She sat atop the dune, surrounded by swaying grasses colored sandy brown, speckled with tips of white fuzz. The wind howled through the surrounding trees, the pines being the only greenery left along the shore. The oaks had turned yellow and orange, their leaves rapidly losing their places on each tree. The birches had shed their foliage and were a stark white against the background of the mint-green lake.
Elise had come here seeking answers. She had been staring out at the vast expanse of choppy Lake Michigan searching for an answer. She had always come to the lake for solace and wisdom and had seldom been disappointed; today was different. The same strong voice that she had heard growing up had become silent. The roar of the changing winds had blocked that inner peace she had come searching for. The single red maple to her left quivered violently in the breeze. The churned up water promised a coming storm.
Elise shivered to herself for a moment and got up to go, frustrated. She turned to walk back to the trail, but stopped for a moment, a look of hesitation on her face. Something, someone, had spoken to her. A faint whisper, barely audible over the roar of wind and waves.
“Come.” She heard it again. It was said in the same rhythm as her heartbeat: slow, steady, waiting. “Come.”
Elise walked toward the water, taking care not to get wet, as the frigid wind whipped her hair every which way. She kept hearing the faint voice, the whisper, grow more frantic and close, almost breathing upon her. She was alone on the beach. Alone.
“What do you want?!” She yelled into the wind, looking around desperately.
“Come.” The wind continued. She began to cry, out of fatigue and desperation. She had been fighting herself for years—for forever, really. Something in her felt as if it was crumbling; a chisel had begun to unearth the formation that had built up against her heart. There had been a fissure—a tiny crack—that Leon had begun to chip away at when they first fell in love, but time had eroded the marks and he had slowly given up trying to reach her, the impenitrable.
She stared out at the water, tears streaming down her face. She was cold, but it didn’t matter. Something inside her was beckoning her to the lake, to the healing waters. A mist began to form around her—typical when the air temperature was warmer than the water. Yet somehow, this felt different. This felt like a person, an envelopment. Elise looked around her, sensing a presence but seeing nothing. She shuddered and wiped her tears away. She took off her shoes and socks, rolled up her pant legs, and waded into the ice-cold water.
“Come.” Another whisper. The water was freezing, but Elise wasn’t relenting. Something in her was determined, drawn to this moment, this feeling. She felt an urge to clean her face and hands. She bent down and rubbed her hands in the foamy, mint-green water.
“Be clean.” The voice shook inside her. She took some water into her cupped hands and splashed her face, cleaning her tears. Elise bent down again and splashed her face, rhythmically, purifying herself in these sacred waters.
“I forgive you.” The voice jarred her. She was deeply moved. She searched through the fog for the horizon but couldn’t see it.
“You are mine and I love you. Come.” She couldn’t handle it anymore. She sobbed until her feet went numb. She let loose an entire lifetime’s worth of pain and hatred and anguish right there in the lake, each tear drop quietly absorbed into the vastness. She was crying because she finally believed it. The truth. She finally understood her value.
Half numb with cold, but on fire from the experience, she waded out of the lake and made her way back to the car. The fissure had re-opened, but the careful chisel mark from previous attempts was no longer evident. There seemed to be an entirely new hole–the mark of a different chisel. Elise was altered, changed. Something—someone—had finally reached her. It terrified and exhilarated her. She dried her face on her sweater and, still barefoot, made her way home.