by Rebecca Freeman
The lemon-soaked sun is peering through the frothy clouds. Rachel and I are eating vegetable soup in the garden, just outside our sweet little tower. Rachel is in her favourite peach-coloured sundress; her head is covered with thick golden locks of unscathed hair. ‘Oh, please take me to the Lake’ she begs, as she sips some of our freshly squeezed lemonade, she wants to go there for her eighteenth birthday. ‘For the last time…no’ I reply, ‘I’m sorry sweetie, but the world outside our sweet little cottage is dreadful. Stay here and be happy.’ I keep us hidden here, away from the ugliness of the woods and people. She doesn’t know what lingers out there, but I do.
Rachel, who is in a strop because I won’t take her to see the Lanterns (or, ‘Stars’ as she calls them) slams her spoon in her soup bowl, picks up her rag-doll and runs back into the tower, probably to play with the doll’s house I made her last year.
Moonlight Lake was once a beautiful place when I was little. It was decorated with old-fashioned straw-roofed cottages, beautiful meadows of flowers, and at midnight, once a week, they set off lanterns into the sky to light up the village; auburn glimmers rose into the atmosphere. I once kissed a boy there in my teens. I’m gazing into the woodland of gloomy trees beyond me, hands pressed against my head, attempting to get rid of the memories. But they won’t vanish.
I was so stupid- I fell in-love. We’d keep meeting at the lake, went for picnics, sat in the treehouse when it rained, slept in lantern-lit tents, we stripped to just skin. His vine-green eyes and his stubble turned me crazy, we argued, we made up, he made me teary-eyed, we broke up, needed our own space, got back together, but I then caught him lip-locked with a girl in red. Moonlight Lake’s sky turned indigo with dusk, I took him to the woods, blinded him with thorns, and left his unmoving-bones to rot with the others. He tainted me. I keep telling my darling Rachel never to leave here, the tire-swing, the hop-scotch, and the fairy-tales I read her at night. ‘Stay a child’ I keep saying to her. It’s better this way.