Never at Fault
A Short Story by Kathryn Lang
Cara leaned back on the dock and watched the boat become smaller as it made waves across the lake. She had been living in the town for over a year, but it still had a way of surprising her.
The front of the boathouse next to her dock creaked up, and Cara heard a splash. Sandy came floating around the corner on a bright green float. “I hate the shallows,” she explained and nodded to the area between the docks that were covered with milfoil.
“I can see why.” Cara stayed out of all the water for the most part. She had been raised near the ocean and you could see the bottom of the water on most days. The water here was murky and always left her wondering what might be lurking below.
“Are they coming?” Sandy had floated to the end of the dock and managed to prop her legs on the ladder so that the current would not carry her away. She had her eyes closed and was relaxing in the sun.
Cara shook her head, but not because of their response. “They’re coming.” Cara had been planning the event for months, almost since she arrived in town. It was an important part of the business that brought her to town in the first place.
“But?” Sandy looked up at her with only one eye open and a crooked grin on her face.
There was no reason to grin. They had made their conditions clear and those conditions did not include Sandy. That was what left Cara shaking her head. Sandy had stepped up and welcomed her the moment she has arrived in town. It was Sandy that had helped her set up shop and had even told her the best places to go to make the connections she needed.
Cara looked out over the lake and at the small dot that had become the boat. She shook her head again, but it was Sandy that spoke. “If it makes you feel better, I already know what they said.”
Cara looked down at the woman floating in the murky waters – the waters that could hold anything lurking underneath – and the woman was smiling contently despite the news. “How could you know?”
The smile widened and Sandy opened her eyes and shaded them from the sun. “I know. Now you know why you never see me at all those events.”
Cara had noticed that Sandy rarely made an appearance. She always had an excuse or another event in a city a few hours away. Cara’s eyes widened. “You planned to be away.” She said to Sandy.
“Because I know.” Sandy shrugged her shoulders and then set her hand back down to her side and closed her eyes again.
“Doesn’t it bother you?” It bothered Cara.
Sandy pulled herself up out of the water and set the raft behind them. She sat down next to Cara and looked out over the waters with her. “They don’t control me. They never have. And they are going to think and do what they want no matter what I say or do. I let it go long ago.”
“Why are you still here?”
“This is my home. They will not run me out of my home.”
Cara shook her head again. Sandy smiled, that soft smile that told Cara she was not only serious about the words she was sharing, but she was at peace. “They said they would be there as long as you didn’t attend.”
Sandy laughed and the sound shocked Cara almost as much as the ultimatum the group had offered up. “It’s not the first time. Don’t let it bother you.”
“It does bother me. I wouldn’t be having this event if it weren’t for you.” Cara scrunched up her eyebrows and sighed. “What did you do?”
Sandy laughed even harder. “I said nothing and that was all it took?”
“What does that mean?” Cara had gotten used to Sandy’s cryptic words, but she was not interested in doing any deciphering at the moment.
“It means that in high school a group of them did something they shouldn’t have done and they got in trouble for it and I got blamed for them getting in trouble.”
“But that was high school.”
Sandy laughed again. “They lost the football championships because of it.”
“Oh!” Cara may have only been in town for a year, but it just a few days would give you a clear picture of the importance of football. “Did you have anything to do with it?”
“It wouldn’t matter.” Sandy sighed. “For you, I will confess that I had nothing to do with it. But even if I explained it all to them, they wouldn’t care.” Sandy nodded her head in the direction the boat had taken. “To them, it is never their fault. Forget that what went down was all on the shoulders of the ones that got caught. It was not their fault.”
“Now I don’t want them to come.”
“Yes, you do.” Sandy’s expression had changed. “If you are going to do business in this town then you want them to come. You know that.”
“I know it, but I don’t have to like it.” She sighed and shook her head one more time. “What will you do?”
Sandy laughed again. “It turns out I am giving a talk out of town that night.” She leaned back on the dock and looked up at the son with a content smile.
“I bet you are.”