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What I Lost at the Lake
Author's note: This piece was written for a short story assignment in school, but I fell in love with the piece. So much I got carried into it. This is a story that describes how even though what we perceive as being in 'like', has the possibility to turn into what we call 'love'. And how 'love' can turn into grief.
The things I remember always were the things I wanted to forget. Still, I remember them anyway. I remember last summer. Specifically, I remember the 4th of July, and the unsuspectedly treacherous days before it. More than anything though, I remember her.
Her name was Elli-Rose Dawson, but we all called her Elli for short. She was quiet, but the sort of quiet that could turn loud or sweet or wild at any moment. Mostly though, she was quiet. She looked young and had intelligent green eyes. She seemed curious as if she were always looking for something and, every once in awhile, she would find it somewhere, someplace, in someone. Her delicate features and long wavy hair added to her seemingly ethereal look. It framed her face in a way that made her look delicate, as if she would disappear if you glanced away. She wasn’t tall but she wasn’t short. Her figure was alluring, lithe, but shapely and never seemed less then graceful. Among all the swimsuit-tanned, golden-haired trendy girls of summer, her simplistic beauty may have seemed forgotten to some.
I met her on the way to Noah Wells’s annual 4th of July party. Noah owned a lake house in the mountains of upstate New York, a place where he prided himself on throwing his huge parties since freshman year. I’d known Noah since we were young, but we had drifted apart since the beginnings of high school. Anyone who got past his friendly front could see that he had an occasionally violent temper, which on many occasions had been the talk. We had stayed friendly enough, though, that I’d been invited to his summer rave.
“HURRY UP!” Noah yelled through the phone. “How long’s it gonna take to get your bags?”
“Well, maybe if you stopped calling me, I could actually get something done...” I said, hanging up the phone and tossing it onto the bed. The phone began to buzz again, threatening to jump off the bed. I answered it before it fell.
“Coming!” I shot through the phone as I flipped it open.
“Dude, you’re unbelievable. Stop fixing your hair or whatever and get into the car!” He laughed on the other end.
“Chill, I’m out.” I said slamming the door behind me and making it into the car. It took me a minute to figure out who was in the car, but I realized soon enough. Driving was Noah of course, but next to him sat a girl I couldn’t quite place. Her long brown hair was scrunched up against the headrest, and turquoise fingernails tapped the dash. I shot Noah a glance, ‘And who’s the chick?’ I thought, motioning with my eyes to the green nails. Noah grinned.
“Hey, Elli, this is Sam. Sam, this is Elli.” He smiled.
She turned toward me, tilting her head and smiling, green eyes glowing.
“Hi, Sam,” she said.
“Hey,” I said. “Nice to meet you.”
We met each other’s gaze, friendly but lingering on what was beyond ‘Hi,’ but neither of us ventured further. She turned back around and returned to tapping her fingernails on the dashboard.
Noah turned around, winking and mouthing ‘All mine.’ I smiled out of the corner of my mouth, brushing off the comment.
Plugging in my earphones, I lay on the seat and began to bob my head. “We gonna’ make it in time?” I said with a sarcastic tap to my naked wrist that was raised in the air. “Let’s go.”
I was interested. I know I shouldn’t have been because she was Noah’s, right? ‘All mine.’ Well, I was. After all, what could happen at a party? I knew I would regret it later.
For the rest of the car ride, I mostly slept, my IPod crooning lyrics into my ear.
When you’re on a golden sea, You don’t need no memory, Just a place to call your own, As we drift into the zone, On an island in the sun, We’ll be playing and having fun, And it makes me feel so fine, I can’t control my brain, We’ll run away together, We’ll spend some time forever, We’ll never feel bad anymore…
The wise words of Weezer lulled me into sleep. I gave into it and settled into the car cushions.
I awoke to the click of a camera shutter. Startled, I sat up abruptly smacking my head into the roof of the car. I cursed under my breath. “What was tha--?” I asked, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.
Leaning against the open car door stood Elli with her camera phone in hand. “Cute,” she laughed, examining the photo. “You all right, though? Did you wet yourself?” she asked playfully.
“I did what?” I exclaimed, patting the seat of my pants frantically. Still standing in the doorway, she covered her mouth, stifling laughs that escaped her lips.
“Oh,” I said, embarrassed. Clearly, the sleep still hadn’t worn off, because my pants were dry.
“C’mon let’s get you unpacked,” she said, offering her hand.
Although I was hesitant to touch what ‘belonged’ to Noah, I did it anyway. She guided me out of the car and into the bright sunlight. The house hadn’t changed. From the outside the house looked small, and old, as if it were a log cabin. The inside though, which I knew for a fact was large and had an overdesigned feel for a cabin in the middle of nowhere. The outside though was the best aspect of the house. Though woods concealed most of it, a large fire pit stood not to far off from the house, and through the woods you could see the shining lake and the rough outline of the dock. It was peaceful, but in hours I knew all the peace would be interrupted.
When I made it into the house, Noah had already almost finished preparing lunch.
“Hungry?” he asked us.
“Very,” I replied, making my way to the barstool. Elli declined, making her way up to her room.
“ So,” I started, making sure she had made her way up the stairs, “What’s the story behind Elli?” I asked as I picked at the sandwich Noah had set in front of me.
“She’s a looker, huh?” he said, propping his elbows up, making himself taller.
“Yeah she’s cute, but what’s the story with you and her?”
“There’s not much of a story; we meet at a mixer, swapped digits, ya’ know, the usual,” He stated.
“Oh, that’s cool I guess, so are you guys serious?” I said, but quickly reconsidered. “I mean like do you like her?” I asked,
“I don’t know, she seemed cool at the mixer and she’s not bad looking. “
“She’s cute.” I said. Staring at my sandwich, I murmured the words, “Beautiful.”
“Hmm?” Noah asked.
“Nothing,” I stated quickly, biting the sandwich and making sure my thoughts stayed thoughts.
The way Noah could be more interested in his sandwich than his girlfriend didn’t surprise me. Noah had a bad reputation in school, but mostly with girls. He was the type who liked someone to hang off his arm, that’s it. After he’d finished with one girl it was on to the next. He was a player, but the kind that left a mess of people hearts.
After finishing my lunch I made my way to my room. It would only be hours till the party would ruin any peace that the lake house still had, and I had to rest. I set my bag on the bed and lay down, closing my eyes once again. It wasn’t for long though, because as the sleep began to take over, there was a tapping on the door.
“Yes?” I said.
The door opened slowly, Elli’s old converses peeked through the door and were followed by the rest of her.
“Hey, would you mind helping me set up outside?” she asked.
“Sure” I said. I leapt up from the bed and followed her outside.
While we prepared, we began to talk. I’d never meet someone that fascinated me so much. The short time it took for us to set up disappointed me, and I found myself slyly becoming a little less intelligent, slowing down the process, hoping it would give me more time. It was if the knowledge that came from her lips had hindered my ability to function.
After setting up, I decided to show her the dock. I had spent many summers here with Noah when were young, and I wanted to share the magic of it with her.
“Sam, it’s gorgeous,” she exclaimed, pointing at the surface of the grey, glittering water.
“It is, isn’t it,” I said. “It’s my favorite place to come.”
“Wow,” she started, and then turned around and whispered, “I’m glad I get to share it – with you.”
Her green eyes locked into mine, challengingly calling me closer. The electricity seemed to spread through the lake, its ripples growing larger, and the water shining brighter than ever, even though the sun had begun to set. I stepped closer. We were now breaths away from each other. She grinned, the tips of her smile turned upward and her eyes measuring every angle of my face.
“Sam,” she breathed.
“Yes?” I asked, but it was barely a question.
“I like you,” she started again. “Do you like –“ she tried to ask, but I wouldn’t let her finish.
“Yes,” I interrupted. “Yes, I like you too.”
“Well alright then.” She smiled.
The breaths between us disappeared. My hands glided up her neck, my fingers intertwining with her long brown hair. She cupped my cheekbone delicately, moving her thumb back and forth stroking my jaw. I kissed the corner of her mouth first, cautiously, she was still Noah’s, but right now I could barely remember. She didn’t seem to remember either, it was if she had thrown her feelings in the lake and had let them stay there. She kissed me harder, this time pressing her lips against mine. For a second I thought it would last forever, and looking back on it, I wish it had. But when do wishes ever come true...?
Noah called from the house looking for us. As we drew back from each other I expected shame on her face. There was anything but. She looked found, like she had found her something in me. I was her key to happiness, and she had finally decided. I don’t know if I could call it love, but her kiss had fostered warmth in me that I had never felt for anyone else, and I liked it.
Noah began to call again, and this time she gave in, slowly walking off the dock and back towards the house. I stayed on the dock till the sun set into the lake and gave way to star spotted darkness. All I could do was think. I had loved every moment with her, despite the fact that we’d only known each other for hours. We’d said more with our eyes than could ever be said with words. She’d done the right thing by throwing her judgment into the lake, or at least that’s what I had thought.
After I had collected my mind, I went back to house to find that the lawn had filled with cars, and hundreds of people had begun to arrive. Though all I wanted to do was contemplate the events of this afternoon, I decided at least to try to enjoy the reason I had come in the first place.
The night got wilder and wilder. Hundreds of people talking, laughing, screaming crowded every inch of the property. Most of them drunk, or hyped out on the excitement of the crowd. I would see Elli here and there, sometimes talking to people and sometime being paraded around as Noah’s new girlfriend. When she wasn’t with Noah, she was with me, but it wasn’t the same as earlier though. We would pass each other, brushing our hands together, eager for the feelings felt earlier.
That’s when the fireworks started. The 4th of July fireworks always called everyone, especially the couples, to the lawn. As everyone sat and watched the display, I saw Noah head with Elli into the woods.
I tried to erase it from my mind. After all, Elli was still Noah’s girlfriend. It still felt wrong though. I had seen Noah earlier and he’d had one too many drinks. Noah was notorious for being mean when he’d had one to many. Again, I tried to just enjoy the fireworks but a twisting in my gut got in the way.
Worried, I headed after them into the woods. I found myself walking faster and faster, my heart beating harder in my chest. I began to run. I came to the edge of the woods, just in sight of the dock. Two figures stood on the deck. It was this I never forgot.
This moment that was frozen into my mind. Noah obviously had had too much to drink; He was unsteady, holding himself up using the posts of the dock. Elli stood at the end of the dock; she looked small, nervous and fragile, next to the unbalanced Noah. He stood himself up trying to act as if he wasn’t smashed and grabbed Elli’s shoulder. He pulled her towards him attempting to kiss her, but Elli refused, turning her head. Frustrated and angry, Noah grabbed her again, this time more forcibly. Trying to steady himself he pushed himself against her, twisting her arm to secure his kiss. Even though Elli was fragile, she was strong. She pushed herself away, now dangerously close to the edge of the dock. This enraged Noah. Taking a step back, he started spitting hate-filled words at her. She was terrified, and I couldn’t do anything about it. My limbs had seemed to disappear. I felt helpless.
Noah went silent. Without warning, he strode forwards rapidly, violently shoving Elli off the dock. I heard a snap. At that second my mouth opened, the simple act of speech escaped me because not a sound came from my mouth. My knees began to buckle but I willed them to run. I grabbed Noah, pushing him against the post and forced myself over the edge of the dock and into the water.
The cold water stung like salt. I grabbed her broken frame but felt only stillness.
“Please,” I whispered, “No…” My whispers became cries, turning to sobs that were interrupted my chattering teeth. “Elli, please!” I cried. I held her to my chest. “I wished could have loved you.” I plead to her. She was gone.
Her dark hair floated around her head, forming a halo. Her lips turned blue, threatening to match her nail polish. What hurt me the most though were her eyes. Her vivid green eyes had become dark, fading into the colors of the gray, glittering lake.
I no longer felt the cold, just loss of what could’ve been. I hugged her knowing that she would never hug me back and, for a faint second, I saw Elli again. Fireworks exploded over the lake, turning into green stars. For a fleeting second, her green eyes lit up once more.