Amelia Loeffler is a born and raised Kentuckian currently living in North Carolina and studying at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Rumor" was originally a finalist in Short Édition's Long Story Short Award contest, 2022.

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Rumor has it the lake is a graveyard, she says.
There are bones down there, tumbled smooth and collecting algae
alongside sunken pennies, lost spoons, decaying bandages,
secrets chewed like gum and spit off the dock at night.
Bet you can't touch the bottom, she laughs.
Her dare sounds like my favorite song played on a violin
so I pike dive off the kayak and flutter my feet,
heart, eyelids, fingertips, reaching for mud at the bottom,
or the molten center of Earth, or the meterstick of breath
between us when we sleep. Whichever comes first.

Rumor has it two girls lived alone in those woods,
at the end of the road with pavement pocked by age and weeds.
The neighbors, acres away, heard laughter across the water
at night-splashes sometimes. Were they sisters? Friends?
No matter now, but isn't it a shame what happened?

I swim down until the water goes cold and dark,
until I feel the weight of the lake pressing into me like a lingering silence.
Looking up over my shoulder I see her: golden haired, and haloed,
goading me on. Deeper. Farther. Swim.
At the bottom of the lake, I don't see bones or treasure.
I see colors dancing behind my eyelids: viscous, honeyed,
syrupy like her voice in the morning.

Rumor has it a girl drowned in that lake. They found her,
weeks later, and isn't it strange nobody noticed she was gone?
Girls like that, they drown easy, you know? All bone.
There was another girl, too, I heard. Someone saw her at the supermarket
later that same month. Buying lemons and garlic salt as if her sister—no, friend—
no—I heard it was more than that. No matter. Like there wasn't a corpse
fermenting somewhere underneath her dock, stewing like soup beans
in the same lake where she took her morning swim.

Better a body pressed into the lakebed than a skeleton in the closet
while the search party drags the water for my remains,
she prunes in the bathtub until the water goes cold,
steeping like a mug of herbal tea left in the windowsill to cool.

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