I couldn't help coughing as another draft of wind hit me. The air was heavy with the "fragrance" of lakewater.

God! That cloying, metallic stench! I wish you could suffer with me.

It was like someone took all the worst smells from a hospital and a rusty car and mixed it with syrup. You could never mistake it for anything else. You could always tell what places had been tainted with the lakewater. And don't try breathing through your mouth like I did, because then you'll taste it.

The back of my throat burned, making me gag before tying my scarf to cover my mouth and nose. It was hardly better.

Can you believe ducks used to try swimming in this shit? Nothing less than animal abuse.

But then again, they didn't treat people here great, either...based on what I'd heard.

Mostly rumors, some not so much. So much, they were recently published and now you can consider them fact.

So much for that pristine reputation. I snickered for weeks and was more than happy to bring it up everytime Jeanne started talking about the town.
You already see why that stopped being funny.

If Jeanne turned out to be here...I should try and rehearse my apology again if that's the case.

Would she even let me?

I just wanted a chance to state my side rationally, like I hadn't been able to before.

One of the things I hadn't bothered to really make it clear to her is why I hated coming here so much. It wasn't the scandals.

I never actually gave a shit.

Every place has dirt, obviously, it was just the attitude that ensured my every thought was tinted with hate. The faking and the arrogance. The stares, as if I was the one pretending to be a good person.

I really could not comprehend why Jeanne liked it here.

It's quiet, sure, but so are graveyards, and at least there the inhabitants are polite. They know how to shut up and mind their own business.


1 HOUR LATER...

How long is this fucking tunnel.

Time feels like it has been crawling centimeter by centimeter. It feels like I've been here for an entire day.

When I checked my phone, it said an hour passed.

There's no other end in sight.

Ho-ly hell, I need a distraction.

I'll try thinking about what's waiting for me at the end. Maybe since Jeanne enlisted her friend...assuming that actually was her friend and not some serial killer who stole her phone, and now I'm next—

No! Stay focused on Jeanne! The polluted air is making my already paranoid thoughts worse.

Calm down. I took a deep breath.

Okay...This can end up just being an incredibly elaborate and mean-spirited prank, and on the other end are her asshole friends, waiting to snap pictures of my confused, stupid face. Could she still feel vindictive enough to do that to me? I can recall some of the things I'd thought of doing to break things off, all heat-of-the-moment spite and really childish in hindsight. And doesn't everyone have those thoughts?
But I did what I always do, and I let them go.

Jeanne's always had some trouble letting things go. And both of us had already crossed so many lines with each other during—well, you know.

So the possibility that she's done all this to hurt me is...well, it could be. It could be up ahead.

But I don't want to believe that.

So instead, what if this is a secret or closed off part of town she went to, that she didn't feel like showing to me until now.

That's a nicer idea. But doing it this way wasn't romantic, it crossed straight into being creepy. Maybe a serial killer really was trying to act like her. Sadly, they were doing a half-decent job; if she was going to leave something of hers behind, it'd be her jacket.

I ran the hem between my fingers. It was soft and felt as warm as when I found it, making me wonder if I had literally just missed her leaving it—and me—behind, and...

Wait.

I could see light ahead.

I see light!

Thank god, I thought, eagerly forcing my aching feet to go faster.

Now to find my answer.