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Rock the Boat

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Lucy knocked on one side of the huge double doors at the entrance to the Douglas’s stately old home. She could see a light burning in one of the front windows so assumed someone must still be up, even at this late hour, but could hear no sound from within. She knocked again, more frantically this time. Finally, footsteps approached and the door swung open.

“Oh, hello, um…?” Victoria Douglas looked questioningly at Lucy, apparently unashamed that she could not recall her brother’s girlfriend’s name. The brunette seemed to be thinking of something else.

“It’s Lucy. Is Jamie at home?” The nineteen-year-old’s Scottish accent was thick but her voice betrayed her worry.

“Um…no, I don’t think so…I haven’t seen him in a while, actually…” Victoria trailed off as she realized she hadn’t spoken more than a handful of words to Jamie since he’d returned home. Seeing the fear in the girl’s wide brown eyes, she quickly added, “He might be down by the lake. He used to love sitting there, at night.”

Lucy murmured her thanks and turned quickly away, hoping that Victoria couldn’t see the anger on her features. This family of snobs was so preoccupied by their own little dramas that they had no time for Jamie—Jamie who had been away for more than a year, God knows where, seeing horrible things, and nearly getting himself killed so far from home, all because he felt responsible for what had happened to his mother. Lucy had had no idea where he’d been until he’d shown up at her door a few days ago, but it was all too clear now. And instead of welcoming him with open arms and trying their best to restore the love that was missing from his heart, the Douglases merely ignored Jamie and went about their own private, petty business.

She hurried to the lake, stumbling over a patch of uneven lawn. There was not enough light to see from a distance but as she got close to the water’s edge, she could make out a small rowboat floating just offshore and—perhaps—a figure inside. “Jamie!” she called. There was no reply. She edged closer to the water. The boat was drifting only a few feet from the bank. She could see his form now, clad in his favourite old faded denim jacket with the holes, sitting on the bottom of the boat, his back resting against the wooden seat. He was holding something in his right hand.

“Jamie!!!” she shrieked, pulled her black skirt up to her hips, and waded into the icy water. “Jamie, don’t!!!”

“Go away, Lucy!” He had the gun pointed at his chin now. The metal of the old service revolver glinted in the moonlight. He spoke quietly and calmly, but she could see pools of sadness in his eyes.

She was only a foot from the boat now, knee-deep, reaching out her arm towards him. “Please, Jamie, don’t!”

“You’re not supposed to be here. Go away. I don’t want you here.” His voice was toneless except for a slight quaver.

Lucy ignored him, put her hand on the side of the boat, and started to climb in. He watched as the boat tipped down, dangerously close to the water. He didn’t care if it filled up and drowned him. “Help me up, you wanker!” she scolded him.

Jamie shook his head. “You don’t want to see this, Lucy. Just go away like a good girl.”

“Don’t you ‘good girl’ me, ya bastard! Ah came here tae find you, and now I’ve found you, I’m not letting you go!” She swung a leg over the side and flung her body towards the boat but it started to drift farther away. In spite of himself, Jamie smiled at the sight of her clumsy attempt, and reached out his left hand. She grabbed his wrist and he pulled her up until she sat, breath heaving, in a pile on the boat’s damp wooden floor. The gun was still in his other hand, she noticed, and he wasn’t smiling anymore. “Put the gun down, Jamie.”

“What for? No one would care if I was gone. Everyone would be better off without me.”

She was close enough now to see the cool blue of his eyes and the tormented wrinkling of his forehead. “That’s bollocks. Your family would care. I would care. I love you, you silly sod.”

“Love. Ha! What the bloody hell is that? My dad says he loves me and he hasn’t got a clue what the word means.” His voice was strained now, like he might start to cry at any minute.

Lucy looked at the gun hanging loosely in his hand and wondered what would happen if she tried to grab it. Probably a bad idea. She thought of something else. She moved next to him, squeezing as well as she could beside him in the tight quarters of the craft, and touched a soft hand to his cheek. He had shaved recently and his face was like a baby’s except for a tiny amount of stubble. “I got your message tonight and I was worried. ‘You’re a good kid’? I mean, really, what the hell was that? Haven’t I been more than that to you?” She put her face in his and looked straight into his eyes until he had no choice but to return the look. He gazed intently at her, but said nothing, so she leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the lips, then pulled away. He didn’t move, but his face seemed to have softened somehow.

“Lucy, I…”

“Sshhh…” She raised a finger to his lips and held it there for a few seconds before removing it. “Put the gun down and kiss me properly.”

“All right. A goodbye kiss, and then you’ll have to go. Agreed?”

Lucy nodded and draped her arms around his neck. Jamie set the gun down behind him, laid his hands on her small, cold back and kissed her, very gently. He started to remember the times they’d had together, going to punk rock concerts, making out in the car park, drinking too much. The time he’d held her hair back for her when she’d been sick. He pushed the tip of his tongue inside her mouth, tenderly, and she touched it with her own. Then she laid a hand on his thigh and he pushed her away abruptly.

“You’ve had your kiss. Now piss off.”