Wrapped in a faded beach towel, I sit by the lake for the last time. The lengthening shadows of the trees behind me creep beyond the point where shore and small waves meet, spilling onto the surface of the water, and I realize that I’ve been here, on this patch of grass, for quite some time. I’m cold, and a shiver presses through my wet hair, all the way down to the tips of my toes.
The thoughts I am lost in take me back to a certain summer, the memories still so vivid in my mind. Like black silhouettes against white paper. It was the summer after my second year of college. The summer I met him. Liquid blue eyes and a straw colored crew cut. Ocean and sand. I’d singled him out from the group of other swimmers who were gathered at the lake, and shyly I realized that I had been noticed as well. By late afternoon we were sharing ice cream and holding hands.
Several nights later, I began to get the phone calls. A voice over the line, her voice, whispering the warning I would come to know so well. Stay away from things that don’t belong to you. Followed by a click, and then silence.
I knew her, even though we’d never met. She was the girl who had been his girl, and had been replaced-and she was devastated. She’d made plans for the two of them, sketched out a future that she saw as their destiny. Baked him cookies, and knit him sweaters. I was nothing but a thief. All summer long, she continued to call me. The same whispering voice, and the same warning. The same pitiful attempt to stake a claim on a heart that was no longer hers. I felt sad, more than threatened.
I stand up and brush off my bare legs, polka dotted with small bits of dried grass that have stuck to my skin. The surface of the lake has grown dark, and in the fading daylight I see the glint of a silvered trout as it jumps, as though suddenly afraid of the deep, cold depths of its home. I’m urging myself to leave this place as well. I’ve done what I came here to do. Swim one last time in this water. The same water that was so deeply shadowed the last time he swam in it that it swallowed everything.
And fate decided he would belong to no one.