“Ways You Said I Love You” Prompt #28: When I’m dead
Thank you @eggosanddragons for this particularly challenging prompt. I hope you’ll enjoy!
A picnic basket, a beach ball, several towels, a stereo, and a day’s worth of snacks efficiently packed into the trunk of his car, Steve is nearing the end of a two-and-a-half-hour drive northwest of Hawkins, to his family’s cottage along Hart Lake. He’s drumming along against his steering wheel, albeit poorly, with John Bonham to “Moby Dick” and chatting with his pint-sized passenger in the backseat.
El, gripped with excitement, eagerly batters him with questions about their destination—it’s colours, its smells, its sounds. Steve, amused by her delight, answers each question happily while the Wheeler siblings, both heavy sleepers, remain blissfully unaware of their surroundings; Nancy beside him, with her face pressed up against the glass of the passenger window and Mike with his head resting on El’s shoulder.
“It sounds beautiful,” El sighs dreamily, having finally exhausted her list of questions. She’s loved the beach since her first time visiting on earlier that summer and is thrilled to be visiting one that is, for her, far away—the furthest she’s ever been from home.
“Really beautiful,” Steve responds with a smile, taking a quick glance at El through the rear-view mirror. She’s sitting perfectly still so as not to disturb the sleeping boy using her as a pillow, her face turned and looking eagerly out the window at the passing countryside. “It’s my favourite place in the world,” Steve tells her. Admittedly, he hasn’t seen much of the world, but Hart Lake was spectacular regardless of that—a large beach of pale sand and an immense cedar-lined lake, at the center of which sits a sizable outcropping of rock.
El’s face lights up at Steve’s mention of the word favourite. This she knows to be a good thing—the best of any one thing—and if Hart Lake has that status, it must be truly special. El, too, had recently started collecting favourites, of which she kept a written list in the sparkly purple notebook Mike had given her on her “first” birthday. She had a favourite animal (the polar bear), a favourite food (pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms), a favourite colour (blue), and a favourite book (A Wrinkle in Time). She also had a favourite person (Mike Wheeler).