Authors: Mary Logue
a division of F+W Media, Inc.
Far, far below, a depth profound, The lake sends up a murmuring sound, Meet place beneath the cloudless skies, For love’s last solemn sacrifice.
“Legend of Maiden Rock,” anonymous
November 1, 12:01 a.m.
Her face burst into flames. Her skin split along its seams. The earth broke wide open. She looked at the sky and she was the sky. Like she was so powerful she could do anything she thought of doing.
The top of her head lifted off and the whole world swirled into it, batter into a cake pan. Every cell in her body was doing the shimmy.
It was like what she thought sex might be at its very, very best. She stretched out in the field, falling back and back, and back, the night sky opening on top of her. Forever. Stars bloomed.
She’d never seen how deep the sky was, how many millions of layers it had. She’d lived in the country all her life and the sky had always seemed shut as a closet door. She wanted to stay in this moment the rest of her life, counting stars and thinking how big the universe was.
That’s how it felt when she tried it for the first time. A whole new world was born. Her nose stung as if she’d inhaled lighter fluid, but her mind was running on high-octane gasoline a million miles an hour.
The two guys on either side of her were not paying any attention. They were arguing about something, their voices a nasty buzzing in
her ears. She had a million questions to ask them, but couldn’t be bothered to open her mouth. She knew if she did she would never stop talking.
She closed her eyes for a moment, to take it all in. Thoughts spun through her head like orbiting comets. The universe was out there and inside of her. She knew so many things she hadn’t known before. Secret doors were opening.
She knew what the thin man wanted. He was after her. Weird how that happened. The boy she wanted didn’t want her. Still hard for her to believe. It was why she had left the party with these other two guys, just to get away from it all.
She stood and the air lifted her up. How easy it all was. She moved away from the car, from the thin man. Slowly, hoping he wouldn’t notice. She was afraid of him, afraid he might hurt her. She didn’t know him, had never met him before. But he seemed to want something from her.
He came after her. He grabbed her arm, forcing her to look him in the face. He was probably over thirty, his face a landscape with wrinkles for rivers. Skinny as a pole. He was way old.
His face cracked and she realized he was smiling at her.
“You ‘re hot,” he said.
“Get your hands off me.” She jerked away. Without waiting to see if he was following, she ran across the field toward the bluff’s edge. She didn’t want him near her, didn’t want him to touch her.
She ran through the edge of the woods toward the Maiden Rock. It wasn’t imposing at all, just looked like a bump at the edge of the field. But the drop-off the other side was about three hundred feet down. Looking up at it from Highway 35, the Maiden Rock was as tall as a skyscraper.
It had been her idea to come here. She knew this place so well. The Maiden Rock. She had climbed it many times from the highway. There was a steep path that wound up a gulley, then cut across the limestone sides of the bluff. It wasn’t too hard to climb, took about a half hour to get to the top. The rock towered about twenty stories above the road and the river.
Tonight they had driven in through a farmer’s land and were already on top. From here, you couldn’t even tell that the field dropped off to the lake. You couldn’t even see the limestone outcropping that was called Maiden Rock. She always thought of the story of Winona, the Indian maiden, when she was here.
The moon was blastingly
bright and she could easily see her way. She felt powerful, with that cool night vision where everything was clear, in focus. The heart of the earth pulsed. Everything connected to her, moved through her. There was nothing she couldn’t do.
When she stopped on the other side of the field, she could see the lake. Below her, it had grown into a glittering, gliding creature, alive. Its dark skin shone with as many twinkles as there were stars in the sky.
The thin man came up behind her and put his arms around her. His hands snaked down the neck of her Indian costume, but she stopped him. She needed to get away from him. He was evil. She could see it in his face. She wouldn’t have minded so much if it had been Jared. She tried to wriggle away, but he kept groping her. He was trying to pull off her costume.
She gave in for a moment, then broke away and ran. Behind her, she heard him stumbling along.
She knew where she needed to go. Her feet were so fast they were on fire. The guy was still close behind her, catching up.
She scrambled up onto the limestone ledge, stood on the brink. She was at the edge of the Maiden Rock, the deep well of the forest below her, then the road and the water.
It looked so easy. Like walking through a door.
That whole other world out there.
Hitch came up behind her and tried to grab her.
As she stepped off, she heard him scream. What he didn’t understand, what she had only just realized was …
She could fly.
laire woke with the full moon pouring in the bedroom window and acute anxiety flooding her body.
The thought jolted her upright.
Where is Meg?
Then she remembered. Her daughter was staying with Krista Jorgenson, a friend from school. Lying back, she pulled up the covers. She tried to relax her muscles one by one, but still felt uneasy.
Claire had always known that another sense comes to mothers as soon as they give birth to a child—the often prescient ability to know when that child is in danger, when something bad might be happening to them, a prick of fear in the night.
Next to her, Rich snored gently, sounding like a distant lawn mower. She knew if she nudged him he would turn and the snoring would stop, but often she found the sound reassuring. Claire craned her neck to see the luminescent face of her alarm clock. The numbers rolled. One fifteen. Too late to call the +'. Way too early to get up. But she could tell it would be hard to get back to sleep.
Claire tried to talk herself down. It didn’t help that as a deputy sheriff for the county she knew what trouble country kids could get up to. But Meg would be fine. Krista was a bright kid who
Meg had just started to hang around with. A bit frantic, but full of good energy.
Krista was a year older than Meg but their high school in the next town downriver, Pepin, Wisconsin, was so small—only 23 kids in Meg’s class—that it wasn’t unusual for them to make friends in another grade.
Halloween had fallen on a Friday this year. Since Meg was too old to go trick-or-treating, she had asked permission to go to a party and stay over at Krista’s. Krista had just passed her driver’s test. A big step forward in freedom for a kid in the country. Meg had just turned fifteen and was already bugging Rich to take her out to the farm fields and let her try driving.
After some thought, Claire had said yes, she could stay over at Krista’s. She knew the Jorgensons only slightly. They lived in Pepin and seemed like a fine family. Besides farming, Mr. Jorgenson worked in Wabasha at the hardware store, and Mrs. Jorgenson was a part-time clerk for the township.
Meg had been so excited as she put on her costume that afternoon, saying she wanted to look just like Winona, the Ojibwe maiden. “My skin is too pale. Do you think I should put on some darker make-up?”
Claire watched her daughter in the mirror. Meg’s hair was braided into a single plait down her back. The “costume” was an old brown shift of Claire’s with a beaded necklace that she had bought up north one summer. She had dug back in her closet and come up with an old pair of moccasins. “I think you look perfect.”
“Mom, you always say that.”
“You always do look perfect. Nearly always.”
“Not very sexy.”
“Indian maidens aren’t supposed to look sexy.”
Meg laughed. “No, I suppose not. But they probably didn’t wear bras.”
Claire shot her a look.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got a bra on.”
Meg had developed into a lovely girl and her bra size was coming close to that of her mother’s.
“Who’s going to be at this party?” Claire asked. “The usual.” “Remind me.”
“Me and Krista. Curt and Kenny. You know, the gang from school.”
Claire knew all the kids Meg had mentioned and mostly she liked them. “What about Jared?”
Meg made a face. “I don’t think so. He’s been pretty weird lately. He’s sick a lot. I think he might have mono or something. You should see him. He looks like a scarecrow. His clothes hang on him.”
“That’s too bad.”
Then Krista had honked the horn.
Claire grabbed her red hunting jacket and handed it to her. “You need to take a jacket.”
Meg reluctantly took it and ran out the door. Hardly said goodbye. No kiss.
Lying in bed, Claire wondered how the Halloween party had been. She wondered if there was any drinking going on. She thought of what she had been doing at Meg’s age at those kinds of parties. That really gave her something to worry about. She remembered getting a hickey in the closet of some party and having to wear turtlenecks for at least a week.
Finally she gave up trying to get back to sleep. Her mind was traveling too fast. She rolled out of bed and moved quietly to the
bedroom door. She might as well go downstairs to read so she wouldn’t disturb Rich. His day started early enough as a farmer, feeding the pheasants and take care of the other animals.
Recently she was waking up in the night so often that she left a blanket on the couch to curl up in. She was reading
The Lovely Bones,
an odd fairy tale of a book, as much about murder as Cinderella is about a relationship. But reading a few pages about the young girl getting abducted just made her more jangly.
The house was quiet. Usually an animal would cry out or an owl would call long and low, but it was still tonight. Not even a train threaded the silence along Lake Pepin. She let the book rest on her chest and closed her eyes.
The phone rang and Claire was standing up before she was awake.
She ran to the cordless sitting on the counter in the kitchen.
“Claire? I know it’s late.” Emily Jorgenson’s voice whispered. “Are they there? Are they at your house?”
“What do you mean, are they here?” Claire asked. She could hear Rich’s feet hit the floor upstairs.
“They’re not at your place?”
“No, we’ve been waiting for them to come home. I gave them a midnight curfew. But they haven’t shown up yet.”
Claire didn’t want to be hearing this. “You don’t know where they are? Are they still at the party?”
“We went over to see some friends and when we got home, they weren’t here. I wasn’t worried because it was just a little after midnight. When they didn’t show by one o’clock, I called the Lunds. They said the party was over hours ago. Everyone had gone home.”