The Midsummer Lake — it was actually called Deepond, but I’d always called it Midsummer Lake — was right in front of my eyes once again. It had been years since I had last been here; it had been the last Midsummer my father had been alive, when I had been twelve. He had died in the following winter.
It was hard to believe it had been eight years since then, and even harder was to believe that it was a Midsummer again and I was here. Although, the very hardest thing that I had to believe now was that I was here not with a son or daughter of my own but… a companion of sorts. We had been traveling together for some weeks, but I still wasn’t sure what to call her.
Ria had already gone ahead to enjoy the view. The sky was as clear as ever and the water even clearer than in my memories.
It was a lot to take in, being there again after so many years. My grandfather had offered to take me here after my father had died, but I had declined year after year until he, too, had passed away three years ago. After him, there had been no one left to even suggest going there, let alone carrying out a plan for it.
I think the first Midsummer without my father I swore that I’d never come here again because it hurt so much. Because it made me miss him so much more.
Yet here I was.
And my father’s death hurt just as much as on the Midsummer seven years ago.
Before I realized it, I was on my knees, crying my soul out into my palms. I could feel Ria’s hands on my shoulders and hear her voice, a concerned tone muffling out the wind, asking me what was wrong. I could not answer, not yet.
I wasn’t sure if I could ever talk about it.
When I finally ran out of tears, I realized that she was hugging me.
“I don’t know what came into you, but I’m here for you like you’ve been for me,” she told. “Just ask and I’ll help you in any way I can.”
“Th-thank you…” I croaked and tried to clear my voice.
Ria let go and looked into my eyes. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“I…” I looked away; I couldn’t look at her. “I don’t know.”
“It’s ok,” she said. Her voice was softer than I had heard ever before. “I understand.”
I forced myself to look into her eyes. I had trusted her this far and she had not let me down. She had no reason to do so now either, right?
I decided to confide in her. “My father and I used to come here each Midsummer. I… haven’t been here ever since he… he died. Not even though my grandfather offered to take me here each summer until he died too. It’s been years but it still… it still hurts. It hurts so much.”
“I see,” Ria said. “So, that’s why you didn’t want to come here.”
“I’m sorry.” Ria hugged me again. “Losing someone you love hurts, it always does. But the pain loses its sharpness only when it’s faced and dealt with. I’m sure your father and grandfather are both proud of you. You’ve come a long way.”
I nodded and hugged her back. I wanted to believe in her words. “Thank you.”
That day, in the light of the sundown, I taught Ria stone skipping and fishing like my father had done with me. At the same time, she taught me a valuable thing: facing the pain of a loss did make the pain duller.
It was also a joy unlike any other to see her laugh and enjoy herself at the lake, a light in the darkening night that lessened the pain even more.
When I would have a child, I would brave the painful memories and pass on the tradition at the Midsummer Lake to them. That I knew for sure now.