The lake

The story of a guy who couldn't leave, and a girl who helped him let go.

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1. The Lake

The lake


It's rather late by now. My feet are starting to get cold and I have goose bumps on both arms and legs. I spin around a few times to try and catch a glimpse of my little sister. She said she was going to the bathroom, and that she would only be a minute, but yet here I am, 15 minutes later, and she's still not back.
   The sun is starting to set in the horizon. The sky is a yellow, buttery color; the sun burning red like a bonfire in the bottom of the sky. I didn't bring a jacket. Why didn't I bring a jacket?
   I'm starting to feel uneasy, and I decide to go look for Stella instead of waiting for her. Maybe she's lost. I'm too tired to get all panicky just yet; it's not like I can conclude by now that she really is lost. I start walking towards the toilets; crossing the park's soft and green-grassed soil in my high heels. Why on earth did I wear high heels to the park? Oh yeah, that's right; I wasn't going to the park in the first place. I was going to the movies with Kimmie and her boyfriend, but mom and dad decided to take a spontaneously planned trip to Copenhagen, so I had to stay home and take care of Stella. I don't think Kimmie and her boyfriend minds, anyway.
   I stumble ahead, as one of my heels get stuck in the soft soil, and my ankle shakes unsteadily with the rest of my leg on top of it. Why didn't I change my shoes before going to the park? Simple; I left my key inside, right before mom and dad came flying out the door, and practically threw Stella into my arms and ran away. So; no key equals no shoe-change.
   I've reached the bathroom in the far east corner of the park. Before going in I take a deep breath, knowing that public toilets never smell good. I walk in, and it doesn't look good either. There's three booths and three sinks. No soap. All three booths are open; Stella is not here. I feel a faint jolt of panic, as I've begun realizing that I don't know where she is. Where is Stella? I march out from the toilets, and out into fresh air. Looking around; she's not at the merry-go-round, not by the rollercoaster, not on the swings. There's no other people by now, but 15 minutes ago there were plenty of people all right. What if someone kidnapped her? I feel sweat starting to appear from my palms and from my forehead. Stella, Stella, where are you?
   I stand completely still, staring concentrated at every bush and every tree in the whole park, to see if she might be hiding behind something. I hear a rustling sound and turn around quickly; a squirrel appears from the inside of a big berry bush. My heart is pounding. I start walking down the path which is down the middle of the park. The sky is purple now; murky and menacing. I walk with long, stiff steps. I almost feel like fainting from panic until something colorful catches my eye. Pink. Behind the next bump in the road, in the horizon I see something pink. As I get closer the pink area grows bigger. Balloons. I see balloons. A big bunch of pink balloons are floating, peacefully from their strings in their bundle. They're trying to touch the sky and float away into the coming darkness. But they can't. They're held down by some force greater than their own; a hand. There's a guy under the balloon bundle. A guy with long ivory-white fingers and dusty-brown hair. His face is turned slightly down and to the side. I follow his gaze and for the first time realize that my sister is there, talking to the stranger.
   I rush to my sister's side in a few long paces. "Hey Stella! Where were you, we were going home 20 minutes ago, remember?" My voice is agitated, but also relieved. She turns her face towards me and smiles apologetic, her brown eyes gleaming in the plumy darkness. "And you shouldn't talk to strangers!" I say, in my motherly and demanding voice, which is still trembling a little from relief. "It's okay sis, I just wanted to see the pretty balloons." I pat her head and turn to look at the guy's face. His eyes are like watery glass globes; grey, but somehow transparent, and very glossy. His eyes are resting on mine and his gaze is wondering and innocent, which makes him look young, but he must be around my age. "Uhm..." I don't know what to say. Stella is staring at me, and the strange guy too. "I'm sorry if she bothered you. Let's go home, Stella." Stella looks at me like she's terrified, and says that I'm mean for suggesting that she might have been bothering someone.
   I grab Stella's hand and start to walk away from the strange guy. "I'm waiting for someone." I jump a little from the chock, and turn around. He spoke to me. "Uh... okay." That's all I can come up with, and I start blushing from saying something so stupid and inconsiderate. I quickly turn away and pull Stella by the hand. I'm walking as fast as I can in my high heels, telling myself that it's because it's dark and I want to go home. But subconsciously I know, that it's because I can feel his eyes on my back. His glossy and ghostly eyes.
   We reach the streets, and the rest of the walk home both Stella and I are silent. We don't speak, and we don't look at each other, we just walk; hand in hand. It's almost completely dark when we turn the corner to our road. The street lights are on and they're shining bright. Like headlights on cars; when close enough they blind you completely and you feel like a deer on the highway. The air is a little cool, but it's summer, so it's not so bad, but still I've got goose bumps, and the hairs on my arms are reaching for the sky.
   When we get to the driveway I can, with relief, tell that my parents have returned home because the car is there.  So we go inside our house, and my parents are making a fuss over the fact that I brought Stella home so late. I throw a tantrum because it's really their fault for rushing off so suddenly, and the only one who is silent is Stella. We have a fallout and I am sent to my room, which is ridiculous since I'm 18 years old, and not some little kid.
   I'm sitting silently on my bed, sulking. Thinking about that boy with the pink balloons. I'm waiting for someone. Why would he say something like that? Why would tell that to complete strangers, that he was waiting for someone? And why did he stand there, all alone, with a huge bundle of pink balloons? Maybe he'd been stood up, by some girl. Poor guy. He could also be waiting for a little sister or something, for whom he had bought the balloons. Who knows.
   I'm startled and nearly fall off the bed as Stella comes silently sneaking into my room. She walks over to me and puts her small hands on mine. She's looking into my eyes, her gaze is soft, but determined. I'm just about to ask her if something is wrong, but then she looks around, as if searching for someone who might be listening in on us, then she leans in and whispers: "He's waiting..." I'm looking at her, confused, but before I can say anything she is smiling at me sweetly, and then turning and leaving my room. Her ponytail bounces innocently as she turn and close the door behind her. At first I have no idea what she meant. But then it dawns on me... "Oh right, the dog! He hasn't been out all day! Damn..." It's really late, but I was supposed to walk the dog earlier. I couldn't, though, because I was in the park with Stella. It's almost 11 pm, but a dog must do what a dog must do. Besides, my parents would never walk him, and Stella is way too young to handle him on her own. There's no choice.
   Silently I sneak out in the hallway and put on my shoes and jacket. Then I try discreetly making some sounds with my tongue, to make the dog come out. Lazily old Bailey comes staggering into the darkness of the hallway. "Here you lazy bastard!" I hiss at him. It's meant as a joke, though; I really love that old dog. Slowly he comes at me, wagging his tail. I put on his leash, and walk out the door without making too much noise. If my parents knew I was sneaking out, when they told me to go to my room, they would have an anger fit.
   When the door is closed behind me, and I've turned the corner with Bailey, I feel more relaxed. I'm alone and the air is fresh. Then something unexpected happens. A cat appears on the other side of the road. The light from a shop-sign makes it look almost pink. Bailey is old, but he's still a dog, and following his instincts he sets in a sprint after the cat. He's a big and strong dog, and I'm very stubborn, so I almost dangle at the other end of the leash, as he dashes forward. We're running through mud and bushes and I don't know what. I'm shouting aggressively at my dog, but he doesn't listen. Luckily I'm wearing better footwear this time, I think. Before I know what is going on, Bailey is dragging me through the park in which Stella and I have spent the day.
   As I see a flash of pink before my eyes, I am startled, and Bailey pulls the leash, which flies out of my hand. In no time Bailey has disappeared into a bush, and I am alone in the dark. "Damn you, dog!" I start walking towards the bush, whistling, but then I see something again. Pink. Pink balloons.
   Under a street lamp, on a bench, not far from where we last met, sits the strange guy with the pink balloons. The light is strange and sort of pink, which makes his hair seem pink too. For the first time I notice his clothes; he's wearing a suit. I'm a little scared, because this coincidence is just too weird. But still, I feel drawn to him. I forget the dog for a moment, and walk closer.
   I'm standing in front of him, only one meter away. He's staring at me with his big, glossy eyes, and I'm staring back. "So... you're still here, huh?" A quite awkward sentence, if I should say so myself, but that's all the words I could find. The guy nods. "I'm waiting... for someone... Is it you?" I feel stupid. Maybe he's been stood up, when going on a blind date? "Uhm, no. I'm just looking for my dog." Again, I said something really lame. Maybe he's hurt; I should think more about other people. "I'm sorry. Are you okay? You look lonely." I give myself a mental slap, for saying something stupid again. But the guy just looks at me with riddled eyes. Now that I look at him closer, his eyes doesn't seem ghostly at all, just sad. It was wrong of me to take him for a creepy person. "Maybe, you could walk me home?" The guy asks, and looks at me with hope gleaming from the corners of his eyes. I nod, and smile. He makes me forget that he's probably my age, because he seems so lonely and helpless.
   He gets up from the bench and starts to walk. I follow him silently for a while, before asking: "What's your name?" He doesn't look at me, just answers flatly. "David." I tell him that my name is Caroline, and he just nods. Normally I would have thought this was rude, but with David it might just be shyness or sadness. We walk and walk, and when we've left the park behind, we start walking towards the woods. It's rather scary, because there's not much light on these paths. As we get closer to the woods, I notice that David is trembling. "David, is something wrong?" I put my hand on his shoulder, and I realize that his clothes are soaking wet. He whirls around, startled, and stops walking. "You noticed. It's really you," he mumbles. "What on earth are you talking about. David! Why are you crying?" Tears are streaming down his face, adding to the already really wet boy. "It's just that... I've been waiting for so long. Please help me." My heart is racing; I have no idea what is going on. But still I find myself nodding. "Okay, then I'll show you. But we need to get to the lake." I'm numb with confusion, but still I find that my legs are moving, following the strangely boyish guy into the woods. He's still holding the balloons, and they're floating behind him like a tail of pink, as we speed up, to get to the lake. An owl is howling somewhere in the dense darkness, and there's rustling from all around, as small animals creep around in the bushes and trees.
   I start to feel really cold, when we finally see the lake ahead of us. When we're at the edge of the lake David turns around again, his eyes are eager now. "Close your eyes." I feel hypnotized, and without thinking, I do as he says. I can tell he has come closer, and then I feel his fingertips touching my temples. "Watch closely..." he whispers. Suddenly colors burst out on the back of my eyelids, and it feels like I am watching a movie. I'm terrified, but I can't move. And suddenly all I can do is watch.
   It's summer and everything is blooming. The sun is shining from a clear sky. I am not me. I can't feel my body anymore. I am no longer me, I am him. I am David. I am really happy. I am waiting for someone, someone beautiful. Her name is Beth, and I went to her house the other day to ask her out, and to my complete and utter surprise, she said yes. Now I have butterflies in my stomach and my cheeks are blushing just from the thought of her big brown eyes, her perfect smile and her soft, blond hair.
   Anyways, she said to meet her here in the park. I know for a fact that her favorite color is pink, so I bought her pink balloons. At first I thought it was a great idea, one of
her friends even encouraged me to do it. But now I just feel silly. Sitting here in the park in my suit and with my big bundle of pink balloons, as if I'm going to a 3-year olds birthday. And all the kids in the park are staring at me weird. I take a nervous glance at my watch. I've been here for one and a half hour, and she is exactly one hour late. The butterflies in my stomach grows bigger and turns into huge flesh-eating moths. It hurts. But just then, I see her walking towards me, from the other side of the park; wearing pink heels and a baby-pink dress. She waves at me, and my heart skips a beat. I give her the balloons, and she's smiling and blushing; I think she really liked them. She suggests that we take a walk in the forest, and I say yes, of course. I'm so happy I could faint.
   When we reach the lake in the middle of the forest she stops and looks at me, smiling. For a moment I think I am in heaven, but then something happens. I am pushed. I fall. I feel the cold, dark water of the lake surrounding me and dragging me down. The water is thick and I'm paralyzed with fear. Through the water I can see Beth, she is screaming something at the two guys next to her. Two of her friends from school. Both jogs, very popular. I can't hear what they're saying. I'm sinking and everything dissolves into darkness. Cold. I feel cold all over. I feel the cold creeping through my body. What just happened? A moment ago I was happier than ever... What happened... happened...
  
I'm gasping for air, my body is stiff and I feel sick. I'm crying with fear. Pictures flash quickly through my head, but they're neither David's nor mine. Beth, crying. Screaming. A man and a woman, also crying. Beth, dead in her bathtub. Pills, scattered all over the floor. Pain, pain, pain! I'm crying hard now. David is crying too, but with happiness. Through tears he whispers thank you. And the next moment he is gone. The forest is completely black around me. "David! David!" I'm all alone. A ray of moonlight falls on the lake. Something ghostly and dead has materialized from the muddy water. A face. David's face. I scream. No doubt it is his face. I fall on my knees, and throw up. Dark spots in front of my eyes. The last thing I see before I faint, is the weak light from a bundle of pink balloons, disappearing into the darkness of the black trees above me.       

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