Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1916877-Sunken-Hope
by Cinn
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #1916877
Snow crunches and squeaks under battered boots, sending a monotonous rhythm through the still air. Trudging across the frozen lake as if in a trance, the old woman’s blank eyes absorb none of the winter scenery. The boots rise and fall, briefly occupying footprints left the day before.

The old woman walks high above Main Street, unconsciously taking the path that she once used on return trips from the market. For seven years, there had been no return trips, no market, no street. Her little yellow house lay wet and cold beneath layers of ice, snow, and 25 feet of water, flooded to provide hydroelectric power to the region. The woman begged them not to flood the village. How would Madeline find her way home if her home was underwater?

As happened every day, memories began to creep into the woman’s consciousness as she neared the center of the lake. A young girl with a dimpled grin, flashing green eyes, and a black mop of curls leapt from her hiding place in the old woman’s mind. Eyes begin to water. She tells herself that the cold wind is the culprit.

The child ages behind the old woman’s weary eyes. A teenager with a ring in her nose and pink streaks weaving among dark curls sneers at the emptied bottle of gin, mocks the drunk--refuses to cringe as the mother staggers to her feet. The old woman’s hand stings as though that slap from the past had happened seconds ago. As the young lady curses and runs toward the door of the little yellow house, the old woman wishes that she could grab her daughter and apologize, but it is decades too late.

Reaching her destination, the old woman looks at the hole drilled through the lake’s crust, perfectly round and full of slushy water. As though preparing for a frigid picnic, she spreads a blanket beside the hole and scoops out the slush with a stained plastic mug. Lying flat on her stomach, the old woman resumes her vigil of the days, weeks, and winters before. She sees the peak of the little yellow house’s roof--or thinks she does. Though the woman cannot see the door, she believes that she will know when Madeline finally returns home.

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