Ripples on a Quiet Lake

~ A short story ~
The aroma of instant coffee woke me up. It wafted into my nostrils, whirled its way into my every nerve, and woke up every bit of my sleeping body parts. I sat cross-legged; hands tucked inside the pocket of my grey sweater, absorbing every heat they can get. My eyes squinted as the tender light of the dawn entered the tent. The fog slowly vanished in the presence of the early morning sun. Puffy, white clouds enveloped the Lover’s Summit – as what everyone called the twin mountains.

Mike smiled at me as he transferred freshly fried eggs into the plate filled with white rice and canned corned-beef; wisps of smoke waltzed from the plate into the air before it slowly dissipated. The smell and the smile, all seemed familiar, lovingly, caring, and as tender as the crack of dawn. It was one of the best sunrises I’ve witnessed on top of a mountain and also the last.

I first met Mike in one of the company’s conventions and liked him in an instant, for who wouldn’t? He was the life of the party, a big ball of sunshine who ran around like Santa Claus with a big red sack filled with smiles and joy.

Opposites attract they said. He was the positive pole of the magnet; I was negative.

He was a morning person, I wasn’t. He loved adventures, I loved tranquillity. Each summit he climbed was a trophy, mine were neatly piled books on my shelf.

I enjoyed our climbs at the beginning. It all seemed fun until I got tired of the lifestyle and wanted to retreat into my room, in peace. He didn’t understand that.

‘Why would you like to spend your weekends in bed?’ He always asked. I never answered. I bet he would never understand.

Mike was like a ripple in my quiet lake. In time, the small ripples turned into a tidal wave. It was a mess. An ocean explosion.

‘This sunrise is nice. Not so fierce, kinda gentle.’ He sipped coffee from the couple’s mug that we bought from his friend, a mountaineer and social media influencer who started his own brand of shirts, mugs, and other mountain memorabilia. The enamel mug was durable, made for rugged activities like mountain climbing. The mug says ‘happy camper’ that was printed in all caps and underneath the text were three wavy lines, the type of lines that symbolizes sea. On the other side of the mug were triangles and circles that represented mountains and the sun.

We both sat on old tree trunks. The majestic vista spread across as far as our eyes can see. He smiled and caressed my cheek. His tiny dimples were, as always attractive. He has that kind of smile that melted everyone’s heart.

‘Let’s break up.’ I chewed rice and eggs and looked at the sea of clouds as they covered the sunbeams.

‘What?’

I sighed. Slow and heavy.

‘Let’s break up,’ I repeated. This time, I looked at his mortified eyes.

‘Is this a prank? Where’s the camera?’ He looked away and laughed a fake laugh that very soon faded away.

‘No this isn’t,’ I confirmed. I kept eating the delicious breakfast he prepared. Mike was so talented. He made simple fried eggs and corned beef served on silver enamel plates taste and look better than that of fancy breakfast cafes. I always wondered why it’s always better when he made our coffee. We used the same instant coffee but his brew always tasted better than mine. He was talented like that. He knew how to make everything look, taste, and sound better. My talent was to be able to still have appetite amidst the impending disaster.

He didn’t ask further. He knew me well. He knew that I was a person of few words. Instead of asking for my reasons, he searched the pocket of his cargo shorts and handed me a red velvet box. It was an engagement ring. He was about to propose that morning. I didn’t know what to say. So, I kept eating until the plate was empty and clean. So clean it seemed polished.

His tears dropped like a sudden rain on a summer’s day. We packed up and climbed down in silence. Heavy laden steps sauntered down the rocky trail. I gasped for my breath as I couldn’t keep up with his pace but I didn’t ask him to wait for me or to take some breaks in between. My legs hurt and my feet burned but I told myself ‘just endure the pain, it will end shortly. The quicker, the better.’

‘Think this over. I’ll give you a few days.’ He said as he left me standing in front of my door.

But I didn’t need a few more days or hours or minutes. I have already decided. I needed my silence. I need my time with myself. Not with him and his weekend friends, his mountaineer friends, and everyone else.

Days later, Mike called. I didn’t answer. He kept calling and all his calls were left unanswered until it came to a halt. I never heard from him after.

I tried to avoid the places that I might bump into him. But that’s not even a huge issue. I didn’t like being everywhere. I just went out when required. I soon found myself again under the comfortable sheets of my bed on weekends, where I started my late mornings with instant coffee that never tasted as good as Mike’s. My fried eggs didn’t look as perfectly round as his sunny side ups, with the yolk at the center. Mine was disfigured with burned rims, the white part usually looked like the moon’s surface with all its craters.

Mike found a new girlfriend sooner than I thought. I saw all their climbs, their breakfast on the mountains, and their couple’s enamel mugs that said ‘Happiness Can Be Found in the Mountains,’ backdropped with an image of mountains and some three or four flying birds. They’ve recently been to Macchu Picchu where he proposed on his knees, his hands offered a small velvety box that must have housed the ring. His girlfriend’s hands covered her mouth and nose with happiness and surprise. They seemed perfect.

I recently moved to a new house overlooking a lake. It was old and unkempt, maybe that’s why it wasn’t so expensive. Its previous owner was an old man, alone in life. The agent said he loved solitude and spent his time by the lake with his books, handy portable radio, and fishing rod. The agent didn’t tell me what types of fish can be caught by the lake. But I said it’s ok and I’d figure that out myself.

The house needed a lot of repairs and I gladly did so. It kept me busy. It gave me a new start. The library was my favorite part. The previous owner must have loved literature. He had one room allocated only for books and vintage typewriters. He must have been a writer, who would have known. A huge desk faced the window – the biggest window of the house. Its wide sill was the best place to sit and enjoy the panoramic view. On the other side of the lake were twin mountains, tall pine trees, lush vegetation, several houses, and small fishing boats.

It was full moon two weeks ago and the round moon sat exactly in between the two mountains. Its reflection was seen on the still lake. It looked like there were two moons at the same time. Like when I looked at myself in the mirror.

That night, I sat on the window sill with a cup of chamomile tea, my ceramic cup didn’t have any text on it but a solitary hand-painted lavender flower. It didn’t have to say anything like happy campers or happiness or mountains. It didn’t have to. That solitary pastel purple flower emanated warmth on both my hands on a chilly November night and the immensely silent moon in its fullness kept me company. Some flying fish plopped on the idle lake. The gentle ripples disfigured the moon’s perfectly round reflection. For some time, it waved at me until finally, it found its peace again.

***

This short story was written for the prompt: Start your story with two characters watching a sunrise and end it with one of them seeing the moon reflecting off a lake.

This was the last story I wrote just before my schedule became so hectic, and the last one for the year. Hope you felt reading it as much as I felt writing it.

Featured image: https://unsplash.com/@jaunathang

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