She stares out the window. It is so peaceful looking out onto Kaluna Lake, the moonlight glittering and gleaming off the soft ripples that’s caused by the slight breeze.
She is drawn back to lounge where she is sitting by a tap on her shoulder. The music is loud and thumping in her ears. Why did I even come here?
“Hey, new girl! You want a drink?” the drunk jock yells at her even though he is already uncomfortably close to her face. The smell of cheap beer on his breath blasts into her face. It takes everything in her not to bat the invisible squiggly green odour lines away.
“No, thanks,” she lifts up her hand holding an almost empty red solo cup, hoping it would end the conversation right there. Truth be told, she is in no mood to be at a party. But, when the queen bee invites you to her boyfriend’s party and you’ve only been at the school for a week, you have very few options, if any, other than ‘yes, I’d love to come’.
The clearly-drunk jock leaves her alone, thankfully, and joins two of his other extremely loud and rowdy friends.
She might be new to this small town, but staring out of the window onto the lake really gives Ara a feeling of familiarity.
Like all other small towns, Kaluna has its defining characteristic – the beautiful and big lake right in the centre of the town. With this defining characteristic comes the general myths and legends created by teens or old folk. Kaluna’s legend, which she heard even before she moved here, is about a young woman who committed suicide by walking into the lake. Ara knows it is a legend because the hook of this particular tale is that her body, despite countless searches, was never found.
“A small town built around a lake, it’s bound to have some sort of spooky legend,” she told her dad as he read her the story off the internet days before their relocation.
Aah, to be simple-minded! The small town life, where everyone knows each other, and myths and legends spread like wildfire.
By this point in the night, she has been seen by everyone at the party. If she leaves now, she can still talk about how great the party was and no one would question it because everyone has seen her, cup in hand, smiling at everyone who curiously smiles at her.
“Thank you so much for inviting me,” she tells a drunk Jess on her way out. Jessica is too busy making out with her boyfriend to even notice, but that suits Ara just fine.
Her house isn’t a very far walk and on her left, she has the view of the lake to keep her company. It is strange though that anyone would be walking on the shore this time of the night, least of all by themselves. So what is that lady doing?
Ara walks and watches. The beautiful young lady, with pale skin and beautiful black hair is walking slowly along the water line, almost teasing the water with her presence. She draws close and just as her bare feet are about to touch the water, she sways away. Her pale, white dress dances on the breeze, the thin fabric almost see-through in the moon's glow.
Her pitch black hair falls down to her waist, slight tendrils moving with the breeze, away from her face. Ara was curious. This lady carries herself with so much grace and poise that she can only be described as just that – a lady.
I wonder if her face matches her movements, Ara thought. The lady faces the water at all times, as if she is engaged in a conversation with the water, until she gently turns away and looks at Ara straight in her eyes.
Ara can’t help but gape. The lady is absolutely beautiful with dark brown eyes, heavily hooded by long eyelashes. The moonlight makes the pale skin on her face and body glow with an almost blue hue. Her lips have what can only be described as a sad smile – the smile of someone who has lost so much but tries to carry on. The woman turns away from Ara and walks towards the water, no longer teasing it but fully submerging her feet in what can only be cold water. She does not flinch.
Ara is mesmerised by her every movement and its only when the lady is knee deep, her dress sticking to her skin and getting heavier in the water, that Ara realises the lady has no intention of floating or swimming.
“No, wait!” Ara calls out to the lady and quickly changes direction in an attempt to stop her from wading further into the water.
She gets across the street and once her feet hits the sand, the lady is almost nose deep in the water. She turns around and looks back at Ara, eyes still tinged with a smile but full of tears, before she goes completely under the water.
“No!” Ara screams, but she realises its futile, the lady can’t hear her. Who does she call? What does she do? She fumbles for her phone, but she realises the only person she can call is her dad, who is less than a two-minute walk away from where she currently is. She runs back across the street, calling for her dad as she approaches the steps leading to the front door. She barges into the house, the door swinging open wildly.
“DAD! You have to come quickly, she needs our help,” she grabs her dad by the arm and pulls him out down the front steps. Her dad is shocked and almost loses his footing as they rush towards the street and beyond, to the lake.
“Wh-what is going on, Ara? Where are we going?”
“There dad, she walked into the water, she seemed upset. She didn’t try swimming. What if she’s trying to hurt herself? We have to find her, it’s only been a few minutes, we can give her CPR,” Ara says in shambles, the words rushing out and not fully registering in her father’s mind. While she is speeding through and tripping over her words, she is taking off her jacket and her shoes, moving in erratic movements closer and closer to the water.
“Ara, no! There is no one there. Were you drinking at this party?”
“Really, you’re asking me that now when someone’s life is in danger?”
“Ara, listen to me,” he calms her down and steadies her shoulders. His firm grip holds her tightly, almost completely restricting her movement. “There’s no one there. Look, there are no ripples in the water, no air bubbles from below the surface. The water is still.”
She turns her eyes to the lake. It looks exactly the same as it did when she was looking at it from the window not more than ten minutes ago. It looks calm, peaceful.
“I could’ve sworn I saw someone,” she says, defeated and exhausted from the drama she just caused.
“I think the White Lady story is playing on your mind,” dad tries to tell her lightly.
“The White Lady. The story I read to you off the internet last week.”
“I didn’t know they called her the White Lady,” she whispers to her dad.
“Come on, let’s head back. How was the party?” her dad asks, trying to keep things light and brush off the awkwardness of what has just happened.
Ara stares back at the lake, its stillness is suddenly frightening. She realises then that her shoes are untied, but she feels the cold shiver in her spine, the fear is at the shoreline in her chest, and if she stands there any longer it will grip her chest and squeeze the breath out of her lungs. She walks briskly back to their house.
Ara lies in bed that night, but sleep eludes her. She keeps looking out of her bedroom window, expecting to see a floating body, a sliver of a white dress dancing on the water, something washed ashore. But nothing.
Her mind is full of questions, and the longer they are left unanswered, the more the fear of the unknown grows in her chest.
Eventually, she falls asleep and a restless dream floods her mind like water racing in through deep cracks. The concept of time quickly fades as her heart begins to race. There she is, floating in the water of the lake. It remains calm and still but something is in the water with her. Ara slowly opens her eyes, she feels the heaviness of the water pressing on her eyeballs. There, not even an inch from her face is the face of another, a face she has seen before. But the once hurtful smile is now replaced with a pained expression. Staring at the face that is so near, everything seems like it is happening in a bubble, sounds muted, movements slow… screams would be unheard.
The eyes of the beautiful face are shut. The lips are pale. The blue hue and glow of the skin is suddenly more pronounced. Ara feels her breath get shorter. The heaviness of the water begins to fill her lungs. Panic surges through her veins as she the water slowly fills her chest. She can’t cough, she can’t scream, she can’t swim to safety. She reaches out to touch the face in front of her and sinister eyes open, pitch black, oozing with darkness, fear and death. The White Lady’s eyes are burning fear into Ara. A strained and deafening whisper escapes the pale, lifeless lips. “Help me.”
Ara jolts awake with a startle, sitting upright in her bed. Her heart is pounding. The voice, although just a whisper, is ringing in her ears. Her breathing is heavy and she grabs her chest.
It was just a dream. It was just a dream, she tells herself over and over again until she almost begins to believe it.
It is only then that she realises, as she is about to lay back down on her bed, that she, her bed and most of her floor are drenched and soaked in what distinctly smells like lake water.