At 7:00pm exactly, my mom screamed our names from the balcony of the blue brick four-plex we lived in so we knew when to come inside. In the bathroom, the tub was full of warm, bubbly water. Bedtime was at 7:30pm sharp. My sister and I had twenty minutes to bathe, brush and get into our jammies. We could play in the tub for a solid twelve minutes. This was plenty of time.
We played soap floats by rolling the soap bar in our hands over and over again, filling a small plastic cup with suds, dropping the bar in the cup and calling it a vanilla ice cream soap float. We played doctor (don't ask) or Toesey-Toesey, whereby we sat back to naked back and pushed forward and back singing Toesey, Toesey. Our boney spines rubbing onto each other up and down, up and down.
But nothing was scarier than when my sister died. She unplugged the rubber stopper from the drain and pretended to get sucked down, down. As the water drained from the tub, the life drained from my sister. She wriggled and writhed until her cheek lay flat against the small crust of leftover dirty bubbles. Eyes closed. Chest still.
When I screamed in horror for my mom, my sister sat up, a bubble beard hanging from her chin. I'm not dead, scaredy cat. I'm not dead. Don't tell mom, she'd say. My mom never came. My sister never died. But I did. Every time.