Meeting by the Lake

5 Jul

The pelting rain finally relented and gave way to sweet drops of dewy afternoon sun, reflecting off every slick leaf and tree branch in the forest. Also in its place was a thick mist wrapping around Worthington and the extensive lands surroundig it. Archibald felt comfortable in the mist. His rubber boots kept his feet warm and dry, and as for the dampness of his undershirt, well, his is a bodily composition preferring the cool and wet over the dry and hot. This preference suits him particularily well for the climate and country in which he lives.

As Archibald continued his walking, or rambling, the coolness of the wind cleared from his mind the confusion he felt earlier in the morning. He looked behind him and saw the grandeur of Worthington slowly diminishing in scale as it became smaller and smaller the further he went from it. Before it lay a water fountain no longer in use. “During the summer months, I’ll send for someone to fix it,” he thought.

He turned back around and before him were rolling hills and a wide lake, which he knew from experience was very deep, too. Archibald’s daily jaunts often took him around the bend in the lake so that he came up close to Wimbleton School for Girls. Rarely had he encountered any of the students there. Now he wished he would, what with knowing the  head of school now- a  discovery he made when he read the news earlier that morning.

A bird swooped out of a pine tree and sliced across Archibald’s field of vision. He could not distinguish the species of the bird, though he did clearly see its color- black. In one swift, calculated motion he swung the gun off his back and aimed. The bird soared into the sky. But it was not quick enough. The bullet seared into the bird’s flesh, and it fell to the ground, landing heavily with a “thud” in a dried pile of foliage. Archibald walked over the deceased bird and felt no remorse for the life he had just taken. The bird smelled rank, as if it were diseased. One glassy eye seemed as if it were staring at him. He took one last look at the raven-colored bird of unusal size and left it to rot where it fell.

As Archibald continued walking through the forest, he encountered an old tree. The branches twisted into gnarled bunches and reached high into the darkening sky. It look like the face of an elderly person, covered in wrinkles and weathered from time. It was a distinguished tree, thick and quite beautiful to look at. As Archibald pondered the tree, a feeling of fatigue crept over him, and he sat down against it. The wind picked up and came howling through the forest. The smell of damp earth drifted up all around him. He felt intoxicated- “what potion, what tonic does this forest serve?” he wondered sleepily. In fact, he felt so sleepy that he did fall asleep against the tree. His mind drifted into obscure places, just like the knobby branches above his head twisted this way and that- reaching for some place the mind could never go when sober, or awake…

“Archibald wake up!” cried Sam White, dressed in white pants and a thin white cotton shirt. His tanned, muscled arms shook Archibald’s shoulder. “We’re going to be late for the dinner if you don’t pick yourself up and wipe that slobber of your face.”

Archibald, who had momentarily fallen asleep in a chair in the parlor of Miss Kensington’s house, woke with a start.

“By golly, I thought I’d just rest my eyes for a few moments, and instead I plumb fell asleep on everyone. What time is it?”

“6 p.m., and if we don’t hurry, we’re going to miss dinner completely,” said Sam irritably.

Miss Kensington walked into the room, looking resplendent as always.

“Well, look at you two, all dressed up. You do clean up nicely- what a picture. Have fun tonight, and be safe. I’ll keep the lights on for when you return,” she said, turning on her heel in a hurried flurish of skirts to return to her own dinner party that evening.

The dinner was magnificent. Silver platters of chicken and beef and pork filled the tables. Oriental salads and other exotic dishes from all over the world comprised the extensive menu. French wines filled the goblets to overflowing. It was a lot for two young men of 23 years of age to take in all at once.

Archibald was seated next to Cadwyn Crawley, daughter of the hostess. Her rosy cheeks glowed, and her green dress matched her striking eyes.

“What do you think of dinner?” asked Cadwyn, turning her full attention upon Archibald for the first time that evening. “Her movements are full of grace, confidence, and accomplishment,” Archibald thought to himsellf. He suddenly felt embarassed to be asked this question while he had been so clearly observing her with admiration.

He composed himself. “It is the most delightful dinner I’ve ever been to,” replied Archibald. He smiled broadly at her.

“But surely you’ve been to finer dinners that this.”

“This surpassed them all,” answered Archibald truthfully.

The music filled the great hall, resounding off the lifted ceiling and ornate paintings surrounding them. They were clear and bell-like, the most perfect musical notes he had ever heard. The violins and flutes and pianos made music enough to fill two parties, and yet here they all were entertaining for just one.

“I’ve had enough. I’m quite full and filled to brimming with boredom,” said Cadwyn.

“Well, I am sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do to ease the tedium of tonight’s party?” asked Archibald. His voice dripped with exageration and mock chivalry.

“Let’s dance.”

“I’m afraid my dancing skills are not suited for such a fine lady such as your self.”

“Don’t be such a bore!”

“Well now you’ve challenged my pride, Miss Crawley. I cannot be called a bore, and so I shall dance with you as long as you please.”

Much to the astonishment of the other guests seated at the table who could not fathom what had taken place between the two young people who had known eachother no longer than one whole hour, Archibald pushed back his chair, bent over Cadwyn and took her gloved hand in his own as he led her through the mirrored corridor and into the great hall. Instantly, the music became louder, stimulated by the entrance of two people who wanted nothing more than to dance.

Archibald woke with a start. He shivered now as the temperature dropped and the wind began whipping through the forest. Had he been dreaming? No, no- it was too real. From the deep recesses of his mind, he had pulled something up, something distant and forgotten. Or at least he had tried to forget it. But he could not. There still it was to be dredged. The smell of roses, the softness of her laced cotton glove upon his arm, the rustle of her emerald green dress…

It was now becoming difficult for the sunlight to penetrate through into the forest. Archibald stood up and stretched. He gazed through the thin shafts of light which had somehow made their way through the increasing darkness. He admired their pluck. He put his overcoat back on, which was by this time dry. By counting two fingers from the horizon line to the ips of the sun, he figured the time was around 7:30. Time to be heading back. Susan would give him an earful for missing dinner.

As Archibald was gathering himself to leave, he heard something in the distance. It sounded like a soft whimpering. He took a few steps in the direction of the sound and listened more intently. Were his ears playing tricks on him? The stream made sounds as the water gurgled over the mossy rocks. But the sound filtered through into his consciousness, surpassing all other sounds in the forest just as the shafts of sunlight had made their way through the dark canopy above him.

The sound continued to carry through the wood softly but surely. It sounded like a girl crying. Archibald stepped toward the sound. All sounds now came into sharp focus as he tried tp narrow in on the one capturing his attention. The foliage beneath him rustled as he walked. Twips snapped as they broke beneath his steel-toed boot. Birds chirped every now and again as if they were yawning with sleepiness, readying themselves for an early night so they might be fully refreshed for morning duties.

The forest ended, and Archibald found himself standing in a clearing at the edge of the lake. Through the mist and into the distance he could see the stone buildings and spires of Wimbleton School for Girls. The crying had become quieter now and was more a muffled noise.

He pushed his way around a thick pine tree. Its branches scraped against the wool of his coat. As he rounded the bend, he saw not very far away a stone bench with a little heap bent over it, heaving, and looking very much like the source of all the sad sounds. A pang found its way into his heart as he cautiously approached the bench.

“It’s a girl from Wimbleton,” mused Archibald. As he walked closer, he cleared his throat so as to signal his own presence and not frighten the poor girl.

“Ahheeem.” It came out louder and more intrusive than he had hoped.

The distressed girl lifted her mass of brown, messy curls and looked up through tear-stained eyes. She immediately began wiping at her face and pushing her hair back behind her ears.

“Pardon me miss, I didn’t mean to intrude upon you. I heard you crying from the forest and followed the sound until I came upon the source of it, which appears to be you.”

The girl was stunned. So many afternoons she came out to this lake under the presumption she was and would be completely alone. Now here before her was a gentleman who had a gun straped around his back. It was unnerving.

She sat upright on the bench and sniffled. “You must be the man who wanders the forests. I’ve heard about you.”

“Ah, I’m sure you have. Probably horrid stories, too. Tell me, what do they say?”

“That you’re 100 years old and cast spells on the forest and a good deal more…”

“So I’m becoming something of a myth, eh?”

“One could say that, yes.”

“Well I’m nothing of the sort, thought I wish I were that interesting. It would be positively existential.”

The girl almost smiled at his curious use of the word. Archibald walked closer to the girl. She oserved him tentatively.

His mustache curled around the ends, giving him a distinguished look. His eyes were not unkind. They shone with merriment. He was tall and lean but not intimidating, probably because the warmth of his smile had a neutralizing effect, a smile which radiated from his face onto whatever happened to be the object of his attention.

The girl no longer felt threatened. Archibald strode over to the bench and sat down next to the girl whose name is Violet, Violet White.

Archibald intended to discover why the girl named Violet White was crying by the lake. He offered her a hankie which she blew into with surprising loudness. Her shoulders trembled as she tried to compose herself.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” offered Archibald. Violet shook her head.

“I apologize for crying by your lake. This is your lake isn’t it? At least that’s what I’ve heard,” said Violet.

“Yes, yes I suppose there is a deed somehwere asserting that it does belong to me,” said Archibald wistfully as he stared out over the expanse of water before them. “And as for your crying by it I really am much obliged to you.”

“Obliged?” questioned Violet.

“Oh dear me, yes indeed. Imagine how dreadfully lonely a great lake like this must become during the fall months. It is no longer swam in or boated in or gone fishing in. Your tears, though born from sadness, must surely cheer this solitary lake of mine,” said Archibald.

“I guess I hadn’t thought of tears as being good for anything, at least not for keeping a lake company.”

“Ah…,” said Archibald. “Tears may be the closest we’ll ever get to the Fountain of Youth.”

Violet blew again into the hankie, which had become full now with her own tears. She handed it back to Archibald and apologized, again. He insisted she keep it for further use.


2 Responses to “Meeting by the Lake”

  1. Justin July 9, 2009 at 1:39 am #

    What interests me about this whole string of related posts is that the “main plot” or “point” is not obvious. There are countless stories by amateur writers in which the characters are placed in some obvious peril, or have some obvious dilemma. This story, whatever it is, seems like it’s going to have more depth of character than rapid-fire plot points. I’m intrigued.

  2. Moranna February 10, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    Atmospheric and intriguing, but going ……..where?

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