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The Lake House
Author's note: This piece has been crazy to write. I've done re-writes and revisions and I like what I have. I just hope you will, too.
So I guessed this was how things were going to be now. I was here at some stupid party with my even stupider mother.
I looked down at my mother. She was sitting next to a guy I had never met. He had blonde hair that was in a crew cut. The guy looked to be about twenty-five to her forty-three. He was sort of cute, but I could tell he wouldn’t be around long. She was plain, before. When she and my father--I couldn’t call him that. When she and Craig were together, it was a medium length, mousy brown bob. A size ten and a few smudges of eyeliner. After they’re outrageous divorce, very disagreeable, she went cougar. It was hair extensions and platinum blond. My mother went after the young guys and stayed out later than me; sometimes all night. It was like I didn’t even know her anymore.
The way she looked up at me, the desperate, needy flirting clear in her eyes, I didn’t know this woman. “Can you go get me another drink?”
“Yeah.” Better to agree and just leave, she wouldn’t notice--it was her fifth drink. Heck, she was probably trying to get me to go away. I walked away from her with my flip-flops in hand. And as I glanced down at them I noticed they were an aqua blue, the same color as the birds on my bikini. The same color as my eyes. The same color of Craig’s eyes. I should really get some contacts. I used to think my eyes were beautiful, but now it just hurt to look into them.
“What can I get you Miss?” The sleazy bartender asked me in a deep, raspy voice.
“All I want is a refill.”
“You can have whatever you want, babe.” This was disgusting. He was at least forty-five. The bartender handed me back my drink, not even checking for ID. He was one of the easy ones. All I had to do was stand there. As I reached for my drink, he made sure to brush his fingers on mine and add a wink. Full on deviant.
I turned around and looked back down the beach, my mom was gone. She and Mr. Crew cut were MIA. I’d find some way home. Hopefully. What a responsible mother she is.
I took a drink and felt it trail down my throat. I barely even noticed the burn anymore, and my mom never noticed her diminishing supply. She just didn’t understand. I didn’t want a ‘hip best friend’ as she put it. I wanted a mom. It was cool the first few months, but when I finished practice after school or was scheduled for her to pick me up from work and she didn’t show up, it was embarrassing. I soon learned not to depend on her for anything from keeping tabs on me to keeping money in the checking account. I got my own account, so she was on her own when she over drafted. I started thinking back; she was still halfway a mom before we moved here.
“Moving to Seabrook will be great!” My mother told me about a year ago. Her voice was still the one that used to read me bedtime stories but the blond hair looked strange and out of place around the naturally pretty face. “It’s just what we need.”
Back then I still trusted her, believed her. I soon realized that she meant ‘It’s just what I need.’ She couldn’t stand to be anywhere near Craig, after what he did. And if she couldn’t be around him, then neither could I.
“Mom, I’m going to have to leave all my friends.”
“I know honey, but you’ll make all kinds of new, great ones. Don’t worry.”
“You really think so?”
“Honey, Melissa, you are a bright and smart individual. You will do fine. No problems.”
Ha! And I believed her. What a lie! I had plenty of great friends in Chicago, but not here. I wasn’t particularly interested in making a lot of new friends either. I’d moved here just over a year ago and was still pretty much on my own. I got a job soon after I got here but even those girls didn’t really like me all that much. Most all the girls here were stuck-up snobs. I had one or two friends, but I didn’t really even like them. None of the girls really liked me either. That wasn’t to say the guys didn’t—they did; especially the guys that had girlfriends. To say the least, my reputation wasn’t the best.
My stupid mom. I hope she’s freaking happy with herself, dating all the guys ranging from 25-33. It was disgusting. I’ll go get with the bartender just to see how that makes her feel. I doubt she’d even care. She’d either ignore me or find a positive like, ‘He’s got a job!’
I had reflexively drunk nearly all of my drink—her drink. The sand beneath my feet was rough and grainy, rubbing them raw. I’d walked a lot farther down the beach that I’d intended to, I could barely see the lights of the party anymore.
She didn’t even go by Alex or Alexandria any more. My mom went my ‘Lexie’. Someone who is forty-three years old, as much as she likes to think she’s not, isn’t supposed to have a name like that. It’s for young people like me. Call me Lexie and her Melissa, at least then it’d sound normal. No wait that would involve my mom caring about something other than every herself.
I tipped the cup up for another drink and realized it was empty when all the ice came clattering down on my nose. I threw the cup down. Who cared about littering?
I felt the moisture from my eyes before I knew I was crying. No. I didn’t want to cry over them—I’d done enough of that already. This was why I didn’t drink alone, exactly why. When you’re with a bunch of people, it just helps you forget where you are and who you’re with. If I drank enough, I could be back in Chicago again, with my friends. But if I was alone, it just threw down the wall I’d built inside my head and let the thoughts overpower me, like tonight. Some nights I let it come; I pondered all the details and really thought about it. But those nights were pre-planned. It had started one Friday night a month and two Saturdays. Now it was down to just one Friday night a month because there is really only so many times you can go over the same information. Same details, same questions. Why did he do that? Why did Mom do this? I wasn’t even sure if she was going to ‘Mom’ much longer. It may just come to be Lexie. But her picture popped into my head instantly when I thought of the word mom. It was always hard to change habits, but I could do it. Just takes some practice. As if she would even notice if I stopped calling her Mom.
The party lights were just a dim glimmer behind me now. I didn’t care. There was a house up here, it looked empty enough. I walked up the porch steps, rang the doorbell and jumped into the bushed and waited two minutes, then repeated. No one was home. I wasn’t going to break in; I wasn’t even going to steal anything. If there was a key somewhere nearby, then so be it. If not, I’d find a way home. I checked under the chair cushion, nope, then above the door, nope. When I checked the most obvious place, you bet. It was under the welcome mat. The key went smoothly into the lock and I heard the click as the door opened. It’s not forced entry if you use a key... Is it?
I hope not.
There was too much at stake for me to get in trouble for something like this. It always seems like I don’t care to get into trouble, but I really do. If something completely stupid like this ruined my Ivy League dreams I would never forgive myself. The police could never know about this. I wouldn’t have a chance at any of those schools after any police charge.
I finally decided that I would be safe from the police and stepped through the door and closed it behind me. This house was nice, I guess. I didn’t see any neighbors around so I turned on a light. Thank goodness they didn’t have an alarm system. The house was large, but the décor a little tacky and outdated. From the outside it looked nice, but now that I could see inside, I knew the truth. But you can’t always see inside. The outside lies.
This house looked as if the owners had spent all their money buying the house ad didn’t have any money left to bring it from 1995 to now. The living room was nice. Personally, I would’ve done my bedroom, the kitchen, the living room, then the guest room, but it wasn’t my house. I found the main remote and sat down on the L-shaped couch. A wall of pictures was to my left.
There was an older couple in one or two of the pictures; I assumed this was their house. There was a family portrait with a middle aged mad, a middle aged woman and a boy about my age. That was probably their grandson because I saw about four other pictures of him on the wall. He was pretty hot.
After couple of hours of television, I decided to check out the food situation. They had gone by my fix-up agenda. This kitchen was very nice. It was better than nice. All the appliances were stainless steel and the countertops were made out of the really nice rock that you can even cut on with no cutting board. They even had a coffee maker that would make just about any coffee related drink that you wanted, but no food in the fridge. Three sodas and a bottle of mustard were all that were there. I looked in the pantry, the only thing there were some cans of soup and Vienna sausages. These people were gone for the summer.
I wasn’t going to tell anyone about this, but it just might be my new home away from home. I had my own vacation house. And it was going to come in very handy.
* * *
The past two weeks had been terrible. My mom had been home about three nights the whole time. I had convinced Poppy to let me work every day for the past two weeks and considered telling her some fake lie like, “I need money. My family, we’re struggling.” But, it was Poppy, and I’d blow it by showing off something new that money had bought. Like a new Coach purse. So I told her that I couldn’t stand to be alone at my house all day. I couldn’t stand to be around my Mom. Poppy understood.
I’d ended up working fifty-six hours a week for the past two weeks. 9 am-7pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 9am-1pm on Wednesday and 9am-9pm on Saturday. This left me little free time, but that was how I liked it.
Poppy told me that Blair was going to be back from vacation this week so my hours went way down. Blair Cavanaugh worked here with me. She was very nice but I knew she didn’t like me very much. She was just too nice. I saw how she acted around Jenni Stevens, her best friend, and it wasn’t the same. She had that same detached kindness of people in politics. Now that I think about that, her and her boyfriend, Chris Johnson really went together well. His Dad was in politics; no doubt he would be, too. They were the perfect, little, happy couple. They would have two perfect kids and live in the perfect house. There was no justice in the world, none.
It was after noon on a Tuesday, but for some reason the sore was deserted. One lone girl was browsing the shirts.
“Oh, hey Blair” I looked at the clock and realized it was 2 pm already, my time to leave and Blair’s time to come.
“Trying to get some overtime?” She laughed. “Like you didn’t get enough of it while I was in the Bahamas with Chris.”
“You know it.” I laughed, too. It was a fake laugh though. Nowadays, they all seemed to be.
“How many hours did you work a week? Fifty? Sixty?” She was serious again.
“It was about fifty-six hours.”
“Does your Mom not mind?” She knew it was just me and my mom, everyone does. Another reason I didn’t really have that many friends was because it really wasn’t anyone else’s business about my family life. You deal with your stuff and leave me to mine. I’ll talk clothes and shoes with you, but it’ll stop there.
“No. My mother thinks that I working for you while you were gone was a nice thing to do. She says working will prepare me for the real world.” I shrugged as if she had actually told me this and I was laughing at how stupid it sounded. I wish she would tell me something like that. Care, just a little bit. “The more cash I make, the less I ask her for.” This caused us to laugh. I never asked her for money. I was an adult. I cooked for myself, I bought my clothes, and I paid for gas and insurance. I lived under a house entitled to her name, but that was all.
The customer had reached the register and was waiting to pay for her bracelet. “You go on and get settled, Blair, I’ll ring her up.”
“Okay. I’ll be right back!” She ran off into the employee lounge.
“Six cents is your change.” I tore off the receipt and handed her all pennies back. “Have a nice day!” It wasn’t like she’d need the receipt anyway; the bracelet cost two dollars and forty-four cents. I would be embarrassed to come in and ask for a return for that small of an amount.
Blair was back. I left to go get my stuff. When I got back, she was straightening and organizing the money drawer, OCD much? I was by no means in a rush to get home, so I decided to be friendly and ask about her trip.
“So how was it?”
“Oh! Melissa! It was amazing! The water was a brilliant shade of blue. I mean just so pretty. The sand was as white as paper and soft to walk on…” She kept talking but I wasn’t listening. Going to the Bahamas would be fun.
“You know what I mean, right?”
“Oh definitely,” I told Blair, whatever she was talking about.
We talked until about 4 o’clock when a crowd came in so I let her go off to do her job.
It was 4 o’clock, what was I supposed to do for the rest of the day?
It turns out there was a Hills marathon on, so I was safe until about 1 am when it stopped for the day. Over the past year I’d developed mild insomnia. Some nights, well most nights, it didn’t affect me. Others, like now, I couldn’t go to sleep if I was sedated.
As I went to get a sleeping pill from my purse, my mom didn’t know I had them—wow, something else she didn’t know—I saw the key. It was the key to that lake house. I put the pills back in the bottle and threw it in my purse, grabbed the key and added it to my key chain. I wrote LAKE HOUSE on it in big letters.
Before I knew it, I was ringing the doorbell just to make sure no one was home. After a short wait, I slid the key into the lock and went in. It was the some peaceful haven it had been two weeks ago. I had a feeling this place was going to become a home away from home. I locked the door back and fell onto the couch, it was television time. Something about watching television here, just made it seem better. About halfway through my third episode of 16 and Pregnant, I could call all the girls by name and determine which I liked and which I didn’t.
What was that? I turned the TV off quickly. Was that a key in the front door lock? No! I’d left my car in plain sight right in the driveway. How much more stupid could I be? I dropped the remote and when I went to stand my belt caught in the couch. I thought things like this only happened in movies! Not in real life real people didn’t get caught by their belts, or trip in the forest while running from a killer. I wasn’t in a forest, but this wasn’t supposed to be happening. I jerked up a few more times trying to get loose or at least break my belt as someone clearly struggled to get the door open. I yanked and pulled, but to no avail.
Then I heard the distinct sound of a knob turning. I was so busted.