Chapter VII

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It took her a while, but Vanessa was able to finish most of what Jac'lyn had put together for her to eat. It was past noon by the time she dried herself off, left the towel to dry along the back porch railing, and went inside with the plate and empty glass of water. Vanessa filled herself another glass of water from the sink, only partially surprised to see that she was still shaking. It didn't help that the inside of the house was strangely cool for not having central air conditioning, which still slightly bothered her somewhere in the back of her brain, but it was nothing compared to the images she wasn't sure if she would ever be able to get out of her mind.

They'd been dead. Vanessa went up the stairs as if in a trance, her heart still beating a little too fast to be calm. Cora had felt so cold... Maisie's eyes had been so dead... She shivered. She was definitely going to have to Google if the lake had something weird in the water, because there was no way in hell she was getting back in there.

Vanessa berated herself silently as she picked up the clothes she'd worn earlier. Was she really going to freak out on the first day of their vacation and never get back into the lake, when that was exactly what they were there for? What was her problem, anyway? Why had she seen such a horrible vision?

She went into the bathroom and closed the door behind her with a loud snap. Fuck it. She needed to shower and take a nap. She would feel better then, right?

Vanessa set out her toiletries and started up the water. It splashed into the tub, freezing cold and all-too-familiar, and she shut her eyes tightly, willing herself not to puke. It was shower water, not the freezing tendrils of the lake. And of course it was cold, the water heater hadn't had a chance to warm it up yet. Still, she waited until the water was positively scalding before she stripped off her swimsuit and got into the shower.

It was a relief to watch the lake bottom sludge swirl down the drain. Vanessa scrubbed her skin viciously until there was no way any of the grime was left, but she still felt dirty. She only stopped scrubbing once she realized that she was rubbing her skin completely raw.

The water began to lose its heat, so Vanessa hurried to get out of the shower. A part of her would be glad never to have cold water touch her skin again for as long as she lived. She got back into her day clothes and then climbed into bed. Dimly, it occurred to her that she was shivering again. She wrapped the duvet tightly around her and squeezed her eyes shut, but the image of her friends' bodies bobbing on the lake's surface reappeared unbidden.

Vanessa climbed out of bed and closed the curtains so that the sun was no longer streaming into the room. Then she curled up under the covers and sobbed herself to sleep.

When she awoke again, she had no idea what time it was. She reached for her phone, which had been plugged into the wall, and frowned. It was past five in the evening, but that wasn't what made her frown.

There was no wifi or cell service. There wasn't even data.

So much for Googling if there were any dangerous chemicals or other substances in the lake. Maybe she would ask the locals the next time they went to the nearby town for groceries; they would know, right? Or maybe there would be enough of a signal at the grocery store that she wouldn't have to ask somebody, she could just Google it herself.

Making plans always made her feel better, so Vanessa laid out a plan for what she would do while she tried to will herself to get out of bed. She would find some cell service somewhere and Google the water quality reports in the area, but until then, she would stay out of the lake and try not to worry too much about her mental state. If anything else went wrong, well... She would immediately tell somebody instead of keeping it to herself for so long.

If there was something truly wrong with her, like an illness or something else that could be fixed, then Vanessa wanted to know about it.

She also made a note to herself to see if the lake house came with a landline, because without cell service, her parents were going to freak out if they couldn't call and check up on her.

Eventually, Vanessa managed to get herself out of bed. Jac'lyn smiled at her warmly when she came downstairs, yawning and with her hair a mess.

"Hey there, sleepyhead. How are you feeling?"

As soon as Jac'lyn spoke, the heads of everyone in the room lifted and all their eyes landed on Vanessa. She hated it, although she knew it was an irrational reaction; the attention was because her friends were genuinely worried about her, not because they thought she'd gone crazy or something of that nature.

"I'm feeling a bit better," she lied. "Might've been something in the water, I dunno."

Dylan and Oscar exchanged a look, but Jac'lyn was polite enough not to do the same with Maisie. Cora just looked concerned, forehead furrowed as she chewed on her thumbnail.

"Let us know if you need anything, okay?" Jac'lyn said.

"I will." This time Vanessa was sincere.

Jac'lyn smiled, and she looked relieved. "Good. I'm making pasta for dinner, and then I was thinking we could play some board games or something. Are you down to help?"

Vanessa nodded vigorously. Anything to get away from the incessant concerned glances from the rest of the party. After all, there was nothing actually wrong with her...right?

Chapter VII word count: 995 words

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Chapter VII word count: 995 words

Total word count: 8,097 words

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