“Elizabeth—wait.” Dad reached for Mom's arm but she yanked it away. He turned to me. “Call the Beckers, ask if they’ve seen her,” he said. But I couldn’t move, my limbs were lead; my mind was stupefied. Instead, I watched my mother as she walked down to the beach. It was 3:30 a.m.

“How long has she been gone?” she asked again, calling back to me, her pale blue nightgown billowing behind her. “About an hour,” I called out. “Maybe two.” But I couldn’t tell if she understood me or not. She had hiked up her nightgown and was headed into the lake.

This was the shape of my mother’s courage: a zigzag path, cut by her bare legs through deeper and deeper water, as she walked in lines parallel to the shore, waiting for the blunt feel of flesh that would be the body of her youngest child. I stood in the doorway and watched; there was nothing I could do. Sarah was behind the house, calling Lindsay’s name—now a hollow, ghostly sound. Dad was echoing it as he walked the dirt road in his slippers, shining his flashlight into the woods as he went.

Two hours passed. Or maybe it was twenty minutes. Mrs. Becker had appeared and was standing on the beach, hugging her chest. “Elizabeth, be careful,” she kept saying. The water was up to my mother’s collarbones. All I could do was stand and breathe.


Alethea Black, © 2007-2018
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