Chapter 2: The Lake
A few days go by and there has been no sign of the lady from the market. It’s now noon on Saturday and I’m sitting out on the tailgate, enjoying the partly cloudy weather. I see Jack’s truck roll up in the distance. When he gets a little closer, I notice my dad in the passenger seat. This is either good or really bad... I check my cell phone to see if I missed anything. I have nothing; no missed calls or texts. This must be a good thing then.
Jack parks and my dad gets out, heading straight for me. He seems to be relaxed. When he reaches me he says, “Hey honey, I was thinking you could use a good two days off. I’ll finish at the market today and Jack will take you wherever you want to go. I already gave him some money to treat you, for me.”
Without arguing, I jump up and gave him a hug. “Thanks. I love you.” I skip to the truck and hop in.
“Be safe!” I hear him yell as Jack peels away.
“So, where do you want to go?” Jack asks.
“Maybe the town square for drinks and dancing tonight. But right now, I’m starving.”
“I thought you would be, you always are.” He says as he threw a brown paper bag of food on my lap, “Here, sandwiches and a salad—and of course, the best homemade cookies on this side of the Mississippi.”
“So I’m guessing your sister-in-law made them then.” I say jokingly. Jack is an amazing cook. When his parents died in a car accident 7 years ago, he took over the cooking while his two older brothers kept the farm running. He used to always babysit his little sisters and they would “help” him cook often.
Jack is the glue that kept his family together during that harsh time. He kept his sisters, Aimee and Claire, in school and helped them with homework. Jack has always been the smartest one in their family. His oldest brother John keeps pushing him to go to college, but his other brother Greg tells him to wait till his sisters are done with school. John got married last year. His wife Rose now does most of the cleaning and cooking.
I wonder what it would be like to have a sibling. I certainly get enough exposure being around them. I don’t mind being an only child. Life with a brother or sister seems like it would be a little too chaotic.
“Where are Aimee and Claire?” I ask knowing he usually has to watch them.
“Your mom has them for the night. I don’t know why she would want two teenagers overnight though.”
“They are 14 and 16. Someone has to teach them about beauty and make-up. I certainly can’t do it. I have no clue about any of that. My mom loves it though. She’s probably having the time of her life teaching them.” I explain why my mom loves watching his little sisters.
“You guys have been so good to our family. Please thank them for me again. and thank you.”
“Don’t mention it Jack, now is not the time to get emotional though. It’s time for a good day and a great night!”
“Okay, well what do you want to do until the dance?” He asks.
I take a huge bite of my ham and cheese sandwich, “Once we’re done eating, maybe we could go to the lake? I haven’t been there in a long time and it’s too nice out to be inside.” I say with a mouthful of food.
“Jeez, Ileana, chew and swallow before you talk. And that sounds like a mighty fine idea, doll. I’ll drop you off to get clothes for swimming and tonight. You don’t have to go all out, I’ll just be in jeans and a flannel.”
“I will wear what I please, Jack. Plus, I don’t own anything too fancy. The best I have is the dress from your brother’s wedding.” I respond with a smile.
“You did look pretty stunning in that dress though. Too bad you haven’t caught a good man with it yet.” He compliments me and jokes.
“Shut up!” I said while punching him in the arm. “I’m gonna grab my stuff. Give me 4.3 minutes.” I hope out of the truck and rush inside.
I get to my room and dig through my closet for a dress while throwing all of the unwanted clothes in a pile because I don’t have time to waste. I don’t have many dresses, so the light blue summer dress I find in the back will have to do. I grab my tan sandals, swimwear, brush, and a towel.
On my way out the door I turn and yell, “Bye mom, I love you. You girls have fun!” I jump back in the truck and we take off towards Jack’s house.
The half a mile drive seemed almost non-existent. “I’m just gonna grab a pair of swim trunks quickly, 1.5 minutes.” He says as we pull up to the house and slides out a millisecond after throwing the gear into park.
“I’m timing you!” I holler after him.
Jack returns promptly in less than the time he gave. “How long was that?” He asks, breathing heavily from his run.
“Only a minute. You must be in a hurry to get to the lake!”
We didn’t say much on the drive to the beach. I was laying back with my legs on the dash and soaking in the sun. The thirty minute drive felt like three because I probably fell asleep on the way. “Jeez, we’re here already?” I say as I look around and see cars lining the ditch. We pull up and park behind the vehicles.
“Yep, it’s a busy day here. I’ll race you to the water.” Jack says. He always seems to be in a hurry when he’s excited to do something.
“That’s not fair,” I complain, “the girls line is always longer than the boys. And I have more to put on.”
“Okay, I’ll walk, you run then.”
“That sounds fair.” I run to the bathrooms and wait in line. There are 2 girls in front of me and only 1 boy in line. A couple minutes go by and now I am going into the stall while Jack is still waiting. I quickly strip and put my bikini on with short shorts over. When I get out, Jack is still waiting.
“I guess I win then.” I say with a smirk. Right after that, the boy emerges from the stall and I give him two dollars.
“Thanks!” He says enthusiastically with a huge smile.
“Oh, you are such a cheater!” Jack gestures to me and shakes his head.
“You never said I couldn’t bribe someone to take longer than normal.” I explain the rules he forgot to give for the challenge.
“I didn’t think anyone would ever think to do that. Score one for you.” He says right before going in to change.
I walk to the beach where many kids are playing in the sand and splashing all over in the shallow water. Most of the parents are on lawn chairs away from the action. A few are playing and swimming. I walk along the edge of the sand close to the tree line, away from the children, and start walking into the lake. The water isn’t too cold, but once you get to your stomach, it is always cold as hell. Jack starts rushing into the water behind me and I have made it only waist deep.
“Don’t you dare splash me.” I yell at him as he gets closer.
“I won’t, I promise.” He says just before he tackles me and we both go under.
“You fucking asswipe!” I yell and splash him in the face.
“I just saved you fifteen minutes of inching your way deeper. You should be thanking me. At least now you can swim.”
“I guess. It was still a dick move though.”
“I never said it wasn’t.” He replies with a grin.
Now that I’m getting used to the coldness of the water I start swimming to the middle of the lake. I love swimming in the lake, I quickly pass Jack up and take in the peaceful sounds of the waves against the shore and children playing in the distance. My blissful moment is disturbed when Jack finally catches up to me.
“I wonder how deep it is here.” I say as the thought comes to my head.
“About 27 feet.” He says flatly.
“That is a very specific answer. How do you know that?”
“My dad took me fishing a couple times long ago. I remember that we had a 35 foot anchor line. We would sit in the middle of the lake and bobber fish. We usually didn’t catch much but it was the best one to one time we had.” I listen closely as Jack recalls his fond memory. I know it’s hard for him to talk about the past. Even though it has been seven years since he lost his parents, he is constantly reminded of them.
I remember the talk my dad gave me after the accident happened when I had no clue how to comfort Jack, ‘There is nothing you can do to stop missing someone once they are gone forever. There will always be random things throughout life that bring the lost up. You have to try to remember the good times and be thankful that you were able to have that time with them. Nothing is guaranteed in life.’ I will always remember those words.
“Do you think they’re proud of me?” Jack asks quietly. I have answered this question many times before and I’m sure I will continue to answer it many more times.
“Of course they are proud of you. They are more than proud, you have done so much to care for your family when they passed. I am proud of you, too. You never give up and you keep pushing through the toughest of days while keeping a smile on your face for others.” I say trying to comfort him.
“Thanks. Why don’t we go dry off and get ready for tonight? It has to be almost four by now.” He turns towards the beach and starts paddling.
“Sounds good.” I reply. We slowly make our way back to shore. The evening air has become chillier than I thought it would get. The instant I leave the water I get the chills and goosebumps all over my body. I grab my towel, shake the sand off, and wrap it around me. “I’m glad we didn’t wait any longer. The wind is pretty cold.”
“Quit being a baby, Ileana. It’s still summer out and we are going to be outside most of the night. I better not hear many complaints about the weather tonight.” He warns me but has a light tone in his voice contradicting his threat.
“You won’t, if I get cold, I’ll just have another drink.”
“That’s the attitude.” He smirks. “Just don’t get too plastered.”
“I don’t think that will be a problem, unless I find a super delicious drink.”
“Let’s get ready, doll, we will worry about drinking later.”
I head over to the stall and I rinse off to try to get every grain of sand off of my skin. Then, I try to dry myself completely so no more grains get stuck on me. “I’m starting to think swimming before this was a bad idea.” I shout to Jack as I continue finding sand pieces in my hair.
“Why do you say that? The sand doesn’t go with your dress? And it’s impossible to remove it all?” He suggests, knowing my exact complaint.
“Yes, that is the exact reason. I may take a little while yet to get more off. Good thing we have a little extra time.”
“Don’t take too long. We want to get there before dark.”
“Yeah, yeah...” I reply sluggishly.
When I finally think all of the sand is off, I slip on my dress. Oh no...I forgot my strapless bra. How could I be so stupid! Now I am going to have to go without it or use an extra hour to go back and get it. Good thing I don’t have terribly big boobs, or I couldn’t get away with it. What am I thinking? I have to go back and get it. There is no way I can go without it. I already feel vulnerable and I’m only with Jack. I guess I will have to persuade him to head back home.
I finish getting dressed and walk to Jack’s truck. He’s already waiting and touches his wrist like he is tapping a watch. I hope he will take me back.
“So...uh...you’re not going to believe this...” I start explaining slowly.
“Let me guess...you forgot something?”
“Yeah I did. Can we go back please?”
“Is it that important? We are already going to just make it before it starts. If we go back, we probably won’t get a table. Plus, you look like you have everything to me.”
“I would like to go back. I feel uneasy appearing like this.”
“You look great, Ily. You should be proud and comfortable.”
At least he didn’t notice I’m not wearing a bra. I hope no one else does. It’s good to go a little outside your comfort zone...right? This will be the first time in public I have gone without one. At least the dress had a little padding.
“I’ll be fine...as long as you’re not lying. And if I say I want to go, we go.”
“You got it! I wouldn’t lie to you about this.” He smiles and starts driving.
I know he wasn’t lying. He never uses my nickname when he lies or even hints at a slight deception. He only uses it when I need good honest comforting.
I wonder if that woman will be at the dance. Why would she be there? If she happened to be there, what would she wear? Would it be casual, or elegant? I’m sure it would be elegant...Unless she was ‘undercover’ again. Why am I thinking about her again? She was just a random customer. She won’t even be at the dance. Focus, Ileana.