Charlie’s longboat pitched and yawed, rolled port and starboard, rose and fell, while the rest of the lagoon stood as serene as a glass sculpture. I wish Robin would sit still just this once. Knowing he could no more control his best friend’s actions than he could the weather, he focused his attention away from the girl’s insane dancing and to the vista before them. Long, tree-born shadows stretched across the broad lake, interspersed by bright stars of sunlight that danced through their leaves. Beyond the shoreline, a long arc of snow-capped mountains scraped the underbellies of clouds until they surrendered, fell as fog, and began to obscure the mountains’ peaks.
The mountains must not want to be here either.
The springtime trees that dotted the mountainsides were populated with the bright lavender of new foliage. The air was thick and humid, though not unpleasant. It was nearing dusk and the waning sunlight painted the sky a muted pink that was reflected in the mirror-like lake. Away from the westward sky, the landscape had already changed to midnight purple with thick fog roiling down the mountains and drifting over the treetops. It gave the lagoon an odd duality, with half the countryside brightly cheery and half dark and ominous.
Charlie sat in the boat facing the dark half. Robin, by contrast, was standing, dancing in a frantic circle, her head tilted toward her lovely pink sky. She was tall and lean, already five foot seven at age fourteen, with her blossoming body hinting at the woman she would become. Thirteen-year-old Charlie barely watched her, though she fascinated him.
“You’re all gloominating my dream, Dimple Boy,” she said, barely pausing to look at him. “Cheer up,”
“That’s not a word,” Charlie said. “You’re always making up words.”
“Wordaventing is what we poets do,” she said. She punctuated her statement with a pirouette, then sat facing him. “I’m here because you asked me to help you use your imagination. Now you’re complaining that I’m using mine.”
“I-I wasn’t complaining, just …”
Charlie looked up at Robin and was surprised to see she was smiling at him. He had never known her to make fun of anything that troubled him, which meant either she could not tell how much this bugged him, or … “You’re about to say something you think is brilliant, right?” he asked.
Her grin broadened, and she poked him in the shoulder. “Quit reading my eyes, that’s cheating,” she said.
“I wasn’t. It’s too dark out here. They just look gray.”
“Well, it wouldn’t be dark if you’d cheer up.”
Charlie looked around, noticing once again the fog seemed to thicken as his mood darkened. “I can’t help it. I hate writing stupid poems.”
Robin grinned wide enough that Charlie was tempted to cup his hands, in case all her teeth sprang from her mouth. He hoped her braces would not cut his hands.
“That’s my idea,” she said. “I want you to close your eyes and just make up a word. Then we’ll just let the dream decide what the word means.”
“What? What’ll that do?”
“De-gloominate the place, hopefully. And it might get you started on this poem you have to write.”
Charlie sighed and face-palmed. The sound of his hands slapping against his forehead echoed over the quiet lake.
“The phrase you’re looking for, I think, is ‘liven up.’” The voice came from a small canoe about ten feet away from them in which sat a fifteen-year-old boy with black-rimmed glasses and slicked-back hair. He looked remarkably like Charlie, except that he was dressed in a white collared shirt and red bowtie. Even bobbing along in the canoe, he managed to look as if he were preparing to lecture a class on algebra.
“I beg your pardon,” Robin said.
“You cannot just go around modifying the English language as it suits you,” the boy responded. “It makes no sense to invent a word for a thing that already has one.”
“Wordavent,” she answered. Robin cupped her hands to her forehead and squinted. “Do I know you? You look awfully familiar.”
The boy barely glanced in her direction, having lost interest in the conversation. He was now maneuvering a pair of oars and was straining toward the darkened end of the lagoon. A vein bulged in the center of his forehead.
“Dude,” Robin said. “You’re gonna give yourself a stroke.”
He did not respond, but continued pulling at the oars with all of his might. Seated opposite him was a girl who appeared to be around seventeen. She too looked very much like Charlie, with long, curly brown hair, caramel skin, and full lips that were pursed in a tense frown. She was rowing just as hard as the boy, but in the opposite direction. They were, not surprisingly, going nowhere.
“Charlie,” Robin whispered. “I think that’s your sister.”
Charlie’s eyes shot open, and a look of horror crossed his face.
Oh God, no. This place is nuts enough without Layla invading my dreams.
Charlie and his sister Layla loved each other, deep down someplace. It was very deep down, however, and Charlie often couldn’t find an emotional shovel powerful enough to reach that well of love. Her moving out to live with his father had been a joyous occasion for him. He was certain he would eventually miss her, though it hadn’t happened yet. He looked over to where Robin was pointing, and his expression turned to a scowl.