Happy Monday, Peeps! :)
I hope the past week has been good! :) We’re coming down the homestretch for The Spring and the River!! :) :) Yay!! Probably only three more installments after this one (but I can’t promise anything). :) :) Please share your thoughts in the comments, and don’t forget to pin the awesome feature image! ;)
Just a note to any newcomers: this series is meant to be read in order. If you haven’t read the previous installments, I encourage you to check them out at The Spring and the River page! :)
Here is Eight!
“I’m going to the Spring for a little while, Mother,” Lucy said. After six months, lying had become effortless. Lies could simply roll off her tongue without a second thought. And she wasn’t lying just about the Spring and the River anymore. It was anything from whether or not she’d read a certain book to how long she’d spent in the garden to saying she was irritable because she wasn’t making any headway with Marianne.
“All right,” Mother said. She was standing by the stove stirring a pot of chicken broth. She shot Lucy a smile, and Lucy gave her a cheerful grin in return. “Supper will be in an hour or so, love.”
“I’ll be back in plenty of time,” Lucy said. She dropped a kiss on Mother’s cheek and slipped out the back door. There was a niggling in the back of her mind as if something wasn’t quite right. Several times on her way to the River she felt as if she was being watched, but whenever she stopped and glanced around, she couldn’t see anyone. Finally, when she arrived at the River, she decided that she was simply becoming paranoid. Of course, she chided herself, Lucien wasn’t actually giving her strange looks every night over dinner. It was her imagination. And it was also her imagination that she was being followed.
Marianne wasn’t at the River but some of her friends were, and they had been welcoming to Lucy, exchanging greetings as she slipped off her sandals and started to wade into the currents. The water was so relaxing! It warmed her insides and gave her mind a nice fuzzy feeling. Lucy closed her eyes and dipped her head back.
A garbled “Lucy?” reached her ears beneath the water.
Lucy jolted up from the water. Her heart raced as she rubbed water from her eyes.
She spun around in the water to see Lucian standing on the shore with his brows drawn together and his eyes wide. She couldn’t breathe.
Caught. She’d been caught. A strangled “Lucien!” escaped her parted lips.
The scene was suddenly quiet as Marianne’s friends watched the exchange. This was likely not the first time that they had witnessed one of the Spring discovering a family member in the River. Her mind kept going in circles. Finally, some water tickling its way down her spine jolted her from her shock.
“Lucien!” she cried. “I can explain!”
But he just turned away and left her at the River. A moment of breathless panic gripped her before she hauled herself out of the water and careened after him. “Lucien, wait!” she called. She quickly caught up to him as he walked. “Lucien,” she said. She skidded to a halt in front of him. Blood pounded in her head, and her bare feet felt like they were one fire. Grabbing for his hands, a thousand different excuses formulated in her mind and poured out her mouth.
“Lucy!” he said, silencing her. “I know what is going on. You can’t fool me!”
“Fool you!” Lucy broke in. “I’m not trying to fool you!”
“Stop! Stop! I’ve suspected you for weeks!”
“You’ve been acting strange! Your stories don’t always add up! You don’t look as healthy! Classic signs of the River of Wrong!”
“I-I-I,” she began, but she couldn’t find the words and fell silent.
She looked at her hands, gripping his so tightly that her arms were shaking. Or were they shaking from alarm? Suddenly, she felt very tired, as if the horror of it all had worn her down in a matter of minutes. The expression of disappointment and sadness that Lucien wore ripped her heart to pieces.
“Lucien,” she croaked. A lump clogged her throat, making it painful to speak. “Lucien, I’m sorry.” Tears pricked her eyes as a sob choked her. “I’m s-s-so sorry. I promise I’ll never g-g-o to the River again.” She sagged against him and cried into his shirt. “I’m s-s-orry,” she said thickly.
Lucien rubbed her back, and she looked up into his face.
“I promise, Lucien, I’ll never got to the River again.”
His eyes were glassy with tears as he said, “I wish I could believe you. I know you mean it now, but it won’t last.”
He stepped away from her carefully, as if she might crumble, and again left her.
“What?” she said.
She limped after him. “What? Where are you going?”
“To tell Mother and Father,” he said simply without looking at her.
“What? No! You can’t do that! Lucien, I swear I will never go to the River again. I swear it!”
“You know I can’t believe you! You’re too far gone! If I don’t tell Mother and Father now, you’ll be sorry for another few weeks, but it will fade. And soon you’ll be back at the River again because it has seduced you, and every time I catch you, you will beg forgiveness and again swear to stay away from the River. But you’ll go to it again!”
“What? No!” she said again, starting to get angry now, but he just spoke over her.
“And it will be a vicious cycle until one day your body washes ashore from the River because I believed you today when you swore to never again go to the River! Because I love you, Lucy, I have to do this! Even if you hate me for it, it’s the only way I know of helping you!”
And with that he was gone. She sank to the ground and sobbed tears of anger and fear. Now it was all over. She felt exposed and filthy. And it was Lucien’s fault. If only he had trusted her enough to keep it a secret, then she would be alright, but instead she was hugging herself as she cried in a shivering mass.
This isn’t what she had thought it would feel like for her family to finally know. This was so much worse than she had ever imagined. Of all the ways she had planned for them to know, this had never been an option. It was supposed to be freeing, but instead of liberation and superiority, she shrank inside.
Her former life had been swept away and replaced with a nightmare.
And just to shake things up, I might not post Nine next week. Maybe I’ll do a book review or something… ;)