Oops – Whisper Teaser #2
We are having a bit of cold front pass through the Pacific Northwest right now. Temperatures dipping into the teens. Lakes and ponds are freezing up.
“Girls,” I said, “Stay off the lake if it ices over. Remember Elsie in Whisper!”
“A…Mom?” The real Halle replied, referring to the image I texted her earlier. “Nice picture you sent us this morning.”
“Yes Hal,” I answered. “But the pond I’m on is only two feet deep!”
February 2, 1914
Elsie picked her way down the snow-covered path, shivering. She needed to find her father and explain what happened before it was too late. How could she have let it go this far? She owed it to him to be truthful, but admitting to him that she had started the fire that nearly destroyed the school library filled her with dread.
At least she had managed to save a few of the items he treasured most. He would be happy about that, although she doubted he would be overjoyed when he heard what else she had to say.
A single tear trickled down the side of her cheek. She wiped it away with her gloved finger and promised herself she would not cry. Father thought tears were a sign of weakness. She would not let him down again.
Where was he? Mother said he would be in the crew house, but the small room above the open boat storage looked dark from where she stood on the path.
Elsie clutched the collar of her coat tightly, wishing the wind would let up. Snowflakes stuck to her eyelashes, making it difficult to see. She slipped for a second time in as many steps, barely catching her balance.
A layer of ice covered the lake. Elsie wondered if it was thick enough to hold her. She could probably skate around the edge faster than stumbling along the path. In her mind, she heard her mother scolding her for entertaining the thought. Still, all that mattered now was reaching her father as soon as possible.
Elsie tested the surface with a rock. When nothing happened, she stepped out onto the ice. Last month they had been able to skate on the shallower bays farther down the shore, but the water was deeper here, well above her head, and she didn’t know how thick the ice was.
She took one step and then another without incident. She could see a faint light on the far side of the boathouse now. A gust of wind swirled across the frozen lake, lifting the hat from her head.
“No!” she cried as the knitted cap skittered across the surface, away from shore. Her mother had just made that hat. Elsie had picked out the red yarn herself. The bright cap stood out sharply against the frosted ice. She had to get it back. She did not want her mother mad at her too.
Gingerly she made her way across the ice to retrieve it. Just steps from the hat, she heard a crack. At first she thought it was a branch breaking under the weight of the recent snowfall, but then she felt vibration beneath her feet and froze.
A few yards away, the ice had started to split. Elsie looked toward the rocky shoreline and wondered if she had time to reach land before it gave way completely.
She shifted her weight, and panic consumed her as she watched the opening race toward her.
“Help!” she screamed as she plunged into the lake, but her voice was stolen on the wind. Her heavy winter clothes wrapped around her legs, dragging her under the frigid water. Arms flailing, she pierced the surface for a moment, gasping for breath and reaching frantically for anything to hold on to, but there was nothing. Struggling to take off her waterlogged wool coat, she sank beneath the ice, becoming trapped under the frozen ceiling before slowly, quietly sinking out of sight.
The wind howled, and the swirling snow covered Elsie’s tracks, making it look as though she had never been there at all.