The Lake-Chapter 4

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Lily ran down the grassy hill, following the path that she had memorized months ago.  She had convinced her parents that she had to say good-bye to her best friend and to hold off leaving until just a little later in the morning.  Her parents had agreed, as they had to await Mrs. Winston’s arrival and wanted to go over several things with her before they left.

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Lily arrived at the lake and stopped short.  She glanced around, but the lake was decidedly quiet and still.  Lilith was nowhere in sight.  A slight breeze stirred the long grass along the bank, but aside from the wind, the lake was very still.

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Lily frowned.  Lilith had said that she would be here this morning.  This was important!  This was the last time that they would get to see each other, maybe forever, and she wasn’t here!  Lily felt an uneasiness well up in the pit of her stomach.  Maybe Lilith was still mad at her and had decided to not show up.  Lily fought down the tears that she could feel were rising.

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She decided to wait, but knew that she couldn’t wait very long.  Her parents would want to leave soon and she knew that she didn’t have much time.  She walked to the edge of the lake and sat down, starring into the depths of the water as it rippled.  The morning sun beat down upon her back and she could feel the heat rising off her bare arms.

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After sitting for a while without any sign of Lilith, Lily let out a dejected sigh and began to stand up.  She was out of time and knew she had to get back to the house.  As she began to get to her feet, she noticed a ripple in the lake water not too far from where she sat.  She leaned in closer, squinting her eyes into the depths of the dark lake, trying to discern what it was exactly that she saw. 
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Something seemed to be submerged beneath the lake waters.  The water rippled again, reflecting the sunlight off of its surface.  Lily gasped.  For just a minute, she had thought she had caught what looked like Lilith’s favorite-stripped ribbon.  She couldn’t tell if it was just the ribbon, lost and settled on the bottom of the lakebed, or…more.

Meanwhile…back at the house…

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“Well, we’re so glad you had such a wonderful vacation, Mrs. Winston,” Laura smiled.  “It is always nice to get to spend time with relatives, isn’t it?  Marc and I were just talking the other day about how we wish we had family nearby that we could spend time with.  I’m glad that this arrangement worked out so well for both of us.”

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“So am I, my dear,” Mrs. Winston agreed, smoothing the wrinkles out of her skirt.  “I would hate to have to sell this beautiful old house, as it has been in my family for over a hundred years, but sometimes it is just so difficult to maintain at my age, even with help.  This house is so full of memories.”  A wistful expression crossed the old woman’s face for a few minutes as she thought back to her childhood.

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“So how did the young Lily get on all these days,” she asked, coming out of her reverie, her gaze moving back to Laura.  “She didn’t seem to be too happy to be here when you first arrived.  It can get pretty lonely out here without any other children around to play with.  Did she find ways to entertain herself?”

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“Oh, yes,” Laura nodded.  “Actually, the very next day she ended up meeting another child her age, a girl, that lives nearby.  They hit it off and have been inseparable ever since.  Everyday Lily can’t wait to finish her chores and then she’s out the door and we don’t see her back until evening.”

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“Oh, really?” Mrs. Winston furrowed her brow and looked up at the ceiling with a perplexed look on her face.  “Hmmmm.  I wonder which family she belongs to.  I believe the old Smith place is still vacant to the south of us and I didn’t think that the Edgars to the east of us had any young children.  I wonder if she is someone’s niece, staying for the summer.  I’ll have to ask around.”  She smiled and shrugged.  “I don’t really get out to see the neighbors much anymore, like I should.  It wouldn’t surprise me if one of them moved out and someone else moved in and I didn’t know it.”

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Laura nodded and smiled.  “Well, she certainly has been a good friend to Lily all summer.  She even taught Lily how to swim down at the lake about a month ago.”  She raised her eyebrow at this declaration and leaned in toward Mrs. Winston.  “She came home all excited, telling us how she could swim now and Marc and I just about hit the roof.  We had warned her to stay away from the lake and then we found out that for the last two weeks she had been swimming in it!  Needless to say, we had a little chat with her about that.  Thankfully, Lilith was a good teacher and nothing bad happened, but…” Laura let her sentence trail off on that ominous note.

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A strange look flickered across Mrs. Winston’s face for a moment and Laura frowned.  “Are you alright, Mrs. Winston?” she asked, concerned that she had said something to upset the old woman.  Mrs. Winston just smiled ruefully and shook her head.

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“Don’t mind me, Mrs. Holsten,” she waved her hand weakly at the younger woman.  “It’s nothing.  Please, go on.  I didn’t mean to be rude.  You were saying that Lily had met this little girl nearby.  So where is Lily now, anyways?”

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“Oh, Lilith wanted to meet her for one last swim this morning before we left.  She promised she wouldn’t stay long since Marc wanted to get out at a decent time this morning.  She’s down by the lake,” Laura smiled indulgently, thinking of her daughter’s last request.  “Oh, would you like to know something interesting?  She also said that Lilith has purple eyes like you.  That’s such a rare color to have.  For a while there, I thought maybe you two were related, but you’re obviously not.”  She laughed sheepishly.

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Mrs. Winston looked up sharply, her face going pale.  “What?” she hissed in a horrified whisper.  “What did you say?”

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Laura recoiled at the woman’s reaction.  She placed her hand on her chest, confused.  “Um, Lily said that Lilith has purple eyes like you,” she stammered.  “Do…Do you know her after all?”

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Mrs. Winston wore a frightened look on her face as she stared blankly back at Laura, her eyes loosing focus for a minute as she seemed to stare off into some other time.  Laura frowned and swallowed uncomfortably as the old woman continued to stare.

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“Yes,” she answered, the horrified look never leaving her eyes.  “I know her.”  Suddenly she jumped up with a speed that belied her age and Laura gasped in shock.  Mrs. Winston turned on her heel and began to run, with Laura leaping up after her.  Laura raced after Mrs. Winston without knowing where or why they were running. 

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Mrs. Winston flew out the back door and streaked across the yard toward the back fence.  “Get your husband!  We have to get down to the lake now!” she yelled as she ran, her skinny legs pumping frantically as she ran.  Laura couldn’t believe how quickly the woman was moving.  She yelled for Marc, who had been packing up the last of their things into the car.  He looked up with a confused look on his face.

Meanwhile, back at the lake… 

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Lily continued to stare down into the murky lake water, trying to discern what exactly was down at the bottom of the lake.  She leaned over and peered down into the dark depths, straining her eyes to make out any recognizable shapes.

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Suddenly, with lightening speed, there was movement below and a white shape flashed toward her.  By the time a shocked gasp had left her lips, a pale hand that death had frozen long ago reached out of the water with frightening speed and clutched onto Lily’s shirt with its death grip.  Lily stared down in horror at the water, her eyes wide and shock written all over her face.  Staring back at her beneath the water was Lilith.

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Lilith, her purple eyes lit up with a menacing purpose and a determined grimace on her face, stared back.  Her hands tightened on Lily’s shirt and suddenly Lily was falling, falling toward the water. 

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Lily let out a startled scream as she felt herself being drawn toward the surface of the water, her legs kicking frantically as she tried to keep her balance and stop herself from being pulled in, but because of her initial position she was caught off guard.  She managed to suck in a lung-full of air before being dragged down below the surface.  She hysterically thrashed her limbs about, trying to kick off of Lilith, but her legs and arms couldn’t find purchase.

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Suddenly, she felt like she was being pulled in two directions at once.  Lilith, who had readjusted her grip on Lily to grab hold of her flailing leg, was still drawing her down to the depths of the lakebed.  Lily’s progress to the bottom had suddenly stopped, but she was still submerged underwater, her eyes wide with a maniacal fear.  She couldn’t see through the murky darkness what she had gotten caught on, but she clung to it for all she was worth.

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Lily’s chest was burning.  The lung-full of air that she had managed to suck in before being pulled below the water had run out and she knew that she was going to have to take a breath.  Her attempts at fighting off Lilith were becoming weaker and weaker and she began to give up.  Her body forced her to suck in a mouthful of water in its vain attempt to get oxygen and she heard a voice call her name from very far away.  She wasn’t going to make it back to the surface. 

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As this morbid, desperate thought entered her head and her world went dim, she suddenly saw her father’s face as clearly as if he was standing in front of her.  With her mind reeling in shock, it took her several minutes to realize that sunlight was streaming down upon her.  She blinked her eyes to clear away the confusion and then noticed that her mother was standing above her as well.  Her chest burned.  Deep coughs racked her body as she attempted to sit up.

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“Lily!” was all her father said before she felt herself being enveloped by her in his strong arms in the tightest bear hug she had ever had, all of her father’s fear and adrenaline being funneled into that one gesture.  Lily felt the air being knocked out of her again for the second time and gasped.  Her mother leaned down and hugged her from the other side, tears streaming down her face.

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Mrs. Winston, her back to the jubilant group, gazed sadly down at the water, her focus elsewhere.  Lilith had only released her death grip on Lily once she had heard Mrs. Winston scream her name to stop.  Then she had just simply let go of the young girl’s leg and had slowly sunk out of sight.  There was no movement now below the surface.  The lake was as placid as ever.  A slight breeze blew through the willow trees and she shuddered.  She turned back toward the Holstens and gestured tiredly for them to follow her back to the house.

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