Lost Lake
Deleted Scene

I initially gave Jack three daughters, all of whom came to visit Lost Lake for one last summer before Eby sold the place. But the book was getting crowded with characters, and I reluctantly cut them from the story and made Jack a bachelor. In addition to his daughters, this scene contains deleted information about Eby and Lisette's welcome teas and baskets they used to give guests at the lake during its heyday.

Jack's daughters were all named after characters from the old television show Bewitched. It took years for Jack to figure that out. His wife had never said a thing to him, and he hadn't noticed.

They were smart girls. Aurora was the prettiest. She knew how to pose for photos, which always put her sisters in her shadow. It was a competition to Aurora. Everything was a competition to her. At thirty-eight, she was the oldest. She was an executive at a chemical company and her husband was a financial advisor. They had three children and a life that was a constant whirlwind. Of his three daughters, he was most surprised that she'd agreed to come, that she'd had time.

Samantha was thirty-four, the middle child. She was tall, the one always put on the back row for class pictures and chorus concerts. She had a crooked middle finger from when she'd snapped it back playing basketball. When she was two years old, she'd noticed the yellow sliver of the banana moon in the sky and thought it was broken. "Daddy, fix it," she'd demanded. He would always remember that. She'd believed he could fix the moon. She didn't smile much. She could stare out a window for hours. There was a lot going on in her head that Jack would never know about it. She was a teacher and her husband was a carpenter. They had two children and a beautiful house that they worked on constantly; built themselves from the ground up.

Tabitha was his youngest, a surprise baby born six years after Samantha. She'd been the closest to their mother. From the time she was a little girl, he could feel her dislike of him as surely as he'd felt his wife's. Jack thought Jane fed it to her in the night, dripping insults into her ear that she would remember when she woke up. She'd been a wild teenager. Busted for drunk driving when she was seventeen. Simple assault when she was eighteen. She'd been a college senior when her mother died, and she'd gone through a silent time during which she didn't want any contact with her family. She'd even told them not to come to her graduation. She ran a motorcycle shop with her boyfriend. She and her boyfriend never married, but lived together with their two kids, happily, from what Jack could tell.

They had lives that went on without him. His presence was too hard on them. When he was around, they grew stiffer. They were more careful, as if he might find fault with the slightest thing. He called them on birthdays and holidays, and sometimes out of the blue, to let them know he was thinking of them. It didn't make any difference. He couldn't fix this. It was too big. It was the moon.

At Eby's welcome tea, Jack sat with his grandchildren, one on his knee, two beside him. He laughed as they climbed all over him, scaling him like a rock. His daughters took seats across the room. Bulahdeen made herself comfortable in between two of Jack's sons-in-law, as happy as a plum. She was so small she looked like a child herself. Selma made an appearance, but left soon after. The only person who hadn't joined them was Lisette. She was, of course, responsible for the perfectly brewed tea, the salmon tea cakes on dark bread, and the snow white pavlova. But that was how she'd always worked, like an pixie no one could see.

That was why it was such a surprise to see her walk into the sitting room, a fresh pot of tea in her hands. Jack's daughters gasped in unison. Until that moment, he'd had no idea how much Lisette had meant to them.

"Lisette! How have you been?"

"You haven't changed a bit. Maybe you really are a witch."

"Sit down with us."

The only place left to sit was on the arm of the settee Jack was sitting on. Lisette perched herself carefully, like a bird, not touching him. The girls introduced their husbands and children, then shared their memories of Lisette with their families.

Tabitha said she would always remember the fried eggs in the shape of a heart Lisette made her for late breakfast. It made her feel so special.

To this day, Samantha said, she had to take oatmeal cookies on hikes, because Lisette always gave her a wax paper sleeve of cookies to take on hikes when she wanted to be alone here.

Aurora told the story of being upset one summer because she had to leave her boyfriend behind to come here on vacation. She'd been seventeen and had wanted to stay home on her own. But her parents made her come. Eby had taken Aurora by the hand and led her to the kitchen, where Lisette made her sit down and peel what seemed like a thousand potatoes. By the time she'd finished, she'd talked herself hoarse to Lisette, and suddenly things hadn't seemed so bad.

Aurora's oldest child, Juliet, who had her mother's smooth skin and tiny hands, looked up from her phone and said, "And you got mad at me for wanting to stay! It wasn't even because of a boy. It was because of a job! I'm a lifeguard at the club pool. People depend on me."

"The moral to the story was that I realized things weren't that bad," Aurora said, exasperated. It was obvious that these two butted heads often. Jack didn't say anything. Offering parental advice would be laughable, coming from him. "I didn't see the club shutting down because you weren't going to be there. They can survive without you for five days."
Juliet frowned and went back to texting.

"Remember the welcome baskets?" Samantha asked, and the sisters' confab heightened again as they talked about how special the baskets had been, like getting a gift just for staying here.

Jack had a vague memory of his late wife confiscating the welcome basket every year. He wasn't sure why. He thought it might have had something to do with wanting all the treats to herself. With three daughters, it couldn't have been easy for her. She'd had to put them first. She'd had to share everything.

"Your mother liked those baskets, too," he offered, thinking his girls would appreciate that he remembered their mother, that he was honoring her in some way.

He couldn't have been more wrong. The reaction was immediate as they looked away from him and silence descended on the room. He'd made some blunder, and he had no idea what it was. He felt Lisette's hand rest against his shoulder, just slightly, a bit of reassurance that melted some of the tension sitting like a block of ice in his chest.

Finally Tabitha, his youngest, said, "Dad, Mom didn't like anything. Don't you remember?"
Silence again. Tea cups clinked and the younger children began to explore the room, then farther, going to the dining room and crawling under the tables in a game of hide-and-seek.
The sitting room began to dim curiously, and Jack looked out the window. Within seconds, there was a loud crack of thunder that made everyone jump, then laugh.

Eby stood and went to the window and said, "We haven't had any rain in a while. Looks like a storm is coming."

Everyone lingered, offering to help Lisette clear away dishes, but she shooed everyone out the door. Jack hesitated, wanting to say something. Lisette smiled, touched his shoulder again, then closed the door on him. Jack turned and ran after his grandchildren, picking up the youngest, his grandson Rufus, and hauling him over his shoulder, making the little boy giggle wildly. He deposited him on the stoop of Tabitha's cabin and she smiled at him, but didn't say anything.

Soon, everyone was inside, and Jack was left outside alone.

Putting his hands in his pockets, he walked back to his cabin. The growing wind made his untucked shirttails flap. When he reached his stoop, he stopped and looked around. His girls were safe in their cabins. Lisette was safe in her house.

All was right with the world.

So why did he feel so damn unhappy?

***

The sky was so low and dark that Eby had to turn on the lights as she and Lisette cleaned the sitting room and took the dishes back to the kitchen.

As Eby put the dishes in the sink, she said, "I told you the welcome baskets would be a good idea. You said no one would remember."

Lisette wrote, I will put something together right now.

Eby had meant it as a joke, so she was surprised by Lisette's serious reaction. "Such an easy concession. Are you all right? Do you have fever?" She put her hand to Lisette's forehead.
Lisette moved away. It was nice to see the girls. Those things they remembered, I did not do them for everyone. Just them. Because their mother was . . . difficult with them.

"I remember." Jack's wife had not been a likable person. She'd been high-strung and moody. Everyone at the camp knew to walk softly around her. She was one of those people who could turn on a dime, who could spin so fast she formed a dark hole you fell into. Everyone knew this about her. Everyone but Jack.

I do not think Jack remembers.

There'd been a certain hubris to Jack, back in the day, but also a certain naiveté. His wife had spent half her time trying to get his attention, the other half setting up emotional traps, using his daughters as bait. "Jack had a very narrow view of things years ago. He sees things now he didn't before."

I hope so.

"I do, too," she said, giving Lisette a significant look.

Lisette rolled her eyes. I do not hope for me. I hope for him and his daughters.

"We are just conduits," Eby said, surprised by this breakthrough with Lisette. Lisette wanted Jack to be happy. She wanted to make him happy. Perhaps she was seeing now that caring took away nothing from her, and added so much.

It just took fifty years to convince her of this.

Smiling, Eby went back to the sitting room to grab the last of the dishes, but she stopped as she bent to pick up a plate, turning her head to the window. The picnic table umbrellas were swaying in the wind and leaves were rushing across the green, following one another frantically, as if they knew of a safe place to go. The sky was the color of old pewter. A flash of lightning illuminated the tree line at the far end of the lake.
But still no rain.

There was a low hum in the air. She'd been feeling it for days. It had started with Kate's arrival. It grew louder the moment she saw Jack's daughters climb out of the van.

Something came over her and she quietly left the dishes and went to the door. She walked outside to the green, to the single small circle of bare earth where the grass never grew. The day they'd decided to buy this place, George had stood in the middle of the green like this, a storm brewing around him as he'd tried to convince her that this was where they were meant to be. She'd been conflicted. But then it had happened. A big sign she couldn't ignore. She looked for the big signs now, always. They had never steered her wrong. Small things, even strung together, didn't make the impression that one big sign did. This low hum was not enough. She had to know for sure.

She stretched her arms out and lifted her face to the sky. Tell me I should stay. She closed her eyes and waited. Her heart was beating quickly, alive. Her hands tingled with energy, as if forming something solid she could ball up and throw.

She waited. And waited.

Minutes later, she felt the wind die down, then she felt the light on her face. The storm had passed without a drop of rain.

She opened her eyes and dropped her arms.

So that was it.

That was her answer.

***

One by one, Jack's daughters heard a knock on their cabin doors. Tabitha had just pulled out a board game from the closet. Samantha was talking to her husband about how sad she was that this place was going to be gone soon. Aurora was worrying about her eldest daughter, Juliet, who, along with two of her teenaged cousins and a best friend who had tagged along on this vacation, were staying in the cabin next door, without supervision.

They went to their doors and opened them simultaneously – a synchronicity they hadn't shared in years. Tabitha lived in Los Angeles, Samantha in Denver, Aurora in Chicago. Their dad often called, and that was how each of the sisters heard news about the others. Their dad still lived in Richmond – a city none of the girls would ever step foot in ever again, convinced they would turn to salt if they did. The fact that their dad didn't know this, didn't understand, confused them. His memories of what their life had been like were so different from their own. When he spoke of their mother, the sisters could barely recognize who he was talking about. But that was all he seemed to want to discuss. They worried about how lonely his life was since he retired, but, with as much as he talked about their mother, the girls assumed his memories were keeping him company.

The sisters knew that they could find fault with how their father raised them, but the truth was, he had always been their anchor – an oblivious, unyielding anchor. Their mother had been bipolar. Aurora first learned this in therapy, and had mentioned it in passing to her sisters years ago. Once they thought about it, it all made sense. The sisters never knew what version of their mother they were going to get from day to day. Their father, as blind as he could be sometimes, was at least consistent. If there was a scratch, he bandaged it. If there was a birthday, there was always a card with money in it. He took himself way too seriously, and expected perfection from his children, but there were never any surprises.

Their mother had first insisted they come to shabby Lost Lake as a family as punishment to Jack for something he did or didn't do. It had backfired on her in such a huge way. They'd all loved it here, and she had hated it. The sisters were glad Jack still came here. When he'd called and told them Eby was going to sell, they could each hear the sadness in his voice, the desperation. When he'd asked them to come for one last summer, it suddenly hadn't mattered that bills needed paying and children were supposed to go to basketball camp and the tax audit was coming up. Their father had asked them for something. And he never asked for anything.

The wind from the threatening storm was blowing as the girls looked down and saw a wicker basket on each of their cabin stoops. Inside were bottles of water, white grapes, bright candy apples and almond cookies wrapped in wax paper.
Lisette's welcome baskets.

They each looked up to see Lisette leaving a basket on their father's cabin stoop. They watched as Lisette lifted her hand to knock on Jack's door, but then she stopped, her hand caught in mid-air. Instead, she softly put the palm of her hand to the door, then leaned forward and rested her cheek against it, closing her eyes as if listening to a heartbeat. After a moment, she stepped away and hurried back down the path to the main house.

The sisters looked at each other from their doorways with dawning understanding. But, not knowing what to do with this knowledge, they each picked up their baskets and stepped back inside, processing the information in their own way.

***

Lisette ran away from Jack's door, the wind swirling around her feet like cats. She tripped and fell on her hands just as she reached the end of the path.

She struggled to her feet and pushed her hair out of her face as the storm continued to grow. Suddenly, her eyes fell on a lone figure in the middle of the green.

Lisette's breath caught. She knew what Eby was doing. She'd known this woman for most of her life. She'd been there for every significant moment. She remembered George trying to convince Eby to stay here, standing out there on the green that day like this, arms outstretched, challenging the universe.

Lisette clenched her scraped hands into fists and wished. She prayed. She wanted the sign as much as Eby. Losing this place no longer meant losing Eby and Luc. It now meant losing Jack, too. And his daughters. Bulahdeen. Selma. All these people woven into the fabric of her being, like skin.

She saw the electricity sparkle off Eby's fingertips. Something was about to happen.
But then the wind died down and the threat of the storm passed, and Lisette saw the look of disappointment on Eby's face.

Eby's problem, though she would never know it, was that her life was too happy, and these big signs she waited for were only the result of longing and pain. Lisette knew that all too well. Before Eby could see her, she ran back into the house, into the kitchen, where Luc was waiting for her.