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Drama Fiction Teens & Young Adult

This is the second part to my previous story, A Drowning at Calvin Lake. It would be awesome if you could read that story first, but I don't think it's necessary for this story to make sense--it would just give some helpful context. Thanks for reading!

Trigger Warning: mentions of domestic abuse, alcoholism, suicide.


The frozen sheet let out a groan as Ren shifted her weight onto it. With each timid step, the ice grumbled. Ren was halfway to Tavin when she heard a crack beneath her.

Instinctively, she dropped onto her stomach and army crawled the rest of the way to the crater. The ice made no further complaints.

She peered at the water, searching for movement. At first, there was nothing but murky green water lapping gently against the edges of the hole. Then, she caught it. A flash of silver—it had to be Tavin’s watch.

Without even thinking, Ren submerged her arms, reaching for him. The sting of the water took her breath away, but she resisted the urge to draw back. She swiped her arms through the water, feeling for Tavin. The second her hands found something—she had no idea what—Ren started pulling.

Ren was sure that, whatever she had hold of, it was some part of Tavin. Keeping a tight grip, she struggled her way to her knees and pulled harder. Tavin drifted upward, but she couldn’t free him from the water.

She was suddenly reminded of the last time she was this close to him. He had just gotten home from work and muttered something about a tear in his coat sleeve that she needed to mend. Without thinking, she grabbed his sleeve, eying the tear.

She knew as soon as she felt the weight of his arm in her hands that she made a mistake. She braced herself for a hand to the face, but he simply grumbled and pulled his arm free, slipping out of the coat and walking away as if nothing happened.

Of course, the fighting came later. It always did. But there was something to be said about the exchange, at least in Ren’s mind. Something about it made her want to succeed. 

She looked down again in time to see his head and most of his neck out of the water. She felt a twinge of hope, then her knees slipped out from under her.

Ren dropped him as she slid, and he plummeted back into the water. Except, this time, she went in behind him.

Ren flew into a panic as the water swallowed her. She felt the heat leech out of her and gasped for air, sucking up the freezing water instead. She scrambled for a grip on something, anything, and felt her hands break into the open air. She found the ice and jerked up, surfacing and clambering out of the water.

Once she was safely on the ice, as she coughed out lake water, a thought popped into her head. If that was what Tavin felt when the ice dropped out from underneath him, why hadn’t he fought?

Ren knew she needed to focus on saving him instead of wondering why he hadn’t saved himself, though.

Invigorated by adrenaline and the bite of the air, Ren plunged her arms back in after Tavin. She couldn’t find him. Frantically, she swept the snow off the ice all around her.

She saw him a few feet away, the top of his head pressed against the ice. She jumped to her feet, disregarding the fragility of the ground beneath her, and wildly stomped her heel into the ice beside his head.

Seconds later, she’d smashed a hole through it. She fell to her knees and jerked a massive slab of ice free with her bare hands, casting it aside and grabbing Tavin under his arms, putting all her weight into yanking him to the surface.

First, his head was out. Then, his shoulders, then his chest. Ren’s muscles were screaming as she forced them to work harder and harder. By the time he was out to his ribs, she was screaming, too.

She heaved with what was left of her strength. Tavin began to slip away and Ren gave one final tug before her grip faltered. She dropped Tavin and fell backwards. 

Her heart sank and she was gearing up to try again when she finally noticed Tavin motionless on the ice in front of her, only his legs still dangling in the water.

Ren knew what her next move was before she even made it to her feet.

Dragging Tavin to the cabin was an enormous chore. Though it was in view of the lake, Ren had to stop every couple yards to reposition herself, or just to breathe. But painstaking as it was, she eventually made it.

Once she got him up the wooden steps and through the door, she finally hovered her ear over his mouth. She felt as if she could cry when a puff of dampness met her face. God knows how, but he was breathing.

Full of relief that Tavin was alive, Ren left him to build a fire. Though no one had been in the cabin since her Aunt Jaclyn and Uncle Ashton died fifteen years ago, there was still a neat stack of wood and a box of matches next to the fireplace.

It took her a few tries to coax a flame onto a log, but she eventually triumphed.

There was little in the cabin by way of coverings, but Ren eventually scrounged up a few small blankets that, if used in conjunction, would suffice. She removed Tavin’s wet clothing, stretched it out by the fireplace, and wrapped the blankets over him.

Her own clothes were still dripping, so she peeled them off and placed them with Tavin’s. It wasn’t until she found herself shivering that she snagged a blanket from Tavin’s legs and hugged it around her.

Ren sank into a dusty recliner and looked at Tavin. He looked so peaceful; his usual scowl replaced by a blank expression and his grumbling replaced by soft breathing. He was a handsome man, with his curly hair, thick eyelashes, perfect skin, and strong jaw. He could have had anyone he wanted, from the little white church where he met Ren or anywhere else.

“Why me?” Ren asked, breaking the silence.

Ren was struck by how comforting it was to speak to him, especially without his usual vindictive replies. So, she continued.

“I mean, I know I needed rescuing. But you could have helped me without claiming me. I didn’t expect anything from you. Not your help, and certainly not your hand in marriage.

“I never told you this, but I only married you because it meant I’d be safe from my parents forever. I mean, getting you out of the deal didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t the point. I barely liked you, let alone loved you. Then, anyway.

“I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this, either, but I grew to love you later. Your laugh, your humor, your mind, you. Even now, I admire those things about you.

“I guess the whole love thing has gotten a little tricky, though. I wish I knew what went wrong between us…,” Ren was suddenly choked up, and she stopped for a moment.

She still had a lot to get off her chest, though. Even as a few tears dripped from her eyes, she continued.

“It seemed like, as I started loving you, you started hating me. I don’t know what I did wrong. Was it even me? Or was it you?

“Whatever went wrong, you should never have raised a hand against me. If you would’ve just kept throwing your bottles around and screaming, we’d be fine. But that wasn’t enough for you. Because of you, I’m broken and you’re—well, I’m not sure.

“You saved me from the disgusting excuse for parents I had. For that, I did my best to pay you back by being good to you. Then you turned into some…monster, and I don’t know why. I let that go far too long. Then, by the time I wanted to get away, I just…couldn’t.

“I tried to run away once, you know. But I didn’t even make it across the state line before I had a panic attack, and I went to the hospital, and when they were done with me, I just went back home.

“I just want to know something. I think you owe me as much, after all we’ve been through. I want to know why me. Why did you help me? Why did you marry me? Why do you hate me when all I ever did was love you?” Ren’s voice caught on the word love.

Suddenly, she was bawling. Whether out of desperation, frustration, or just the heat of the moment, Ren yelled, “Why did you hate me for loving you, Tavin?”

It had been years since she had said his name. It felt wrong in her mouth, as if her tongue had turned to wood.

Ren finally looked back at Tavin and her heart skipped a beat. His caramel eyes were open, and his own tears had left glistening trails down his cheeks.

Once he caught Ren watching him, he sat up, the blanket that had been over his torso falling into his lap. He looked at Ren, but there was no anger in his expression. He continued crying silently.

“You’re awake,” Ren stated arbitrarily.

He nodded, not looking away or responding.

“How long?”

Tavin cleared his throat. “Since you started talking.”

Ren had forgotten how tender his voice could be. When he wasn’t shouting, his voice was light and kind. Ren fought back chills.

“Well?” she prompted.

She knew he knew what she was asking, but she wasn’t expecting him to answer. In fact, she flinched when his voice reentered the room.

“Those are loaded questions, Serenity.”

She shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “I have time.”

Tavin sighed. “You needed help, I was lonely, and I thought you were cute.”

“You expect me to believe that?” Ren laughed humorlessly.

“I guess not. It just…felt right. It was obvious that your folks were toxic monsters. I had an empty guest room at my place, and it felt right.

“I knew you didn’t love me, I’m not stupid. Did you think I loved you from the get-go, Serenity? Because I didn’t. While we’re sharing secrets, I have one, too: I married you to save you, too.

“Your father came pounding on my door one night after you’d gone to bed. To this day, I don’t know who gave us away. But there he was, fuming and ready to beat the life out of me. He was about to charge in after you, but I stopped him and asked him what he thought he was doing.

“He said he didn’t want you living in sin. As if abusing your children weren’t a sin. Anyway, he told me he wouldn’t stand for it. So, I told him we were getting married. It was the only way to get him to leave you alone.

“Didn’t you ever wonder how you got married at sixteen? Or why Reverend Thomason agreed to do the ceremony secretly? Your parents consented. I don’t know why, but they did.”

Ren’s head was spinning. The thought of her father grabbing her out of her bed in the middle of the night, of dragging her kicking and screaming to the car and forcing her to come back home, made her want to throw up. She was suddenly more grateful for her marriage than she had ever been for anything.

Then she remembered what she’d really been asking him. Ren was not about to let go without getting her real question answered.

“Why do you hate me, Tavin?” she felt like a little kid calling her parent by their first name, but she still managed to spit his name out like it was poison.

Tavin’s eyes finally flitted away from Ren. “I don’t hate you.”

“Bull! You certainly don’t abuse me out of love!” Ren would have been proud of herself for sounding so intimidating had she not been so focused on forcing an answer out of Tavin.

“I’m a violent alcoholic and you get in my way. Is that what you want to hear?” Tavin retorts, beginning to raise his voice.

“There has to be more than that!”

“Well,” he responded, calm once more, “there isn’t.”

“So, everything would have been fine if you just quit having drinks with the boys after work?” Ren asked spitefully. “I don’t believe it for a second.”

“Maybe that’s why, then. Maybe it’s because you always look for some deep meaning behind everything. Sometimes, Serenity, things just…are. Like you and me. We didn’t fall in love and get married and start a family. We didn’t make something special of our lives. We just got married so your daddy wouldn’t whisk you away and fill you full of his venom. That’s it.”

  Ren wanted to feel satisfied with his answer or hurt at the implication that Tavin never really cared about her. But all she felt was defeated. She deflated, sinking further into the musty chair.

“Didn’t like that much, did you?”

She shook her head weakly.

“Yeah, well, neither did I.”

Ren figured he meant having to explain himself, so when she looked up at him, she was expecting to see irritation scrawled over his features. She was baffled when she found him in tears again.

“Why are you crying? Because I ruined your life and, for the millionth time, you're regretting ever having met me? Look, Tavin, if you want, I can pack up my things the second we get home and move out. You can even turn me into the police. And, hey, while we’re at it, I can turn you in for the years of abuse I’ve suffered through all because you decided to save me! I wonder which of us would win out.”

Confusion twisted Tavin’s face. “What would I turn you in for?”

“I tried to kill you. I sent you across the lake.”

Tavin’s laugh boomed. “That’s cute. Even if that counted, you also saved my life, so we’re even.”

“And you didn’t ruin my life,” Tavin said after a moment of silence. “That was my doing. And I don’t regret meeting you. I don’t even regret marrying you. I know it’s too late now, but I only really regret putting you through all the torture I have.”

“Yeah. It is too late,” Ren said sadly.

“That’s why I went after the stupid twig you wanted. I think I wanted to fall through that ice more than you wanted me to.”

There it was. There was the bomb drop. She hadn’t realized she was expecting one until it was there, hanging in the slightly smokey air: Ren hadn’t tried to kill Tavin. He had tried to kill himself.

She laughed bitterly. “I should have realized.”

Tavin laughed, too, shaking his head. “We’re so screwed up, Ren.”

“We are,” she chuckled. Then, she added, “That’s the first time you’ve ever called me Ren. I like it.”

“Yeah? Strangely, it always felt too friendly.”

“Friendly,” Ren repeated, testing the word.

. . .

Ren and Tavin took the year after their divorce for themselves. Per Tavin’s suggestion, they cut contact and he even moved in with an old friend in Maine to ensure they wouldn’t cross paths.

Though the first months were hard, Ren eventually got her life together. She started meeting with a lovely therapist named Margaret Smithers every week, she got her own apartment, and she even got a part-time job at the elementary school by her apartment building.

Once she and Tavin started talking again, their relationship was strained at first. Ren knew Tavin was a different person, but it took her months not to flinch every time he made a sudden movement.

The turning point of their friendship was when Tavin started dating Gwyneth, whom he met through group therapy.

Ren tagged along with them to an art exhibit featuring some of Gwyneth’s oil paintings. When Ren saw how content Tavin was with Gwyneth, she forced herself to picture that version of him any time she felt panic welling in her chest when they were together.

Later, when Ren took on a full-time position at the school and Tavin and Gwyneth got engaged, they rarely saw each other. When they did get together, though, Ren was always so happy to see Tavin so happy.

. . .

“Are you ready for this?” Ren asked, straightening his tie before looking up at him.

“Asking that is only making me more nervous,” Tavin chided, forcing an anxious smile.

“Are you sure I shouldn’t be in a suit, too?” Ren asked to lighten the mood. “I’ve never seen a Best Man in a dress before.”

“It’s a little late for that. Besides, you’re the Best Woman. I’m sure you’ve never seen one of those before, period.”

Tavin forced a laugh, but Ren could see how jittery he was. He couldn’t stand still.

“Hey.”

“Yeah?”

“You can do this! Your wedding is going to be beautiful, and so is your marriage. Gwyneth loves you to bits and pieces. Plus, you look great.”

“Not quite as great as on our wedding night,” he joked, feeling a little more himself.

“That’s because that was two decades ago, old man. Now, let’s get out there.”

Tavin grabbed Ren in a tight embrace, only letting go when she said, “Really, it’s time.”

 They clasped hands as they pushed through the double doors to join the crowd on the stage. Ren couldn’t stop smiling as she thought about how proud she was of her best friend.    

January 21, 2021 01:46

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7 comments

Xander Dmer
18:09 Jan 26, 2021

Hey again Kanden :) I like the way you added the details in your story! Great Job! on your punctuation and commas :)

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Kanden Lang
14:55 Jan 27, 2021

Lol thank you, I try my best!

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Xander Dmer
15:51 Jan 27, 2021

Your Welcome :)

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Aww, the perfect ending:) Great work, this story is super sweet!!!

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Kanden Lang
17:34 Feb 05, 2021

Thank you so much, I'm glad you liked it!

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