I didn’t expect to inherit anything from my great aunt when she passed away. Certainly not her two-bedroom cottage at the end of a winding road, in the tiny coastal town of White Point. She must have known I needed a new start. To put my divorce and the sadness of the last few years behind me.
I stood on the porch and breathed in the sea’s scent, savouring the sound of the waves crashing beyond her small yard, my small yard, and on the other side of the dunes that rose above the sand.
Grabbing one of my great aunt’s coats from the starfish hook outside the front door, I started towards the beach, with a mug of steaming coffee in my hand.
As I stumbled up and over the dunes, my sneakers sliding in their softness, I stopped at the top to take in the wide expanse of windswept shore, before inelegantly traversing the downward slope.
I perched on a small rock and closed my eyes, enjoying the rhythm of pounding surf and the wind swishing in the long beach grass.
A whistle carried on the breeze, followed by what sounded like a man yelling, “Watch out!”
Suddenly I was on my back, my coffee splashed across the sand. A large hairy face with a long pink tongue staring down at me.
A wet slurp dragged across my cheek.
“Bear! Get off her. Bear!” The words got louder as the man came closer.
“Bear,” I said, trying to push the dog away. “Come on, buddy.” I looked up at a pair of soulful brown eyes and caught another sloppy slurp.
“Ew. Bear!” I said, turning my head to the side.
“Sorry. He’s a people lover.” The voice was deep, with a little gravel and a healthy amount of desperation.
Bear’s weight lifted off me and I gazed upwards as a hand appeared out of the glare of the sun.
“Let me help you,” the man said, as he hauled me to my feet.
He was tall. Maybe six-two. His fair hair hung just below his ears, and his neatly trimmed beard had a hint of ginger. He was handsome. Pretty, even. With a smile that positively beamed and sparkling blue eyes as bright as cobalt.
My breath caught in my throat.
“I’m Steve,” he said, still holding my hand. “I think you met Bear.”
I laughed. “He’s a bit forward with his affections,” I said, drawing my hand away. “Alice,” I introduced myself, and turned and gathered up my sand encrusted mug.
“He spilt your coffee.”
“No dramas, I was almost finished anyway.”
Steve bent down, picked up a piece of driftwood and tossed it for Bear.
I admired his back, wrapped in a snuggly white cable-knit sweater, the kind with an intricate pattern of knots.
“How about I buy you a fresh one, Alice?” he said, still looking toward the bounding dog.
“It’s really okay. I just live over the dunes. I can go make another.”
He turned and looked at me with a gaze that made my stomach flip. “I’d still like to buy you a coffee.”
I studied his disarmingly handsome face. A mix of softness and strength.
A delicious tingle whooshed through my entire body.
“What the hell,” I thought. “Sure,” I said. “I’d like that.”
“There’s a place up the beach. If you’re free?”
I slid my cup into my pocket. “I’m free.”
“Great.” He flashed a wide, brilliant smile. “Bear! Get over here,” he hollered and chased after the wayward dog.
I laughed at the scene in front of me. Steve dashing across the sand. Bear jumping and barking joyfully.
Steve turned, laughing and shrugging, before racing after the dog again.
“Maybe this is your new start,” I thought, and from where I was standing, it looked pretty good.
© Amy Hutton 2021