Inspired by Trixie’s writing prompt

“A baby photo?” I clutched the phone under my chin while I folded laundry. “You really need my baby photo?”

“Didn’t I already ask you about this weeks ago?”

“I thought you were kidding.”

Em, my best friend, chuckled over the phone. “The baby picture slideshow is tradition for the ten year high school reunion, Allie. It’s going to be so great. I know you’ve always regretted this reunion idea, but with me planning it this year it’ll be so much better,” Em bubbled on. “Plus, it’ll be different than the real deal of school. Most of those dimwits that we went to school with matured a bit anyways.”

I cracked a smile. “I hope so.”

“Now scan me that picture within the hour.”

After I hung up the phone, I set the laundry basket on the floor and sighed. One baby picture for the reunion couldn’t hurt.  I headed for the fold-up staircase that lead to the attic – where my photo albums were hidden. Each stair creaked it’s protest. At the top, I pulled the string and the light bulb flickered on. I blinked away the dust.

I sat cross legged on the dirty attic floorboards. I pulled out a few non-sequitur albums out of a cardboard box, and found the one labeled “Allie’s Baby Years.” I grinned as I saw pictures featuring me being spoon feed apple sauce or simply making a cute and pudgy baby smile. I pulled out one that wasn’t too terribly embarrassing, and set it aside for Em. Then I saw the album called “The Awkward Years” at the bottom of the box, where it’d sat since I graduated. I hesitantly pulled it out and stared at it. Did I really want to open up this can of worms from my teenage years? The pictures might not be of anything but birthday parties and such, but the other memories sure were horrific. I’d considered just tossing all the pictures from high school, but that seemed a bit extreme. High school wasn’t all bad. Only the vast majority of it was.

I shook my head and began to lower it into the box. Before it reached its home, a picture slipped out and fluttered into my lap. Picking up the faded film picture, I recognized it to be a photo of a dock – the dock at Otter Lake. A slow smile grew on my face as I remembered how much time I spent there as a kid. That little dock helped me stay sane through those fateful years in high school.

Those tumultuous years were due in part to my father. He never tried to cause any harm; he was a wonderful man. In fact, was the best lawyer around. He lived for helping the victims and putting scoundrels behind bars, but those scoundrels that he put away often took it out on me. I went to school with some of them, so I suppose I was a target their own age. I grew up in farm country, but as far as crime went, it may have well been the inner city. We had the gang bangers, the armed robbers, the druggies, and the occasional murderer. Whenever a case went badly for one of my criminal classmates, it was usually due to my father’s work as the victim’s attorney. Though the perpetrators were serving time and couldn’t hurt my father or me, it was often the buddies of the jailbird that attacked me. Throughout high school, I was slammed into dozens of lockers and received seven death threats. Em was the first and only person who knew about it all. She became my body guard as well as my other half.

Besides the terror I experienced at school, I faced a different set of problems at home. My father was very adamant about me becoming a lawyer. Mother had died when I was a kid, and he was always a bit protective of the way I grew up. He saw how many adolescents around us turned out, and he wanted to make sure I would come out on his side and fight for the victims.

He may have had good intentions, but I had other ideas. The idea of spending my days in stuffy offices and even stuffier court rooms made me sick. I wanted to live in the fresh air, and with horses, the two things that made me feel free. I decided I would become a therapeutic riding instructor.

Whenever it felt as if my world was crashing in – whether because of the latest bully or because of father’s suffocating expectations – I’d hop on my bike. I’d speed down the gravel street to the next farm, where an old farmhouse and abandoned dock sat on the edge of a marshy lake. Then I’d run down to the shore, down the rickety dock, and collapse on the bench at the end. When it was pouring, and even when the lake was frozen over for winter, I could still be found there most every evening. There were no judgments, no threats, no expectations – just my thoughts and the breeze in my hair.

Somewhere in all that, I grew up. When I was accepted into the Equine Studies program at the college of my dreams, I first called Em. Then I hopped on my bike, and rode out to the dock. I danced in circles down the dock, and let out a few shouts of glee. After the earlier hard blows in life, it felt like the world was being handed to me.

In my freshman college classes, I met a man named Jeff. He was studying to be a social worker and loved to bring flowers to my dorm room. We’ve been married four years now. The only thing he knew about my high school years is that it was hard and awkward. That is the sort of nondescript thing any adult could look back and say. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust him enough to tell him everything. I only didn’t want to relive it all: the threats, the bullying, the many, many tears I cried on that dock.

I looked back at the photo in my hand. I’d always sworn that when I was older and had a trusted confidant, I would take that person to the dock. I knew that dock didn’t look like much to anyone else. That wasn’t the point. The one person that I truly trusted deserved to see the place that had helped me become who I am. Life had swept me away and I’d forgotten that promise. Jeff and I lived on the other side of town now, but that self same dock was only a few miles drive away.

“There you are, honey.” Jeff stood in the doorway, head cocked. He must have just walked in from work. “You alright?”

I nodded.  “Want to go on a drive tonight?”

His eyes glittered with adventure. “Where to?”

“To Otter Lake – where I grew up.”