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The Secret Lake


John Foster

It was a cold December day and John had arrived home early, having finished work for the Christmas break. Although tired, he was happy and content, as his wife Mary and eldest daughter set out the evening dinner for the family. John and Mary had four children, three of them in late teens and a boy of nine years. The boy had arrived at what some would call "late in life", but was a constant joy to his parents and brought new life and meaning to the house and family.

For several years John had always been a keen fisherman, but due to pressures of work, had forsaken the sport, for other quiet pastimes. Suddenly he remembered with a smile, how the boy, quite out of the blue, had taken a great interest in fishing, and after weeks of persistent coaxing, had persuaded him to once again take up the sport. The old tackle had been unearthed, and a rod and reel was bought for the boy. After a few fishing trips had been organized, John knew that he had been "hooked" once again.

After dinner, John sat by the window and watched the snowflakes swirling gently outside. His thoughts took him back to his own childhood, as he remembered fishing experiences and adventures from the past. John called the boy, sat him on a chair and began to relate encounters with large fish, types of tackle and bait to use, along with the inevitable story of "the one that got away". As the boy sat quietly with wide open eyes, John thought it was time to tell him about the secret lake. This was an experience which occurred many years ago, when John, being about the same age as the boy, went on holiday with his parents to the west coast.

At one stage during the journey, John's father had taken a wrong turn, and the family found themselves traveling through a range of mountains. Suddenly a lake appeared, shimmering in the sun. The lake was surrounded by pine trees and had an unearthly quiet beauty, stirring a deep feeling of emotion within him, which he could not understand. John excitedly asked his father to stop the car and allow him to fish the lake, as he could see small circles of water which indicated that trout were rising to the fly. After some persuasion, it was agreed this would be an ideal time to have a break, as a decision had to be taken on how to return to the nearest main road. As he began fishing he noticed a child on the other side of the lake waving his hand. John waved in return and continued to fish.

After half an hour with no success, the fishing tackle was returned to the car and the family continued on their way to the holiday destination. During the remaining journey, John asked his father if the lake had a name, but as no one had been this way before, the name was unknown. Various names were suggested by the family, but to John it would be always be the secret lake. As the story was related, the boy sat quietly, but soon expressed a deep desire to find the lake someday. John reluctantly agreed and numerous trips were organized but the location of the lake was never found.

A year rolled by and spring arrived with the promise of summer, but during this time the boy fell ill. Having a high temperature, he was put to bed as everyone thought, with a slight chill. The next day the doctor was called, prescribed the usual medicine and left. During the night, the boy called his father and asked him to tell again, the story of the secret lake. John drew up a chair by the bed and spoke softly and quietly about the lake and its beautiful unearthly surroundings. When the story was finished the boy slept peacefully and his father also fell asleep in the bedside chair. In the small hours of the morning John awoke with a start, as if he knew something was terribly wrong. He put his hand to the boy's face, which although contented, was cold and still. John knew the boy had gone.

The despair and sorrow was to last for a long time, and several years later the family had still not come to terms with their loss. The children were of great comfort and help during this time, but the memory of the boy remained in all of their hearts. Over the next few years, John and Mary were held together by love and understanding, but things were never quite the same. Soon Mary became quiet, losing all energy and her love of life. During the early hours of a cold December morning, she died quietly in John's arms, at peace.

The years passed very slowly, and once again John, alone now with his memories, was watching the snowflakes drift silently to the ground. As he thought back to bright summer days and happier times, he suddenly felt quite tired and decided to go to bed. Once in his room, John said his usual prayer as he did each evening, put his head on the pillow and slept. Some time later as if in a strange dream, he heard the sound of water lapping over stone pebbles and a soft breeze caressed his face. Bright sunlight and a light shower of rain danced on the surface of a lake as songbirds sang profusely through the sweet scent of pine.

John thought, "This is a more pleasant dream than usual" and looked around. The place looked strangely familiar and as he felt the warm sun and soft sigh of the wind on his face, he became very relaxed and quite at ease. Suddenly he noticed a small child walking along the water's edge. Slightly bewildered, John called to the child and asked, "Can you tell me where I am?" The child smiled and stretched out his arm, saying, "My Fathers house is nearby, come with me and I will show you the way". As John touched the small hand the sky became much brighter, and as they reached the top of a small hill, John could see another child and woman walking towards him. He stopped and looked with astonishment. It was the boy and Mary!

He turned to the child beside him who smiled and said, "The wind is my breath on your face, the rain is my tears when you hurt, and the sun is the warmth of my love". John looked upon the face of the child and all at once his soul was filled with wisdom and humility. He knew now at last, he had finally found the secret lake!

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