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The sun was shining brightly one Sunday afternoon, but Britta was hiding under the shadiest tree, huddled up in a cashmere sweater. It was a Weeping Willow tree, and below it on a slope was a lake. Britta looked up at the webbed branches, and saw a lady washing her hair in the murky lake. She chewed the eraser of her pencil and stared at the blank page of her dog-eared notebook. She was having a major case of writer’s block that was driving her batty, and sitting in this romantic spot by the lake wasn’t helping like she hoped it would.
The wind was whispering in the trees overhead, and the lake looked like a mirror. Despite the muggy weather, it was a beautiful day. Perfect, she thought, for swimming. The lake was dark and muddy around the edges of the lake, but in the middle, you could nearly spot the bottom. Britta squinted and swore she could see the little minnows flitting like tiny butterflies at the bottom of the lake. She tossed aside her writing book and removed her shoes. Discarding her pencil and unraveling her braid came next. The elastic hairband went on her wrist, and her fingers ran through her ebony locks. She hiked up her skirts, and ran to the edge of the water. The little rippling waves lapped up on the bank, licking the tips of her toes. Her pasty skin turned pale and gold under the sunlight, and warmed her scalp.
Britta dove in. The icy water was shocking at first, and she gasped at the chill. She splashed, keeping her body moving under the water so she could stay warm. Wriggling her toes under the squishy loam, Britta panicked several little fishes. She waved as they swam away as fast as they could go. She slowly floated to the surface, paddling to keep herself above water. Her feet stopped touching, and she barely tiptoed to the very center of the lake. It was glorious.
All of a sudden, her head was no longer above the water. She was staring up at the surface. It looked to be a million miles away, like a distant dream. All of a sudden, a poem formed in her head, as clear as the view above her head:
Under this frozen dream with you by my side,
I feel no pain, threat, nor sorrow with you at my side.
A cold hand encased her frail one. It was almost as frozen as death itself.
Am I dead? Britta felt herself being lifted up out of her grave, and she squeezed her eyes shut. She took a deep breath, sucking in the precious oxygen. Her eyes opened by themselves, and took in the view in front of her.
He was truly poetic. His skin was transparent. The veins in his skin were blatant, and he had sunken, tired eyes. His lashes, brows, and curly hair were the color of coal, and his eyes were caramel. She blinked.
He looked concerned. “Are you alright, Britta?”
She blinked a second time. “Who are you?” She rasped.
His eyes went dark. He grasped her hand, and pulled her to her feet. He removed the jacket that was draped casually over his shoulders like a cloak, and arranged it over her body. She was to cold and shaken up to resist. “I guess you don’t remember me Britta,” He whispered. “I’m Isaac.”
She curled up in the downy jacket and settled on the sandy bank. She was chilled to the bone. “W-who… h-how did y-you...” She stopped in mid-sentence. He put a cold hand on her shoulder.
“It is alright, Britta. I can explain. Just take-”
Britta heard a voice interrupting the one-sided conversation. She scrambled to her feet. Turning to offer the mysterious Isaac his garment, she discovered he was gone.
Eyes wide, she stared at the space he had once occupied. She turned, startled, and scrambled up to the little house where she and her mother took shelter.
When her mother saw her soaked to the skin, she gasped. “Britta! How many times have I told you not to wade in the lake! You cannot swim, foolish babe! Do you not remember? And you forgot to bring your jacket outside with you!” She held up the ragged item.
“But mother,” Britta presented her with Isaac’s jacket. “See here!”
Her mother glanced down at Britta’s outstretched arms. To her eyes, they were empty. “Britta, there is not a thing there. Come with me, dear girl. Oh dear! You look feverish! We must get you to bed.”
After depositing Britta near her cot by the hearth, Julie dashed into the tiny kitchen, and closed the beaten folding door. Britta distantly heard the dial tone, and her mother’s panicked voice. As she faded to sleep, she just swore she could see Isaac sitting on the folding couch across the room.
When Britta awoke, it was night. She heard the crickets chirping and she could see the moths fluttering around the broken lamp on the untidy porch. She heard whispering in the kitchen, so she stood, and padded on the crude wood floor to the door. Pressing her head against the door, she could make out the voice of Dr. Cornelius Flint, and that of her mother. She strained to hear.
“I think she may be dying doctor!”
“Hush, Madame,” The French man whispered. “She will be stirring soon.”
“You should have seen her; such a sight.” Britta was shocked to hear her mother sobbing.
Britta dashed back into the parlor, only to find Isaac by the fire.
“How did you get in here?” She whispered, trying to mask the fear that was crawling up her throat.
“I came through the window, of course. It was open, so I let myself in.” Britta glanced up at the lone window. It had no glass. It was wide enough for him to fit through, but not without alerting her.
She gazed at Isaac again. “Only I can see you,” she stated slowly. “I brought your jacket home. You can have it back.”
“It isn’t mine.” He whispered.
“Oh. Then who does it belong to, Isaac?”
He responded slowly, his eyes alert. “Yours; it belongs to you. Britta, I know you, and you will know me. I am from your future. That jacket is yours in the future too. We will fall in love one day, you and I. I am coming to warn you, so you can save us both; in the future, we will be happy together, but only if you make it there. I sensed you drowning. I was trying to save you, Britta.” He gripped her shoulders; his eyes were deep and troubled.
She was in a state of shock. “But what if-?” she choked out.
“That doesn’t matter, love. Just stay safe. I will be waiting for you when you wake up.” He brushed a kiss on her cheek bone, and quick as a cat, leaped through the window… and disappeared.
Britta heard a choking sound, and turned to see her mother, wearing a coat. She also had an umbrella, even though it was a clear night. Without saying a word, her mother grabbed her wrist and pulled her outside.
“You are sick Britta,” Julie choked. “We are taking you somewhere so you can better!”
Britta pulled at her wrist. “Where are we going?”
“We are going to the hospital.” Julia choked; there was determination in her voice. “You have bumped your head, or some nonsense. You are sick. Simply sick! You could be dying.”
“No, mother, please!” Britta sobbed but to no avail. Julie pulled her into the battered car, and Britta curled up into a ball and fell into a delirious sleep.
Britta awoke again, this time to the smell of antiseptic. Her head throbbed, and there was a stinging in her left temple. Her ears were ringing, and her eyes were stinging.
She couldn’t feel from the neck down. She stared at the tube stuck in her arm with horror. She tossed and turned, shedding weak tears. The smell of medicine and death was overwhelming. It drove her slightly mad within moments. She thought she was dreaming when she spotted Isaac in the waiting room.
She stood up in bed in an instant. The monitors went insane, and blocked out the noises of the staff flooding her way. She screamed Isaac’s name, ready to rely on that distant dream that he was. She needed out. She leaped up like she had wings, and flew through the doors, bare feet hitting the cold floor, hospital gown billowing out behind her like a curtain. Security dashed in as she grabbed Isaac’s hand and fled out of the double doors, hair streaming madly behind her. Isaac tripped behind her, but she pursued on to the back entrance. Dashing out into the parking lot, they escaped past wailing police cars and ambulances, and cars beeping their horns in agitation. Shedding tears as she went, she held on to Isaacs’s hand. The security guards were biting their heels when she cried “Make us vanish!”
And they did.
When she opened her eyes, she was laying on Isaac’s arm, back by the Weeping Willow tree. The hospital gown was gone, replaced by a gray shirt and an old jean skirt.
The lake was sparkling with a mysterious luster, and the wind was telling secrets to the trees once again. She was at peace. She looked lovingly at Isaac, staring into his brown eyes. “Thank you.” She whispered.
He smiled and stood up, brushing himself off. He began to stroll away, but casted casual waves behind him, as well as an air kiss. “We will meet again, Lady Britta.”
She smiled, but she barely had time to recover before she heard her mother’s voice calling.
“Britta! Come home, child! And don’t forget that ratty jacket of yours.”
Britta stared down in her lap and gawked. She had Isaac’s jacket wrapped around her waist.
She was home, where she was supposed to be, poetry floating like clouds around her mind.