The Plan

At the lonely station at the end of the line the surly guard grunted and pointed to the road that let to her intended destination. Determined not to be put off she walked the mile of rough wet road from the village seeing no one on the way. By the time she reached the cabin her determination was waning, but the thought of meeting up with Robert again kept her going. Before she knocked on the door Mandy felt in her jacket pocket, finding comfort in the envelope therein.
Samantha opened the door to her knock. A boy and a girl, obviously the twins, stood a short distance behind her, holding hands and staring with unblinking blue eyes at the visitor.
‘Mandy, I am so glad to see you again. It’s been so long,’ Mandy found herself caught in a brief hug. ‘I can’t thank you enough for helping out. Sorry the place is a bit of a mess, I am pretty busy with deadlines looming, but you might as well see it like it is, right?’ Mandy entered the large untidy room and smiled while Samantha introduced her to the twins, who continued to stare before silently leaving the room.
‘Don’t mind them, they will warm to you after a while. Robert is out at the lake taking pictures before the weather closes in. He is obsessed with that lake. I won’t go out there, it is so still and lifeless, gives me the creeps. I’m afraid I can’t offer you anything hot to drink, I let the fire go out and the generator is on the blink. The guy was supposed to be out to fix it but you know how it is out here.’ Mandy let Samantha prattle on as she showed her to her room, furnished with a double bed under the one window and a chest of drawers against the opposite wall. Four hooks set into the wall next to the bed completed the spartan picture. Not for long, she thought as she placed her case at the end of the bed. She unpacked and when she had finished took a crumpled photo from the envelope in her pocket. It was a picture of Mandy, Robert and Samantha, taken about six years before. Robert had his arm tight around Mandy and Samantha stood next to them. Except the part where Samantha had been was torn away. Placing it under her pillow she chanted a mantra in her head; one she would continue to chant every night at bedtime and every morning on waking.
Robert arrived about an hour later, wet and laden with camera equipment and a beaming smile that warmed her through.
‘So glad you could come, Mandy. It will be like old times again, just the three of us, and the twins of course.’  Not quite like old times Mandy thought.
A routine was quickly established. Samantha would hibernate in her study struggling to meet deadlines, Robert would disappear to the Lake with his cameras and Mandy would feed the twins and clean up. Sometimes she would wander down and watch Robert from a distance. She felt quite at home at the frozen lake and enjoyed the silence of the landscape around it. It was a perfect place to give credence to her plan, keeping it alive. The twins followed her around, hand in hand, speaking their secret language. Mandy mostly ignored them; they were not to be part of her plan. And she couldn’t allow distractions to sway her path to what she wanted. Or who she wanted.
She even persuaded Robert that he needed a break and why not skate on the lake like in the old days. Samantha refused to join in saying it was too dangerous. The twins watched from the shore in their usual companionable silence. One day Samantha called from the edge of the ice, she had finished and they should celebrate. In her excitement she agreed to borrow Mandy’s skates and take a turn on the frozen lake. Robert headed for the cabin to chill some bubbly. Mandy saw her chance when Samantha stumbled and fell on the ice. Walking out carefully to help her she steered Samantha towards where she knew the ice to be thin. Her euphoria dulled in her now wet clothes, Samantha’s fear returned and she lunged for Mandy’s arm. In an effort to get clear of her Mandy flung off her grip and Samantha lost balance. As she went down, her skate sliced into Mandy’s leg, sending her sprawling across the ice. Dazed from hitting her head she didn’t hear the ominous cracking sounds.
The weight of her clothes dragged her into the freezing water. Mandy began desperately clawing at the ice, which had suddenly closed over her like a window. Her mouth opened in a silent final scream as she looked up through the transparent covering. The twins held out a crumpled photo of Robert and Samantha, the part where Mandy had been was torn away. Their laughter was silent to her ears.

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