“I don’t know, Rose Marie. Nothing seems to work,” Daniel Cleaver looked at his new wife. “Maybe this was a mistake.”
“No, I don’t agree. This is the perfect spot.”
They continued surveying the property they owned on the shores of Lake Dora, near Orlando, Florida, trying to determine where they should build their home.
Unable to arrive at a decision, they decided to take a break and have the picnic lunch Rose Marie had prepared.
Rose Marie gazed at the giant cypress tree growing about 200 feet from the shore after passing a chicken salad sandwich to Daniel, “Wouldn’t it be lovely to have the shade from that beautiful old tree over …” she looked at Daniel, “… over … our house.”
Daniel sat up, “That’s it! We’ll build the house around that tree.”
“Is that possible?”
“Of course, it’s possible,” he looked at the plan of the house he had designed. “Why didn’t I think of that? I’ll redesign the house " no, I’ll create a new design,” he threw the plans aside and looked at Rose Marie, “With glass walls, a deck around the outside, and a boathouse in the back. We’ll definitely need a boathouse,” he looked at the old cypress tree visualizing his plan, then turned to Rose Marie. “Honey, what do you think?”
Rose Marie began to laugh, “Daniel, it’s perfect. Oh, my God, I can hardly believe we’re going to do this,” she stopped and looked at her husband, “Daniel?” And smiled.
“What?” He began to smile and then chuckled. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Of course. Why not,” Daniel reached across the blanket. “Come here, you.”
As afternoon shadows began to gather, “You know, these are the best sandwiches you’ve ever made.” Daniel grinned.
Rose Marie smiled, “Come on, it’s getting late. You have a lot of work ahead of you.”
Within a week the new design was completed, permits were issued, and construction began.
The house rose to completion on poles surrounding the ancient cypress tree, whose branches spread lazily over the clean lines of the new structure, providing shade from the semi-tropical sun. Cool breezes from the lake added to the ideal atmosphere for Daniel and Rose Marie as they began their life together.
A stairway at the back of the house leading to the boathouse, and a wooden walkway from the shore to the house provided the only access to their new home. Near the entrance to the walkway stood a brightly colored pole supporting a matching mailbox.
The glass walls of the house provided no privacy, but as Daniel often explained, “This is country living, privacy was never an issue. Only God and the postman were privileged to see what was going on inside.”
Daniel and Rose Marie met in kindergarten and took a natural shine to one another. It was nothing serious until the summer after they graduated from high school when they realized they would not be seeing one another as much as they had in the past.
At the end of a bitter-sweet summer, they went off to college – in different directions. The old idiom, absence makes the heart grow fonder was excruciatingly true in this case. They were miserable without one another in spite of the excitement of college and new friends.
As family gossip has it, during their second summer break from college, Rose Marie’s mother, who was growing weary of the doldrums her daughter was in, finally told her, “For heaven’s sake, Rose Marie, why don’t you ask him to marry you, and get it over with.”
And so she did. Daniel accepted her proposal before she finished speaking. They married at summer’s end. Rose Marie did not return to college. She followed her new husband and found an interesting job in a fashion design firm while he finished college.
The money Daniel received on his 21st birthday, from the trust his grandfather had set up for him, was more than enough to build the lake house as they wished it to be built.
They lived there happily for over five years. When Rose Marie became pregnant, the days did not seem long enough as plans for the future of their family were laid in joyous details. Those plans, however, vanished the day their twins were born, and the love of Daniel’s life passed away from complications while giving birth. The twins, Scott, and Sybil were born on Rose Marie’s 26th birthday.
Left alone with two babies to care for, Daniel packed up and abandoned the lake house but not the memories. He said it was too lonely and too painful to stay. He passed away a year later from what everyone concluded was a broken heart.
Vivian and Ted Cleaver, the twin’s aunt and uncle, took them into their home and raised them as their own. As the twins grew, they were told about their parents, and the lake house, along with many interesting and informative stories. They were just stories and did not register in the minds of two kids who were not capable of grasping the meaning of what they were hearing. Mom and Dad were Aunt Vivian and Uncle Ted. That was what mattered to them.
The beautiful lake house stood empty for over 20 years, or so it was thought.
Scott and Sybil inherited the house and property when they turned 21, and their aunt and uncle’s guardianship ended.
Neither of the twins had seen the lake house in person. So, one weekend they took a trip out to the lake to check on the condition of their inheritance. As they drove through a forest of Laurel Oak, their house came into view. They were astonished when they noticed a young woman taking mail out of the mailbox perched on a brightly colored poll. She walked back to the house and stopped by the man who was washing windows. They laughed at something which had arrived in the mail.
The twins were taken aback by the overall beauty of the setting, created by the ancient cypress growing through the center of the house, casting a lacy shade for the couple living beneath its spreading branches. The property was well maintained, with flowers blooming in flower boxes, placed on the outside deck encircling the house.
The presence of this couple surprised the twins, they wondered if their Aunt and Uncle had rented the house without telling them. Scott dialed their number. “Hi, Aunt Vivian. Sybil and I are at the lake house. Has it been rented by any chance?” Vivian told Scott it had never been rented. “Well, you won’t believe this, but there’s a young couple living here now. We’re looking at them as I speak.”
Scott and Sybil got out of their car for better cell phone reception while Scott spoke with his Aunt. The young couple noticed them and waved. The twins returned the greeting.
Sybil suggested they go down and talk with them.
“No, It could be awkward. They look like a nice people; I don’t want to risk putting them on the spot. Let’s wait. We can talk to Aunt Vivian and Uncle Ted and then decide what to do,” They got back in their car and drove away.
That evening the twins sat down with Vivian and Ted to discuss what they had seen, and what to do about it.
Ted asked them to describe the couple they had seen. Scott and Sybil gave a description of what they saw and remarked on the excellent care given to the property. In particular, they spoke of the beautiful flowers growing in the many containers on the wide deck surrounding the house.
When Sybil described the multi-colored free-flowing outfit the young woman was wearing, Ted and Vivian looked at one another in silent disbelief.
“What?” Sybil was perplexed.
Vivian got up, left the room for a moment and returned with two boxes. She set them down on the coffee table and opened the smaller one. She pulled a large photo out and handed it to Scott.
“That’s Mom and Dad,” the twins looked up.
Ted hesitated, “Did the couple look like them?”
Scott paused, “Why in the world would you ask a question like that?”
“Besides,” Sybil added, “We were too far away.”
Vivian opened the larger box and pulled out a multi-colored free-flowing gown and held it up. “Is this what she was wearing?”
“Oh, my God, yes. It’s exactly what she was wearing,” Sybil got up and touched the gown.
Vivian handed the gown to Sybil and sat down. She pressed a handkerchief against her lips to stifle a sob.
Sybil sat next to Scott and examined the detail of the gown. Finally, Scott looked up, “Would someone please tell us what’s going on?”
Ted found another photo in the smaller box and handed it to Scott. “This photograph is of your mother wearing that gown, which she designed at the firm she worked for while your father was in college.”
“That’s impossible,” Scott almost shouted.
Sybil leaned against Scott “I almost walked down to the house to speak with them, they seemed so friendly. These people were real and they were there. We saw them with our own eyes,”
Scott turned to Sybil, “Let’s go back tomorrow.”
“Let’s all go back tomorrow,” Ted added.
The four mystified people drove to the lake the next day. As they approached the house, Scott mused, “This can’t be the right place,” weeds had overgrown everything. The windows on the house were dim with years of neglect.
They got out of their car and approached the shoreline. Sybil grabbed Scott’s arm. “Look, there’s the mailbox we saw,” It was on its side, almost invisible beneath the weeds.
Scott used his foot to move the dried leaves from the box, “How could this have changed overnight?”
Ted offered, “May sound weird, but it appears you stepped into a kind of time warp yesterday.”
“Ted!” Vivian protested.
“Well, what other explanation is there?”
Scott and Sybil looked at one another and laughed. “What if it were true?” Sybil gushed.
“Now I wish we had talked with them. We would have been with our mother and father before we were born. How cool would that be?”
Sybil put her arm through Scott’s arm. “You know, when we were driving through those Oaks yesterday, I had the strangest feeling.”
“What do you mean?”
“I thought nothing of it at the time, it felt like something washed over me. It was subtle and didn’t seem worth mentioning. When we left, I got the same impression as we drove away.”
“Did you feel it today?”
“No, I didn’t.”
The four family members stood together in silence, gazing at the abandoned lake house with the ancient cypress tree growing through the center. Its lazy branches still providing shade from the semi-tropical sun. A gentle breeze from the lake embraced the four solitary figures.
Scott mused, “You know, I’m going to have this place looking like it did yesterday. Perhaps we’ll get another chance to visit with them.”
“An excellent idea,” Sybil agreed.
Vivian and Ted voiced their approval as they lapsed into silence, wondering about that moment in time the twins had encountered, why it had happened, and would it happen again.