Novel excerpt​ – Secrets in the Lake

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The book was captivating and before she realised one and a half hour had passed. Her stomach reminded her she still needed breakfast. Reluctantly putting the book aside, placing it into her handbag, she got ready and headed up the road to town.

She walked quickly to stay warm in the chilly May air only passed by a couple out walking their dogs and a small group of young teenagers dressed for Saturday sports. Mandy remembered back to when she was a young teenager playing basketball. Being normal height she had always felt like a dwarf amongst the taller girls. With her ever-present internal desire to do her best she still ended up a valued player on her team. They had so much fun going on tournaments and did quite well one year almost winning the state title.

Jolted out of reminiscing by a young cyclist nearly running into her, Mandy realised she had nearly walked past her favourite cafe. She backtracked the short distance and walked into the warm cafe greeted by wafts of brewed coffee and pastry. Suddenly ravishing she quickly ordered a large pancake breakfast and a steaming hot pot of coffee The cafe was almost full, mainly young students and couples. Mandy settled into reading her book again while waiting for her food. The coffee was delicious, strong enough to jolt the brain cells back into action.

Before long a large plate of 2 pancakes filled with berries, cream and nuts was put in front of her. The waitress smiled at her. Mandy realised it was a girl she used to know from back at school.

“Hello, I think I know you,” the waitress said with another smile. “Are you from around here?”

“Yes, ​I’m Mandy Reid. I’m pretty sure we went to school together. You were in the class above me?”

“Oh yes, I remember now. Mandy, how nice to see you again. Are you here for a family visit? Oh and I’m Kate in case you have forgotten,“

Again the smile.  Kate’s face open and questioning, Mandy felt instantly warmed to her.

“Nice to meet you again Kate. How lovely. No, ​I’m​ afraid I am here for a funeral. Karl Sonenheim’s funeral. So sad, passing at such a young age. I still can’t believe it.” Mandy explained.

“That’s right. Poor Karl. Prime of his life, and poor Emma, now alone with two young children to care for. So sad,“ Kate replied, then her face frowned.

“It’s still being investigated you know. The death. I guess they have to when someone so young dies suddenly. Emma finding him like that must have been horrible,“ Kate continued, looking at Mandy with a question as if testing to see what Mandy would say or even what she thought of the whole sad situation.

Realising Kate was a keen gossiper, Mandy decided to find out more, but not right then with the cafe full of people.

“Yes it sure is a tragedy,” Mandy said, “I’m​ going to enjoy this delicious breakfast, but why don’t you join me for a coffee when it has quietened down for you?”

“Would love to. Will see how the morning rush turns out, maybe I can grab a few minutes break if it quietens down. Enjoy the breakfast,“ Kate said with another smile then walked away to serve another couple.<<<<<<
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Secrets in the Lake – Draft Chapter 6

Previous draft chapters

Secrets in the lake – Chapter 1 draft

Secrets in the Lake – Chapter 2 draft

Secrets in the Lake – Chapter 3 Draft

Secrets in the Lake – chapter 4 draft

Secrets in the Lake – Chapter 5 draft

Finally, in Lake Haven, Mandy stopped in front of her mum’s cottage. It had been over 3 years since she had been there last and then only to pick up her mum when she had fallen ill and had to go back to San Fransisco to see her specialist. No time to see anything or anybody.

It was strange walking in through the front door and seeing the familiar hallway still intact with warm coats and hats on the rack in the hallway and family photos and favourite art pieces lining the walls leading into the lounge room. The sight and smell of the place brought back memories. Nostalgia and a longing for the familiarity of her past made her throat tighten and overwhelming need to cry surprised Mandy. “I must go visit mum soon. It has been too long”. Mandy was normally a regular visitor to her mum’s townhouse in San Fransisco, but the last 2 months had been so hectic that she had not made time. Maybe she should go visit before heading back to LA.

Mandy and her mum Joyce had a close bond. It had always been just the two of them since her father Gary died when Mandy was only 6. They lived in Australia then. In a small town near Adelaide in South Australia. She remembers the day so clearly when the police came to tell them Gary had died in a horrific car accident on his way home from the mines.

Mandy’s father Gary was an Australian and had met Mandy’s mum when she was traveling Australia as a young 22-year-old. Gary was a few years older at 29, divorced with a young child of only 2 years old. His son, David, lived with his mum in Sydney so visits were rare. Gary worked in the mines, four weeks on and four weeks off. Sometimes they would all drive to Sydney and visit David. When David got a bit older he came to visit most school holidays. They always had a great time, Mandy loved having a brother around, and always hated when his visits came to an end and they had to say goodbye.

She remembers her parents being so in love. Gary always returning from his four weeks working in the mines with gifts for her mum and her. The house was full of laughter then and friends would come over for dinners and long nights of talking and drinking. Her mum’s eyes would sparkle and the smile on her face spoke of a deep love that would last a lifetime. Even if physically her parents would not be together for long. Mandy loved lying in bed listening to the merriment.

When her father died part of her mum died too and they returned to the US to be closer to her mum’s family. Mostly it was still just Mandy and her mum and they both settled into life as it was. Over time the memories of her father faded except his great storytelling ability. Mandy’s love of writing somehow made her feel closer to the dad she lost at such a young age. Almost like her way of keeping her dad alive.

Mandy walked through the rooms of the cottage breathing in the smells and the memories that came flooding in. She settled in her own favourite room, at the back of the house, walls in a soft yellow framing the view of the bright pink rose bushes in the garden outside. She could see her mum’s gardener loved his work in the way every plant was healthy and cared for. The beauty of nature always took your breath away. Mandy wished she had more time herself to have a garden, but her lifestyle in LA did not suit or allow for that at this stage in her life. Her successful career had a price, but she wouldn’t have it any other way for now.

 

Secrets in the Lake – Chapter 5 draft

You can read chapter 1-4 here

Secrets in the lake – Chapter 1 draft

Secrets in the Lake – Chapter 2 draft

Secrets in the Lake – Chapter 3 Draft

Secrets in the Lake – chapter 4 draft

A sudden loud noise from the back of Mandy’s car made a surge of adrenalin going through her body. She slowed the car down and moved to the side of the road. Not having much of an idea about cars Mandy felt an unease bordering minor panic coming over her. She was in the middle of nowhere and it would be getting dark soon. She took a deep breath and hopped out of the car to inspect the rear. Damn! a flat tyre. A real nuisance but at least nothing major. She could fix that if she had to, but she didn’t really want to and decided to call her road assistance Drive America to see if they had any contractors around the area. Probably not likely out here in the country, but worth a try.
After waiting 5 minutes online she finally got put through to an operator who told her absolutely they could help, but it could be a wait up to an hour. Mandy knew from experience that was most likely more than an hour and she really didn’t want to sit around waiting, so she declined the offer to book in for the service. It was now 4.30 and it would start to get dark in another half hour. She really couldn’t waste any more time
She was just about to open the boot and get the spare out when she noticed a car approaching her from behind. It seemed to be slowing and sure enough, it stopped and parked behind her car. Now she was really uncomfortable. Funny how the company of another person in a town or city is fine, but out on a lonely road, it was easy. She gripped the jack tighter , ready to defend herself. It was hard to see who was in the car but the shape indicated a stocky male. Her heart was pounding. Why had she stopped at the winery ? She could have been safe and sound at Lake Haven now instead of in the middle of nowhere with a potential madman.
The door swung open and to her relief, a smiling face greeted her and the familiar voice of the winery owner Ian made her almost cry. “ What have we here, looks like I arrived just at the right time. I forgot to give you back your Visa card and noticed not long after you left. Was hoping I could catch up with you. Looks like this flat tyre did us both a favour.”. He beamed his smile and Mandy melted.
“Thank you, Ian, that is very kind of you to come after me to give me back my card. Silly me for not even noticing”
Ian offered to help and took the jack from her hand. For a split second, Mandy felt vulnerable. The jack had been her only weapon. Don’t be silly she told herself. Ian was being helpful. But in the back of her mind, something was brewing. She couldn’t explain why and decided to take no notice of her internal warning.
Ian had the tyre fixed in no time. Mandy was grateful and thanked him for his trouble. She turned to shut the boot when she felt his arm around her waist. She stiffened, but Ian softly spun her around and took her face in his hands.
‘Dont be frightened Mandy, I’ve been wanting to do this since you walked into my winery. You are a very attractive woman. Don’t you feel the connection we had from the moment we saw each other.?”
Mandy had to agree there was something, but Ian was a lot younger than her and she was not comfortable being alone with him out here in the middle of nowhere. The infectious smile was still there, but now she notices his eyes told a different story. She wasn’t quite sure what she saw when looking into his eyes, but it made her feel uneasy. It was like a fire in his eyes, but it wasn’t the usual passion of chemistry.Maybe it was just under the circumstances. Out here in the middle of nowhere and Ian really a total stranger she had only just met. So she said she was not sure what she felt and really had to get going. He smiled again and this time she felt like a child rather than a desired woman. How quickly your perception of someone can change depending on the circumstance you are in. At the winery she had been totally at ease in Ian’s company, in fact, she had enjoyed it. But here she couldn’t wait to flee.
She quickly thanked him again and hopped into the car. He held the door so she couldn’t close it and looked her straight in the eyes saying “ I’ll let you go Mandy, but I’ll be I Lake Haven over the next week so I’ll look you up and come take you out for dinner “. Mandy realised she had told Ian where she was staying and about the funeral. It would be easy for him to track her down. Why was she always so open and chatty with strangers.
Driving off leaving Ian standing at the side of the road, she made a promise to herself to never be so trusting and open about her life and plans to total strangers no matter how pleasant and trustworthy they seemed.

Secrets in the Lake – Chapter 3 Draft

Even if the circumstances for leaving LA were sad Mandy felt a rush of adventure when early afternoon she was finally in her car on the road to Lake Haven. The drive would take around 4 hours and her new car made it a much more pleasant drive. All the modern cons to make driving a breeze. She put on her favourite music and set the Navigation for Lake Haven. She knew the way, but with the verbal instructions she could just relax and listen to the prompts.

Mandy had arranged for her best friend Lilly to stay at her place and mind her cat, Felix.  Her place was close to the city center and Lilly loved staying there. A break from suburbia life and closer to her work. Lilly already had spare keys, so no hassles sorting it out. Mandy fully trusted Lilly with her place. They had been friends for a long time and Lilly was always there when she needed help. Even if they didn’t see that much of each other, now that Lilly was living with Gary, they still remained close. She and Lilly would mostly meet up in the city for a bite to eat after work, when Gary was away with work. Which was only once a month. Still, they were close and could talk non-stop about everything and anything. Their friendship always took off as if they had never been apart.

Mandy loved Lilly’s friendship. The only true friend she had in the city. The rest were just work colleagues or people she met briefly when networking. Many she met up with regularly, but all just fun party people as she called them. None of them connected on a deeper level. They all worked in an industry where image and career was everything. Deep connections just didn’t fit in, as they would crack open the fine-tuned image they all had worked so hard at gaining. But the cracks were there sometimes when the bottles of wine dulled their senses. When the cracks got too big people usually moved to another company. Luckily the city was huge and allowed the odd crack to stain the image without permanent damage.

Mandy had always maintained a polished and faultless career. Mostly because she really loved her craft and stayed out of the politics and kept her nose clean. In her almost 10 years in the industry, she had never had any problem finding work. The last 7 years she had contracted out as a freelancer, a decision she hadn’t made lightly. She gave up the security of a steady income. But the gains had been enormous.  She had been able to charge a lot more for her work and was now a proud owner of a city apartment almost mortgage free plus had been able to enjoy trips overseas and time off to write a small novel. Mandy had so far never regretted taking that decision back when she was only 25.

Mandy had worked overseas for a couple of years but eventually came back to the US to be close to her mum again. Her mum lived partly in San Francisco and partly in Lake Haven in the summer. Mandy’s home was now LA. So different to small town Lake Haven, but she loved the busyness and the anonymity of the big city life. Always something to do and see. Writing inspirations everywhere and close to the beaches for relaxation and recharging. It was the best place for Mandy right now at this point in her life.

In spite of her love of LA, Mandy never said no to an opportunity to get out of the city and explore new places. She loved nothing better than hiring a small house or room somewhere and just spend the weekend exploring and writing. New places gave her inspiration and she always met some interesting people along her way. Mandy loved her own company, she needed her lone time to recharge, but on the flip side, she loved the company and the interaction with new and interesting people. The conversations and the stories that came from that inspired a lot of her writing and ideas.  You can stay in your own head too much and your writing can suffer. She learned that a long time ago.

Secrets in the Lake – Chapter 2 draft

Mandy woke up early the next day with a clear and focused mind of what had to be done before leaving. She had mentally made a list before falling asleep and it seemed to have stuck. First a good strong coffee with a healthy bowl of porridge to keep her going. Lots to do.

She put the coffee on to brew and started cooking the porridge in the microwave. Rolled oats, rice milk, banana, protein powder, cinnamon and a dollop of coconut yogurt to top it off when done. Best way to start the day especially on a cool spring morning. The porridge was steaming and the coffee sent beautiful smells through her unit. Mandy loved this time of the day. So new and fresh, full of promises. She sat down and started writing her text to Emma while waiting on the porridge to cool a little. Mandy being a writer rarely struggled for words, but for some reason this morning they didn’t come easy. Emma was no longer a close friend, but they did share a past in Lake Haven.

Mandy thought back to the first time she and Emma met. Mandy had been in town with her mum for a summer break and Emma had only recently moved to Lake Haven to attend beauty school. She was renting a room in the house across the road from their place. She was so pretty and soon she was the talk of the town. Well, the talk of the boys in town doing their best to get her attention, she recollected.

Mandy was only 17 and still at school, and Emma was the grown-up of 18 living in a rented room on her own while attending college. Emma had been raised by her aunt in a small town north of San Francisco after her parents had died in a car accident when she was only young.  Her aunt being her father’s step-sister had never really wanted to raise Emma but had felt obliged. So when Emma suggested beauty school in Lake Haven her aunt enthusiastically supported the idea and helped her find a place to stay.

Emma had an air of vulnerability and hardness at the same time that either made you want to look after her or tell her to go jump. For Mandy, it was mostly the latter, mainly because of the female hormones. A lot of the time they actually had a lot of fun in their group of friends, and Emma could have them all in stitches with her stories from the small town she grew up in. Mandy often wondered how true they were but certainly entertaining.  The boys found the softness and vulnerability appealing and it overshadowed the hardness. She was never short of a suitor, but soon settled all of her attention on Karl Sonenheim, son of the wealthy real estate developer in Lake Haven, or the Lake as the locals called it for short.

Mandy returned her focus to her text to Emma. She wanted to make it sound personal, but she felt guilty for not having been in touch for so long. The message ended up being very formal. Maybe that was better. Would a call be better? More personal?

Mandy decided to think about it while eating breakfast.

Her thoughts strayed to Sam. Wondering if he was still so damn good looking. His dark wavy hair and steel grey eyes. The strong jaw and soft lips, oh those kissable lips that tasted so good. Mandy had stopped eating, the spoon resting on her lips. She almost wished she could have gone back to that night and the next morning and done things differently. But she was young then and had just taken up a scholarship for her masters at a major university in Amsterdam, and she was so full of dreams. No time for anybody to change her course. Not even someone like Sam. He didn’t try to make her stay either, so why should she. Or should she have stayed? She was now almost 32 and had never had a relationship longer than 2 years. She was running out of time to do the whole settle down and have kids, but she was very successful and satisfied in her chosen career and that made all the difference. Right up until now when Sam had come back into her life. Even if he had been the bearer of bad news, it somehow had awakened her desire and longing, and she was now not sure of what she wanted anymore. She wondered if the passion between them would still be there after all these years. Was he even still single? Stop daydreaming girl. Mandy pulled herself together, drank the last of her coffee and decided to call Emma.

“Hi Emma, this is Mandy Reid”

“Oh, hello Mandy?” the voice on the other side of the line sounded old and frail.

“Sam rang me last night and told me the sad news. I am so sorry to hear about Karl. Are you ok Emma? Is there anything I can do for you right now? I am coming to the Lake tonight. Meeting up with Sam. If you need anything please just let me know”

Mandy sensed a gasp after mentioning Sam’s name.

“You are meeting Sam? I didn’t know you two were still in touch. No, I am ok Mandy, but thank you for calling. I will let you know about the funeral arrangement. Have a safe drive back to the Lake. Thank you again. See you soon.”

The phone went dead before Mandy could say another word. She felt a shiver as if she had just witnessed something terrible and cold-hearted. But she didn’t really understand why. Yes, Emma had been short and impersonal, but that was quite normal under the circumstances. Wasn’t it? This was Mandy first encounter with death of someone in her age group, in fact first in a long time of any age group. She really wasn’t sure how to react or what to expect from people in grief. So she put it behind her and went about getting on with the rest of her chores.

 

Secrets in the lake – Chapter 1 draft

“Karl is dead Mandy”

Mandy stopped dead in her tracks walking up the stairs to her unit. Karl dead!! How is that possible. He is only 34……he WAS 34.

 Mandy had received the dreaded phone call on her way home stuck in peak hour traffic. She had tried to reach for the phone in her new black leather bag, but she was still getting used to the many pockets, that she had loved when she bought it, but now obviously was a huge disadvantage. Also, the traffic needed her attention so she missed the call. Never mind, I can check it when I get home. Almost there.

Wednesday was always bad on the road. Seemed every man and his dog had a need to get out and about in the city. Most weeks she would try to work from home on Wednesdays, but this week she had been asked to meet regarding what could end up a dream job with one of her favourite creative agencies in town. The meeting had gone extremely well and they seemed keen to have her onboard for their 6-month project. Mandy had been asked to put together a plan and expense budget for her work. She was looking forward to getting stuck into putting her proposal together tomorrow. The deadline was next Monday so she had plenty of time.

She was just driving into the garage when her phone rang again. She quickly parked the car and grabbed her phone to answer it.

“Hello, Mandy speaking”

“Hello Mandy, this is Sam”

Sam? She asked herself, not immediately recalling anyone by that name.

“Mandy it’s Sam from Lake Haven, we met a long time ago. I was Karl’s best mate at his wedding”

“Oh, Sam,” she said with genuine surprise “Yes, I remember you. Long time, how are you?”

It must have been at least 9 or 10 years since she last saw Sam and all she could think of at that moment was what a great a kisser he had been. She nearly giggled remembering the kissing in the booth of the bar they ended up at after the wedding reception. 5 of her good friends from Lake Haven and some hanger ons. Sam was a hanger on. A very nice hanger on she recalled with a smile on her face.

“I’m well Mandy, but I have some bad news about Karl Sonenheim”

Sam went quiet. Seemed forever before he spoke again, his voice thick and shaky.

“It’s terrible……” he started.

“Sam, what is wrong”

That’s when he told her the bad news about Karl passing away.

Karl had married his childhood sweetheart Emma. Not really a sweetheart, more of a massive flirt and a princess, but Karl absolutely adored her. They both settled in town and soon started a family. Mandy hadn’t stayed in touch, but from what she had heard from her mum, Karl and Emma was a lovely couple, successful and very happy. In fact, her mum had told her on many occasions and she knew it was just a strong hint for Mandy to find a man and settle down herself. But Mandy was in no hurry. Her last relationship ended 2 years ago, when she found out she had been two-timed. Just another bastard not to be trusted. She was happy being single. Better than breaking her heart again.

“Sam, I am so sorry to hear that. How did it happen? Was Karl ill? Are you ok

“I’m ok Mandy, thanks for asking. We are not really sure what happened. Maybe a heart attack. He was found by Emma in the lounge when she came home from a kid’s birthday party. Luckily the children were still in the front yard and she could stop them from seeing their father like that. I’m ok Mandy. Just shocked and not really taking it in. We had planned to go fishing this weekend…………..”

Sam stopped mid-sentence and Mandy sensed he was upset.  All of a sudden she wished she was there.

“Sam, I’ll arrange to drive back to Lake Haven tomorrow. Then we can catch up and talk. I’ll stay till after the funeral. Mum is away so she will be happy for me to pop in and stay at our old house. Let’s catch up tomorrow evening if you like?”

Mandy was pleased to hear Sam’s positive response to her suggestion. They arranged to meet at the local pub at 6.30pm and said their goodbyes.

Mandy felt sad about the news of her old school friend Karl, but at the same time excited like a young schoolgirl about seeing Sam. Stop being silly she told herself. She didn’t even know if Sam was with someone else or even if he remembered them kissing. But Mandy certainly did!