The boards creek as a chair rocks back and forth on a sunlit deck. The wind from the lake blows through Grace’s hair. She closes her eyes, enjoying the breeze, and listens to the birds overhead.
“Tag, you’re it!” Mercy gleefully laughs and runs off.
“Ha haha ha! She got you again!” Goody taunts.
“Hey, no fair! The pier is supposed to be safe,” Grace shouts.
“That was last time. It’s the tree this time,” Mercy says, pointing to the oak near the house.
Grace puts her hands on her hips and pouts. Mercy and Goody laugh, then run over and join her, sitting on the deck; their legs dangling over.
“So, what were you daydreaming about this time?” Goody asks.
“I bet it was unicorns. No, a Pegasus. She likes horses that fly better,” Mercy says.
“Stop teasing!” Grace says.
They all laugh and poke each other.
“I was actually daydreaming about us this time,” Grace continues.
“Us? What about us?” Goody prods.
“Yep. In about twenty years, when we’re all grown,” Grace responds.
“Yes! And no parents to tell us what to do. Wouldn’t that be grand?” says Mercy.
“Shh, Mercy. Tell us more, Grace,” says Goody.
“You were first, Goody. You had a wife. Mercy and I got along with her famously. And two kids.”
“Ooh! And one of them is a girl. You gave her my middle name,” Mercy interrupts.
“Only if my wife doesn’t have one. But who wants to be named Bertha?”
“Hey! It’s my aunt’s name,” Mercy says, playfully punching him.
“And you’d take over the family business so you could make all the furniture you want and your dad could retire. Maybe even a rocker like this one,” Grace says, rocking the chair back and forth with her hand.
“Your dad does really good work, Goody,” Mercy says. Goody beams proudly.
“What about me, Grace? What did you imagine about me?” Mercy eagerly asks.
“That’s easy. You’d be a famous ballerina; in the company even. They’d give you the best solos and everyone would line up to see you perform, even the president!”
“Ooh wee!” Mercy claps her hands. “My ballet school just posted auditions for Swan Lake. I wasn’t going to try-out, but now I am. I have to begin somewhere, right?” Mercy gets up and blissfully twirls across the deck.
Goody asks, “What about you though, Grace? What did you daydream about for yourself?”
“Yes, Grace. We want to hear about you, too.”
“I was getting to that when you tagged me, Mercy,” Grace looks at Mercy sternly. Mercy stops twirling long enough to dizzily apologize. Grace laughs.
“I’m not really sure. I imagine Mercy and I would tag along with your wife to all your company picnics and Christmas parties. And we could all go together to every one of Mercy’s performances. And toss flowers on stage like they do when you’re famous,” Grace replies.
“And we could take your wife shopping with us. And take turns babysitting so you could have date night,” Mercy interjects again.
Goody laughs. The boards of the deck creek as Mercy twirls across them humming a tune.
“But you still didn’t say. What about you, Grace?” Goody presses her.
Grace closes her eyes and ponders. “I don’t know, but we’re the bestest of friends. Whatever it is, I’m sure we’ll be together.”
A board suddenly cracks and is immediately followed by a loud splash. Water hits Grace’s face, startling her. She quickly opens her eyes.
“Help! Someone help me!”
“Mercy!” Goody yells.
“Hold on, Mercy! We’re coming!” Grace shouts.
“We have to do something!”
“We have rope in the house. I’ll go get it,” Grace immediately runs off.
“Hold on, Mercy. Try to grab the pole,” Goody shouts to her.
“I can’t…” Mercy sinks beneath the water.
Panicking, Grace rushes through the house calling for her mom or dad. She frantically searches for the rope or anything else she can get her hands on that may be of help. “Mom! Dad!” Grace calls out again. On the way out, she sees a note her parents left on the dining table.
Gone to town to get marshmallows for tonight. Will be back in five minutes.
“Oh, no!” Grace dashes out the house and runs back to the pier.
“We don’t have rope, Goody. I couldn’t find anything!”
“Call my dad. I’m going to get Mercy!”
“But you can’t swim either, Goody,” Grace screams. Tears run down her face.
“I know, but we can’t just leave Mercy. I’m going to try. Call my dad!” Goody shouts at her and jumps in.
Grace runs back to the house as fast as she can. She makes the call, hangs up the phone, and dashes back to the pier.
The boards of the deck creek more rapidly than before.
“Miss Grace!” A nurse quickly comes onto the deck and sets her tray on a nearby table. She looks around and motions to another nurse for help.
“She’s been here for quite some time. What happened to her?”
She steadies the rocking chair as the head nurse administers aid.
“It’s okay Grace. We’re here to help,” the head nurse says. “It was twenty years ago. One of her friends fell into the lake. The other jumped in to save her. They both drowned. She’s been like this ever since.”
“Poor woman. They must have been close.”
“Must have. Come on, Grace,” The head nurse cuddles Grace’s head. She looks around and sees Grace’s Bible on the ground.
“Hand me that,” she says pointing to it.
“Yes. She’s taking longer to come out of it. For some reason, if I read it, it helps in times like these.”
“Whatever you say. Go for it. I’ve got her.”
The head nurse turns to the sole marked passage and reads.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,”
The boards cease creaking.
“And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
A single tear frees itself from Grace’s closed eyes, trickles down her face and into the lake.
by Khrys Vaughan. Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.