Once Upon a Moonlit Night

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Janice reflects upon her life, her marriage and her future in this short story. And as she sits on the beach behind her house looking at the lake she cannot escape the dread that her husband will appear and ruin everything.

The thin gray clouds drifted in front of the brilliant white gray moon. Their interruption cast the smooth surface of the lake into shadows momentarily. Janice stretched out her legs on the cushioned andirondeck chaise and wrapped her shawl around her shoulders.

What wind came to life this night was short lived and cool. She went for her glass of wine on the nearby table and thought better of it.If the time came, and she prayed it did not, she would need all her senses. After all, something like this doesn’t usually happen in a lifetime, let alone hers. 

She sighed.

Above, the clouds dispersed allowing the silverish moonlight to wash upon the ink black surface of the water. For a time the bright light reflecting off the small crests of the waves carried her thoughts beyond her reach only to bring them back again, and again. 

There was nothing more she could do, she realized. What was done was done. This realization of her actions saddened her in a way. She couldn’t pull what she did back and pretend everything would be fine because it wouldn’t be.But then again.

She checked her watch.She’s been here for three hours and nothing. A good sign, she thought, if one was looking for such a thing. A breeze touched her face. The night was cooling. Fall would soon approach then winter. The lake would freeze over as it always had every year for the last ten years they’ve been coming here. 

Ten years. Has it been that long? She took her wine glass and took a sip. One sip wouldn’t do any harm, besides, either the cool air or her nerves were beginning to make her a bit jittery. What if things didn’t work out? 

“Of course they won’t,” she said. “Something of this nature always goes awry.”She brought the half full glass to her lips, hesitated, then finished off her wine.“So be it.” 

She was tempted to pour herself another glass and even had her hand on the bottle when a sudden noise froze her.She looked about frantically. Thank God the moon was bright tonight. Its soft luminance upon the lake’s surface afforded her a wide field of vision. 

It came again. Far off. Did a fish just jump out of the water? No, it was more of a guttural sound and rather sad at that.Definitely not a fish. As far as she could see the lake was calm. Was someone around?She stood up and walked the short stretch of beach to the lake. She was on guard now. Ready to react at a moment’s notice.The sand was cold against her sandaled feet as she buried them a bit to pounce if she had to.Minutes, feeling like hours, passed as she waited for another intrusion upon her previously silent night.She looked about, on high alert and as keen as an owl looking for the slightest tell tale movement of brush or tall grass.Satisfied no one was about she turned and went to the edge of the tall evergreens. 

As always the pile of branches, twigs and limbs they collected each year and used every fall in the past to make a good fire sat where it should by the wooden stairs leading to the cottage’s backyardfrom the beach. She rummaged through the pile and pulled out a firm, nearly straight limb. She swiped it through the air a few times to gauge its weight and balance.If anyone was around she’d give them more trouble than what they bargained for.She took a few more swipes then bent over laughing. What was she thinking? 

That sound again. She stood rigid. Waited. There! 

On a mass of rocks along the shore a good hundred yards from her stood a wolf or a husky. She couldn’t make out which one it was.

Herbody relaxed.

“Janice, you’ve heard that sound a thousand times.” She looked at her watch. Three sixteen A.M..“It’s time to go”

She dropped the limb back onto the pile and took the stairs they built five years ago up the mild slope leading to their cottage.Those were good times back then. She turned and looked down upon the lake bordered by its evergreens and pines. A pang of guilt sliced deep through her heart.She gasped.

Had she been wrong? No! Damn it. No.He forced her to take such action. It wasn’t her, it was him. Everything that happened he created. Everything. She sat on the top wooden stair hands clasped in front of her. 

She knew she must move on alone to wherever the future would take her.Her actions gave her no alternative. She stood and turned to face the cottage.The lone lamp she left on glowed a soft yellow through the curtained window.To her left her car sat on the gravel patch of driveway. She would leave the light on. She did not want to take one step intothat place ever again. There were too many memories stuffed in those rooms making any escape from them impossible.If she had her way she’d burn the place down turning every picture, every book, every nook and cranny that kept it alive to both of them to ash.But no.Something within her told her to leave it be.

She walked to her car and got in.Her purse, the clothes she chose to take and a lone picture of the cottage lay atop them just where she left them earlier.As she was about to turn the key to start the engine she stopped.What was that?Her heart began to pound. Was it that wolf again?She slowly opened the car’s door and quietly walked to the top stair.

The lake was still calm.Its small waves made a slight slurping sound as they touched the beach.A breeze swayed the uppermost branches of the trees. There was nothing. She looked down at her hand.Her knuckles had turned white from gripping the hand rail so tightly.“Stop it Janice. Get a hold of yourself.”She took a deep breath, held it a moment then exhaled.“I know what you’re thinking.”

She went to take the first step down to the beach then stopped. “No! I won’t go down there. If the bastard hasn’t surfaced by now, he never will.” 

 


Submitted: June 28, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Chester McHenry. All rights reserved.

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