The fence stood between the two properties for as long as Aaron Shaw could remember. As fences went, it wasn’t impressive. It was made from sections of old felled trees that had been driven into the ground in a line that stretched from the woodlot out into the lake. It wasn’t meant to keep anyone in or out, just divide the two parcels of land.
No one in the Shaw or Reece families could remember what started the feud. No one cared. Hate was hate, no matter where it originated and they reveled in it. Except Aaron.
Aaron loved Timothy Reece.
He watched Timothy from his bedroom window, especially when he chopped wood. Aaron could never tear his eyes away from the sweaty, rippling muscles.
There was no privacy in the house and he was embarrassed to think about what he’d been doing when his sister caught him staring at Timothy. Ever since, he’d been treated like a pariah in his family. If they could have cast him out, they would have, but the island was small and there was nowhere for him to go.
Aaron glanced around to be sure no one was looking, then stepped up onto the fence. The pieces of wood were only six inches above the sand, but it felt like a mile. His heart pounded in his chest and his palms grew damp as he stepped onto the next. One after the other, until the sand disappeared and there was just water around him.
He paused and looked around one last time. The sun was setting and he didn’t have long before the two families would return. He’d lured them all out of the two homes, but it wouldn’t take long for them to figure out what he’d done. This was his only chance. His stomach twisted in knots as the wind whipped up, splashing waves over his shoes. Just a few more steps and the fence would end. The path into the water would abruptly disappear, leaving no option but to turn back.
One step forward.Then another.
“I know what you did, Aaron!”
His shoes slipped as he stepped on the third log and his heart pounded in his chest as he struggled to steady himself. Carefully, once he had his balance again, he turned to face the familiar voice, even as he wondered why he bothered.
“I’m sorry, Timothy,” he called over the roar of the wind and the splash of the waves. “No one was supposed to know. Especially not you.”
Timothy stepped closer, walking blindly, his gaze locked on Aaron’s. “Damn it, Aaron. You don’t get it, do you?”
Get what? he thought numbly. Get that my life is over?
Aaron’s heart beat faster at the sight of Timothy’s bright blue eyes, so close, but he couldn’t read the expression in them. Timothy grabbed him, fists gripping Aaron’s shirt until their faces were inches apart. He tried to push Timothy away, but his feet slipped on the wet wood, going out from under him. The shock of cold lake made him draw in a breath and Timothy’s body was heavy as the water pulled them both under.
He closed his eyes, feeling the cold numbness begin; only regretting he’d dragged Timothy into this mess—in every sense of the word.
I’m sorry, he thought.
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