Willie is feeling isolated and without clear ambition despite his recent privileged education, and decides the only thing to do is to become a recluse. He returns to the northern Ontario lake on which he grew up, only to discover that the house has been taken over by squatters: Marise Bloom and her daughter, Leila. Willie's resolve to live life outside of human society is painfully tested by the arduous yet exhilarating emotions stirred up by these two women.
But why are they there? And who is this Halley that the women appear to be waiting for? Suddenly there are mysteries beyond Willie's comprehension that are stirring up painful childhood memories. Willie is determined to make sense of it all and get to the bottom of the identity of this mysterious man who seems to have touched the lives of all, including that of his own mother. With the truth bearing down on him about his mother's mental instability and his own true identity, he may have to escape his roots and search for a new place to call his own.
Excerpt: Leaving Lake Surrender by Merike Lugus
At that moment the light went on and the door opened. Willie looked up at the beautiful startled face of Leila.
“What are you doing? Hiding from the police, I suppose.”
“Why was this door locked?” Willie grasped at control.
“It’s just a latch. We always keep it closed,” Leila said matter-of-factly.
“Good to know.” Leila looked dubiously at the crouching figure. “But really, why are you in there?”
“The real question is why are you here?” He felt ridiculous. It sounded like one of those childish impasses, and indeed, when Leila offered him a hand to help him up, he was too stubborn to take it.
Something else was happening. Something about Leila. She had changed into a bathing suit, a two piece kind that emphasized the soft bulges of her breasts and hips. Willie was distracted by the sheer silk of her skin. He could not help but stare unashamedly from her breasts to navel to thighs, noting even, at eye-level where he sat, the black stubble of pubic hair along the edge of the bikini. He was just wondering. It was a bit early in the season for bikinis.
Leila drew back, reached for her bathrobe and flung it like a cape around her shoulders, clutched it tight to her chest.
“See something you like?” she said, chin high, head cocked.
Willie bit his lip.
“They’ll be back, you know. The police, I mean.”
“Well, I’ve got nothing to hide.”
“Then why were you hiding?”
“I wasn’t hiding. We weren’t exactly gregarious people, my mother and I, or hadn’t you heard?”
“I’ve heard,” she said.
“They think I killed my mother?” Willie said. Something in his voice, a choked up incredulity perhaps, made her pause. She looked away, opened her mouth to say something. “For God’s sake! Nobody’s thinking that,” she said. “Nobody’s thinking much about anything, as a matter of fact. It was all so long ago. But for what it’s worth, they have some questions about a missing person. Seems you and your mother were the last people to have contact with him.”
“Missing person?” Willie said dumbly.
“Someone named Halley Seiler.” Leila studied his face carefully.
“Halley Seiler,” he repeated the name slowly.
“So you knew him?”
“Why, is he missing?”
“You knew him.”
They way she said it, it sounded like an accusation. It was difficult to lie seeing as he had just held a manuscript in his hands written and signed by that very person. He wanted to be a step ahead of the direction Leila was heading but didn’t have a clue as to where to position himself. At the same time there was something mesmerizing about her which kept him riveted.
“He visited us at one time. I can’t remember exactly.” Why this automatic need to lie, he asked himself. Why this fear that he might be guilty of something? His reasoning self told him he had every right to know who Harry Seiler was. But by now it had become a sort of game.
Leila turned and walked over to a drawer from which she pulled out something. The robe fell from one shoulder. Willie took the opportunity to get out of the pantry and stretch his legs. She turned abruptly and held out a coloured photograph for him to see. There he was, ten years old, his arms outstretched, his face filled with joy as he balanced on the shoulders of a smiling man who had a solid grip on his ankles.
The boy looked so small. The man looked so young.
Willie swallowed hard. “Yes,” that’s him,” he said calmly.
Leila looked triumphant. “So,” she began, slowly trying to put pieces together, to push for some logical connection, “why exactly were you standing in the closet?”
“I was looking for something when all at once the lights went out. Anyway, it’s not a closet, it’s a pantry.” He could hardly keep a straight face. He was nervous and giddy, sensing a menace in the air. He could not help it when his facial muscles formed into a grin.
“I don’t think it’s funny,” Leila said. “He was my father.”
Willie was stunned. “But then...” he protested. “But then...”
“But you see, you are the one he was going back to. You are the reason he left. You are the invisible angel!”
Leila glowered and turned her back on him. She hesitated by the open drawer, her head bent over the photo.
Her hair parted delicately at the nape of her neck. If Leila had been just a fraction friendlier, he might have reached out to touch her hair. He might have sat down with her and helped her retrace the footsteps of her father. He surely would have told her how much Halley had loved her. And how much he, Willie, had hated her.
About Merike Lugus
Merike Lugus divides her time between painting and writing, and allows herself to be distracted by friends, family, animals, and her large garden. She was born in Tallinn, Estonia, grew up in the Black Forest, in Stockholm and in Toronto. Her early life experiences lend a rich fairy tale aspect to her paintings and stories, as well as her garden, which invites wandering.
More information can be found at www.merikelugus.com