I'd really like some constructive criticism on this story, especially the very opening. Please review and tell me what you think!


Kaitlyn and Chlo stared over the enormous lake that stretched out before them. It rippled in the same humid summer breeze that was slowly tangling Kaitlyn's brown hair into an impossible mess.

Chlo was sitting on the disintegrating old whitewashed fence, one hand carelessly holding a half peeled kiwi. She took a small bite out of it, licked a bit of green juice off her fingers, and brushed a strand of long white-blonde hair out of her eyes.

Kaitlyn watched her friend enviously. She didn't really like kiwis, but she desperately wished her hair would stream out behind her in the wind like Chlo's always did. Her first finger self-consciously wrapped itself around a short, bland cocoa-colored lock.

"I wish I had hair like yours, Chlo," she said wistfully.

"Mmm," said Chlo. She took another bite of kiwi.

Kaitlyn rolled her eyes and leaned against the fence, her crooked elbows resting lightly on the top splintery rail and letting her hands hang lazily. "Whatcha thinkin' 'bout, Chlo?"

Chlo smiled dreamily, her eyes not really focusing on anything. "Knights in shining armor," she answered absently.

A grin tickled Kaitlyn's lips. That was just like Chlo. Her friend loved fairy tales, maybe too much for a fifth grader.

Kaitlyn turned her gaze downward, her eyes traveling thirty feet down to the lake below and along the sandy shoreline. The shore quickly turned into the woods that surrounded the lake. She caught sight of a couple walking slowly together beneath the rustling branches of the cherry trees.

The man carefully plucked one of the white-pink blossoms and tucked it gently into the woman's long dark braid. They went on a bit farther, almost out of sight, finally settling down on a moss covered log.

"Isn't it beautiful?" sighed Chlo, her kiwi momentarily forgotten. "Oh, look. That's so sweet."

The man had gotten down on one knee before the young lady who looked positively delighted. Even from their perch atop the cliff, the two girls could catch the sparkle of a diamond in the noonday sun.

"I think I'd like to be proposed to under some cherry trees," Chlo decided aloud. "How 'bout you?"

Kaitlyn shrugged. She certainly hadn't given much thought to marriage yet. That was years away. "I dunno, Chlo," she said boredly.

Suddenly, her eyes lit up at the thought of adventure. "I'd rather find out what's at the bottom of Lake Lillimar."

Lake Lillimar. Its name was legend among the locals. The lake was truly a sight to behold. A sandstone cliff sloped down into a small forest of cherry trees. It was spring now, and the ground and trees were covered in delicate, pink, cherry blossoms. The beauty, and perhaps some of the danger, was what drew a few visitors from the nearby town out to their secluded countryside.

But the sparkling azure waters were a deception, only painting poison a pretty color. The water of Lake Lillimar was fatal to anyone who got too much on them. A droplet on the skin had an acidic effect.

The gorgeous landscape would never have revealed this horrible secret. It was too pretty. In fact, the water almost seemed to have an unusually good impact on the wildlife and woodlands. But the very real danger kept any city from building itself too close. There was very little water supply, except for the lake, and that was obviously undrinkable.

So Lake Lillimar remained a country area, inhabited by only a few people. Mostly old retired couples lived there, but several younger families had moved in. Kaitlyn and Chlo belonged to two of these families.

"Hey!" said Chlo, hopping off the fence. The ancient wooden board she had been sitting on shifted with a feeble crunching noise that made Kaitlyn think of a sick tree. "I have an idea. Let's play the Fairy Queen and the Mermaids!"

Kaitlyn bobbed her head enthusiastically. "I get to be the townspeople, and you be the evil Fairy Queen!"

Her friend wrinkled her nose. "I was the Fairy Queen last time. You be the bad guy."

"Bad girl," Kaitlyn said.

Laughing the wonderful carefree way that only children can laugh, the two girls raced down the side of the slope to the woods below. They arrived at their favorite boulder, breathless and happy. Plopping down beside it, Kaitlyn and Chlo leaned back against the cool stone.

The engaged couple had disappeared, probably lost in their own magical world somewhere else.

"CHLOE WINIFRED ELLIS!" shrieked a woman's voice from the other side of the lake. "Where are you?"

Chlo winced. "I hate my name," she said irritably. "Why does she always have to use my full name?"

"What is it, Mom?" she hollered back.

"Lunch!"

Chlo looked down at the half-eaten kiwi that she was still holding. "I'm not hungry," she said, but got to her feet anyway.

With a resigned look on her face, she tossed the kiwi to Kaitlyn who caught it, then dropped it in the sand almost immediately. "Gross!"

Chlo gave her an impudent smile. "Sorry. Hey, wanna come over for lunch?"

"Sure," said Kaitlyn, wiping her slimy hands on her jeans.

Eventually, the two girls found themselves sitting on Chlo's front porch, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Chlo poked at hers. "Mom, don't we have anything else? I'm sick of peanut butter and jelly."

Her mother, Mrs. Langston, shook her head. "Eat your sandwich, Chloe Winifred Ellis."

Mrs. Langston was a portly woman with a pleasant round face and thick blonde hair that she kept continually pulled up in a bun atop her head. A pair of tiny blue eyes glowed merrily, nestled into her face like cheerful little buttons. Her cheeks were always red and blotchy, but her smile was just as sweet as could be.

She didn't notice – or chose to ignore – the gagging face Chlo made at the sound of her full name. Kaitlyn tried to stifle a giggle by taking a gulp of milk, but ended up choking instead.

While Mrs. Langston clapped her heartily on the back and told her to: "Cough it up, girl," Chlo snuck inside to filch another kiwi, closing the rickety screen door quietly behind her. She returned after Kaitlyn had settled down to hiccupping sporadically.

"Chloe Winifred Ellis, what did I say about the kiwis?" demanded Mrs. Langston in her big, booming voice. This was how she could call them from across the lake.

Kaitlyn's mother, Mrs. McClure, a petite little woman with wispy brown hair and who looked like she could be knocked over by a strong breeze, had long since given up trying to yell for her daughter when the two girls went to Lake Lillimar.

Chlo hid the kiwi behind her back. "What?"

"Don't be smart to me, young lady. Hand it over," said Mrs. Langston.

Reluctantly, she produced the brown fruit and slowly gave it to her mother. Mrs. Langston's eyes twinkled at her daughter's mischief. She looked at Kaitlyn. "On second thought," she handed it back, "why don't you just get one for Katy here too,

Kaitlyn grimaced at the nickname. As her friend snatched back the kiwi eagerly from her mother, Kaitlyn said, "Actually, don't bother Chlo. I don't like furry fruit."

Mrs. Langston roared with laughter. After at least a full thirty seconds, she sat down, wiping tears from her eyes. "Ha ha! Oh, Katy, you're such a funny little girl."

"Why are you crying, Mom?" asked Chlo, eyeing her mother askance.

"Because I'm laughing so hard, dear."

Chlo gave Kaitlyn a confused shrug.

When Mrs. Langston finally finished laugh-crying, she said, "Now what were you playing today?"

"The Fairy Queen and the Mermaids."

"Ah," said Mrs. Langston thoughtfully. "The legend of Lake Lillimar."

Kaitlyn nodded. "Yeah. D'you think it's true, Mrs. Langston?"

With a dreamy look in her eyes, the big woman sighed. "I'm sure I don't know, Katy, honey. But it makes for a good story doesn't it?"

"Yeah," said Chlo. "Hey, it's summer and we got nothing to do – "

"Have nothing to do, Chloe Winifred Ellis," corrected her mother.

Kaitlyn sniggered as her friend let out a loud moan. "We got nothing to do," repeated Chlo crossly. "So why don't you tell us the story?"

"You're a bit old for fairytales, aren't you, Chloe Winifred Ellis?"

Kaitlyn answered before Chlo could groan again. "Maybe, Mrs. Langston, but you're a really good storyteller."

A smile lit up the older woman's red, blotchy face. "Thank you, Katy." Then: "Well, I suppose I could."

"Good," said both the girls in unison, and they dragged their chairs closer.

Mrs. Langston waited until they were ready before beginning.

"About a hundred years ago, there was a small town on the lake. It wasn't just countryside like it is now. The town was named after the lake, Lake Lillimar, but nobody knew what the lake was named for – until that fateful day.

"It happened during a big festival in the town square, some early fall harvest get-together, I suppose. The people were all out dancing in the moonlight. No one noticed an older woman hobbling in. She dragged herself, leaning heavily on a crooked cane, into the middle of the dancers. Just as people began stopping to stare at her, the poor lady collapsed.

"A doctor rushed to her side. After a brief examination, he announced that she'd been bitten by a mad dog – that's rabies, dears, but they didn't understand it back then. They did understand what a mad dog was, though. Everyone shrank back from her in fear.

"The old woman awoke in a sort of fit. She begged somebody to bring her a drink, but not one person would go near her. Enraged, she cursed them with her dying breath to serve her daughter, Lillimar, below the waters of the lake.

"Then she died. But, no longer was she a rabid old woman. Her corpse became longer and thinner and seemed to go back in time until all that was left was a beautiful, lithe, young creature! A pair of shimmering wings sprouted from her back and stretched out uselessly on the ground. She was really a fairy.

"The townspeople also changed. They became hideously ugly; no one could bear to look at themselves. With this transformation also came the mark of their enslavement. No one knows quite what it was. Some people think chains, others speculate about collars.

"But whatever the Fairy Queen gave them, it was supposed to allow them to survive contact with the lake. At first, everything was chaos. All the people began panicking and looking for a way to rid themselves of the curse.

"They tried to enter towns, but the guards would bar the gates. They tried calling in doctors from all around the country. Those who would come, and the few who would go near the people after they saw them, could do nothing. In the end, their only choice was Lake Lillimar.

"My opinion is that the lake water was poisoned to humans in order to keep them away from the Fairy Queen's underwater kingdom. But I think it remained deadly after she died, and now it doesn't protect anything. Not one of the townspeople was ever seen after that day when they plunged in.

"And that's the end of it," concluded Mrs. Langston unsatisfactorily, sitting back. "I prefer happier stories myself, but it's a good campfire tale, eh?"

Chlo was silent for a long while. At length she said, "I wonder if they're all still down there. Do you think that they really survived going into Lake Lillimar? I didn't think anyone could swim in it and not get killed."

Mrs. Langston gave her daughter a safe answer. "I don't know, Hon. That's where the mermaid idea comes from. Why don't you two go play? And be careful of the lake water, Chloe Winifred Ellis!"