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“I hate the lake,” Lisa said, swinging one foot in front of her other. She jammed her little hands in her pockets, and she looked back at Owen.
“I hate you,” he said. He winked, and Lisa rolled her eyes. Owen lost himself in those eyes. They mesmerized him, and they changed colors; some days, they were brown, other days, they were hazel, and rarer still, green. He loved them when they were green, and they were as green as ivy today. They went beautifully with his own blue eyes.
“Why do we always have to go here? Don’t we have something better to do?” she frowned and brushed a strand of brown hair out of her eyes. The sand sighed under her footstep, and the water whispered at her feet as she waded in the shallows.
“It’s only two minutes away, baby girl. That’s all.”
“I know. It’s just… sometimes I wish we could do something else.” Her mouth flickered into a smile, and she pushed her hair behind her ear.
Owen chuckled and walked up to step beside her. He put an arm around her shoulders and felt her stiffen at his touch, then relax.
“And there’s never anyone here,” he said, his lips grazing her ear. She didn’t move.
“Is everything okay, baby girl?”
“Yeah, it’s just… nevermind. I don’t know,” she said.
“Is it because I’m going away?”
The wind rustled the trees. The lake wasn’t large, but it wasn’t too small either. The lake had once been beautiful, but now its water had become green with algae. The trees, once beautiful, now shimmered with the orange colors of autumn. But Owen didn’t see any of that. Why did he have to graduate? Just when Lisa warmed to him, college jumped in like that old friend you’re embarassed to talk to.
“Let’s take out a canoe, baby girl,” he said, pushing her bangs away from her eyes. She looked up at him, snorted, and then nodded. The dock creaked under their footsteps, and the boats waved hello as the stepped along the dock.
“They’re only for one,” she said, stepping into one. She picked up the orange paddle and pushed away from the dock.
Owen frowned, then nodded. He grabbed one of the orange paddles himself and got into the canoe.
“You still haven’t told me where you’re going, j------,” Lisa said, laughing. She stuck her oar in the water to slow down her boat, sending her spinning and giggling.
“How was your week, baby girl?” he said.
“Good, I guess?” she furrowed her eyebrows, but she kept on paddling. Two fish, one blue and one green, jumped out of the water, together at first, but they fell their separate ways.
“You didn’t answer my question,” she said.
Owen breathed through his nose, then out through his mouth, and his heart stopped beating like a bass drum. “Stanford,” he said.
Her paddle thudded like a cannon onto the deck of her canoe. Her hair whipped around and her eyes fixed themselves on his. Her eyes were red.
“You promised me…” she said.
“I promised you I would stay near Jersey unless Stanford came calling, baby girl,” he pleaded.
“Don’t speak to me, j------. I thought you cared about me,” she said.
But Owen did care. He’d thought for weeks about it, and he only accepted the day before the deadline. He ran a hand through his hair. He didn’t care? Who was she to talk about not caring? She’d tossed him to the curb time and time again, because some dashing man came in and swept her off her feet. How many times had she promised him she loved him, and then went back on her word? Four times she promised him she loved him, and four times she’d moved on in a month, but Owen never could.
She thought he didn’t care?
But Owen didn’t say a word. He didn’t argue, and for the first time in his life he managed to keep his mouth shut.
“Say something!” she cried, her eyes red as the sunset.
“I don’t have anything to say, baby girl.” he said. He looked up at the sky. The sun was setting, and the rays trickled across the horizon. The lake split into two streams.
“I’m going left,” Lisa said.
“What?” Owen yelled. He turned right.
“I’m going left!” she screamed.
“Oh,” he yelled. “Well that’s okay, baby girl. I’ll meet you back at the club house.” The current picked up the pace, and he found himself rushed further and further away from Lisa. He listened for her response, but it never came.
The trees closed in on him from three sides. The river winded wickedly, but the current guided him along. He was alone; more alone than he’d ever been in his life. He wanted to turn back, but he couldn’t. The current rushed on, faster than he could fight.