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The Lake of Dreams

Kim Edwards

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21




  The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

  The Secrets of a Fire King


  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. • Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) • Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R oRL, England

  First published in 2011 by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  Copyright © Kim Edwards, 2011 All rights reserved

  Publisher’s Note

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


  Edwards, Kim.

  The lake of dreams : a novel / Kim Edwards. p. cm.

  eISBN: 9781101479513

  1. Adult children—Family relationships—Fiction. 2. New York (State)—Fiction. 3. Psychological fiction. I. Title.

  PS3555.D942L35 2011

  813’.54—dc22 2010025767


  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrightable materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

  For my family, especially my parents, John and Shirley

  I learned both what is secret and what is manifest,

  for Wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me.

  —The Book of Wisdom, 7:21-22

  Distance in a straight line has no mystery.

  The mystery is in the sphere.

  —Thomas Mann, Joseph and His Brothers


  ALTHOUGH IT IS NEARLY MIDNIGHT, AN UNUSUAL LIGHT SLIPS through a crack in the wool, brushing her arm like the feathers of a wing. In the next room her parents sleep, and the darkened village is silent, but she has lain awake all these hours and now she climbs out of bed, the floorboards rough against her feet. For weeks people have talked of nothing but the comet, how the earth will pass through clouds of poison vapors in its tail, how the world could end. She is fifteen, and all day she and her brother helped seal the house—windows, doors, even the chimney—with thick black wool, hammers tapping everywhere as their neighbors did the same.

  The narrow triangle of strange light touches her here, then there, as she crosses the room. She is wearing her blue dress, almost outgrown, the worn cotton soft against her skin. In this room, a low space over the shop that is hers alone, the wool is only loosely fastened to the window, and when she yanks a corner the cloth falls away, pale comet light swimming all around. She pushes the window open and takes a breath: one, and then another, deeper. Nothing happens. No poison gas, no searing lungs—only the watery spring, the scents of growing things and, distantly, the sea.

  And this odd light. The constellations are as familiar as the lines on her own palms, so she does not have to search to find the comet. It soars high, a streaming jewel, circling the years, thrilling and portentous. Distantly a dog barks, and the chickens rustle and complain in their coops. Soft voices rise, mingling, her brother’s and another, one she knows; her heart quickens with anger and yearning both. She hesitates. She has not planned this moment—the turning point of her life it will become. Yet it is also no impulse that pulls her onto the window ledge, her bare feet dangling a few yards above the garden. She is dressed, after all. She left the wool loose on purpose. All day she has been dreaming of the comet, its wild and fiery beauty, what it might mean, how her life might change.

  The voices rise, and then she leaps.

  Chapter 1

  MY NAME IS LUCY JARRETT, AND BEFORE I KNEW ABOUT THE girl in the window, before I went home and stumbled on the fragments and began to piece the story back together, I found myself living in a village near the sea in Japan. It had been a spring of little earthquakes, and that night I woke abruptly, jarred from a dream. Footsteps faded in the cobblestone lane and distant trains rumbled; I listened harder until I could make out the surge of the sea. But that was all. Yoshi’s hand rested on my hip lightly, as if we were still dancing, which we’d been doing earlier in the evening, music from the radio soft in the dark kitchen, our steps slowing until we stopped altogether and stood kissing in the jasmine air.

  I lay back down, curving toward his warmth. In the dream I’d gone back to the lake where I’d grown up. I didn’t want to go, but I did. The sky was overcast, the faded green cabin—which I’d seen before, but only in dreams—musty and overhung with trees. Its windows were cracked, opaque with dust and snow. I walked past it to the shore, walked out onto the thick, translucent ice. I walked until I came to them. So many people, living their lives just beneath the surface. I caught them in glimpses, fell to my knees, pressed my palms against the glassy surface—so thick, so clear, so cold. I’d put them here, somehow, I knew that. I’d left them for so long. Their hair stirred in underwater currents, and their eyes, when they met mine, were full of a longing that matched my own.

  The window shades were trembling. I tensed, caught between the earthquakes and the dream, but it was just a distant train, fading into the mountains. Every night for a week I’d had this same dream, stirred up by the shifting earth, stirring up the past. It took me back to a night when I was seventeen, wild and restless, sliding off the back of Keegan Fall’s motorcycle, apple blossoms as pale as stars above us. I fanned my fingers against his chest before he left, the engine ripping through the night. My father was in the garden when I turned toward the house. Moonlight caught the gray in his short hair; the tip of his cigarette burned, rising, falling. Lilacs and early roses floated in the darkness. Nice of you to show up, my father said. I’m sorry
you worried, I told him. A silence, the scents of lake water and compost and green shoots splitting open the dark earth, and then he said, Want to go fishing with me, Lucy? How about it? It’s been a long time. His words were wistful, and I remembered getting up before dawn to meet him, struggling to carry the tackle box as we crossed the lawn to the boat. I wanted to go fishing, to accept my father’s invitation, but I wanted more to go upstairs to think about Keegan Fall. So I turned away, and in a tone as sharp as broken shells I said, Dad. Really. I’m hardly little anymore.

  Those were the last words I ever spoke to him. Hours later, waking to sunlight and urgent voices, I ran downstairs and across the dew-struck lawn to the shore, where they had pulled my father from the lake. My mother was kneeling in the shallow water, touching his cheek with her fingertips. His lips and skin were bluish. There were traces of foam in the corner of his mouth, and his eyelids were oddly iridescent. Like a fish,I thought, a crazy thought, but at least it silenced the other thoughts, which were worse, and which have never left me: If I’d gone. If I’d been there. If only I’d said yes.

  Beside me on the tatami Yoshi sighed and stirred, his hand slipping from my hip. Moonlight fell in a rectangle across the floor, and the shades rustled faintly with the distant pounding surf, the breeze. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, the shaking grew stronger. It was subtle at first, as soft as the rumble from the train a moment before. Then my Tibetan singing bowls, arranged on the floor, began to hum all by themselves. My collection of small stones began to fall from the bookshelf, hitting the mats with a sound like rain. Downstairs, something crashed, shattered. I held my breath, as if by being still I could still the world, but the trembling grew stronger, and stronger still. The shelves lurched sharply, heaving several books to the floor. Then, in one fluid convulsion, the walls swayed and the floor seemed to roll, as if some great animal had roused and turned, as if the earth itself were alive, the ground mere skin, and volatile.

  Abruptly, it stopped. Everything was strangely quiet. Distantly, water dripped into a pool. Yoshi’s breathing was calm and even.

  I turned and shook his shoulder. He opened his eyes slowly. These little earthquakes left him unfazed, though that season there had been hundreds of tremors, sometimes several dozen in a day, many so tiny they were noted only by seismic machines; others, like this one, strong enough to wake us.

  “Earthquake?” he murmured.

  “Yes, a big one. Something broke downstairs.”

  “Really? Well, it is over now. It’s quiet, no? Let’s go back to sleep.”

  He closed his eyes and pulled me close. His breathing quickly grew deep and regular again. Through the half-open window, beyond the roof of the house across the street, I glimpsed the scattered stars. “Yoshi?” I said. When he didn’t answer, I slid out of bed and went downstairs.

  The aloe plant had fallen from the kitchen windowsill, and its pot had shattered. I put water on to boil and swept up the scattered dirt and glass and broken stems. Probably Japanese housewives were doing the same thing all up and down the street, which made me feel uncomfortable and faintly bitter—clearly, I’d been without a job for far too long. I didn’t like being dependent on Yoshi, having no income or meaningful work outside the house. I’m a hydrologist, which is to say that I study the movement of water in the world, on the surface and beneath the earth, and I’d been doing research for multinational companies for nearly half a decade by the time I met Yoshi in Jakarta. We’d fallen in love the way it is possible to fall in love overseas, cut off from everything we’d known, so the country we inhabited was of our own making, really, and subject to our own desires. This is the only continent that matters, Yoshi used to say, running his hands along my body. This is the only world that exists. For a year, then two years, we were very happy. Then our contracts ended. Before I found work, Yoshi was offered what seemed at first like the engineering job of his dreams. That’s when we moved to Japan, which had turned out to be another country altogether.

  I poured myself a cup of tea and took it to the front room, sliding open the shutters and the windows. Night air flooded in, fresh and cool. It was still dark, but the neighborhood was already stirring; water splashed and plates clattered, near and far. Across the narrow lane the neighbors spoke softly, back and forth.

  The house shook lightly with the surf, then settled. I sat at the low table and sipped my tea, letting my thoughts wander to the coming day and our long-planned trip into the mountains. In Indonesia, that other country, Yoshi and I had talked of marriage and even of children, but in those vague fantasies I’d always had satisfying work, or I’d been content to study Japanese and flower arranging and to take long solitary hikes. I hadn’t understood how isolating unemployment would be, or how much time Yoshi would end up devoting to his own work. Lately we’d been out of sorts with each other, arguments flaring up over nothing. I hadn’t realized how persistent the past would be, either, catching me in its old gravity the minute I slowed down. After three idle months in Japan I started teaching English just to fill my days with voices other than my own. I took my young charges on walks, pausing by the sea to teach concrete nouns: stone, water, wave, yearning for the days when I’d used those same words with ease and fluidity in my routine work. Sometimes I found myself saying wilder things, things I was sure they could not understand. Dinosaurs drank this water, did you know that? Water moves forever in a circle; someday, little ones, your grandchildren may even drink your tears.

  Now, weeks later, I was beginning to wonder if this would be my life, after all, and not simply a brief interlude in the life I had imagined.

  Across the room, tiny lights flickered on my laptop. I got up to check e-mail, the glow from the screen casting my hands and arms in pale blue. Sixteen messages, most of them spam, two from friends in Sri Lanka, three others from former colleagues in Jakarta who’d sent photos from their hike in the jungle. I skimmed these messages quickly, remembering a river trip we’d taken with these friends, the lush foliage along the banks and the hats we’d fashioned from water lilies to block the fierce sun, filled with longing for the life Yoshi and I had left.

  Three sequential messages were from home. The first, from my mother, surprised me. We were in touch quite often and I tried to visit once a year, even if briefly, but my mother used the Internet like an earlier generation had used the long-distance telephone: seldom, succinctly, and only for matters of certain importance. Mostly, we talked on the phone or sent slim blue air letters, hers posted to wherever my nomadic life had taken me, mine landing in the mailbox outside the rambling house where I’d grown up, in a village called The Lake of Dreams.

  Lucy, I was in an accident, but it was minor and you are absolutely not to worry. Take any news from Blake with a grain of salt, please. He means well, of course, but he is being overprotective and kind of driving me crazy. I’m nearly sure my wrist is sprained, not broken. The doctor said the x-rays will confirm one way or the other. There’s no need at all for you to come home.

  I read this message twice, imagining my mother at her solitary kitchen table, somehow injured. Though it wasn’t fair—nearly ten years had passed and we had all moved on, at least on the surface—I felt myself drawn back to the summer after my father’s death. We’d gone through our days doing the usual things, trying to create a fragile order. We made meals we hardly touched, and passed in the halls without speaking; my mother started sleeping in the spare room downstairs, and began to close the second floor down, room by room. Her grief was at the center of the stillness in the house, and we all moved carefully, so quietly, around it; if I allowed myself to weep or rage, everything might shatter, so I held still. Even now, when I went back to visit I always felt myself falling into those old patterns, the world circumscribed by loss.

  The next e-mail was indeed from Blake, which alarmed me. Blake spent his summers living on his sailboat and working as a pilot for the cruises that left from The Lake of Dreams pier every two hours; he spent his winters in St. Croix doing
much the same. He liked Skype, and twice he’d flown across the world to visit me, but he didn’t like e-mail and almost never wrote. He gave more details about the accident—someone had run a stop sign, and he described my mother’s car as totaled—but he didn’t sound overprotective to me, just concerned. It was my cousin Zoe who sounded a little out of control, but then she always did. She had been born when I was nearly fourteen, and she was so much younger than the rest of us that it sometimes seemed she’d grown up in a completely different family. Her older brother, Joey, was about my age, heir to the family name and the family fortunes, and we’d never gotten along. But Zoe, who was fifteen now and adored the Internet, found my life amazing and exotic, and she wrote frequently to relay dramatic events from high school, even though I seldom wrote back.

  It was nearly dawn. I got up and went to the window. Outside, the cobblestones were brightening to gray, wooden houses emerging from the night. Across the street, a subdued rattling of pots jarred me from my thoughts, followed by the sound of water running. Mrs. Fujimoro came out to sweep her walk. I stepped out onto the patio, nodding good morning. Her broom made such firm strokes—swish, swish, swish—that until she paused I didn’t realize the earth had begun to rumble again. It was ordinary at first, a large wave hitting the shore, a truck passing down the street—but no. I met Mrs. Fujimoro’s gaze. She caught my hand as the shaking extended, began to swell.

  Leaves quivered and water trembled in a puddle. A tiny crack appeared below the Fujimoros’ kitchen window, zigzagging to the foundation. I held her hand, staying very still, thinking of my mother’s accident, of the moment she realized she could no more stop the car from smashing into her than she could alter the progress of the moon.