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The Lake: A Short Story

Updated on October 8, 2017

My family and I were visiting my grandparents in Williamsburg, Virginia. They owned a big colonial estate, which had been in the family for centuries. I knew that someday it would be mine. All my ancestors had made modifications, and I knew what mine would be: Wi-Fi. But Bradley, my older brother, would probably add it first. Mom and Dad love the visits, but Bradley and I have never seen worse. Grandma and Grandpa dress us up in fancy colonial clothes, which, for me, means frilly dresses. Yuck! They also like sit around the fireplace in the cozy great room and tell stories. They make me sit on their laps like babies. The only good part is the food. Bradley likes grandma’s honey glazed turkey, I most enjoy her mashed potatoes.

Yesterday, we had a picnic by the lake in their backyard. Mom, Dad, Bradley and I were eating little “thanksgiving” sandwiches with turkey, stuffing, and, cranberry sauce while grandma and grandpa went shopping. “Hey, Sky.” Bradley said, his mouth full of food. “Want to go explore?”

I looked at him. “Sure. Why not.” We got up and started to walk away. “Don’t go too far!” Mom shouted after us. We walked near the lake. “It sure is deep,” I said. “Ya. Let’s go put our feet in!” It sounded like Bradley had wanted to say this for quite some time. But just when I took off my shoes and walked dangerously close to the water, Bradley pushed me in.

The world blurred. It went slower as I gasped for breath, my feet just reaching the ice cold water. I heard my brother laughing somewhere off in the distance. One, two, three, fou- and splash! I was fully submerged. I could swim, but not very well, and not without goggles. I could feel myself sinking. I pushed towards the surface. Finally, I made it. I gasped for breath, my wet eyes still closed. When I reached the sandy shore, I opened my eyes. No Bradley. Where was he? I scrambled up, my body soaked, my clothes sagging. “Hello? Hello?” I cried. No answer. I thought that they must have gone inside. How long was I in the water? Were they looking for me? Questions exploded in my head. The sky was fading to light orange as the night drew closer. As I walked passed the spot where we had picnicked, I saw no sign of my family ever being there. And I smelled something strange near the old meat cellar. Could they possibly be using it as they did long ago?

I walked through the back door. “Hey! I’m back! Anybody home?” All I heard was a hearty laugh from the other room. Surprise, surprise. “Brandleeeeeeeey!” I stormed off to the room where the laughing came from. But there was no Bradley. Instead, three men dressed in colonial garb sat smoking pipes. A lady in a frilly dress sat next to the youngest of the men. Then I noticed that the pictures on the mantel where gone. And something about that woman’s dress seemed familiar. Huh. The men had not noticed me, until now. Something made me step forward and introduce myself. “Hi. I’m Sky Hawking. Sorry to disturb you, but I’m a bit confused. My grandparents live here, and my parents and brother are visiting them. Who are you? Is this some sort of joke? A historical reenactment?” The people just looked at me. “Did you say Hawking?” One man asked. I nodded. “My name is Laurence Hawing. I had no idea I had a Sky in the family. And, mind me asking, are you a boy or girl?” My mind raced. Laurence Hawking? Great – great – great – great uncle Larry? Who died in the late revolutionary war? “Sky, dear, answer his question.” The lady in the dress said. I forgot! “I’m a gi-” Wait. This was my chance! “Boy.” Could they tell I was lying? “Well, we must get you some normal clothes.”

Frilly dress lady rushed me upstairs to the room where Bradley and I slept. “Um… excuse me? I’m not quite sure what year it is. Could you remind me?” I asked, wondering how stupid I sounded. “seventeen forty-three,” she answered. “Silly lad. Whose child are you anyway?” I thought of all my ancestors, saying a silent prayer to grandpa for telling me about them. “Beth’s.” I said. “Beth! She died a year ago! Her husband died when their child was born. Quiet folks, them. Never spent much time with the family. Their life remained a mystery till the Mrs. died. We got news then, of course. I’m your aunt Louise.” This is what I wanted her to say. Now I wouldn’t have to deal with my “parents”. But really, how did I end up in colonial times? She (thinking I was a boy) took a pair of breeches, embroidered cotton blouse, and an emerald velvet vest out of a trunk. Once, grandma had put Bradley in an outfit like that, and I laughed at him, asking him who his date to the colonial ball was. I would give anything to see him now. Frilly dress lady handed the clothes to me. “I assume you want to dress yourself.” My mouth dropped open. She wants to change me? “Where have you lived this past year?” she asked. “Um… I… I was a…” What’s the word? Apren-something. “Apprentice! To a carpenter!” Thank you grandpa.

“Aha!” She shut the door behind her. I was finally alone. There was only one thing to do. I slowly took off my cold, damp Nike shorts and my shirt. My shirt! I was wearing the t-shirt that I had got at the concert I went to last spring. It was all ripped from getting stuck on the rocks in the lake, and drenched in mud and sand. I would make sure that mom and dad grounded Bradley when I came home. I put on the colonial clothes, and tied my short brown hair in a little green ribbon like young men did back then. I walked to the door, repeating my imaginary story in my head. Sky hawking, Beth’s son, carpenter’s apprentice.

I joined the people downstairs. Soon I found myself sitting on the lap of my “Uncle Laurence’s” lap, talking about the life of a carpenter’s apprentice. Once again, thank you grandpa. I acted like I fit, but really my mind raced. How did I get here? How would I get back home?

Soon enough, I was able to call this odd place home. I did their chores, ate their food, and wore their clothes. Days passed, and this became my life, my world. I didn’t think twice, but every night, after getting into my four – poster bed, wearing my silk night clothes, and closing my eyes, I thought of Bradley. How he would feel now. Did he miss me? Was he glad I was gone?

Also, I thought of my parents. How worried would they be? I knew that they loved me, but with me gone so long, would they still miss me?

One average morning, I woke up, put on my breaches, my shirt, tied my hair up with a royal blue ribbon, and went down for breakfast. Aunt Louise had made bacon, pancakes with maple syrup, and tea. After eating, I went to do my chores. First, I went to the barn and fed the chickens, horses and pigs. After, I went back in the house, through the back door, and out to the garden. I picked lavender, sage, rosemary, and cloves for Aunt Louise. I then went to Uncle Laurence’s library for my lessons. He taught me fine writing, grammar, proper talk, math, blessings and prayers, and riding. Oh, riding! Every day, he put me on a giant horse named Betty, who would trot around with me on her back. Betty was a beautiful horse, but I always fell off her. I was the clumsiest rider he ever saw, I heard Uncle Laurence saying. When I get back home, if I ever get back home, I’ll be sure to ride a horse. It’ll be such a funny moment for Bradley! Oh, Bradley. I miss my family so much. My dad and brother playing baseball with me… my mom yelling at me for not brushing my hair… I wish I was home, but I now know this place so well. If I do find the loophole in time, if I can get back, do I really want to?

The lessons were my least favorite part. I had always been a good student, but I hated school. I didn’t pay attention to my lessons, but I got the answers on Uncle’s quizzes right anyway. What was the point of paying attention if I didn’t need to? “Sky, my boy,” his words interrupted my thoughts. “Yes, Uncle,” I said, sitting up straight. “Your lesson is over. You may go play outside.” He said. I’d never heard him say this before. “It’s the middle of summer, and it’s hot. Go play in the lake.” He said harshly. “All right, Uncle.” I ran out of the room, frightened by my “uncle’s” tone. I slipped through the backdoor, into the wilderness.

It was sunny and pleasant, like the day Bradley pushed me in the lake. I walked to the rocky, sandy shore surrounding the lake. A cold breeze flew by. I shivered. Getting down on my knees, I dipped my toes in the water. It was cold. Ice-cold. The chill sliced through me like a knife. I pushed myself up, trying to leave the water. I pushed and pulled, but the water seemed to suck me in, pull me into the lake. Struggling, breathing hard, I gasped for breath. The pain was sharper now, and I sat there in agony, ready to give in, ready to be pulled to wherever the water wanted me to go. But it wasn’t like me to give in.

Minutes passed by. I had never felt pain like this in my life, never. No broken bone, no fever, not even the nights I stayed up studying for tests had been this bad. I tugged on the rocks, kicked my legs, and pushed and pulled. Somehow, nothing worked. I was starting to lose it. I was hungry, and I wanted some of Aunt Louise’s beef stew. I would put on fresh clothes, the silk ones, and then… Wait! Focus, Sky, focus. It had been ten minutes, but it felt like hours, days even. I tried to concentrate, to push myself harder. I thought of that time, two years ago, at my baseball game. I had worked hard all season, but I was determined, then, to prove what I could do. Prove it to myself, to my family, to my teammates and friends. As I stood there, preparing for the pitch, the sun glaring down on me, I felt an emotion that I’d never felt before, and never felt since. I was angry. Not angry at someone, or something, not angry at myself, or the world. It was some sort of anger combined with passion that made me hit that ball with so much force. It was some sort of anger combined with determination that made me run, run with all my might. It was some sort of anger combined with strength that made me slide down home base as the opposing team watched with awe. It was some sort of anger combined with pride that made the crowd erupt in cheers and clapping. And it was some sort of anger combined with pain that pushed me out of the water now.

I ran. I ran without thinking, through the yard, past the meat cellar and the garden and the farm and the kitchen. I ran straight past the tree where Bradley and I used to throw footballs whenever we could escape from Grandma and Grandpa. I ran past centuries of history, centuries of family, centuries of my blood. Memories flooded through my head as I ran past, straight back to where it all started. Where my family had lived since the 1600’s, the ground where my ancestors settled ages ago. The past was a beautiful place, but so was the future. It was where I belonged. I belonged with Mom and Dad and Bradley, with my friends who wore pants and had cellphones. I knew I needed to go back, to let the water have me, and bring me back to my normal life. But I, Sky Hawking, was afraid. I was afraid of what would happen to my new life. To my old. How my “uncle” would react if I disappeared. How my family would react if I came back. I was afraid that everything would be different. Had I changed the past? Suddenly the ridiculousness of this all came into my mind surely I wasn’t the first to go into the past, but why? How did this even happen? I could have spent a lifetime just trying to figure out how I got here, but I decided to just keep on wondering, live my life, and try to keep myself from thinking of the things that made me long to be back home.

I walked up the back porch, preparing to go inside, but paused. I stood there, my eyes closed, my hand on the cold metal, thinking. My heart told me to jump in the water. Go back home. But my head told me not to. Stupid. Lazy. Scared. I tried to talk myself out of it. Go. I could see Bradley laughing at my fear, me coming up with some great comeback and pushing him in the water first. The little sister I used to be. If I saw my brother now, I would probably run over and hug him. How would he react? I was wet, cold, and shaking. My hand was sweaty and sore from gripping the door handle so hard. I slowly opened the door, and walked back to my new life.

“Sky! You poor thing,” Aunt Louise rushed over to me, and wrapped a towel around my shoulders. She rushed me up to my room, and I changed into warm, dry clothes. After eating some delicious soup (my grandparents still use the family recipe), I was told to go speak with Uncle Laurence. What could he possibly want from me?

I walked into his study. “sky, my boy. Good to see you. How was your swim?” “Umm…. Good. Really good.” I tried to smile. “Have a seat.” I was starting to get nervous, and something in his tone was creeping me out. “I know you’re a carpenter’s apprentice, and I needed some work done. Will you possibly build me a new desk?” My mouth dropped open, but he continued to talk. “Cherry wood, ornate legs, and a nice, clean finish. Drawers along the side couldn’t hurt, and I want room for my globe collection. A nice, wide roll top would do, and oh! A retractable shelf under the desk would be necessary for all my papers.” This sounded like a job for a master carpenter, and I couldn’t even cut a piece of wood. In fact, I’m probably as good at carpentry as I am at riding a horse. Probably even worse. I said the only words I could muster. “I can’t-” “Well,” said Uncle Laurence, “I guess I set my expectations to high. You are only a child, with little education and skill. Mabey this is a job for someone cleverer at their trade.” This made me scowl. I always hated when someone called me childish and uneducated. “Oh, Sky! If you want to grow up a strong, proud man, you must get used to people talking to you like this! If you’re a shy, quiet, young man, no lady will ever like you!” This was just awkward now. At least he hadn’t figured out I was a girl. “Anyway,” he continued, “If you think the desk’s too hard, then I guess you can skip the shelf, but then you’d need to add a file cabinet. And if the roll top should cause you trouble, we can just to a regular wood plank cover. I’m sure you can do the legs, though. You see, the design’s simple. Just a rounded base, vines wrapping around it, and an image of a woman carved in. For Louise. We’ll stain it a reddish brown, it will look nice with the wood and- or should we use oak wood? Oak does have very nice quality, but it wouldn’t work well with the overall design, huh. So Sky, when will the desk be finished? What materials do you need, my boy?” I wasn’t really good at thinking on my feet, but an idea was forming in my head. “I need to go to town, Uncle. By myself. Don’t you worry, I have a plan.” What would he say? “Are you sure, Sky?” he asked suspiciously. “Yes, I, I, don’t you trust me?” I blurted out, with nothing else to say. He chuckled, and patted me on the head. “Oh, little Sky,” Uncle Laurence said. “Always has a plan, that boy.”

I walked into the crowded Duke of Gloucester Street, my head hung low under a tri-cornered hat I had borrowed from Uncle Laurence. I had never been out since Bradley pushed me in the lake, and I didn’t know how to act with the public. This seemed like a good corner. I needed a way to get money to purchase a desk for Uncle Laurence, so I decided to do what I did best: sing. I laid down my hat, cleared my throat, and started to sing. “24 karat magic” I started. At first, I got funny looks from the townsfolk. I guess eighteenth century people don’t like twenty first century music. At some point, a large, round, man resembling a beach ball came over. His nose looked like a giant pickle, and the few hairs left on his head were sticking straight up. At first he acted like everyone else, confused and slightly offended, but then he started to laugh. He pulled what I think was a five cent piece out of his pocket, and placed it in my hat. I nodded to him to show my gratitude, and he just kept chuckling. When my eyes left the one shiny coin in my pocket, he had disappeared. I just kept on singing, and at the end of the day had acquired about twelve cents. Definitely not enough for Uncle Laurence’s desk. It was getting dark, but I had one choice.

I stayed. I stayed out there in the dark in the middle of the night. Out on the same street where Bradley and I had once gone on a ghost tour. I was out by myself, in the dark, as rain poured down hard on my uncovered head. I stood there alone, and I don’t know why. Just me, a stranger, lost. A stranger from the future, lost in time. Nowhere to go, no one to trust. Just me, Sky Hawking, standing there in the middle of the night with nothing. I doubted that anyone would come now, but I sang any way. Pop song after pop song until my legs were numb and my eyes were shutting themselves. My throat was scratchy and sore, but I just kept standing there, singing, not taking a single break. I had never been more miserable, but I didn’t care. My voice kept on singing, my legs standing, my mouth open wide with every lyric, every note. And my head was whirling. Me. Bradley. Mom. Dad. Me. Bradley. Mom. Dad. Laurence. Grandma. Grandpa. Louise. I couldn’t tell what was happening to me. My head felt like it was going to break open. Like it was the earth, but it was spinning out of control. Someone was running down the street. He looked like Bradley. I didn’t know. It couldn’t be. The world was blurred, spinning on an endless circle. It was late at night, and Williamsburg’s party animals were finally leaving the taverns after countless tankards of ale. The streets were filling up again, but the people were heading home. Oh, home! It sounded so good to me. It filled my splitting head with a burst of sweetness. Home, where Bradley and I teased each other and Mom woke me up way too early every morning and Dad practiced baseball in the backyard. The big backyard in the big house that Bradley and I had convinced Mom and Dad to buy so we could play baseball. We both promised that we’d share a room, and do our chores, and put $50 each into the house. And we said we wouldn’t fight anymore. We didn’t do any of that. Bradley ended up in what was supposed to be the guestroom, and I had one to myself. We soon slacked off our chores, and instead of using the yard to play baseball, we sat outside on the deck to see just how far away our T.V. remote would work. And those fifty dollars? We combined them to pay for a new T.V. remote, after we dropped ours in the pool, and it didn’t even work that far away, so it wasn’t worth it. But Mom loved her fancy pantry, and Dad finally had his own office. So it worked out in the end. Ah, the good old days. Now I was here, and had to worry about keeping my identity and paying for a fancy roll top desk. Not just who would have to play on the old Xbox or the new PS4 this afternoon.

Home. Home. Home. I was still singing, and I smiled. Home. Oh, how I wished to be there now. As dawn broke, morning came, and the sky lightened, I finally grew too tired. I slowly ended my song with one, screechy, shrill, high and ugly note, and fell to the ground with a moan.

“Sky, Sky, my boy,” I looked up. The sky was bright and sunny, and Uncle Laurence stood over me. I was too tired to move or think. “Uh.” I grunted and turned on my stomach to find myself in a pit of dirt. I must have slept all morning. My tri-cornered hat still laid at my feet, and I saw that now it was almost half full of money. “Sky, what on earth are you doing here?” Uncle Laurence said. “I know you’re not from around these parts, but it’s more dangerous than you think, Especially at night. You are not to go on these streets alone again, Sky, and don’t go looking for money!” “A boy your age shouldn’t be so selfish,” I heard him mumble under his breathe. If only he understood! I was hot and tired lying in my pit of dirt, and not in the mood to be scolded. I grunted, louder this time, to show that I was annoyed, and rolled over. The sun was in my eyes, and my arms, wet with rainwater, were covered in dry mud. The sun was in my eyes now, and I was miserable. “Clearly you aren’t doing so well. I’m going to go get us some food from the local tavern. Now, you stay here, and don’t move!” Uncle Laurence announced. He clearly wasn’t used to twenty first century whining. He went off. I turned on my stomach again, this time getting a face full of dirt. I quickly spit it out, but it remained stuck to my nose, forehead, and cheeks. Just as this happened, I heard footsteps. I heard a woman’s British accent. Look at this boy, a complete mess.” She said. “Probably a patriot. I’ve heard of that kind of child, very rude. Always making fools of themselves, those uneducated, uncultured patriot boys.” I figured this wouldn’t be a good time to stand up and say “Yah? I’m just as smart and cultured as you silly English people!” Knowing Uncle Laurence, I highly doubt that these guys would understand that. Plus, I didn’t even know what “cultured” meant. To control my energy, I just half hazardly slapped my arms up and down in the dirt. It didn’t help. I heard the woman make a noise in disgust, and start to walk away. But the British couple stopped as small footsteps came close. A little boy’s voice said “Mother, what is this?” I knew he was pointing to me. “Oh, Henry,” said father, “This is a patriot boy.” The child gasped. “A… a real patriot boy?” His mother said, “I know, hideous, isn’t he?” I was mad. “Oh Mother! It’s even worse than I thought it would be!” Little Henry said. He sounded frightened. I was glad that this little kid was afraid of me, but the parents were just so rude! “Mother,” said the boy, sounding just as polite and aristocratic as his parents, “May I throw a stick at it?” This took me a moment to comprehend. Throw a stick? At me? “Get the largest one you can, Henry, the foolish Yankee deserves it.” “Yippee!” The boy skipped off, and skipped back, all while I sat in a pit of mud waiting for a painful death.

“Get ‘em good, Son,” Said the Father. There must have been some playfulness in him too, for after Henry took the first shot, (and missed!) fancy British dude also embarked in the sport of whacking Sky with sticks. The first ones were small, and only hurt a little, so I was able to avoid anything even more embarrassing. Father and son, hand in hand, two rich, British colonists, stood there, throwing sticks at my back, each shot harder and more painful, with a rich British woman standing there laughing, and no one noticed. I couldn’t wait any longer. I was in agony, a storm of sticks was being hurled at my back, and Uncle Laurence was nowhere to be found. I had waited long enough for my Great- Great- Great- Great Uncle to come save me, so I closed my eyes, imagined the last words I would say to Bradley, and let death come. WHACK.

“How could you do such a thing? Why, why would you let your son kill my nephew, you Loyalists! War may be bad enough, but don’t kill an innocent child like Sky! He was so young, so brave, so smart and talented. I’ll never forget this, you’ll pay, all you Brits will!” There was a scream, two, one high pitched and one small, and a deep, English, “How…How dare you!” There was crying, small, afraid crying, and long, deep sobs, and a tearful “My son! My Precious Henry! No! No! NO!”

Laurence Hawking gritted his teeth. “My, Sky, I feel the same way…” “Bu..but Henry, he’s my son, not my nephew, and I love more than anything in the whole wide world, even Robert!” “What? What did you just say?” Asked Henry’s Father. “My, my Sky, he was like a son to me.” Mr. Hawking was in tears.

My head was spinning, throbbing, it seemed like I had survived the giant stick, but I couldn’t tell. I was tired and cranky, but if what I had just heard was true, my life may be very different. I decided to risk it. In a matter of moments, I was up, out of my hole, and running up to my Uncle. “I love you too, Uncle Laurence!” I wrapped my arms around him. I knew that he was the only family I had, and I had to learn to accept that. And as I hugged him, he let go of little Henry. Uncle Laurence, bewildered, wrapped his arms around me, and we stood there, hugging, laughing, crying, completely and utterly confused, while a family of loyalists glared at us. “My Sky, my boy, my dear Sky,” Uncle Laurence said as soon as he found his breathe. Henry was in his father’s arms, still shaking and crying. “Mean, scary patriots.” He said. “Mean, scary, creepy, dangerous, frightening, evil, selfish, rude, cruel, smelly patriots. Covered in dirt.” He and his family started to walk away. Now it was just us, me and my uncle, caked in mud and dirt, sweat and blood, an unexplainable emotion, feeling, understanding between us. Uncle Laurence was the only thing that mattered now. Everything went away. Mom, Dad, Bradley, Grandma, Grandpa, the twenty first century, the throbbing in my head, the ache in my back, the soreness in my legs, the dirt, the bruises, the sweltering heat, the lace, the satin, the velvet, the desk, the money, the British, the war, the embarrassment, the broken rules, the unanswered questions, everything, it all went away. Time, it played back in my mind. Everything that brought me here. Bradley, the lake, everything that had happened in the last month of my life flooded over me. I suddenly knew, I understood, I was sure of what I had to do.

It was the hardest thing I had ever done. I couldn’t fully understand why, but I knew that this was an important decision for me. I look back now and wonder what would have happened if I stayed, how many lives would be changed, but I made the right choice. I think. “Uncle, I really do love you.” I said. He beamed at me. “You too. You are a very talented young man, Sky, I am very proud of you.” “I’m sorry you thought I was dead.” He laughed. “It’s fine Sky, my boy, those loyalists were horrible to you. I saw everything that happened.” Oh no. “What did I do?” “When the boy threw the stick, you were knocked right out. Nothing embarrassing.” We both laughed. “Uncle,” I walked over to the hat full of money. “This is for you. I figured you could use it.” Given what I was about to say, I decided to refrain from telling him that I wasn’t actually a carpenter. “Oh! Thank you, my dear Sky.” He was quiet, and I could tell that he was moved when he took the hat. “Did I ever tell you how wonderful you are, Sky? How sweet and kind you are, Sky? How smart and talented and handsome a-,” “why thank you, Uncle.” I had to end this soon or I may have changed my mind, or cried. “Thank you for everything. You’re wonderful. Say goodbye to Aunt Louise for me.” I gave him on last hug, and started to run away. “Sky, wait!” Called Uncle Laurence. “Sky, Sky!” His voice faded away as I ran back to the manor. I silently slipped through the back door, changed back into my ripped Nike shorts and concert shirt, and went back outside. I was starting to regret this, but I didn’t have much time. I put my feet in the soft mud near the lake, and let the time portal suck me in.

“Huh!” I gasped for breath. Let’s see if this works, Sky, I told myself. I ran into the house.

“Sky! You were gone so long, I started to worried!” Mom came over and ran her fingers through my hair. “Where were you, honey,” said Dad. “I..I..” I was starting to cry. “You were gone for hours.” Grandma said as she walked into the living room. “Yah.” I would have recognized this voice any day. “Bradley?” my heart swelled with happiness. “I beat the game in the time you were gone.” I ran and hugged him with all my might. “Get away from me.” He pushed me back. Home, sweet home at last! “Let’s get you cleaned up.” Said Mom.

Thirty minutes later, I sat, showered, clean, and dry on my bed, watching Bradley shoot monsters on his computer. I looked around. Downstairs, Mom, Dad, and Grandma sat talking. Grandpa was out getting groceries. Life was back to normal. I knew that nothing had changed, nothing, except me.

The next day, I stood at the sink pouring the excess milk out of my cereal. Bradley and I had always preferred just enough milk to make our cereal soggy, no more, no less. “Sky, dear,” Grandpa said. “What?” I called. “Come here, Sky.” Great. I walked over. “Have a seat,” I sat down on the ornate, old couch and looked up at the portraits of Aunt Louise and Uncle Laurence on the wall. Grandpa looked at me deeply. Finally, he spoke. “It was the lake, wasn’t it,”.

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