"It's a hothouse here," she told him. "The air-conditioning is on the fritz again. I'm ready to go as soon as you are."
"Come here and join me for lunch first," he suggested. "I'm making a Caprese salad with fresh garden tomatoes."
"Yum! I'll be right over. Just need to throw my things in a bag," she said.
She was knocking on the door less then ten minutes later, and the two had a refreshing cold luncheon before climbing into David's truck, and setting off for the beach.
Jane patted the dashboard fondly as they pulled out of the driveway. "Still going strong... Padraig chose well when he bought this one. Not like the truck he had before it, that he was calling the Rustbucket within two years of purchasing. Turn left when you reach the highway, and then it's the first right afterwards, once we reach the bottom of the hill."
David glanced over at Jane. "I sometimes forget how well you must have known my great-uncle."
She smiled. "Padraig was a nice old man. And my honorary uncle, since I didn't have any real ones. At least, not any real ones I knew about... I suppose it's entirely possible my father had brothers. Heavens, for all I know, I have half-siblings out there somewhere. Possibly a lot of them, if he made a regular habit of bedding lonely women, like he did with my mother," she added acerbically.
David glanced over at her. The wind through the open window was blowing wisps of her hair into her face. She didn't seem to notice, as she gazed out the window at the passing scenery.
"Do you ever wish you'd known him?" he asked. "Your father, I mean."
"Sometimes. When I was younger. Now..." she shrugged. "I don't see what difference it would make. I have my life, he has his, and even if I bumped into him tomorrow, I wouldn't know him from Adam anyway; it's not like Mom had a picture of him or anything. I'd be surprised if he even remembers her - just another lonely woman in another small town in the middle of nowhere."
David nodded, and concentrated on his driving. It wasn't very far to the lake; the route was much longer by car then on foot would have been, but it was less then a quarter of an hour after they'd left the house before he pulled to a stop.
On one side of the road, away from the lake, was a motel, a bit time-worn but not quite seedy looking. Across from the motel was a small campground, with it's own section of beach, and beside it, the public beach. Up by the road there was a small area of seating with a charcoal grill for food preparation, a fenced-in area with a basketball hoop, and a low painted brick structure that was obviously a public washroom. Rustic log fencing ran along the top of a short drop-off, beyond which a smooth sand beach sloped down into the lake.
Even from up here he could feel the difference in temperature near the lake; the slight breeze off of it was almost chilly. He wondered if it was spring-fed, or just run-off from the surrounding mountains that rose so abruptly from it's shores.
"We're lucky," Jane said as she led the way down the wooden stairs to the beach (0080). "Even with all the mining and logging in the area, this lake managed to stay pure and clear. It'll be a little cold this early in the summer; takes it a while to heat up. And even in late summer you don't have to dive deep to find cold currents. It's quite deep out in the middle, and the depths never really warm up," she explained.
David looked around. To the right the shore rose sharply, quickly changing from a tree-covered hillside to granite cliffs rising near-vertically from the lake. To the left the shore remained lower; beyond a nearby dock area, it was lined with stands of trees and occasional cottages, the highway visibly curving off along a shelf of land that followed around the foot of the mountain that loomed over the town. "What's off that way?" he asked. (0081)
"Oh, the highway dead-ends just out of sight around the mountain; that's the old industrial area. There's not much out there; the old minehead for the main shaft, some falling-apart buildings, that sort of thing. There's a caretaker's cottage, too; Padraig used to go visit the caretaker sometimes. The McPhersons will need to hire a new man one of these days, or rather their lawyers will have to sort it out; Dennis can't be all that much younger then Padraig was. Probably should have retired years ago, but he and his wife lived in the caretaker's cottage all their married life, and he can't bear to leave it."
David nodded. "This is a nice beach," he said, kneeling down to run his fingers through the sand. The sand was sun-heated and clean, with nothing worse along the tideline down by the water then some bits of twigs and leaves and dead pine needles. The air off the lake smelled of nothing but trees and water. The place must be nearly as perfect as it had been when men had first started to settle the area; Jane was right, they were lucky.
"Let's build a sand castle," Jane suggested, crouching down beside him. The two worked together, moistening the sand and heaping it up, sculpting in into a low, tower-decorated mound. (0082)
"Come on, let's go swimming," Jane finally suggested. "And then once the lake has made us all cold and goose-fleshed, we can sunbathe for a while and let the sun bake some heat back into us."
David laughed. "Sounds good," he said agreeably, and the two waded out.
For all its gentle slope from the low cliff backing it, the beach dropped off very suddenly once you actually got into the water. Within a few steps, the two of them were swimming rather then wading. Jane proved right about the lake temperature, too - only the top foot or two of the lake was sun-warmed, and going much below that it was almost bitterly cold. (0083)
The two swam around for a while, occasionally diving down, but mainly sticking to the warmer surface layer. "Your lips are turning blue," Jane told him after a while. "Ready to go back in yet?" (0084)
"Oh yes," he agreed. "Much more of this and my teeth are going to be chattering."
Jane laughed, and the two swam back to the beach.