The Return to Willow Lake - 2

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Chapter 16

“Hey, Lala, how you feeling?” I looked at Mahala sympathetically as I found her at the lockers.

Eric’s funeral had been Sunday, and she’d barely spoken to anyone before or since. She felt so guilty for how she acted towards Eric and never telling him that she loved him. Although we tried to convince her that he knew she cared, the guilt she carried weighed down on her.

“Okay, I guess. I’m getting there; I think it’s just going to take time. The games on Friday, you all coming?”

“Of course, we are.” Zach gave Mahala a small smile. “We wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“Good because I’m going to need you there. I still can’t wrap my head around it. How did it end up going so wrong? I mean, Eric could be a little irresponsible but to allow the bonfire to spark a small forest fire and be too drunk to notice until too late? It just doesn’t sound like it’s possible.”

“Accidents happen, Lala. Sadly, it just had to happen to them. Life is cruel, sometimes.” Hannah sighed, looking at Mahala with saddened eyes.

“Yeah, well, I think there’s something they’re not telling us.” Mahala huffed as she slammed her locker. “But it’s whatever. Come on, let’s get to class.”

My teeth bit down on my bottom lip as I watched Mahala and Hannah walk away, and I turned to Zach. “I hate this.”

“Me too, Hale. But it’s for her protection she doesn’t know.”

“Yeah, I know. Come on, let’s go before we’re late.” I sighed before I turned and started following Hannah and Mahala.


“Hey, Hallie, Zach?” Josh, the vice Captain of the football team, came running as we approached the gates to leave.

“Everything okay?” Zach turned as Josh came to a stop.

“Yeah, after the game Friday, a few of us are hanging back to do a little memorial thing for Eric. His mother is having his letterman jacket framed along with some pictures. The head gave us permission to stay behind and hang it in the gym hall. It’ll just be the team, Mahala, Hannah, and we wanted to invite you two to join us. Afterward, we’re going back to mine to celebrate, win or lose.”

“Sure, we’d love too, Josh.” I gave him a subtle smile, which he returned.

“I knew he’d want you both there. I still can’t believe this happened, you know?”

“I don’t think any of us can, buddy.” Zach breathed, “You hear about these things sometimes, and you think it couldn’t happen to you or someone you know. Then it does, and nothing makes sense. Why them? Why him? How did it all go so wrong? You question everything. But, you end up driving yourself insane when you should be moving on, the way they’d want you too.”

Josh looked at us sympathetically, “I guess you two know better than anyone, right? After losing your parents, then each other for so many years.”

I nodded softly, “Yeah. We never got answers on what started that fire, or why they never reunited Zach and me when they pulled us out. But, things ended up working out in the end, I guess, in their way. You just got to learn to live.”

“Yeah, I guess, it’s just...hard.” Josh’s hand raised to his head as he ran it through his dark red, short hair, “I keep walking through the halls expecting Eric just to come up and slap me on the back.”

“I keep expecting him to slump against the lockers and call me Silver. It gets easier, though, I promise. It never really goes away, but you learn to deal, and it does get better.”

“I hope you’re right, Hallie. Anyway, I’ll let you go. See you at the game.”

“See ya, Josh.” Zach nodded, and we watched as he ran off. “There’s one thing worse than having to watch your friends suffering.”

I sighed, “Having to lie to their faces when you know what happened?”

“Yup.” Zach nodded, popping the P at the end of the word. “Fancy going to grab a coffee before we head home?”

“Sure, let’s go.”


“So, you and Masato set a date yet?” Zach looked across the table at me as we sat there, drinking our coffee.

“Well, we were thinking this August. We only want something small, at the house. However, with everything going on, we’re thinking of making it next year instead.”

“Hale, I think we all need something happy to happen. If you two still want to get married in August, then do it. I got to ask, though, is that going to be enough time? It’s the first week of May, and finals start in two weeks. So, you’ll only really have three months.”

I shrugged, sure it wasn’t a lot of time, and we realized that, but honestly, I didn’t want to wait as much as Masato didn’t want to wait either.

“We were only thinking of holding it in the garden at home with close friends. We can do a reception in the town hall. Masato spoke to Hank Lester, and he said he’d be happy to arrange to have the grand hall available for us. It would just have to be the last weekend of August. He said we could hold the whole wedding there, but that was just a tad on the pricey side.”

“Well, I think you should do it. Don’t let all this shit going on make you push it back. Something tells me nothing here is ever really going to be quiet. If you let one thing put a hold on it, then what’s to say something else won’t make you push it back again next year?”

“Yeah, you’re right. Just seemed wrong to be all happy and chirpy with what’s happened.”

“Hale, I think people need happy and chirpy right now, especially our super unnatural family. There’s always light to find in the darkness, right? Well, maybe this is the light our family and friends need right now. The light you need.”

I looked over at my brother from my coffee cup, and I knew he was right.

We couldn’t put our lives on hold because of what had happened. We deserved to find happiness in all the sadness, and with how things had been, people needed something to look forward too.

I smiled at Zach before I took a sip, “I’ll talk to Masato when he gets home from work.”

“Good. Now seriously, when we get home, I need help with the Math shit. I’m going to fail so hard at this rate. When did Math get so damn complicated? When we were kids, it’s was simple. One plus one equaled two. Now it’s one plus one, times x, divided by Y equals one million!”

I couldn’t help but laugh, almost spitting out the mouthful of coffee. My hand flew over my mouth as I nearly choked on the hot liquid and swallowed. “Somewhere between the twentieth and twenty-first century.”

“Drink the coffee, Hale, not spit it out.” Zach chuckled.

“I’m trying, but my brother is an idiot.”

Zach smiled and looked at me for a moment, “Even with everything, I’m really glad I found you. I missed you; I don’t feel like I’ve said that enough with everything going on.”

“I’m glad you found me too. I missed you more than anything, Zach. Sure it’s been rough, and we’ve had some bumps, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Me neither. Now, come on, drink up, so you can relish in giving me a headache.”

“Done!” I laughed as I finished off my coffee, and we headed home.

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