The Bride

It was supposed to be the happiest day of her life.

***

The dress sat perfectly across Katherine’s shoulders. The delicate rose coloured flowers stitched meticulously around the neckline, complimenting her smooth, alabaster skin. Folds of white silk charmeuse cascaded to the floor, trailing out behind her, a trim of intricate lace edging the train.

Her mother adjusted her veil, tucking her fiery ringlets behind the soft tulle.

She shook the ringlets forward and heard her mother sigh.

“You look beautiful,” her mother said. “But maybe you could wear a…”

She waited while the older woman arranged her words.

“…A less bright lipstick?”

Katherine mashed her lips together. They glowed with a slick of scarlet.

“I like it. It matches my hair.”

“It’s just that most brides…”

“Mother.”

“All right,” her mother said, raising her hands in mock surrender. “But you do look beautiful.”

Katherine squeezed out a smile. “Thanks.”

Her mother was right. She did look beautiful. More beautiful than her groom deserved. Even though he was beautiful himself. At least physically. The rest of him was as ugly as any man could be. Brutish and cold and narcissistic.

Her mother handed Katherine a glass of champaign. “Maybe a drink will help with your nerves,” she said, with a titter.

Katherine took the champagne on offer, tossing the bubbly liquid down her throat in one swallow before handing the glass back.

“Or five,” she said, her eyebrows raised.

Her mother took the hint and refilled her glass.

She gazed in the mirror again, barely recognising the woman staring back at her. The one who loved adventure, who danced wildly when no-one was watching, who drove too fast and swore too much, and wanted nothing more than to travel the world, free of commitments and boundaries and barriers.

She knew that life would never be hers now.

***

A year ago, she could never have believed this would be her fate. But a lot can change in a year.

Her father died and left a hole in the family filled with a debt no one knew anything about. Two mortgages on the farm that had been in her mother’s family for four generations.

They tried to get finance. They tried to work the land. They tried everything to keep their heads above water. Her, her mother and her two younger sisters.

They failed.

They sold off most of the stock to simply hold on to the farm. They let the ranch hands go, some who had been with her family nearly all their lives. Roy stayed, of course. More for her mother, than any other reason. He always held a flame.

Their saviour came in the shape of their neighbour. A man who owed his life to her father. Her father had pulled him from a raging river during one almighty Texan storm. They were never friends, but there was a respect between the men that lasted through to the end of her father’s days.

Landry Russell didn’t offer them money, but he did offer up his first-born son.

“A way to join our families and honour your father’s memory,” he had said.

A way to save their farm.

By selling her off.

She knew Walker Russell from school. The quarterback, the homecoming king, the bully. He was handsome beyond any boy she had ever seen. But behind his pretty chestnut eyes, lay a selfish, privileged, cruel young man, who saw himself as better than all around him. He picked on her with her pale skin, and flame coloured hair. He laughed at her father for still working his own land. He told her one day his family would own her ranch.

Seems he was right.

She hated him.

***

Her sisters bundled into the room giggling, their lavender bridesmaid’s dresses billowing behind them.

Laurel was too young to be anything but excited. At fourteen, she had no notion of love. All she cared about were her horses and BTS. Posters of the KPop stars papered her walls. But Justice knew better. She was seventeen, only three years Katherine’s junior, and a senior at the same school her older sister had attended. She understood why Katherine was marrying Walker. She knew it was so their mother could live her remaining years on the land she was born on. She knew it was so her and Laurel could go to college. She understood the sacrifice being made.

Justice looked over Katherine’s shoulder and into the mirror,

“You don’t have to do this,” she whispered in her sister’s ear.

“I do,” Katherine said with a smirk. “See how easy that was?”

Justice shook her head. “I’m going to tell mom you don’t love him.”

Katherine swung around and pretended to fix her sister’s hair. “You will not. Anyway, you don’t know how I feel.”

“Yes, I do. I saw how he used to treat you.”

“People change,” Katherine said with a shrug as she turned back towards the mirror.

“He hasn’t,” Justice said. “Please don’t do this, Kat. Please.”

Katherine smiled at her reflection, “Okay, ya’ll,” she said as she reached back and squeezed Justice’s hand. “I’m fixin’ to get married, who’s with me?”

Her mother and Laurel let out a hoot.

~~*~~

Delicate silk billowed around her like a shimmering marshmallow, as Katherine dropped to the ground and leant heavily against the old phone booth.

She gathered up the voluminous skirt and shoved it between her knees.

Pushing her shoes off with her heels, she tossed them one at a time towards the lake. They landed on the shore edge, a gentle wave claiming the left one and pulling it into the watery expanse. She watched as it drifted back and forth on the lapping tide, before it slowly sunk.

“Just like my life,” she said, as she wrenched the veil from her meticulously constructed up-do. Her flame red curls cascaded down in a messy mop of backcombing and bobby pins.

A dinging sound made her jump, and she fished around under the masses of white fabric, shoving her hand into the pocket she’d fought for when designing her gown. The one choice that was truly hers out of the whole god forsaken mess. Pockets.

She pulled out her phone and stared at the screen with its seventeen missed calls, sighed, and buried the phone back in the folds of her dress.

***

Everything had changed for Katherine when the limo transporting her to the church stopped for a herd of cows on their way to market. In a moment of clarity, Katherine saw the plight of those cows as being the same as her own. Plodding mindlessly forward to where they were expected to go. Passively accepting their fate. Lumbering towards the end of their life.

Without thinking, she’d dived from the car and dashed towards a thicket of trees, with no clue where she was going. Only that it was away. As far away as she could get from her shot gun wedding and a bitter future without love.

As she’d stumbled through the undergrowth, the sound of her name being hollered behind her became nothing more than a whisper on the wind, until finally it stopped. She knew her mother would never speak to her again. She knew she was being selfish. She was turning her back on her family. On their history. On her heritage. On everything she was ever taught to respect and cherish. But in that moment, as she’d clambered over fallen trees and through the long grass, Katherine felt free. The freest she’d been in years. Her future was hers once again, and no amount of money was worth throwing that away. Even if that meant losing the only life she had known since she was born.

When she burst out of the forest and onto the old highway, she’d flagged down a passing truck and a man, the age her father would have been if he were still alive, gave her a ride.

He hadn’t asked a single question, as she clambered aboard with swathes of wedding dress frothing around her. He’d talked only of the weather and the marvellous music playing on his ancient radio.

The man had dropped her by a phone booth beside Lake Pines, handing her a fist full of change and wishing her luck.

***

The coins jangled now as she stood.

***

Katherine’s Uber pulled up, its wheels crunching on the gravel.

She couldn’t help but laugh at the driver’s shocked face. She must have looked a sight. A wayward bride. Barefoot and bedraggled. Marbled patches of mud smeared down the front of her white dress and a tangle of hair hanging over her face.

She would fix it all. Fix everything. She would make it up to her mother. To her family. She would fine another way. A way that didn’t involve selling herself for a plot of land. Her father wouldn’t have wanted that for her, and once her mother understood, she was sure she wouldn’t want it either.

She slid onto the backseat, her one shoe in her hand, and stuffed her dress between her knees as she put on her seatbelt.

The driver gazed at her in the review mirror. “Bad day?” he said, the corners of his mouth twitching.

Katherine thought for a moment, then smiled.

“Happiest day of my life.”

©Amy Hutton 2021

The Last Sunrise

It would be my last sunrise.

The last time I glimpse the orange streaks stretching across the wide blue sky. The sun shimmering gold above the ocean as its dazzling light glistens off the frothy peaks of the waves.

My breath catches in my throat at the sheer beauty of it. Nature at her most glorious.

A young woman rides along the footpath atop the headland where I stand. She stops and pulls her bicycle onto the grass beside me.

“Gosh. It’s a stunner this morning,” she says.

I nod and hum an affirmative.

***

It’s been centuries since he witnessed the spectacle of the dawn. His eyes have not gazed on the sun, nor experienced its warmth for four hundred years.

He watches it rise in movies. The colours vividly captured on celluloid. The grandeur of the moment frozen in time. He strains to remember the touch of it on his cold flesh. The lick of its heat.

He studies the photos I take for him and eagerly listens as I explain every glint, every shade, every sensation the still image does not capture.

I consider how startling he would be in sunlight’s brilliance. His alabaster skin, eternally shadowed by the night, gleaming iridescent. His striking face illuminated, and his green eyes blazing.

I will never see him like that.

Just as I will never see another sunrise.

***

I draw a deep breath, holding the air trapped in my lungs until they burn. Savouring the scent of the sea spray that follows the air down.

I won’t breathe after today. My nostrils will never again tickle from the breeze. My chest will never rise and fall. I exhale an exaggerated puff and marvel at how my lips tingle as the air passes over them.

I will miss it. All of it. But I don’t regret my decision.

Not when I feel his mouth on mine, or his cool touch against my searing hot skin. Not when his hard body presses into me, as his butterfly soft kisses dust my shoulders, and his powerful hands caress my back.

I would give up everything for that.

I will give up everything.

I selfishly want him to love me forever, and if that means dying for him, then I shall.

A tear splashes onto my cheek and I swipe it away before another can follow.

I take one last wistful look at the fledgling day and turn and walk towards my car.

***

He holds my hand in his. “You’re sure?” 

I gaze at his handsome face. His eyes long dead, yet still full of love, crave reassurance.

“I’m positive,” I say, and tenderly kiss his icy cheek.

He runs his nail across my palm, drawing a thin line of blood.

I hiss at the pain and wince as he dips the nib of the quill into the fresh wound.

Red liquid drips from the pen’s end as he hands it to me.

My signature in an ancient book is all it takes to end my life.

I close my eyes and picture the sunrise, fixing it eternally in my mind, before inking my name on the page.

My death was a brief one.

© Amy Hutton 2021

Hawaiian Heatwave

Elle wasn’t sure if the pounding was happening inside her head or if it was the surf crashing against the beach outside her hotel window.

She groaned and licked her lips, screwing up her face at the stale tang of mint and shuddering at the memory of the mojitos she drank way too many of the night before.

“Morning,” a raspy voice beside her said.

Elle’s eyes snapped open, and she cautiously glanced to the side before slowly allowing her head to follow.

A smile met her. Wide and sleepy and impossibly bright.

She squinted as she struggled to focus.

The smile was surrounded by golden skin, with eyes the colour of faded denim sparkling above it. Messy brown curls stuck out in every direction and dark scruff shimmered along a strong, square jaw.

Everything roared back to her as she gawped at the gorgeous man in her bed. The cocktails. The music. The dancing. The kissing. The more kissing. So much kissing.

She lifted the covers and peeked beneath them, sighing with relief when she saw she was wearing her underwear.

“Yeah. We didn’t do that,” he said with a laugh. “What kind of guy do you think I am?”

At that moment, she wasn’t entirely sure, but she thought he might be an… “Adam?” she blurted. “Hi… Adam…” She cringed at the hesitation in her voice.

He laughed again. “Yep. Adam.”

She winced. “I know. You’re the reason I can’t feel my feet.” Or my lips, she wanted to add.

“We did do some dancing,” he said, stretching his arms above his head. A crack rang out. “Oof. I need to work out more.”

Elle frowned. From her vantage point, it looked like he worked out plenty. Broad shoulders lay against her pillows and perfectly formed biceps rested on top of her sheets.

She ran a hand over her hair, as she wondered how she could slide away to the bathroom and a mirror.

“Hey. You look beautiful,” he said, leaning in and kissing her on the cheek.

He threw back the sheets, strode to the window and drew the blinds.

Elle was dazzled by a magnificent sunrise and Adam’s equally magnificent back.

She inhaled sharply, and a tiny gasp escaped her mouth.

“I know, amazing, right?” he said, still gazing at the view. “Nothing like a Hawaiian sunrise.” He turned and smiled at her. “How about an early swim?”

***

They held hands as they walked barefoot down the path, past the pool and its straw umbrellas, and onto the beach.

“Race you,” he said, turning towards her and running backwards.

“You’re on,” she said, as she dropped her towel and sprinted towards the ocean.

She hooted as she shot passed him, then squealed in surprise as the cool water slammed against her skin.

He followed her in, slid his arms around her waist and dropped them both under the waves with a splash.

Elle burst to the surface laughing and spluttering – her long hair wrapped around her face.

Adam stood in front of her and guided the wet strands from her eyes. Then, bending down, he pressed his lips to hers.

They rocked back and forth, mouths locked together, bodies pressed into each other, fingers entwined, everything warm and wet as gentle ripples lapped around their thighs.

“So,” Adam said, when they finally broke for air. “You feel like some breakfast, Elle? I know the best spot on the island for Loco Moco.”

“Sure,” Elle said. “Or…” she hesitated. “We could get room service?”

***

As they walked back across the sand, towards the hotel and the deliciousness that awaited them, Elle licked her lips, this time savouring the zing of sea salt, and the heady taste of holiday romance.

© Amy Hutton

Christmas in July – A Holly and Callum short.

The house loomed before them; a hulking silhouette against the starry July sky. The night was warm and sweat trickled down Holly’s spine.

“I’m so damn hot,” she said, fanning herself.

“Yes, you are,” Callum said, and he pressed his lips to the back of her neck.

She tried to shake him off. “You’re making me hotter.”

He wrapped his arms around her waist. “Do tell.”

 “Now you’re making me sticky.”

“Ooof. Keep talking.”

“Callum.” She gave him a playful shove and watched him laugh as he stumbled backwards. His dazzling smile lighting up the dark. “Can we get this job done so we can go home and take a cold shower.”

“A cold shower isn’t going to help us,” he said, and he leaned in and softly kissed her.

***

 They stood side by side and surveyed the room. The house was a mess. Boxes were strewn across the floor, and a sofa rested on its end against the wall.

“Did the spirit do this? Holly said, in a whisper.

“No. They were moving in when the disturbances began.”

“And they only saw it upstairs?”

“Yes. In the nursery.”

“A haunted nursery. How cliché,” she said, and a floorboard gave a loud creak under her foot.

“And now that cliché spirit, probably knows we’re here,” Callum said, as he loaded iron rounds into his pistol.

Holly grabbed his hand, “Um. It does.” She pointed upwards. “It’s at the top of the stairs.”

Callum shone his flashlight towards the landing. “What is it? What do you see? Are we in trouble?”

 “It looks… It looks like… It looks like Santa.”

“Santa? The jolly guy in the red and white suit? That Santa?”

“Yes. That Santa,” and she heard Callum stifle a chuckle. “Oh god no,” Holly groaned. “He just ho-ho-hoed at me.”

And this time she heard Callum laugh.  

***

Holly sat on their bed thankful that the job was done, the spirit was gone, and they were home. She tugged off her sweaty jeans as Callum watched, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

“What?” she said.

“Of all the terrifying things we face in our lives, Holly, you’re scared of Santa Claus.”

“He’s a creepy old dude who likes kids way too much.”

 Callum snorted. “He’s a nice guy who gives people presents.” and he reached down and gently guided her into his arms. “Listen, I was thinking. Maybe you need to face your fear. We could do a Christmas in July thing. Just you and me.”

“Do you promise to stop laughing at me if I say yes?”

“I promise to stop laughing.”

“No Santa though,” she said, as she began to unbutton his jeans.

“How about just the hat. We’ll start off slow.”

“Okay,” she said, with an exaggerated sigh. She grabbed his waistband and pulled him towards the bathroom. “Nothing but the hat, and I meannothing. Except …maybe the boots.”

“Oooo. Kinky.”

“You love it.”

“Yes, I do.”

And Callum had been right, the cold shower didn’t help them at all.

©Amy Hutton 2021

Meeting Bear

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