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“Lucius, dear, please be careful in the water,” called a younger-looking woman to her son. She was no older than forty, yet she possessed to beauty and charm of someone in her twenties. Her long, flowing blonde hair fell in loose waves to her slim waist, and her tan skin glowed in the light reflecting off the clear lake water. She seemed perfect in every way, just like the weather she and her son were enjoying.
“Mom, I’m eighteen now. I think I’m old enough to take care of myself,” Lucius responded while glancing back at his mother with a smirk on his young face that looked as if it had only seen joy in its lifetime. His black hair, soaked from swimming, framed his face to just below his ears. The water rippled around his fit body as he treaded water. He seemed every bit as flawless as his mother, but he would never admit to being so. He had always felt that there was no one as caring and sweet as his mother.
The mother laughed at her son’s remark and returned to lounging in the bright, warm sun with her hazel green eyes closed. Lucius, after exiting the sparkling lake, strolled to her side and sat in the hot sand, not caring that it would stick to his still wet body. He grabbed his acoustic guitar that was previously laying protected on a giant beach towel and began to strum a few random chords. His mother stopped him, “You know that has to be my favorite chord.”
“What? Do you mean the G minor? But it sounds so sad…” Lucius said with a surprised look in his bright green eyes.
“Well, sure, but it’s different than the others. It strikes more than one type of emotion, not just sadness. It’s almost like a small explosion of feelings.”
“I see your point, but do you know what else is like a small explosion?”
“The splash after a cannonball. Last one in the lake is a rotten egg!” At that, both bolted towards the water, laughing uncontrollably, and dove right into it. Lucius came up almost immediately, still laughing. He began to look where his mother came up, but he did not see her. Beginning to worry a little, he started to call for her over and over. She never answered. Lucius began to panic and started screaming for help, but no one was around. In his desperation, he dove underwater to search for her. He kept swimming and looking until he finally caught a glimpse of long blonde hair. Upon reaching her, he saw that he was too late. She had gotten stuck in some plants and drowned. He returned her body to land and began to cry. A frown and tears had reached the face and eyes that had always smiled.
The phone began to ring for the first time all day. Its constant, ear-piercing noise woke seventeen-year-old Astrid out up from her first afternoon nap in years. Still rubbing sleep from her green-blue eyes, she answered the phone in a slightly annoyed voice. “Hello?”
“Miss Petrova? This is Bill Arder. I was wondering if you could help me out,” explained the man on the other end of the line.
This finished waking up Astrid. She had not had a call from Bill in about a month. She loved helping people, and she had a special talent of assisting young adults around her age to adjust in whatever way was needed. There had never been a time when she could not help someone. The excitement in her voice could not be more prominent. “Okay. What do you need?”
“Well, an eighteen-year-old boy’s mother just died about two weeks ago. Apparently, the two were very close, and he was devastated by the loss. Now he’s being sent here to live with his father. He’ll be arriving here in about ten minutes. Could you be in my office before then?”
“Sure. No problem. I’ll see you soon.” Astrid hung up the phone and ran to fix up herself. Because her town, Penton Lake, was so small, it would take her about two minutes to walk to Bill’s office in the center of town. It didn’t matter that her house was located on the outskirts of the town close to the lake after which the town was named. After changing her clothes, fixing her hair, and brushing her teeth, Astrid was out the door and at Bill’s office in five minutes flat.
She was talking with Bill when the boy arrived at the small office. He had not been there more than a few minutes, and he could already tell that everyone in the small town knew each other. This would be a big change from the large city where he used to live. It was just another hardship of his miserable life. He already felt like he would never be able to smile again. How would he be able to start a new life when he felt as though he would not even be able to continue living his old one? That is one thing that he did not even want to try.
“Hello. You must be Lucius Induk,” Bill greeted.
“My name is Luke, not Lucius,” Luke snapped back.
“Okay, Luke. I’m Bill Arder, and this is Astrid Petrova. She’s going to help you adjust to your new life here,” responded Bill in a guarded tone.
“Hi, Luke. How would you like to take a walk around the town? I’d be more than happy to show you around,” Astrid said.
Luke looked into her eyes and saw his mother staring back at him. Sure, she looked very different, but she gave off the same aura of kindness and charm that his mother did. Was that even possible? Whether or not it was, he could not help but feel drawn to this girl. “Okay. I guess that sounds good,” Luke answered, still looking at Astrid curiously.
The two teens walked out of the office in silence. They strolled along the narrow paved streets side by side for a while, just taking in the sights. Every once in a while, Astrid would point out a store or a few homes of well-known people. For her, everything was something that she saw on an everyday basis, but everything was new to Luke. The quaint, little houses seemed so welcoming with their green lawns and short concrete driveways. Even the tiny shops and cafés looked cozy. The roads he and Astrid followed gently curved every now and then. The suburban town of Penton Lake was completely different from the shiny, busy city in which he used to live, and it gave him a sense that maybe he would be able to live his life again.
“So how do you like Penton Lake? I know it’s small, but it’s full of a lot of nice people,” Astrid said, trying to make some small talk. During the tour, Luke had seemed so distant and slightly cold towards her.
“It’s nice I guess. Very small and different, but nice,” Luke responded almost automatically. No matter how much he wanted to trust her, he felt like he should never get close to anyone else. No one could replace a mother, and even if Astrid did possess the same kindness, she would not be able to help him. He looked at her then and felt his feet stumble a bit. Her straight, dirty blonde hair fell to her shoulders and framed her pale face. Her green-blue eyes were so full of emotion, and she walked as if she were on air. It was amazing how she could be so content while he felt depressed and alone. Luke could not help but intrigued by and drawn to this girl.
“Did you want to see the lake? It’s not too far from here,” suggested Astrid, taking a glance over to him. His bright green eyes were so full of sadness, yet she was positive that they used to smile all the time. His black hair was different than she had ever seen, but overall, there was something about him that made her happy and a little nervous at the same time.
“There’s a lake here?” Luke asked with surprise. Living by a lake meant he could always visit it, which might let him be closer to his mom. If that were true, maybe it was possible for him to survive.
“Well, of course there’s a lake! Why else would we live in Penton Lake?” Astrid replied, smiling at Luke. When he saw that smile, Luke felt his ice-cold heart warm a bit. They continued on to the lake, which was just as clear and beautiful as the one he went to with his mother. The two sat on the sandy shore and just talked. Little by little, Luke began to open up to Astrid. She was so easy to talk to and understood everything. Even when she asked about his mother’s death, he was able to tell her the whole story. After telling the story, however, he began to cry, one thing he had never done in front of anyone. Astrid did not mind one bit. She may not have known his pain, but she did know that it was almost unbearable. She felt like she needed to do something, so she did something crazy; she took his hand. Surprisingly, he held hers too. For a long time, they just sat there, watching the tiny waves crash onto the land.
Every day for a few weeks, Astrid and Luke met at the sparkling lake and chatted for hours on end. Their friendship continued to grow and grow until Astrid soon felt something more than just friendship. There was just something about Luke that made her feel different. Whenever she looked into his eyes, her heart skipped a beat. He had begun to seem more and more content the more they talked, and she had a feeling that he would somehow make it through the extreme grief he was feeling.
One day, Luke decided to take his guitar along to the lake. He thought that Astrid would be busy with her parents that day, but while he was playing a song he had just written, he heard her voice behind him.
“Did you write that? It’s beautiful!” Astrid exclaimed, running up behind him.
“Yeah, I did. It’s in the key of G minor. That was my mom’s favorite chord. It’s also my favorite,” Luke explained, a little bit of sadness crossing over his face. He continued to play with Astrid sitting beside him, listening and smiling.
“I’ve always wanted to learn how to play guitar. Can you teach me that chord?” Astrid questioned, looking hopefully at Luke. He was not able to resist her look, so he let her take his guitar. He taught her how to hold the guitar and placed her fingers in the shape of the chord. Then he took her hand and strummed the strings with her. When he heard the sound of the chord and looked into Astrid’s smiling eyes, he felt the world stop. Both of them leaned closer and closer until their lips met. There was only one way to describe it: a small explosion of feelings. However, Luke suddenly broke the kiss, a tight expression on his face.
“I have to go,” Luke said brokenly. He did not wait for a response, he ran off.
“Luke! Wait! You left your guitar!” Astrid called after him, but he was already out of sight. She ran after him, desperate to make sure he was alright. She bolted up and down every street in Penton Lake, searching for Luke. She started to panic and remembered the story of his mother’s death. She had drowned. Scared that she would not find him in time, she sprinted back to the lake, still grasping the polished acoustic guitar.
She arrived and the lake a minute or two later, and her heart sunk lower than it had ever before. There, lying face down in a shallow part of the lake, was Luke. Slowly, afraid of what she might see, Astrid tiptoed over to him and turned him over. Her worst fears had come true; he was dead. Tears filled her eyes immediately, and she wiped them out of her eyes. Next to him was a note in Luke’s neat handwriting:
“I’m sorry you couldn’t save everyone, but I just don’t deserve to love while my mother’s dead.” This time there were too many tears to wipe away, and Astrid wept over her love’s still body.