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

Remy

Behind the sparkling blue eyes and jawline so sharp you could cut glass with it, Luke was a big softie. The kind of softie with a pet rat that whizzes across the floor in one of those clear, plastic balls.

I lifted my feet as the ball encased rodent shot out from under the sofa with a rumble.

“That’s Remy,” Luke said, as the tiny creature spun wildly up the hall.

“As in Ratatouille Remy?” I said, failing to hide my surprise as I pictured this six-foot-something man enjoying Disney movies.

“Yup. He doesn’t cook, though. Wanna meet him?”

He took my hand and lifted me off the cushions with such force my feet briefly left the ground. I collided with his chest. I didn’t mind.

He smiled down at me, his floppy black hair hanging in his eyes.

“Oops,” he said with a crooked grin, and pressed his mouth to mine.

~~~

As kisses go, it was pretty damn good. His lips were soft and warm and still had the sweetness of marshmallows on them. The ones we snacked on while watching the latest episode of The Mandalorian.

“You taste like marshmallows,” he said, and ran his tongue across my lips.

Stars exploded behind my eyes from the unexpected rush of heat that engulfed my entire body.

“So do you,” I squeaked just before he crushed his lips back into mine.

~~~

We stumbled up the hall, bouncing off the walls, giggling into each other’s mouths.

He shouldered his bedroom door open, and we tumbled in.

I fell back onto the mattress with a soft bounce.

“So, we’re doing this?” Luke said, his eyebrows raised.

I grabbed the waistband of his jeans and pulled him towards me, “I sure as hell hope so.”

~~~

We’d been dating for about a month and I’d dreamt of this moment ever since I watched him stride across the restaurant with a red rose in his hand. He was even more handsome than the photo on his dating profile. But his looks weren’t why I chose him. It was because he said he was a Star Wars fan and once had a dog named Indiana. I didn’t know he loved Disney movies too. It was almost too much for my geeky heart to handle.

~~~

A tiny weight landed on me and I gasped into Luke’s mouth.

I looked up and saw a pair of beady red eyes staring me down.

Remy the rat was sitting on my legs, a dirty sock in his mouth.

“Look at that,” Luke said. “He brought you his favourite sock. That means he likes you.”

I turned back towards Luke and my stomach did some kind of gold medal winning gymnastic flip. His hair was sticking out in a thousand different directions, where my hands had mussed it up, and it somehow made him even more gorgeous.

“He does?” I said, hoping he read between my lines.

Luke smiled, “Yeah. He really does,” and shooed the rat off the bed.

I melted into Luke’s arms. “Good. Because I like him too.”

Then his lips were on mine again, soft and warm and still tasting like marshmallow

© Amy Hutton 2020

A Devil Of A Romance

Longlisted for Australian Writers’ Centre October 2020 Furious Fiction competition

 ______________________________________________________________________________

“This is kinda romantic,” Callum said, nudging Holly. “A cabin by the lake. You and me…

“Tied up, waiting to die.”

“Well, I said kinda.”

They sat on the floor, back to back, wrists and feet bound, a band of rope pulled tight around their waists.

It was supposed to be a routine haunting. Holly would clear the spirit, and Callum would back her up. Except there was no spirit. Just an elaborate ruse by a pair of amateur Satanists looking to sacrifice a psychic to their dark lord. That’s where Holly came in. Only the idiots forgot the ritual candles and ran into town to pick some up, leaving Holly and Callum alone. Holly would laugh if she wasn’t so damn angry.

“You shouldn’t have come, Callum. They wanted me. Now we’ll both die.”

“We’re not gunna die. We’ve been in worse fixes than this.”

His pinky finger caressed hers, causing a familiar tingle to zip up her spine.

He was right, they had been in worse fixes. Like the time they were trapped in the basement of a condemned house with a furious spirit who sent Callum soaring across the room, splitting his head against a wall. He still carried the scar from that wound. It ran through his left eyebrow. Holly found it sexy.

“Can you wiggle out of the ties?” Callum said, bringing Holly back to the present.

Holly tried to move. “No. But what if we drop to the side?”

They rocked back and forth, falling sideways onto the fluffy white rug that covered the cabin floor.

“What Satanist buys a white rug,” Callum said, as he puffed the long pile away from his mouth. “I mean, blood sacrifices and white do not go.”

“Focus, Callum. Move around a bit. It might loosen the knot.”

They flipped and flopped like two fish beached on the sand until Callum squirmed out of the rope with a “Ta-da!”

“Give me your hands,” he said.

Something wet and warm ran along Holly’s wrist. “Did you just lick me?”

“Maybe.”

“Callum. Focus!” She tried to ignore the goosebumps that erupted across her skin.

“Couldn’t help it,” he mumbled, as he tugged on her ties with his teeth.

The second Holly was loose, she crushed her lips to Callum’s, kissing him hard and deep. He didn’t object.

She forced herself to pull away. “Later,” she said, through heavy breaths. “We need to go.”

They clamoured off the floor and darted to the door.

“Hang on,” Callum said as he dashed back inside. He returned brandishing a bottle of red wine.

“Is that their sacrificial wine?”

“They ain’t gunna need it now. Besides, they owe us. We can grab a pizza on the way home!” He flashed a dazzling grin.

“You are unbelievable.”

“That’s why you love me.”

“That’s why you’re lucky I love you.”

“To the moon and back,” Callum said, and he leaned over and kissed her cheek.

Holly smiled. “And then back to the moon.”

© Amy Hutton 2020

The Cruel Sea

Should I tell Jackson what really happened? Should I confess to him my secret? 

The music from the ballroom wafted on the breeze as I breathed in the salty air, its sweet tang settling in the back of my throat. We stood alone on deck and took in the stars; the tiny pinpricks of light peaking through the swathe of darkness. It had been such a beautiful evening. Perfect. Dancing, laughing, singing, swaying in Jackson’s arms. It made the last time I was on a ship seem like a distant dream. A distant dream preceded by a nightmare.

~*~

Jackson knows nothing of the man I loved before him. The man who made my every day a living hell. Whose cruelty still marks my body and my soul. He knows nothing about what I endured. The humiliation. The brutality. Will he understand if I tell him everything? Will he understand if I tell him the truth about the night the man tumbled overboard and vanished into the inky ocean?

“Somebody, help me!” I remember screaming.

Eventually.

“No. Please. No,” I remember crying.

In public.

But behind closed doors, I secretly celebrated. The joy was almost painful, it was so acute. I didn’t feel sad about it. Not for minute. Not for a second. I mean, I wouldn’t have shoved him over the rail if I didn’t want him dead.

Sometimes I wonder how death claimed him. The man. Was he dragged into the frozen depths and sliced into tiny pieces by the ship’s giant propellers? Or did he scramble to the surface and bob in the great expanse of water until sharks despatched him in a bloodied frenzy?

These are the sweetest of musings.

Jackson never questions me about what happened that night. He never asks for details. He says with grief, he knows the score. He understands that sometimes, it’s easier to keep the pain hidden than it is to share it.

Dearest Jackson with his kind eyes and sweet smile. He saved me in so many ways. He brought brightness back into my bleak world.

~*~

I gaze up at him, the silvery glow of the moonlight illuminating his gentle face. For the first time I know love, and if I’m going to spend my life with this man, then he deserves the truth.

“Jackson,” I say. I notice the thump of my heart pounding against my chest. “There’s something I should tell you.”

Jackson smiles at me, “I know all I need to know.”

“But you don’t.” A quiver colours in my voice, as the beginnings of tears prick at the corners of my eyes. “I didn’t tell you everything…”

“About the man?” he says. “The one you killed?”

“What?” I breath out.

Jackson’s hands suddenly slam against my chest, and the force of his shove makes me stumble backwards.

“Jackson!” I cry, as I bash into the guardrail. The metal impacts across the middle of my back and I yelp in pain and shock.

He shoves me again, and this time my balance falters completely and I tumble over the side.

I somehow manage to grab one of the rails as I fall. But it’s cold and slippery from the spray of the sea and I struggle to hold on. My fingers ache with strain as my feet scramble wildly against the hull of the ship trying to find a hold.

“Help me! Please! What are you doing?”

“I’m doing to you what you did to my brother,” he says, coolly.

I hear myself gasp, and in that moment, I see his face switch from kind to cruel. They have the same sneer, Jackson and his brother. The same ugly, vile sneer.

“You don’t understand,” I say, as I plead for my life, hoping he has more compassion in his heart for me than I had for his brother. “I’m sorry, Jackson. I’m so sorry.”

“I’m not,” he says, and his foot comes down and stamps on my knuckles.

I watch his smirking face get smaller and smaller as I plummet. My arms flailing in front of me, grasping at the air. My screams lost on the wind.

The surface of the ocean is like concrete when I hit it, and the shock of the impact explodes the air from my lungs.

I disappear beneath the waves and the foamy wake of the ship.

 I’m kicking now, kicking and kicking. My hands reaching for the light as I struggle for air. I break the surface briefly and glimpse the stern ship as it disappears into the black night. I wave frantically, but a whirlpool of freezing water is sucking at my legs and dragging me down, and I know I can’t fight it.

Will Jackson raise the alarm, I think, as my lungs start to burn from craving breath. Will he feign panicked devastation while he secretly celebrates?

I know he will. That’s what I did.

I’m dying now, my mind is dimming; my heartbeat slowing. And as the darkness of the inky ocean pulls me into its depths and swallows me, I no longer need to wonder about the man’s death.

Because I’m living it, and in a moment, I will understand everything.

© Amy Hutton 2020

In the Fervour of the Moon

Rayna’s basket bumped against her knee as she walked along the rocky path. “Granny and her damn goodies, she grumbled, glancing angrily at the hamper with its jaunty gingham cover. She spied a run in her tights where the rough cane had snagged a thread, creating a ladder up the side of her leg, disappearing under the petticoat ruffles that hung beneath her red velvet skirt. “Great,” she thought as she traipsed deeper into the forest.

The fallen leaves crunched beneath her feet as the trees became denser, the shadows darker, and the air cooler. When she gazed upwards, only a tiny patch of sky was visible beyond the branches high above.

A rustling noise sounded from the undergrowth and she stopped and peered into the gloom.

“Who’s there?” she said, a quiver in her voice.

A deep growl rumbled in return and an enormous grey wolf stepped onto the path in front of her.

She stood perfectly still, as the beast slunk towards her, its huge paws padding silently on the dirt, its brilliant amber eyes locked on her face. Her heart began to pound, thundering against her ribcage, and she furtively looked around to see if she was still alone.

“Please,” Rayna cried, as Granny’s basket trembled in her hand. “Please… Please… Please hurry up I have an appointment in town at three.”

The wolf rose up on its hind legs, its powerful form towering over her. A rush of heat surged through Rayna’s body and she watched excitedly as her unconventional lover transformed.

In just moments, he stood before her, naked and human, thick muscles rippling and glistening with sweat from the exertion of the change; a brilliant smile spread across his impossibly handsome face.

“My what big… everything you have,” she said, as she shrugged off her cape, dropped her basket to the ground and practically sprinted towards him.

He reached out a hulking arm, encircling her neck and drawing her in, holding her against his bare torso. Their lips crashed together, hungry and urgent, all wetness and teeth as they savoured each other’s taste.  Fireworks exploded behind Rayna’s eyes, like a shower of brilliant stars falling from the heavens, His long fingers artfully unlaced her bodice, his kiss never faltering, his mouth never leaving hers, and as she wiggled her dress from her shoulders and let it fall to her feet, they tumbled to the ground in a tangled mass of limbs and dizzy passion.

***

Rayna bit into the sandwich that she pulled from her picnic basket. “Michael, you really need to get over this twisted Little Red Riding hood kink of yours.”

His teeth were already starting to change; razor sharp canines poking over his still puffy from kissing lips. “Maybe next time I can blow your house down,” he said, with a grin.

“As long as there’s blowing involved babe, I’m all for it.”

Michael threw his head back and howled.

***

Rayna sighed as she watched Michael lope into the cover of the trees, the early afternoon breeze ruffling his soft, grey fur. She called after him. “Until the next waning moon,” and a shiver of anticipation ran down her spine when he turned and snarled, his amber eyes glowing with promise against the darkness of the forest.

 

© Amy Hutton 2020