“It’ll all be over soon,” Jessie said as they entered the bedroom. Her voice was more agitated now, excited. Maybe fear had crept into it.

“No, soon it’ll all begin.” He walked over to the window and twisted the blinds shut to close out the warm afternoon sunshine. A few slivers of sunlight cut through the spaces between the blinds and landed on the lightly ruffled blankets on Jessie’s parents’ bed—streaks of light and darkness lying next to each other, side by side. He walked through the zebra-shadowed room to her arms. “Soon it’ll all begin,” he repeated. “And then we’ll be together forever, and nothing will ever be able to keep us apart.”

“I’m ready,” she whispered.

“It’s a cruel world,” said Aaron Jeffrey Kincaid.

“It’s a cruel world,” echoed Jessica Rembrandt.

“But our love will unite us forever.”

“Our love will unite us forever. ...”

Aaron pulled the polished stainless steel hunting knife out of his backpack and led Jessie to the whirlpool. The knife had a serrated edge on one side and a wickedly curved blade on the other. They’d picked it out together last week at a sporting goods store at the mall. The two of them had been planning this for weeks, to make sure everything was perfect. After they found the knife, Aaron had sent her in to pay for it with cash while he waited outside “to keep watch.” He’d made her think it was all her idea. He was good at that.

Jessie turned on the whirlpool.

The motor hummed, sending jets of warm water churning at their feet.

“I’ll go first,” she said, “because I love you.” Her voice was shaking. Her breathing, fast.

“No, I’ll go first. Just like we practiced.”

They stripped off their clothes and eased into the whirlpool. Only two heads and a pair of shoulders were visible now above the foaming, roiling water.

It was just like the couples had done in Roman times. Lovers sitting in the baths, letting the warm water help pump the blood from their wrists as they drifted off into the darkness of a sleep that never ends. He knew. He’d researched it. But this was even better. The jets from the whirlpool would help pump the blood out faster.

Steam began to rise from the water.

Aaron carefully placed the edge of the blade against his left wrist.

“It’s a cruel world,” he said, repeating the mantra they’d practiced together so many times.

“It’s a cruel world,” Jessie echoed.

“But our love will unite us forever.”

“Our love will unite us forever. ...”

People would be surprised if they saw him here. Her parents had never even seen them together. Even at school they were both loners, so no one really paid much attention to them. It was all so perfect. “Everyone will know about us now,” he said. “At last.”

Aaron drew the blade toward him, deep into the meat of his wrist, and a red spray shot across the pool. A sharp ache bristled up his arm, but he didn’t flinch. The cut was angled just so across his vein so it would be harder to stop the bleeding. They’d rehearsed it this way, the best way. The fastest way.

He quickly lowered his hand into the steamy water, and at once the water began to twirl with crazy red swirls. It reminded him of watching his foster mother bake when he lived in California, seeing the food coloring swirl through a bowl of hot water. He thought of her, the smells in the kitchen, the sound of her laughter, until his wrist began to throb. Then, his eyes found their way back to the knife he was still holding.

“Should I do the other one right away?” he asked Jessica calmly. She was entranced, staring at the red water that was now encircling her legs and abdomen.