Reflections At The Lake House

Reflections At The Lake House


  “Good morning.”

  The steam rising from Dean’s full cup of black coffee warmed Miranda’s cheek. She hadn’t turned her attention from the lake at the sound of Dean’s approach, and now acknowledged him with only a nod of her head.

  “What are you watching?”

  Miranda gestured with her free hand. “The ducks. Just the ducks.”

  Her short, almost brusque reply would have troubled a stranger, but Dean had known Miranda for more than forty years. Married to his brother Mike, Miranda was the first sister the brothers had known. Both Dean and Phil treated her like glass.

  “Where’s Mike? Still asleep?”

  Miranda nodded. Mike’s penchant for sleeping late was well known to everyone in the family. As the oldest son he had often been roused before dawn to milk the cows on the family’s farm. He seemed to believe that sleeping far into the morning was a kind of revenge on his childhood.

  “Why don’t you wake him?”

  Again, Miranda waved her free hand. “Why? He’ll turn on the television and that will drive the ducks away.”

  Dean eased himself into the wooden lounger beside his sister-in-law. He sipped his coffee and followed Miranda’s gaze toward the three green-winged teal gliding through the silvery morning mist.

  “Only three?”

  “Only three.”

  “The others must have already gone on to the south. I wonder why these three stayed behind?”

  Miranda shrugged. Dean stole a glance at the pretty woman beside him. Her golden hair, now streaked with silver at the temples, fell across her cheek. How resigned she was! Had she always been like that?

  No, Dean remembered. It took at least five years beyond her silver anniversary for Miranda to accept that her marriage would never be the fairy-tale romance she had believed in when a child.

  The coffee in Miranda’s right hand had lost its steam. She sat motionless, her midnight blue eyes riveted on the three ducks riding the gentle swells. “They are so beautiful. I’m glad they stayed here.”

  Dean frowned. It was not like Miranda to divulge her inner thoughts or feelings. “I hope they aren’t ill,” he said softly.

  “Oh no! They are here for me. I know it. See how they keep glancing in my direction? They are gauging my reaction.”


  “Watch them!”

  Dean focused his eyes on the ducks. They were not feeding. Slowly they paddled in a circle, careful to stay in the protected little cove where Grandfather Reynolds had built his hide-away half a century before.

  The ducks turned their heads toward the lake house. Oblique rays caught in the emerald green of the males’ feathers, flashing their beauty into the still autumn air. Their bright eyes focused on Miranda sitting unmoving in her chair. Dean saw that she was right. They were watching her.

Miranda turned to look at her brother-in-law. “It’s a shame Phil and Diane couldn’t come this year. I miss them.”

  “You do?”

  “Why wouldn’t I?”

  “You always struck me as a loner, Miri. You seem happiest away from all of us, going your own way. Diane can be awfully loud sometimes.”

  Miranda didn’t drop her head or act embarrassed. “Yes, I do prefer nature to people, stillness to noise. That’s why I can’t stay in the same room with Diane for very long. She gives me a headache.”

  Dean chuckled. Thinking back over the years, Dean remembered many gatherings when Miranda had quietly slipped away into the silence of the front porch. There she could find relief.

  “Is Judy still asleep?”

  “Yes. She had leg cramps again last night, so she was awake part of the night.”

  “Then you were awake part of the night too.”

  “I’m a morning person.”

  “Yes. I know.”

  And there it was. The acknowledgement that neither one could openly express. From the very first day, when Mike had brought Miri home from college, Dean had fallen in love with her. Miranda knew it then, and she knew it now. All the intervening years the two of them had kept to the relationship marriage had brought them. Nothing else was ever spoken about. It never could be. They were by law brother and sister. To think about any other relationship was forbidden.

  “Which two are mated, do you think?” Dean’s light eyes stared into the ripples of water churned by the ducks’ paddling feet.

  “I’ve been watching them for about an hour, and I can’t tell. I don’t know. They are keeping their secret well.”

  “Just like us.” The words almost sprang from Dean’s lips, but he bit them back. His large teeth sank into his lower lip. Bloody crescents broke the skin. Miranda pretended not to see.

  “Maybe the two drakes are brothers.”


  “Look how closely they mirror her actions.”

  Dean refused to look at the swimming ducks. “I’m going after more coffee. You want some?”

  “Yes. Put cream in it. You remember?”

  “I remember.”

  The screen door slapped softly, and Miranda was alone with the ducks. Rising above the colorful trees the October sun pressed the ducks’ reflections into the still lake water. Woman and ducks, they watched each other. Inside the house the television came to life. Irritated by the noise, the ducks swam toward the opposite shore. The female duck led, and the two males, their iridescent feathers glistening in the intensifying sunlight, trailed behind.

  Footsteps crossed the weathered deck to stop at her side. But Miranda did not lift her gaze from the ducks’ reflections. While she watched, all three images melded together into one. The gentle ripples of the lake accepted them without a sound.

Neala Ames

After a forty year teaching career, Neala is trying her hand at storytelling. Beginning in the 1990's she submitted poems to a teacher's magazine, "The Write Place", and they were printed. When the Daniel Boone television series came out in DVD she wrote nearly 40 well-received fan fiction stories. In 2010 she wrote a personal remembrance piece for the Starlight Magazine in Kansas City, MO. A local magazine, Prescott Dog, accepted a piece she wrote about her Cairn terrier, Dandy. Then, in October of 2018 the Prescott Courier gave her first-person account of a haunting in central Missouri a front page spread in their Halloween addition. Wild Violet accepted a short story in March of 2019. Contentedly living in the central highlands of Arizona, Neala intends to continue telling stories for years to come.


  1. While taking a break from school work on a Tuesday evening, I came across this short story. I was delighted to find an account with such a great description. It is comforting to step away from work and be immersed in a likey scene with nature, solitude, and a twist between characters.

  2. I really liked this story. It has a melancholy mood that I think we can allberelate to. I especially liked the not so subtle symbolism of the two relationship triangles. I'm sure there is a literary term for the technique, but I can't think of it. Looking forward to reading some more of your work.

  3. Looking forward to more stories. I really felt the melancholy.

  4. I love the imagery. This story presents itself so well that you feel like you are there. The symbolism that the ducks represent, and how it applies to her life is a brilliant allegory. I look forward to reading more!

  5. love it Cindy!

    Would also love to hear the first person ghost account :-)


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