Roland watched his mother’s pendant float up from around his neck as he fell slowly through the water, the gold glinting in the light. He admired the rings on his fingers, clenching his fist to prevent them from slipping off. As he rose again to the surface, he heard his grandmother calling. He dove down, swimming towards the silver jewellery box at the bottom of the pool. The tune that it used to play was like steel crickets. The dancer’s tulle skirt sat mouldy on her still body. He lay beside it as if he were on a patch of grass in a park, his hair rising in a peculiar breeze, and listened to his mother humming along to the music playing, emanating from the old jewellery box. She stopped suddenly and he felt two hands wrap around his torso. Within a moment, he was launched into the open air and given a firm slap on the back, bringing up the reservoir that he had swallowed in shock. His throat burned.
‘Marga, you’re hurting me!’ he cried.
Marga, his grandmother propped him up onto the terracotta tiles, looking him over while his lungs crackled like paper bags. With her floral blouse sticking to her like paint, mascara running down her face and her thin, yellow hair matted to her scalp, she looked like a drowned clown. Her nose streamed and she spat as she shouted.
‘I told you, “No”, Roland! Do you want to end up like your mother?’ She dug her red talons into his arms, making him wince.
He didn’t know what she meant by that. Roland began to shiver. Unexpectedly, she hugged him. When she released him, Roland saw tears in her eyes.
His grandmother told him to go and get ready. People would be arriving soon.
He left quickly, climbing over plants to reach the release for the gate. Now that he had upset her, he knew he would have to endure the clothes that she wanted him to wear, however he would keep his mother’s pendant hidden underneath the uncomfortable shirt.