"The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn't one." – Margaret Atwood
It is her third day coming here and yet, she still can't do it. She's not entirely sure what is holding her back but her arms just hug the urn to her chest and she stands there, just out of reach of the gentle water rolling onto the beach, and she stares out over the expanse of the endless sky and the seemingly endless lake beneath that and she feels something she doesn't entirely recognize holding her back.
She knows that what lies within the urn is no longer her mother. It's nothing but a pile of ash and once she opens the top of the urn and the wind is able to catch the contents within and carry it away, it still won't be her mother. It's been nearly a month since her mother's passing and her mother's wishes were very clear. She had always been claustrophobic in life so Samantha Sharp made sure her only child, her daughter – Cecilia – knew that burying her was never an option. She was to be cremated and then her ashes were to be scattered over the lake near the family's original home – the lake where Samantha, and Cecilia, had spent all of her childhood.
Cecilia knows all of this and three days earlier, she has brought the urn from Chicago to this little town in Michigan and she thought it would be quick. She thought she would simply get out of her car, walk down to the water, tip the urn out and then get back into her car and be asleep in her own bed in her own apartment back in Chicago that night.
But instead, she's still here. And she doesn't know why. There's no reason why this should be as difficult as it has become. Her mother has been gone for a month now and Cecilia has been able to do her mourning and there's no reason to still be hugging this urn. There's no reason for her to still be here; to have gone into town and gotten herself a room at the small bed and breakfast for an indefinite number of days. She can't stay here. She has a job and an apartment and a life to get back to. She just needs to tip the urn out and be on her way.
She tells herself this and yet, her arms only seem to tighten their hold around the urn.
Cecilia sighs softly to herself. It doesn't seem like today will be the day either and not for the first time, she wishes her mother was here to tell her what was wrong because Cecilia had never been the best at pinpointing her own feelings and her mother had often had to help her in identifying them for her. She wishes Samantha was here now and explaining to Cecilia why she is so hesitant and confused over a pile of ashes that in the end, hardly are anything at all.
But if her mother was here, Cecilia wouldn't have this particular task to see to and she wouldn't be having such a difficult time with it. She wouldn't even be in this place. The last time she saw this place, she was seventeen and it was all fading in the rearview mirror as her mother drove away from it.
She had never planned on coming back. Coming back to what? She had lived here for the first seventeen years of her life before her mother said that they were moving. Just like that. She came home from work one day and made the announcement and Cecilia remembers how she had cried and pled with her but her mother hadn't changed her mind and she packed all of their things and left without another thought to it.
This little town is no longer her home. She's made one for herself in Chicago – where her mother moved her eight years earlier – and now, this place is just another little town like all of the others that dot around all of the other lakes. And once she does what she's come back here to do, she will leave again and will probably never see it again. She actually hadn't been expecting to it again, actually, and her mom's last wishes in her will had certainly surprised her. Cecilia has thought for eight years that her mother has absolutely hated this town and that's why they left.
She sighs once more. The wind is shifting and growing in strength and Cecilia can smell rain in the air. It's not going to happen today so she might as well take herself and the urn back to her room and she can only hope that tomorrow will be the day. Though already, deep down, she doubts it.
Chestnut, Michigan prides itself on its namesake and have chestnut trees all over town. They have a chestnut harvest festival every year during the first week of October and it is an event that had completely slipped Cecilia's mind when she made the trip up here. It seemed like every room in all of the little hotels and bed and breakfast establishments were booked and the only place with the space for her was at the Chestnut Treasure Bed and Breakfast.
Cecilia doesn't consider it to be luck though and for the past three days, every time she steps out of her room or comes back inside from another failed trip to the lake, she braces herself and holds her breath, expecting to run into him at any second. It hasn't happened yet but Cecilia is reluctant to let her guard down. She has thought of him over the past eight years – especially after she had first left – but she actually hasn't thought of how it would be between them if they were ever to see one another again. His mother owns the Chestnut Treasure and Cecilia knows that she's told her son about her being back in town and maybe he's avoiding her. Maybe he's married with five kids and he just thinks seeing her again after all of this time will be awkward.
And maybe it will be and she's not even sure if she wants to see him or not.
Cecilia pulls her car into the gravel parking lot and hurries up the steps, the urn hugged close to her chest just as the first drops begin to fall and hit her black raincoat.
It's quiet inside and the air smells of roasting chestnuts and roasting meat cooking in the kitchen to be served in the dining room for dinner later.
Despite having lived here for almost her entire life, Samantha had never liked chestnuts and hadn't even allowed them in the house. It had always been Cecilia's act of rebellion; being with her friends and sneaking chestnuts. She has personally always loved eating chestnuts and when she was with him, she would listen to his plans of buying a few acres of land for himself and growing his own chestnut trees and he'd always include her in these plans and Cecilia had loved imagining having their own chestnut grove.
She wonders, now, if he had ever been able to follow through on his plans.
The front desk is empty and Cecilia wants to just get up the stairs and into her room before she's spotting but that's not meant to be because it's an old house and the wooden floors creak with each step and Maggie Hunt, the owner of the Chestnut Treasure – and his mother – hears her and steps out from the dining room where she has been placing fresh silverware out on the tables.
"You made it back just in time," Maggie smiles at her and Cecilia can hear more drops falling down, slapping against the glass windowpanes. Her eyes then go to the urn still in Cecilia's arms and she seems to know it's not empty inside because she offers a small smile then. "Perhaps tomorrow," she offers.
Cecilia feels herself nodding her head though she doesn't know what will make tomorrow any different or better a day than the past three have been.
Maggie Hunt was a young mother when she had her son; just sixteen-years-old and Cecilia had always found her to be so beautiful – not that she would ever say such a thing out loud in fear of her own mother hearing. Samantha Sharp could be a jealous woman if she felt a situation arose and there was cause for it.
And in eight years, Maggie really hasn't changed at all. Her hair is still an unruly mess of red curls, her pale skin is still home to many freckles that somehow always make her seem even younger than she really is and her blue eyes sparkle like the lake when the morning sun rises above the horizon and hits the water the first time that day. He has the same eyes as his mother and Cecilia has such a hard time looking at Maggie in the face because of that; because after all of this time, she can still see his eyes perfectly.
He is older than her just by a couple of years but when they were teenagers, those couple of years could have been a canyon to some but that never seemed to matter to either of them. If she ever feared that she was possibly too immature to be with him, all Cecilia ever had to do was look into his eyes. He always looked at her like she imagined heroes looked at heroines in the romance novels her best friends at the time would all read and giggle over. He'd look at her as if she was the best thing that had happened – and ever would happen – to him. His blue eyes had had a way of looking at her and he always made her feel as if he was truly seeing her in a way that no one else ever could; not even her mother.
Cecilia tells herself not to but she can't help but wonder who he looks at like that now.
She knows there's no point in thinking about him. Not even being back in Chestnut is there a point to it. She has her life now and he has his and it's been eight years and she highly doubts that he thinks of her at all. Maggie had probably told him that she was back and staying at the bed and breakfast for the next days and he had probably shrugged in that lazy way of his and went about doing whatever he had been doing before his mom had told him.
She wonders if she should have just slept in her car for the week rather than stay at the bed and breakfast owned by his mom.
"Ceci?" Maggie interrupts her thoughts. "Would you like some hot chocolate?"
No one outside of Chestnut has ever called her Ceci.
Any time someone called her that nickname while around her mother, her mother would get that frown – just a slight downturn of her lips but enough to freeze water – and correct the person with a reminder that her name was Cecilia.
He, of course, had always called her Ceci anyway and always grinned in response to that frown, which made him one of the braver people Cecilia knew for not many people had ever dared to go toe-to-toe with her mother.
Cecilia almost lets out a screech of frustration. She's only been here for three days, she hasn't even seen him – she's hardly seen anyone – and she can't stop thinking about him. She's been able to go through eight years of her life without him being a constant on her mind. But being here again, her entire body is tight, waiting for him to be around every corner and she realizes that she doesn't even know if he's still living in Chestnut. Maggie hasn't said anything about him to her and it's probably because she thinks that's the way she wants it and Cecilia won't dare bring herself to ask about him.
And after what her mother told her – all of those years ago when she moved them away to Chicago – it's obvious that he didn't really care in the end about her leaving at all.
So why waste time thinking about him? John Hunt moved on before she even left. Her mother saw him… it doesn't matter anymore what her mother saw or what he did. It hasn't mattered for eight years and Cecilia won't let it matter now.
She is here for one reason and one reason only. She hugs the urn tighter to her chest.
She really doesn't understand why her mom has wanted to come back to Chestnut. She had very few nice things to say about this little town when they lived here and even fewer things to say once they had moved away. Cecilia would have never guessed that this is where mother would have chosen for her final resting place.
But it doesn't matter. Cecilia refuses to allow it to matter because tomorrow, she'll go to the lake and finally be able to spill her mom to the wind and with that, she'll be gone from Chestnut once and for all.
Thank you very much for reading and please take a moment to review!
A/N: I have been away for so long and I don't even know if anyone is around anymore. Things have been happening in my personal life for the past few years and they have changed both me and my writing. I have been away but I'm ready to return to writing original stories once again.