Sleeper’s Lake

The moon was full, and it shone brightly through the leaves as Marcus gazed out across the water from the centre of the calm lake.  The boat swayed slightly in the breeze and he caught sight of a pond-skimmer dancing over the surface.  “How simple the life of a pond-skimmer,” he thought before he took hold of the oars and gently steered himself towards shore.

Serena stood at the bank, her boots caked in mud from her walk through the trees, her skirt smeared from where she tripped on a protruding root and her bag now sporting a hole courtesy of a stray branch.  The little row boat she sometimes took out was not in its usual spot, moored to the short jetty, but instead floating its way gently back to shore commanded by a slight figure, a silhouette in the moonlight.

As he approached the jetty, Marcus realised that he wasn’t alone.  The woman was maybe a foot shy of him, her hair falling in thick curls about her face.  The sleeves of her jumper were rolled up to her elbows, mirroring the thick socks protruding from her hiking boots, but contrasting dramatically with her floral skirt and bare legs.  She was an eclectic mix of pretty and practical in such a way that said she couldn’t give two fucks about whether she was pretty or not.

Serena’s first thought was that this boy was an idiot and clearly not from around here.  As he drifted closer she could see he was wearing a shirt, tight fitting jeans and what appeared to be Converse of all things, but you could hardly tell as he had mud practically up to his knees.  In all her years coming to Sleeper’s Lake she had never seen another soul as it wasn’t exactly the easiest to get to but that was part of the appeal.  So, to find another person at this time, her time, should have been an affront, but somehow it intrigued her.

“Hey,” called Marcus, the wooden boat nudging the jetty as he pulled close.
“Hey.”
“What are you doing here?” he asked, trying to sound light and chatty.
“I could ask the same of you,” she replied rather curtly.
He hefted himself out of the boat, swaying slightly as he crossed onto stable, dry land.
“You’re not from round here are you?” she smirked.
“Marcus,” he said, holding out his hand.
She stared at it a moment before raising an eyebrow, “Serena.”

“Serena,” he repeated, speaking her name like it was something to be savoured.  She glanced up and saw the moonlight reflected in his crystal-blue eyes, as cool as the water.  A smile tickled at the corner of her lips and she watched as his did the same, spreading wider, confidently, creasing little dimples in his cheeks.

He grabbed his bag from the hull of the boat and slung it over his shoulder.  “She’s all yours,” he said, stepping aside and gesturing to the boat before trudging away.  She watched after him, resisting the urge to chuckle as he slid on the uneven ground, until he passed the line of trees and was gone.

He did his best to remain steady and look cool as he walked but the ground was soft underfoot from the recent rain and he slipped about at every other step.  “Must get some better boots,” he thought.

***

Sheets of ice floated on the surface of the lake as Serena steadied herself in the boat.  She leaned over the edge watching the rock she had thrown over the side sink into the dark of the deep.  She liked that; the way sometimes it went straight down and other times it would bob from side to side as it sank.  She watched as the ripples started small and spread across water, flotsam and jetsam bobbing in its wake.  She watched as the wave reached the shore and the jetty.  He was there.  Marcus.  Much more appropriately dressed this time, in boots and a parker, a woolly hat pulled over his hair against the frost.  He watched her, blowing into his hands to stave off the chill.  A warmth sparked in her chest at the sight of him and she reached for the oars to make her way back.

Marcus had been back every week since that day some months ago in the hope that he might catch her.  Once before he had watched her from the treeline, unsure what to say, but this time he couldn’t pass up the chance.  He stepped out and dumped his bag onto the jetty, warming his hands as she bent over the side of the boat, reminding him of the family cat playing with the tap water.  When she looked up at him it was like a firework exploded in his chest and he fought the awkward grin trying to take over his features.

“Hey,” she said in a rather coy manner that surprised even herself.
“Hey yourself,” he replied.
“Not seen you in a while.  Settling in ok?”
“It’s a nice town,” he offered, “Bit quieter than I’m used to.”
“Quiet?  It’s too busy for me.  To many nosey neighbours.  That’s why I love it here, at the lake.”
“Yeah?”
“So peaceful.”
“Yeah, it is.”

Their eyes met and both forgot the cold completely for the briefest of moments and yet the longest time.  Bound by some invisible pull they stayed until, finally, Serena let out a sigh and glanced across at the boat.
“She’s all yours,” she smiled before walking towards the trees, ground crunching underfoot, her cheeks rosy despite the cold.

***

She was loading up the boat when he arrived; a light jacket over his t-shirt, hands in the pockets of his jeans and bag at his side.  He looked like he’d stepped right off a film set where he played the romantic lead.  He moved to sit next to her, feet dangling inside the boat.
“Hey,” he said, sitting just close enough she could feel his body heat.
“Help me with these rocks?”

Despite the warmth of the evening she still had her thick walking boots on and the same skirt she had been wearing that first night they met.  Something about that pulled at his heart a little and the warmth grew stronger.  He pushed them away from the shore and they rowed quietly together, one oar each, until they were in the centre of the lake.

They stilled the boat and it rocked slightly as they stored their oars under the strip of wood acting as a seat.  As he sat back up their fingers brushed and a jolt of electricity sparked up her arm.  They glanced up, eyes locked.  His fingers snaked in-between hers until they were intertwined.

Her hand was warm in his and soft to touch.  He wanted to stroke the little blond hairs on the back of her hand but resisted.  Instead he stared deep into her emerald eyes.  She bit her lip slightly, nervously and he felt his mouth getting dry.  This was it.  He leaned in slowly and she leaned too, but the relief didn’t come until their lips touched for the first time.

She sank in to it, getting lost until they finally pulled away.  They smiled shyly at each other, tongue darting out to capture the taste of their first kiss.  She gazed up at him, smiling before uttering, ”help me?”

She reached down and opened the large bag at her feet as he lowered the last of the large rocks they had collected into it.  She tied it tight, ensuring the knot didn’t catch on the crimson-painted fingernail attempting to escape; the colour of the varnish clashing with the deep burgundy of the blood.  Together they each hefted a bag to the edge of the boat before locking eyes once more.  She smiled and he thought how he had never felt anything like this before; someone who really gets you.  He nodded to her and they pushed their loads over the edge before leaning over, watching the bodies sink into the black.

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