Elizabeth Mitchell retreated to her parents' vacation house at Sun Rise Lake to nurse her wounds. She hadn't been to the lake in twenty years and she enjoyed the solitude especially since it was the off-season and there wasn't a lot of people lakeside.
Elizabeth didn't turn on the television or the computer and she spent most of her time reading cheesy romance novels, drinking too much, and sleeping, hoping to forget about her current indignity and not wanting to think about her uncertain future. She didn't answer the door and she made sure the Private Property – Keep Out sign was clearly visible from the dirt road that led to the lakefront property from Lake Shore Road. She had her groceries delivered and she only left the cottage when she had to – like for her wine and other "refreshments". She had cut and colored her hair and wore hats and sunglasses in hopes that whenever she ventured from the cottage she wouldn't be recognized.
Elizabeth was standing on the dock with her back to the cottage enjoying the peaceful solitude of the quiet and still lake on a damp, cloudy and dreary morning, taking in the beauty of the changing leaves around her while sipping from her glass of orange juice (spiked with Vodka).
A startled Elizabeth turned and she was greatly annoyed to see a man navigating the path from the cottage to the lake front. He was older than her with graying short hair, a silver goatee, and he was walking with a noticeable limp.
"This is private property," Elizabeth angrily. "You shouldn't be here."
"I'm sorry," the man replied. "I rang the bell. Nobody answered."
"I would have ignored it even if I heard it," Elizabeth remarked. "Don't come any closer, please." She pulled out her cell phone from her coat pocket. "I'll call 911 right now!" She threatened.
The man stopped his approach and held up both his hands in a 'whoa' gesture. "Please don't do that," he said. "Don't you recognize me, Elizabeth?" He paused a moment. "Don't worry, I'm not some nuisance fan or sick stalker or local creep violating your anonymity. I saw you in the village yesterday and recognized you despite your efforts to be incognito. I followed you to see where you lived and I thought I'd drop by to say hi."
Elizabeth frowned. "Am I supposed to know you?" She asked, squinting at him.
"You don't recognize the guy responsible for launching your career?" He grinned.
Elizabeth was confused, intrigued, uncertain, skeptical, and interested all at the same time.
"Boston, eighteen years ago," the man said.
Elizabeth thought about it for a moment. "Thom Joseph?" She asked when she finally figured it out.
"Hello, Elizabeth," he said with a smile. "It's nice to see you again."
"What in the hell are you doing here?" She asked with disbelief.
"I went to high school at the Sun Rise Lake School For Boys on the other side of the lake," Thom explained, stepping closer and pointing to the west. "You can just about see the campus chapel steeple from here."
"And this is where you ended up when it was all over?" She asked.
"Small world, huh?" He grinned.
"This is my parent's place," Elizabeth let him know. "I'm hiding out."
"I got that feeling when I saw you yesterday."
"What do you do here?" She wanted to know.
"Teach Phys Ed and help out the baseball coach at the school," Thom revealed.
"Nobody harasses you?"
"I went by Tom Patrick when I first got here," he explained. "Patrick being my middle name. After a while, it didn't matter much anyway. Who remembers Thom Joseph anymore?"
"I do," she said.
"You're very kind," Thom smiled.
She stared at him for a long moment. "I can't believe you're here," she said. "This is beyond weird."
"I figured you could use some friendly company who wasn't going to ask a whole lot of questions," Thom said.
"Asking questions used to be my job," she grumbled bitterly.
It started to drizzle and then the rain picked up a bit more.
"Maybe we should go inside," Thom suggested, glancing around as the rain fell.
"It'll let up," Elizabeth predicted confidently.
"I don't think so," Thom countered. "Weather guy said showers all day."
Elizabeth sighed as she stepped off the dock. "The house is kind of messy."
"That's alright," Thom grinned. "I won't tell anybody!"
She hesitated for a long moment apparently considering her options before reluctantly stepping toward him and they walked up the path to the cottage. Elizabeth had to slow her stride so the limping guest could keep pace.
The inside of the cottage was more than messy. The living room was cluttered with empty pizza boxes and take out cartons scattered throughout the room, other trash littering the floor, and countless booze bottles everywhere. Thom could look through the open entryway to the kitchen where several more empty and half full wine bottles were scattered about on counter tops and tables. The sink was full of unwashed dishes. Food scraps were on the floor. The trash was overflowing, with some of it scattered on the kitchen floor.
"Don't tell my mother," Elizabeth said, sounding embarrassed as she glanced at a mostly full bottle of wine sitting on the table by the couch. "Would you like something to drink?"
"How 'bout coffee?" Thom diplomatically suggested.
"Sure," Elizabeth smiled, heading for the kitchen where she started the coffee maker while Thom remained in the living room which featured a full view of the lake with its many windows.
Elizabeth motioned for Thom to have a seat when she returned to the room. He chose the billowy arm chair and she slipped onto the couch trying to act as if everything was normal even though they were sitting in the middle of a pigsty.
"I have no idea what would have become of me if you hadn't agreed to do that interview," Elizabeth admitted.
"It was fun," Thom smiled.
"Why'd you do it?" She needed to know. "You didn't know me. I was just some senior at Emerson trying to get my degree. Interning at that little cable access station. You didn't owe me anything."
"You were a nice kid," Thom shrugged.
"I asked everybody on that team," she revealed. "Nobody would give me the time of day."
"I was new," Thom said. "The only reason I was there was because the Sox had a couple of injured catchers. I knew I wouldn't be around long. It seemed like a fun thing to do."
"You took four hours out of your busy schedule to come down to our hole in the wall rinky-dink little studio and answer my inane questions with my two brothers running the cameras and my boyfriend directing the show," she laughed. "You were a major league baseball player for God sakes. We were amateur saps."
"You were good even then," Thom assured her.
"I was lucky," Elizabeth acknowledged. "Two weeks later you get injured in one of the most freakish gruesome baseball plays ever filmed and we had all that videotape of you answering our questions. Every sports station in the country was calling us. It led directly to my first job. I owe it all to you!"
"You wouldn't have lasted all these years if you weren't good," Thom told her.
"Weird how my career started just as yours ended," she said.
"Fate works in mysterious ways," Thom remarked.
"Now my career is over," Elizabeth sighed.
"You're just between jobs."
"I'm still trying to deconstruct what in the hell happened," she sighed.
"Get the coffee," Thom advised, sitting back in his chair. "We'll try to figure it out."