BY DEBORAH LEAN
An excerpt from an e-book novel. Copyright is held by the author.
FOR WEEKS Allison had been living with this unreal, eerie sense of darkness; leaving for work in the dark and coming home at night in the dark, with the limited hours of daylight shrouded in the grey of a coming or waning storm. Coming home to a dark and empty apartment had become oppressive. She felt trapped, unable to escape and with nowhere to escape to.
It had been the same forecast for weeks on end, ice and snow, ice and snow. One storm front after another had moved in and left the area blanketed in accumulated banks of snow with continual storm watch warnings, blizzards with sub zero temperatures and wind chill conditions. It had been a constant battle of the elements, forcing one to stay off the treacherous roads, to stay home, to stay isolated and alone.
For many years water had been her go-to place in times of stress. She would go to the lake and watch the waves and feel her mind clear and her feelings of stress lessen. Water in nature, whether a lake with its waves beating upon the shore or a river’s steady flow of water eroding a path over time, water was in constant motion. There was something endless and ongoing about water that was comforting in its infinity.
The frequency and duration of her trips to the lakeside park had been increasing and her only clear thought, over and over, was that life was no longer worth living. Allison felt so alone, so terribly alone, even though she had been emotionally isolated most of her life. She decided she no longer wanted to live a life, her life, unloved and lonely. On this day, another in a seemingly endless number of days, miserable and cold, blurred and grey, she would end her life, in the water, in the lake from which she had always been able to find comfort. At this time and place, she just didn’t care anymore, and with the decision made she felt at peace.
It was early March, the ground still covered in the remnants of yet another snow storm and the lake a dull reflection of the colourless sky above. She decided she would walk out into the icy waters, let the water take her life, and let her spirit float free upon the waves.
She parked her car up the road and walked to the beach. There was a small waterfront park at the mouth of the river, deserted in the winter’s cold. Further along the shore, away from the river, was the parking lot where she had sat, hour after hour, day after day, for what seemed days on end.
There was no beach there, just a rocky shoreline that was out of sight and below the level of the parking lot. The steps leading down to the water’s edge would take her to the path that ran parallel to the shore. The houses situated along the lake were hidden behind trees, a hedge or a fence. A wall, natural or man-made, meant to maintain their privacy, at the same time would provide her the privacy and isolation that she would need.
The wind was particularly harsh and bitter, stealing her breath when she breathed the cold air in. She watched the movement of the water, the repetition of wave after wave coming to shore and felt a calmness come over her, and her anxiety lessened.
Seeking shelter from the wind she approached the children’s play area with its wooden play structure, a make believe fort, built above the ground where, at the top of the slide, it was fully enclosed on the top and two sides. Allison climbed the steps and sat, shoulders hunched against the cold, arms wrapped around her knees, seeking a moment’s respite from the blast of icy wind coming off the lake. For that moment it was as if time stood still, and as she looked out over the water, the waves, it was quiet, it was calming.
She didn’t know how long she sat watching the water, watching the snow as it came down in gentle flakes to be buffeted about by the wind. She wanted to make sure she was alone, that her presence was unknown, before she followed through on her final decision and took that final action.
It seemed to get darker with the snow falling, and she couldn’t see the horizon for the world was turning grey all about her. The only sound she heard was the roar of the waves, unrelenting in their struggle to reach the shore, pounding on the ice amassed from months of waves freezing on the beach fighting that same winter battle. The incessant pounding seemed to throb inside her, was part of her, echoing the blood pounding through her body. It was time.
Before she could leave the shelter of the fort a car pulled into the parking lot and stopped in the far corner, its silver colour blending into the grey sky, almost obscured by the snow. Was that driver also seeking comfort by the water? Maybe she was not as alone as she had thought, maybe there were other lonely souls seeking…seeking something.
Allison watched as the driver got out of the car, a young woman, her bright pink parka the only colour in an increasingly colourless world. Slamming the car door the woman strode over to the fence separating the parking lot from the lake below, turned and perched on the post, arms crossed over her chest, glaring at the man slowly walking along the road and into the parking lot.
“How stupid can you be?” he demanded as he approached the car.
“What are you going to do?” she yelled back, jabbing her finger at him as she jerked upright, her manner and tone confrontational.
“I’ll take care of it,” he replied as he walked toward her, reaching out a hand. The woman slapped the gesture away and raised her hand to slap again, but he caught her wrist before she made contact with his face. She stepped back, planted her hands on his chest and shoved. He pulled her close, holding her tight while she continued to struggle, talking quietly to her to calm her down. When she ceased to fight him, he placed his arm across her shoulders and speaking quietly, guided her to the steps leading to the frozen, rocky shore.
Allison watched the couple disappear from view, wondering why they had gone down to the water, knowing they would be back.
She climbed down from the fort and slowly made her way, on frozen feet, along the road, past cars that had not been parked there when she had arrived. The time and place to execute her plan was out of the question now, her ‘aloneness’, her anonymity…gone, altered by the arrival of strangers.