Today's teaser is an excerpt I'm pulling from a short story I wrote last year entitled, "Under Dock and Key." The story was prompted by a photograph of a narrow, wooden dock stretching out from the shore of a lake. The still, mirror-like water reflected the sky across its surface. Enjoy!
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...A minute later, Samantha pointed. “There it is!”
As Samantha steered the car from the dirt road onto a still narrower path, both women gasped. Into view appeared a quaint, white building with large windows overlooking a lake. The shore was lined with a sandy beach, and a narrow, wood-plank dock stretched thirty feet into the water. Gentle mountains rose in the distance, giving the scene a picturesque and protected semblance.
“No way,” Samantha exclaimed. “Do you think….?”
Marla tore the key off the paper. “Let’s see what this unlocks,” she said with a mischievous smile.
Samantha led the way up the steps. Rollercoaster riding had been one of her favorite childhood activities, and the excitement mingled with fear in her stomach now reminded her of the sensation she got standing on the quay about to board the ride. The key quavered in her hand but slid fluidly into the lock. It turned with a loud click and the door swung open a few inches. Samantha looked over her shoulder at Marla, who gave her a reassured nod.
Light flooded the cottage’s main room. Out the lakefront windows, the cloud cover was breaking apart. Dazzling sunlight danced on the gentle waves near the shore; its fiery flecks reflected like diamonds across the ceiling. The space was divided into areas of function: one corner housed a kitchenette outfitted with a sink, gas range, refrigerator, and café style table and chairs; the opposite side sported a seating area with overstuffed armchairs and coffee tables stacked high with glossy books. The center of the room was dominated by a rustic oak table. One end served as a desk, with writing implements and papers. The rest of the table was littered with tubes of paint, jars of gesso, and vases sprouting from their necks paint brushes of every size and shape. A large easel holding a half-covered canvas stood at the table’s edge.
Marla approached the table, while Samantha moved to the paintings hung on the walls. The subject of every one was a female child, though no two were portrayed with the same physical characteristics. She took a few deep breaths to slow her racing heartbeat. She was startled when Marla called her name.
Samantha joined Marla at the table. “Look what I found!” she said, handing Samantha a leather-bound journal. Samantha opened to the first page. In handwriting she now recognized as her mother’s, Samantha read aloud, “June 28th: Dear Baby, I can’t wait to meet you! I’m Donna, your mommy, and your daddy’s name is Seth. We found out today that you are on the way, coming into our lives, and we are so excited! I am going to write in this journal daily so when you read it some day, you’ll know exactly how you came into this world!”
Stunned, Samantha looked up with large, dewy eyes. “I don’t get it?” she whispered. She began scanning the pages covered with descriptions of doctor’s visits, sonograms and morning sickness.
Reading over her shoulder, Marla suggested, “Sam, skip ahead to your birthday.”
“Good idea.” She flipped through the months looking for March 10th, but following the February 17th entry the pages were blank. Shaking her head, Samantha turned questioning eyes on Marla. She thumbed the remaining pages and discovered more writing further into the book. Opening to where it recommenced, Samantha read, “December 5: I haven’t had the courage to write since the fire.”
Samantha gasped, her hand covering her mouth. Marla slipped an arm around her waist, sending waves of comfort up Samantha’s back. Samantha took a deep breath and read on. “I lost everything that night. Seth is gone. The baby is gone. And what’s left of me is hideous and repulsive. All that’s left for me is pain.”
Samantha stopped. Marla said softly, “Why don’t you take your time with this?”
Without a word, Samantha took the journal to an armchair and began to read in silence...
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Thanks for reading!
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