I stand on the shore of a lake, watching dragonflies kiss the surface. The faint scent of fish is tempered by the smell of grass and wildflowers. Farther along the shore an egret wades among the reeds in the shallows, looking for a quick meal. It’s peaceful here this morning. The only sound is the croaking of frogs, the hum of insects, and the occasional plop of a fish. I see why Laurel loves it so much.
The crunch of the gravel behind me lets me know I’m no longer alone. I sigh, conflicted. I’m delighted to meet my characters in person, but I like my quiet time. I’m an introvert by nature and vocation.
I turn to see who the first to arrive is. To my surprise it’s Julian.
“What are you doing here?” I blurt, staring into his sunglasses. He’s dressed in his favorite t-shirt, the one with a wolf howling at the moon, and jeans. He has a scruffy beard growing and his dark brown hair looks like a lion’s mane.
He needs a trim, I think absently, not liking the longer hair.
I’d expected Aaron to be the first to arrive, honestly. He was the dependable one. Julian, not so much. Besides, I’d deleted Julian’s entire story – intending to start it over. I hadn’t expected him to show up at all.
Julian grins at me, enjoying my discomfort. “You can’t remove me from your mind as easily as you removed me from the page.” I ignore him to slap at a pesky mosquito. I have three bite marks before I finally kill it.
“Fair enough,” I finally say, more to fill the silence than to converse. And it’s not like I could argue with him. He was there afterall. That spoke volumes for his place in my thoughts.
I look past him towards the house, hoping to see one of the others showing up. Nothing.
Searching for something innocuous to say I lick my lips, tasting the nervous sweat already forming. I mean really, what do you say when you meet a werewolf for the first time? Especially one that has the issues Julian has.
I check my watch. It’s 11:10. “Where is everyone? Aaron and Laurel should have been here by now, at least.”
Julian tries to hide a grin and fails. His dimple gives him away.
“What?” I ask, suspicion coloring my voice.
“I, uh, told everyone today was canceled.”
“What?! Why would you do that?”
“I know you don’t like crowds.”
“Julian! I needed to talk to everyone to get their input on the order their stories get written.”
“I can’t do that! I need to make release plans, figure out when I can realistically get things done.”
“Oh, Denise. You crack me up sometimes. So logical. So methodical. So worried about unimportant things. Finish Knox’s story then write mine. After that, see who’s talking to you the loudest.”
He laughs at me – a simple, uncomplicated sound that catches my attention drives other thoughts away.
“Julian, are you….happy? How can you be happy?” The Julian in my head is lost, angry, and hates himself. How can the one I’m facing be so cheerful?
“You writers,” he shakes his head. “The complete story is there.” He taps my breastbone. ”You just need to listen to your heart and ignore your head.”
I’m confused but don’t argue.
He sighs and looks out over the lake.
“It’s always the same with you. You let your head take over the words and they come out flat. Those rare times you disconnect the brain, you write 100x better.” He turns to look at me again. “You have the soul of a poet, Denise. Why won’t you let it shine instead of hiding it away?”
“I’m afraid,” I whisper.
“Afraid of what? Letting people see the real you? Darling, you’re a writer. The real you is already out there for the world to see.”
“No, I’m afraid that no one will care to look. That I’ll put my soul on display and the world will shrug and walk away.”
“C’mere,” he says, pulling me down to the dock. We sit, dangling our feet in the cool water. Closer to the water, the smell of fish is stronger but not unpleasant.
“Writing is like this lake. If you bob along the surface in a boat, you occasionally dip an oar into deeper waters but you don’t get that full depth of feeling like you do when you submerge yourself into the water. Forget the surface and show people the depth of your soul. I think you’ll find it extremely rewarding.”
Swirling my toes in the lake, I thought about what he was saying. Could I brave the depths or was I doomed to skim the surface?
“Thank you, Julian. I have a lot to think about.” I stand and turn my back on the lake, feeling the warm boards under my feet as walked the long pier back to the sandy shore.
Pivoting back the way I’d just come, I run. The boards thrum with the rhythm of my steps and a large smile tugs itself from my lips. Julian is still seated where I’d left him, and his head whips around as I get closer. I give him a brilliant smile and leap past him into the water, enjoying every moment as it closes over my head.