.”

Mary lifted her eyes to meet those of the other girl’s. Twinkling with mischief, her baby blues appeared almost iridescent next to the glittering wet sheen over her skin. Just like that, the breath left Mary’s lungs. She was suffocating under her own awe, absolutely taken with the sight of the youth before her gaze. Again lost in her sight, she barely registered the splash of water whipping across her face.

“Gotcha’!”

“Violet! Why do you always do that…you know I hate the water.”

“Then why’d you join the swim team?”

“Reasons.”

Violet burst out into hysterics, the beautiful chime of her voice ringing like a bell in the wind. Stretching the webbing of her hand out, she clasped her wet appendage tightly around the quivering hand in front of her. With ease she lifted herself from the water and over the lip of the pool, leaving Mary to wonder why she ever asked for aid. The thought that Violet might just be trying to include her since she was a poor bench warmer had crossed Mary’s mind many times. It was always like this since they were kids, though. She had gotten used to tailing a dazzling star like Violet only to do the bare minimum that made others’ hearts shatter with admiration for Violet’s kind actions. She didn’t mind it, though. Anything to be around Violet was good for her. She knew she was in love and that it was supposed to be wrong. But her twisted, sordid heart wanted nothing more but to continue stealing soul-marring glances at the blossoming Violet and be melded to her side forever.

As her object of desire stretched her porcelain skin out in front of her, loosening her aching muscles, her eyes couldn’t help but glaze over her figure once again. How Violet had grown since they were tiny ones! Just like Mary’s lust for her. Violet twisted her spine, peering over her shoulder at Mary with a cheeky grin that seared its image into the back of Mary’s mind and she swore she saw the same honeyed gaze behind Violet’s eyes that she regularly graced upon her.

“Enjoying the view?”

“Stop teasing, and get to the locker room. The rest of the team left already.”

Violet’s eyes seemed to light up for a second, but they soon fixed themselves into a sharp glare, though the spark still glowed behind them. It was a curious sight, one that had thoughts vacillating rapidly through Mary’s head. Before she could analyze it any further, though, a hard scoff pulled her from the theories that were shaping up in her head:

“Fine then, mom.

A scowl grew on Violet’s face as she then pivoted away, weaving her thin fingers into the gaps between Mary’s, dragging the girl behind her and across the sharp concrete ground that dug patterns into their feet as they made their way to the locker room. Reluctantly, Mary untwined her fingers from Violet’s, shuffling her feet into the ground as Violet heaved the dense min-colored door open. Her muscles delicately pushed the skin of her back out, captivating Mary in their beautiful ripples and wrinkles. Ripples carved by the very water they labored through day in and day out; the elixir that her beloved was in love with. And before she knew it, those same ripples of brawn were pinning her beneath them as her precious Violet drew her frame under her knees and caged her between them. The door shut noisily behind them, shaking the ground that their bodies were pressed against. Neither said a word, Mary’s eyes beaming up at Violet’s in shock, as they stayed deadlocked against one another. They soaked in each other’s silence, taking in each other’s heavy breaths and gazing into the other’s eyes.

Delicately, as though she would break her, Violet pushed her pelvis against Mary’s as if to imprison her between her legs and whimpered lowly, “I love you, I always see you looking. Don’t say you love me too.”

Mary’s eyes wavered in disbelief as she fished for the words to respond to the girl above her. “I love you too.”

Suddenly the movements above her stopped, a searing prick tore across her neck as sunburst stars flowered behind her eyes.

“You’re not supposed to say that! Reject me! Make this easy! Please!”

Violet wrung her hands on Mary’s neck, orphaned strands of hair plastered flush against her rose-tinted visage. She looked beautiful like this to Mary; even as she choked dryly under the pressure of her muse’s weight, she could not help but drown in her complete devotion to the girl towering over her. With her hair draped over her shoulders, tumbling down like a mermaid’s wave-like locks, drenched in Poseidon’s ichor that she so loved, eyebrows knitted tightly together as she pushed down on her esophagus, she looked lovely. Just like Mary in one of those Madonna and Child paintings they had studied together shoulder to shoulder in art history as their professor droned on about the religious importance of those paintings. Violet had never paid attention to them, and neither had Mary. She was always staring at Violet. But she could remember clearly that on the day they studied the Renaissance, Violet had looked almost unworldly, like a celestial being, with her blood red lips tucked under her pearly whites.

“But I do, I love you.”

“We can’t!”

“Then why are we here?”

Violet went silent, her eyes misted with confusion and hurt. “Because I love you,” she mumbled to herself in her saccharine voice.

“And I love you,” Mary breathed back, relishing in the rapidly dulling pressure on her neck. Once again they sat in silence, still and breathing in each other’s breaths as their chests both fluttered in an attempt to fill themselves with air.

Body flushed with a prickling burn, Mary slowly reached her arms out and pressed her fingers into the rich flesh of Violet’s neck. She caressed the skin beneath, admiring the taut muscles beneath the velveteen surface of her beloved. Then she carefully wrapped her fingers around her throat, squeezing just softly enough for the flesh of Violet’s neck to peek through the cracks between her fingers. The light of the evening sun bathed over their soft forms, each damsel’s hands folded loosely over the other’s throat. With a soft smile Violet craned her head towards Mary’s, her lips gently brushing over Mary’s as she swallowed her breaths with a chaste kiss. She peeled herself away from the other’s puckered rosettes, barely pulling away to whisper:

“Just like a Renaissance painting, aren’t we? Drenched in gold and all.”

“I didn’t think you paid attention in art history.”

“I didn’t. But I remember you looked pretty with your eye shadow smudge across your face when we studied the Renaissance.”

Slithering her hands down Violet’s neck and over her slender shoulders, Mary fixed her hands over Violet’s hips, pressing her tighter against her pelvis. Her hands melted into the supple flesh beneath them, dragging it into the light grip below her palms.

“If we’re just like those paintings, this has to end tragically, doesn’t it?”

“That’s true.”

“We could try, Violet. I know you’re scared. I am too, if I’m honest. I know your parents would be against it, but who got anywhere from not trying?”

“You did. You got me without trying. I gave you everything. But I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Reasons.”

With a bitter chuckle, Violet’s hands fixed themselves over Mary’s as she laced their fingers together and held onto them tightly like a corset. Her face contorted as her lips curved downwards and she bit into her rose red lips until her life’s essence streamed down her chin with a salt-tainted liquid that resembled the water that she loved so much. The beautiful nymph strangled her love’s glass-like fingers beneath hers and brought their joint hands up to her mouth, pressed her lips to their entwined fingers, and coated them in her tears.

A soft press of her lips to the cherry pink globes on Mary’s cheeks and one last press against her pelvis, and Violet lifted herself up off of her. As she stood up and brushed off her knees, she gave Mary one last glance; one of longing, one of love evermore, one of eternal passion, one of hatred, and one of complete devotion.

“Goodbye, Mary.”

And as she sashayed away; Mary lay there in silence on the cool, dirt caked tile of the locker room, and faintly noted a cool river of liquid trickle down her thigh like her now lost love.

Jennifer Rostowsky’s poem, “Perfume” was published in the Spring 2018 issue of The Match Factory. She is a senior majoring in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts. Jennifer has an interest in horror and all forms of macabre art. She is heavily inspired by symbolist artists like Redon and by the works of French poet Baudelaire.