By Rebecca Braun.
The day was hot as a red chili pepper, not a breeze to be found, and heading up to the family cabin for the day to cool off in the lake sounded like an awesome plan. Joe and Jeff were available along with their girlfriends, so I swung by Jeff’s house to pick them up. My girlfriend, Sandy, had to work, but would drive up and meet us later this afternoon.
“Heeeey, Dudes, there’s a liquor store. Let’s pick up some brews,” said Joe.
The girls squealed with delight, and I made a quick swerve into the parking lot, landing my Dad’s 2010 Honda Pilot in front of Pete’s Adult Garden and Gifts, which happened to be next to the liquor store. The girls could not stop laughing. The guys knew the drill; I drive and they buy the booze. They went into the liquor store while the girls mercilessly teased me, making wisecracks about their “gardens”.
“Sara, I bet my garden smells better than yours,” giggled Rachel.
“I don’t think so, girlfriend. Corey, how about you do a scratch and sniff test and tell us who has the sweeter smelling rosebud, eh?” Sara winked at me, and they both fell on the back seat laughing hysterically.
“I’ll give Sandy a call and see if I have permission to take on a job like that,” I said, reaching for my iPhone.
“No! Don’t do that, she will get all mad at us. No need for that,” sighed Rachel. “Sure do wish your girlfriend wasn’t the jealous type, we could have a lot more fun.”
I liked my friends’ girls, but they were just out for having fun and loved to cause trouble. I had a good thing going with Sandy and was not going to let anything mess that up. Sandy had my heart, and she was something real. I’d never felt so connected to anyone, and I knew she felt the same about me. Let the guys and girls play their games, I wanted no part of it.
Joe and Jeff hopped back into the Pilot with beer and snacks, and we were on the road again. After a two hour drive, we got to the cabin about noon. The entire day was ahead of us, and Dad had left the boat waiting at the dock, fully gassed up. I couldn’t wait to take the boat out for a spin and head over to Blueberry Cove for a swim.
“Let’s get on the water!” Jeff took off running down to the end of the dock and took a flying leap making a big splash in the water. The girls were now sporting their skimpy bikinis and getting into the boat, as Jeff and I carried down the coolers and supplies.
“Everybody in? Food? Beer? Life Preservers? Bathroom breaks taken?” I call out, before revving the boat motor and gunning it into the lake ahead.
“What time is Sandy gonna get here? She’s gonna miss all the fun,” asked Joe.
“She thinks she’ll make it to the cabin around five-o’clock. Still plenty of time to party. I’ll just have to make do with the eye-candy here on the boat for now.”
“You are a lucky man, Corey. Seriously, you two have something way cool,” said Joe.
“Thanks, Dude. It’s kinda scary, but awesome, you know? Definitely something to explore a little deeper,” I said. “How are things with you and Sara?”
“Nothing deep, just keep’n it simple and fun. Hell, I think Sara gets off more on Rachel than she does me. Those bitches are crazy.”
“Blueberry Cove straight-ahead. Hold on! Coming in for a landing,” I yelled out, as I turned the boat sharply into the waves creating a blanket of spray that covered all my friends, cutting the motor and slipping into the hidden beach.
“You guys looked like you needed cooling off,” I laughed.
“Yeah, thanks a lot, a-hole,” Jeff mumbled. They all grumbled, grabbing for towels.
“Yo, one of you pansy-faces, drop the anchor.”
“We’ll drop you one better,” said Joe. The guys grabbed me, holding me over the side of the boat. I looked down into the dark smooth water and saw a ghostly image. I could swear it was the Grim Reaper, scythe in one hand and a hooded cape slightly covering his skeletal mouth and sunken eyes. “What the hell?” I screamed. The guys paid no attention to my struggling and threw me over the side.
I hit the water hard, sinking deep, my breath knocked out of me, and water filling my lungs. Underneath the water I lost direction and panicked as I tried to swim back up to the water’s surface. My limbs began to fail me, and I could no longer swim. I couldn’t move. I tried to breathe and more water poured into my chest. I hung there, motionless, watching the weeds and slime of the water merge together taking on the shape of the Grim Reaper, and he started to laugh. I closed my eyes and allowed a huge sigh of air to escape my mouth.
I woke up on the floor of the boat. Joe and Jeff were pumping my chest, as I spluttered and spewed water up from my burning lungs.
“Breathe, Corey! Come on, man, breathe!” Joe’s voice was strained and raspy.
I choked, and then gasped in some air. As I began to breathe regularly, again, the guys helped me sit up. “Thanks for fishing me out of the water. I thought I was dead.”
All four of them stared at me, intently, in silence. Finally, Sara spoke up. ” While the guys were fishing you out of the lake, you got a phone call on your cell. Sandy’s been in a car accident. She was killed instantly.”
My brain felt like it was splitting, and I lay back, sobbing. There he was, again, behind my eyelids in a ghostly vision, his skeletal face grinning with satisfaction.
REBECCA BRAUN grew up in the Midwest, and now resides in Eagan, Minnesota. She has published short stories and poems in magazines such as Long Story Short, The Edge Magazine, Reader’s Carnival, and Female First. Rebecca taught music for over twenty years, and now is pursuing writing as a second career. www.facebook.com/aeternalumen & aeternalumen.tumblr.com