I wake with the dawn, my fingers still curled around the broken bracelet. Because I spent the night clenched with worry, my lower back and shoulders hurt, the pain there beating as steadily as a drum. I slide out of bed, shuffle to my trunk, and dig out my bathing suit, towel, trusty robe, and drugstore sunglasses. On my way out, I do a quick check of the door. Nothing new has been painted there. I’m grateful that, for now, seeing Vivian again is the worst of my worries.
After that, it’s more shuffling to the latrine, where I change into the bathing suit, then to the lake and finally into the water, which is such a relief that I actually sigh once I’m fully submerged. My body seems to right itself. Muscles stretch. Limbs unfurl. The pain settles to a mild ache. Annoying but manageable.
Rather than full-out swim, I lean back in the water, floating the way Theo taught me. It’s a hazy morning, the clouds as gray as my mood. I stare up at them, searching in vain for hints of sunrise. A blush of pink. A yellow glow. Anything to take my mind off Vivian.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by her appearance. Honestly, I should have expected it after three days of nonstop thinking about her. Now that I’ve seen her, I know she’ll return. Yet another person watching me.
I take a deep breath and slip beneath the lake’s surface. The colorless sky wobbles as water comes between us, rushing over my open eyes, distorting my vision. I sink deeper until I’m certain no one can see me. Not even Vivian.
I stay submerged for almost two full minutes. By then my lungs burn like wildfire and my limbs involuntarily scramble for the surface. When I emerge, I’m hit once again with the sensation of being watched from a distance. My muscles tighten. Bracing for Vivian.
On shore, someone sits near the water’s edge, watching me. It’s not Vivian, thank God. It’s not even Becca.
It’s Franny, sitting in the same grassy area Becca and I had occupied two mornings ago. She still wears her nightgown, a Navajo blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She waves to me as I swim back to shore.
“You’re up early,” she calls out. “I thought I was the only early riser around here.”
I say nothing as I dry myself with the towel, put on the robe, and slip on the sunglasses. Although Franny appears happy to see me, the feeling isn’t quite mutual. With Vivian now fresh in my thoughts, so, too, is her diary.
I’m close to finding out her dirty little secret.
That line, the appearance of the camera, and Franny’s noticeable lack of support after Mindy accused me of vandalizing my own damn door have left me in a state of deep mistrust. I’m debating whether to walk away when Franny says, “I know you’re still upset about yesterday. With good reason, I suppose. But I hope that doesn’t mean you can’t sit with an old woman looking for a little company.”
She pats the grass next to her—a gesture that squeezes my heart a little. It makes me think I can forgive the camera and her failure to rush to my defense. As for Vivian’s diary, I tell myself that she could have been lying about Franny keeping secrets. Being dramatic for drama’s sake. It was, after all, her forte. Perhaps the diary was just another lie.
I end up brokering a compromise between my suspicious mind and my squishy heart. I sit beside Franny but refuse to engage her in conversation. Right now, it’s the best I can do.
Franny seems to intuit my unspoken rules and doesn’t press me for details about why I’m up so early. She simply talks.
“I have to say, Emma, I’m envious of your swimming ability. I used to spend so much time in that lake. As a girl, you couldn’t get me to leave the water. From sunrise to dusk, I’d be out there paddling away. Not anymore, though. Not after what happened to Douglas.”
She doesn’t need to elaborate. It’s clear she’s referring to Douglas White. Her much-older husband. The man who died years before she adopted Theo and Chet. Another piece of Vivian’s diary snakes into my thoughts.
Don’t you think it’s strange that a dude who almost made it to the Olympics drowned?
I push it away as Franny keeps talking.
“Now that my swimming days are over, I observe,” she says. “Instead of being in the lake, I watch everything going on around it. Gives you a new perspective on things. For instance, this morning I’ve been keeping an eye on that hawk.”
Franny leans back, putting her weight on one arm. The other emerges from her blanket and points to a hawk lazily circling over the lake.
“Looks like an osprey,” she says. “I suspect he sees something he likes in the water. Once, years ago, two peregrine falcons made their nest right outside our living room window at the Harris. Chet was just a boy at the time. My word, was he fascinated by those birds. He’d stare out that window for hours, just watching, waiting for them to hatch. Soon enough, they did. Three eyesses. That’s what falcon chicks are called. They were so small. Like squawking, wriggling cotton balls. Chet was overjoyed. As proud as if they were his own. It didn’t last long. Nature can disappoint as easily as it entrances. This was no exception.”
The osprey overhead suddenly dives toward the lake and, wings spread wide, slices its feet through the water. When it rises again, there’s a fish gripped in its talons, unable to escape no matter how much it wriggles and flops. The osprey swoops away, heading to the far side of the lake, where it can eat in peace.