From Sunrise to Sunset


The sun began to set over the tree line of the mountain lake, which waved in a breath-like motion. The wind blew through a clearing of trees, shaking a group of tents set up around a burning campfire. Stoves were set up on a wooden table, one couple struggling to attach the propane while others unpacked the cooler. In the distance, Kate sat on a dock extending over the lake. She was still in her wet clothes and covered in a bundle of jackets in an attempt to keep some of the warmth trapped inside. 

The drenched clothes stuck to her skin, sending her mind back to the weight of the water she had dove into as she desperately swam into the darkness, chasing his blurred outline, fighting her thoughts of losing the one she loved. Her mind had flared awake as she felt the cold surface of the water break away. Finally, she reached him and wrapped her arm tightly around his limp body. With all her force, she pulled him up, breaching the surface of the lake. Only now did the panic set in, when she was treading and gasping for air. The others, huddled on the dock, pulled him out of the water while she white-knuckled the post of the dock, breathing almost as quickly as her heart was beating.

She was pulled out of her thoughts by a creak on the wood dock behind her, and slowly turned her head to identify the noise. She saw him walking towards her, the other couples whispering in the distance, knowing everything depended on the conversation that would ensue. More and louder creaks echoed out into the lake as he, also covered in drenched clothes, walked over and sat down next to her. He attempted to gaze out at the lake, but his eyes darted around, and his legs, unable to ease into the serenity, began swinging in the air over the rippling water. He turned his head to look at Kate, her eyes still gazing at the lake in perfect stasis. 

“Hey,” he said, trying to start a well-needed conversation. 

“Hey, Jake,” she responded, still looking over the water but her heart beat faster.

“Didn’t think you would want to be back on the dock,” he tried to joke in a tired tone. 

“I just wanted to see the sunset,” she replied quietly. A few seconds passed, then Jake reached into his pocket and pulled out an energy bar. 

“You hungry?” For the first time, Kate turned her head toward Jake and the bar in his hand, disappointment in her heart.

“I’m good,” she said hesitantly, declining the awkward olive branch. Jake nodded silently, then opened up the bar himself and broke off a piece. 

“They probably won’t finish dinner for a while,” he said as he popped the small chunk into his mouth. “Might be your only chance for a whi—” 

“If you’re just going to pretend like nothing happened, you should just go back to our tent,” Kate interrupted. 

Jake, taken aback, immediately responded, “No, No, I came here to apologize,” trying to save the situation. A silence fell over the dock for a bit. The only noise was Jake nervously fidgeting with the bar in his hand. The sun persisted in its sinking journey down the sky. “How were you able to get me out of the lake?” Jake asked, trying to rekindle the conversation.

“My two younger siblings really love the pool, and some checked-out parents,” Kate joked with a dull chuckle. The conversation sputtered out again. The sun’s reflections continued to retreat from the lake’s surface, while Jake’s fingers frantically tapped on the wood. 

He tried one last push to save it. “Are you okay?” 

She turned her head to look at him again, and with an annoyed face bluntly responded, “No.” 

“Okay, what’s wrong?”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Doing what?”

“You went out on the dock knowing you could have an episode.”

“What? Do you expect me to sit around and not do anything?”

“I had to save you from drowning in a lake!” She paused, letting the impact settle it. “We went on this trip to get our minds off of everything. I can’t have you doing stupid stuff like this.”

“I can’t just sit down in fear. I am not gonna waste the best years of my life hiding at home, not knowing if I’m gonna get better or worse.”

The air went silent again. Kate was the one to restart the conversation this time. “You remember our first trip to this same dock when we watched the sunrise together? We were able to just sit there and take it all in. Nothing else needed to happen. I just needed to sit there. The future felt so bright. I felt free. I felt safe.” She paused, then holding back tears in her eyes, said, “Now all I feel is cold and afraid.” 

Jake opened his mouth to speak but stopped himself. His legs stopped swinging, his finger stopped tapping, and he just sat there thinking. 

Kate slowly stood up and walked across the squeaky dock to their tent. The others shifted their attention back to prepping the dinner. Jake was left there alone to get a final glimpse of the sun as it completed its journey.

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