Crouched beneath the bushes, Nat holds his breath as the girl emerges from the trees surrounding the lake. A break in the clouds allows the moon to illuminate pale hair, gleaming like silken skeins around her shoulders. She steps into the clearing, naked, apart from a flimsy towel which she casts carelessly aside as she enters the water.
So like Jessica; good job I don’t spook easily.
She floats on her back, her breasts breaking the surface of the water, a slender white arm occasional describing an arc above the shimmering ripples as she swims languidly in circles. His heart thunders in his chest, so loudly that he thinks she must hear it, and his loins stir in anticipation.
Just how it was that last night … we parked just up there, on the ridge.
An owl hoots nearby, and the leaves above him rustle as a light summer breeze stirs the branches. The girl begins to sing to herself, a gentle contralto, humming a tune he can’t name, but which sounds disturbingly familiar to him.
Jessica’s favourite song? Goddammit, I’ve got to forget that night.
It was an accident, though deep down …
He steps out from behind the bushes and approaches the water’s edge. She falls silent, facing away from him. He can see the ripple of muscles through her slender back, as she stands up, waving her arms from side to side above her head, as though dancing to some unheard music.
She even moves like Jessica.
“Why don’t you join me, Nat?” Her voice is clear and high, almost bell-like.
How can she know my name? Surely she can’t …
She turns and smiles, walking slowly out of the water towards him, hands outstretched. Mesmerised, he strips off and enters the water, wading towards her. She giggles, striking out for the middle of the lake with powerful strokes that belie her fragile frame.
Nat laughs and throws himself headlong after her, cutting through the water like a knife. She’s teasing him. He matches his strokes to hers, closing in now.
Reaching her, he catches her shoulder, and turns her round to face him. Her eyes gleam almost silver in the moonlight, and she wraps her arms round him, pressing her soft lips to his.
They revolve gently, exploring each other’s bodies as they tread water. Occasionally she pulls her lips from his, throws her head back, smiling as she presses his head to her breast.
“Let’s go ashore,” he says urgently, “where we can do this properly.”
He grasps her hand and starts kicking out on his back towards the shore.
Suddenly, a hand encircles his ankle, tugging gently at first. Yet she’s hanging on to his hand with both her hands, laughing. He kicks at the encumbrance round his ankle, and she laughs even more.
He begins to sink below the water, and panics as he feels another hand grabbing at his other ankle. He lets go of her, in the struggle to try to free himself.
“What the hell is going on?”
Lungs bursting, lights exploding behind his eyes, he’s drawn deeper into the water; down to the bottom of the lake, where Jessica had lain for weeks in the wreck of his car, before the rescue teams had found her.
A car waits in a clearing a north of the lake, the woman behind the wheel drumming her fingers nervously. A figure approaches.
“Is it done?” the woman asks sharply.
Abigail smiles slowly, and lifts her wet hair from her shoulders, a gesture so sensual and languorous that her mother also smiles.
“Of course,” she says. “Where are the boys?”
“Your brothers are just finishing up, stashing their diving gear. They’ll meet us back home.”
They set off through the narrow lanes through the woods.
“Do you think he’d have suffered?” says Abigail after a while.
Her mother looks at her quickly.
“About as much as he left your sister to suffer,” she says, in a steely voice.