The Stone Skippers

May 15, 2008
By Nicole Verheye, South Barrington, IL

June 2004
“Mom! It’s called a lake house, hence the word lake!! I’ll be fine I can handle myself! Would you please just chill out?” I yelled through the screen door as I stormed away from the house and toward the porch. “Hmph. Typical,” I muttered to myself while slinking as deep as possible into the hand-carved wooden chair beneath me. That’s my mom for ya. She’s always worrying. Her eyes are constantly switching focus and darting from one thing to another making sure everything is always in order. That also includes me. It’s a never-ending cycle of exactly what things I can do to make my life in perfect order. In other words, to make sure I am causing no trouble whatsoever. Her frantic jibberish has become more than relentless this summer and I have decided to disregard her babbling and head down to the pier. The staircase descending toward the water is swathed with moss. With only a bristly rope for a railing I lower myself down the steps to the edge of the lake. I long for this time of day, for I am a stone skipper. I crouch down to rummage around in hope of finding a perfectly flat and smooth stone. After seconds of thorough examination I finally chose the winner. My victory was thrown to a sudden halt, at the sound of grass crunching only feet behind me. I turned around and looked into the dark cold eyes of Julian Brentwood. His icy glower was no element of surprise to me. My mom had warned me just a few minutes ago of his presence as my next door neighbor. “You never know what depressed children will do in the time of an episode. I want you to stay far away from Julian. Do you hear me?” I could hear the echo of her voice as his glance altered from my eyes to the pile of stones below my feet. Without as much as a hello I stepped off the pile and back onto the grass. He didn’t look dangerous. “Don’t be nervous. I like to skip stones as well. I find peace on the edge of this water.” He exclaimed in a monotone voice. Not knowing what to say, I whirled my stone to my side and launched it across the top of the water. One, two, three, four skips. Julian gazed upon the water and with one step backward hurled his stone ever so quietly across the top of the water. One, two, three, four, five skips. “Not too bad. Soon I’ll skip stones across the clouds.” He lurched back to his house in silence and I vowed to beat him in the skipping next summer.
June 2005
It’s a new year and I have been practicing my skipping. Eager to boast to Julian about my new record, I hustle to the top of the stairwell to see a familiar face hunched over on the bottom step nearest to the water. But it wasn’t all so familiar anymore. His skin was more pallid than I’d ever seen which greatly contrasted with the dark purple half circles engulfing his eyelids. His bloodshot eyes caught mine in that same icy glower similar to the first time we’d met. His head dropped into his hands. His anguish was plain; I yearned to comfort him, but I was at a loss to know how. My hand reached toward him involuntarily; quickly, though, I dropped it to my side, fearing that my touch would only make things worse. Hoping to make things better, I picked up a stone and warmed up for another skipping contest between Julian and me. It had just begun when I heard a shrieking voice yell for him, “Juliannn.” She appeared out of the dark forest gracefully. I was staring at the water as she spoke. Suddenly, she turned quickly to look at me. No, not to look—to glare with, with dark, cold eyes. I wanted to look away, but her gaze held me until Julian broke the silence with an angry noise. It was almost a hiss. They retreated back into the house.
June 2006
It was the first day back up at the lake house. The sun was directly overhead, filling the sky with a haze of buttery sunshine. I entered the screen door with caution waiting for the frantic babbling of my mother to take me off guard. The house was silent. I curiously approached the kitchen to find my mother hovered over the newspaper with her jaw dropped down further than I had ever seen. I glanced over her shoulder and read the heading “Local Suicide.” I froze. Although I couldn’t move my body I could feel my blood pressure rising and wondered if my mom could hear my heartbeat as loud as I could. The air was so quiet and still around the lake house. After deliberating how to react, I decided to head down to the pier. The walk was slower than usual. The surroundings were more of a blur until I was crouched down and picked up the most flat and most smooth rock I had ever come across. One, two, three, four, five, six skips. The aura of the lake had a calming effect on me and it was easy for me understand why Julian wanted to skip rocks across the clouds.

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