“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.”
“What are you doing out here?”
The water lapped gently against the lake’s edge as Finch walked toward her, the crunch of leaves underfoot and the bite of a fall night approaching. Kennedy’s eyes never left the crystal surface and barely acknowledged his blunt question as he approached. She felt glazed over, so many hours of pasting on a smile for her family while fighting to hold back annoyed sighs or screams. It wasn’t as if she didn’t love coming home for the weekend and seeing everyone- she was luckier than most to have a very tight-knit family unit surrounding her. They just rarely recognized her need for space, smothering her instead with questions about her new job, relationships, on and on.
“Needed air,” she murmured, crossing her arms over her chest protectively.
Finch watched the edge of a breeze blow a curl up and around her face and neck; dark spirals pooled and waved to lie in the middle of her shoulder blades reminding him of the lake itself. She had on a simple denim shirt dress that fell delicately to her mid-thigh with worn in leather boots but a heavy scarf swallowed her neck in red plaid. A flush danced across her cheekbones from the bite of the wind mingling with the same pattern of freckles Finch had memorized when they were kids.
Picking up a small rock, Finch launched it out into the depths and listened to the crack of the splash echo around them. They’d been children since the last time they’d been to the lake’s edge together but he hadn’t forgotten how many connections they’d made growing up.
“I know you don’t want to talk,” he started then paused. He fought hard not to turn and continue to take in all the new curves age had added to her body. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay and you didn’t need-”
“I can’t stomach knowing I disappoint them so much,” she interrupted, also still looking away from him. Her drawl danced over him like warm suede, the casual way she lilted and the smooth deep pitch of her voice bringing back memories. “All those lawyers, doctors, and professors in there yet here I am. Just Kennedy. Nothing more. Fulfilling not a single of their grand ideals and never meeting up even with every privilege that’s been granted to me.”
Shrugging, Finch chose another rock and tossed it between his hands.
“Like you care. Come on, Kennedy. You love your life,” he stated, chucking the rock at the water. “It’s not you disappointing them, it’s you just wanting your parents to validate your achievements, too. You’re an artist. A very talented one at that. You are just as worthy of their pride as your siblings.”
Finally, Kennedy turned to him, the sway of her body as gentle as the breeze touching their faces. She looked so much like her mother, he thought, yet nothing like her at all. Kennedy had a way about her not present in any of the other women in her family tree; she possessed an energy Finch could get drunk off of. She never did anything without exuding passion, fueled by an inner light driving her close to madness at times. Kennedy wasn’t stiff or serious like the other women standing in the kitchen far behind them; she was suffocated by their constant logical thinking and black and white based decisions.
“I saw you at my show, you know,” she smiled. Dimples tucked pockets of shadow into the curves on either side of her lips. “I thought at first I was crazy, recognizing the way you stood even after all those years. You had your back to me and you were talking to the studio owner. She’s a bit of a wild-cat and always gets exactly what she wants, I might add. I watched you take control of the conversation like you’d been a part of the art scene your whole life. Her eyes never left your face, so full of flirtatious admiration. I waited for you to come over and talk to me but you never did. Then I saw you leave with Emily and I understood why.”
Tension rocketed in the space between them, Finch suddenly shoving his hands into his pockets and talking a half-step away from Kennedy. The hint of a smile which had been playing on his lips faded instantly. She studied him, his flannel shirt rolled up at his elbows showcasing scars running down the inside of his arms. She felt a pang of regret for mentioning the show; he’d clearly avoided her for a reason.
“I wasn’t avoiding you,” he whispered, reading her thoughts. Spinning back toward her, he kicked absentmindedly at sticks and rocks at his feet. “Can I tell you something?”
The abrupt tone change sent Kennedy’s stomach plummeting to her feet. He truly was avoiding the subject of the art show not even a month prior. She hadn’t seen Finch in almost six years, yet he’d fled before she’d even had a chance to say hello.
Nodding, she resumed her earlier position, closing off from him and facing the lake. It had been her favorite place as a child, the ring of her father’s laughter in her memories and the tangy smell of the water calming the breaking inside her. She’d grown to love the solidarity of fishing far from the bank against the house. Swimming had become her haven from school and breakups and wrecking her first car. An ancient chair lingered on the dock, the blue paint weather worn and chipped but still it remained there for her when she needed to escape. It was like returning to a very good old friend.
Much like Finch who she’d made the mistake of falling in love with the summer of her twentieth birthday.
At twenty-eight, he now stood next to her as a human being she barely recognized.
Copyright © 2016 Pearl Bayou