The lilies lay in the crook of my arm, wrapped tightly in paper. Their sweet smell drifted on the cool breeze, blowing out across the lake.
Lilies were her favourite.
They told me it was a suicide. She’d just walked into the water and never came out. They’re speculating, of course, but it’s possible. She had more reason than most to end it all, especially after Jamie…
Why hadn’t she said anything? I was supposed to be her best friend. There’d been no phone calls, not even an email. I should have been there.
Tears stung my eyes.
I stared out over the lapping water. Tendrils of green algae, like strands of hair, danced and bobbed across its surface. That’d been were the best frogs are, hugging onto that floating sheet.
We’d loved this place as kids. Every summer, we’d come to catch the frogs and tadpoles, taking them home in buckets to show our families and friends. The frogs hadn’t bothered her; she wasn’t squeamish like most of the others. It’s probably the reason we got on so well.
There’d been stories, even back then. Stories of dangers lurking in the waters. They ranged from the everyday (broken bottles, slippery rocks) and the implausible (hidden whirlpools, dangerous currents) to the downright ridiculous (sharks, really?) but there was some truth to them.
There had been enough drownings in those seemingly tranquil waters to concern our parents.
We were told never to go into the water and never to come here alone, but of course we did…or rather, she did.
I’d been sick that year, in and out of hospital all summer. When she visited, we’d talk about the lake, the frogs. I knew she was bored: hospitals aren’t all that exciting, trust me. I’d told her to go, told her to bring me the biggest frog she could find.
She never went back to the lake again, after that. She wouldn’t tell me why. Her parents said she’d seen something in the water but that it’d just been her imagination. I daren’t ask what it was.
When Jamie had grown up, she’d forbidden him from going anywhere near the lake. He’d protested. He hadn’t understood.
Each summer, his friends would disappear down to the water, returning with exciting tales of their exploits. He’d felt left out. So he did what all kids do at that age, he rebelled against his mother. He defied her instructions and headed out to the lake.
I’d been with her when the police knocked at her door, held her while she screamed and wailed. They said it’d been an accident. He’d just lost his footing.
We’ll never know what really happened, to her and to Jamie. Still, I wish I’d been there for them.
The algae had drifted closer to the shore when I stooped to lay the lilies in the water. I hadn’t noticed at first.
I did notice when its green hand burst from the water and wrapped around my wrist.
J is for Jenny Greenteeth
Jenny Greenteeth is a figure in English folklore. A river hag who pulls children down into the water and drowns them. She was often described as having green skin, with long hair and sharp teeth. She is thought to be a construct used by parents to frighten children away from dangerous water, or possibly a distorted memory of ritual sacrifice.