Type of Short Story: Novella
Summary: All Dorothy Perkins wants is to have a good time. She’s wild about dancing, and can’t understand or accept her father’s strictness in forbidding it. Night after night she sneaks out to the Lost Lake House, a glamorous island nightclub rumored to be the front for more than just music and dancing…in spite of an increasingly uneasy feeling that she may be getting into something more than she can handle.
Marshall Kendrick knows the truth behind the Lost Lake House—and bitterly hates his job there. But fear and obligation have him trapped. When a twist of circumstances throws Dorothy and Marshall together one night, it may offer them both a chance at escaping the tangled web of fear and deceit each has woven…if only they are brave enough to take it.
At eight-thirty Dorothy turned out the light in her bedroom and put on her hat and coat. If her room was dark and her father had not heard an outside door shut he never came to look in on her, but assumed she was asleep. She had learned his routine carefully, lying awake and listening on the nights she was at home. Still she had lately taken to rumpling up her bed and putting pillows under the coverlet, just in case—her conscience, recovering from the sulkiness that had set her on this path, was beginning to be jumpy. Then she climbed out the window onto the sloping back porch roof, slithered down an ivy-covered trellis and ran through the dark backyard to the side street. Their house was a big old-fashioned brick with a mansard roof, with the boughs of stately old oak trees brushing the upper story; situated at the corner of a block, its yard rimmed with hedges. There was an opening at the side for the path where the milkman and the grocer’s boy came to the back door, and Dorothy slipped through this and darted across the street in the dim light from the lamp on the next corner.
By quarter to nine she had reached the street corner where a group of girls and young men were waiting, milling about and laughing and teasing each other under the street lamp by a drugstore. Dorothy joined them, and they walked a few blocks to where some of the young men had cars waiting. They piled in and drove out the winding roads through the outskirts of town toward the lake, a little too fast once they were out of the part of the city more regularly patrolled by the police. Dorothy had at first been exhilarated by this ride, later a little alarmed by it, and then shamed into saying nothing by the nonchalant way in which the other girls took the whirling speed amid careless banter with the drivers. She laughed with the others, but kept a tight grip on the inner door-handle.
The dock for the Lost Lake ferry was at the bottom of a steep hill—cars were parked up above in an empty lot off the road that was supposed to be secret but which everyone knew about. Standing a little back from the dock, on the trodden gravelly shore, Dorothy stared across the water. On cloudy nights like this the lake and sky and island all melted into a uniform invisible black, so the blazing golden windows of the Lost Lake House seemed suspended in the middle of the lake like a floating fairy palace. The lighted ferryboat, which had left on one of its trips before her party reached the landing, inched across the lake like a little glowing caterpillar swimming toward it.
Dorothy shoved her hands deep in her coat pockets and suppressed a little shiver. It seemed they always arrived when the ferry was halfway across the lake to the island, and had to wait for its return. She could never entirely escape the chill of nervousness in her stomach while waiting, almost as bad as it had been the first time she crossed. It had not taken her long to hear the whispers about the Lost Lake House—that there was a hidden speakeasy inside—that there had been police raids before, and that it might happen again. Every time she had to wait in the half-dark by the ferry, near a little group of girls and men still teasing and laughing in half-whispers—by habit rather than fear with them—her jangling nerves expected at any moment the white glare of headlamps on police cars would pour down from the bank above and pin them in their blinding beams, branding them all as criminals and exposing their secret expeditions to the world. (Oh, wouldn’t her father be furious then!)
The ferry was coming back now, the strings of little Japanese lanterns that ornamented it bobbing above the black water. Dorothy’s breath came quicker as it always did at this moment, when the lighted ferryboat drew closer and the fear of the police began to recede. This was the moment—as the ferry bumped against the lower dock, and she followed the others down the wooden steps—the moment she tried to hug to herself, to savor the magic of as she stepped under the string of lanterns, fixed her eyes on the shining house across the lake, and felt the little lurch of the ferry carrying them out from the shore. She tried not to hear the chatter of the other passengers and the chug of the motor; she was busy making the Lost Lake House into fairyland.
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