Panic

Panic: Noun. A sudden and overwhelming fear, which may or may not have a cause.

Five letters.

Panic: That feeling of utter dread when you know you’ve totally fucked up.

P-A-N-I-C.

Lydia scrawled the word out on a notepad, underlining it with angry, black scribble that ripped through the page, and continued determinedly onto the page below. She was currently experiencing an attack of the word, complete with sweaty palms, elevated heart rate and a loss of control over her breathing that saw her gulping at the air like a possessed guppy.

“Calm down, stupid. Don’t be such a moron. It’s no biggie. You screwed up the monthly report. So what? People make mistakes. And hey, if you get fired, well you don’t like this job anyway? You hate this stupid job. Fuck this job. Fuck everyone here. You should get up and walk out before they escort you out.”

She reached for her bag and attempted to shove her half-full mug of tea inside. Tepid, brown liquid splashed across the white leather, running down her arm, and dripping off her elbow.

“Shit. Idiot. IDIOT!”

She dropped the soggy bag to the floor and peered furtively over the top of her computer monitor towards the glass walled corner office and the meeting being held inside.

“Shit shit shit. Shit to everything.”

Suppressing the urge to run to the bathroom and puke, she instead closed her eyes and kneaded the sides of her temples in aggressive circles, causing the hair around her face to ball up in messy clumps.

“You alright, Lydia?”

Lydia jumped. Her lids sprung open to see the alarmed face of her co-worker Jeff.

“What? Oh yeah. Fine Jeff. Fine. Just spilled some tea. Like a moron. Ha ha.” She gave him a smile which she hoped looked reassuring and not like some crazed, maniacal clown.

Jeff’s eyebrows soared towards the ceiling. “Ohhh-kay,” he said, as he inched slowly away.

“Crazed maniacal clown it was then.”

The door to the corner office opened, and her manager’s head popped out.

“Oh shit. This is it.”

“Lydia, you got a minute,” her manager called, waving Lydia in.

“Sure,” Lydia sung out cheerfully. A little too cheerfully it happens, as all eyes swung in her direction. She smiled brightly about the room, quickly gathered up her scratched up pad and a pen and sauntered as casually as possible towards the office whistling “When the Saints.” Like a demented parrot.

“Ah Lydia, take a seat,” her boss said.

Lydia silently slid into the seat beside her manager.

“We just wanted to go over last month’s financial report with you…”

“Here we go Lydia, get ready for that dole queue.”

“…We found a discrepancy…”

“Told you, you shouldn’t spend all your money on clothes.”

“…In your role, you must ensure absolute accuracy, I can’t stress this enough…”

“At least when you become homeless, you’ll be chic homeless.”

“…But everyone makes mistakes. So, we wanted to go over it with you, and make sure you see where you went wrong. Okay?”

If Lydia’s life had a soundtrack, this is where the record scratch would have happened.

*Screeeeech*

“What?”

“Please make sure you double and triple check everything next month.”

“Um, yes.” Lydia spluttered. “Of course. I’m Sorry.”

“Excellent. Janet will run these numbers with you, so you can see where they went awry.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“Is everything else alright?”

Lydia looked around the room at the expectant faces.

“Um. Yes?” she said, sounding more like she was asking a question than giving an answer.

“Good. Well, let us know if you need anything.”

Lydia walked back to her desk and dropped into her chair looking like a relieved stunned mullet. She stared at the notepad that was still in her hands, with its angry, black writing and furious, page-tearing scribble.

“Told you it was no biggie. Also, you should probably try to do better with that self-love stuff.”

Picking up her pen, she added in all caps;

IDIOT.

 

© Amy Hutton 2020

Meet Cute Puppy

A panicky voice yelled out “Grab him!” just as Julia saw a blur of black and white fur dash past her legs. Without thinking, she lunged for the escaping dog and missed, tripping instead on a rise in the pavement and falling heavily to the ground with an “Ooof” and a thud. She was lying sprawled inelegantly across the concrete, half frozen with embarrassment, half too scared to move in case she was hurt, when something warm slurped her cheek. Gingerly rolling over, Julia saw a ridiculously fluffy puppy and reached out, drawing it onto her chest.

“Are you okay?” a man’s voice called. She saw a pair of bare feet come to a stop beside her and heard puffing like someone was trying to catch their breath.

Julia pushed a strand of her auburn hair out of her eyes and gaze upwards following the direction of the voice. She squinted into the glare of the clear blue sky until a handsome man’s face came into view and blocked out the sun.

“I am so sorry,” he said, “Are you okay? Can you move?”

Julia wasn’t exactly sure, but she nodded anyway.

“I opened the door and whoosh, he was gone,” he continued as he bent down and helped her to her feet. “Thank you so much for grabbing him.”

She nodded again; feeling slightly dazed and still clinging to the pup.

“Ooo, ouch,” the man said, wincing as he pointed to her leg. “Can I sort that out for you? I’m just around the corner.”

She followed his eyes to an angry, bloodied graze on her knee. Until that moment, she hadn’t even noticed that she was injured, but now that she had seen the wound, her knee began to sting and throb.

“You can trust me,” he added. “I’m a nurse.”

And as he smiled, she saw an adorable set of dimples appear in his cheeks.

Julia wasn’t sure if it was the shock of the fall or his dimples, but she suddenly felt woozy and rocked back on her heels.

“Whoa,” he said, reaching out with a steadying hand. “Let’s get you sat down and patched up.” He slipped his arm around her waist. “I’m Luke.”

She leaned into the security of his body. “Julia,” she said.

“Nice to meet you Julia. That troublemaker you’re holding is Wilbur.”

“Hi Wilbur,” she said, and she nuzzled his soft fur.

 

Julia was sitting on a chair in Luke’s kitchen with Wilbur on her lap looking up at her like he knew it was all his fault. She watched as a trickle of blood dribbled down her shin towards her sock. She was thankful she didn’t put on the skirt she was thinking about wearing that day, instead choosing a pair of shorts. At least as she lay spreadeagle on the footpath, she thought, she hadn’t been accidentally flashing anyone.

“Okay, let’s take a look at that knee,” Luke said as he walked into the room, squatted in front of her and opened-up his first aid kit.

While Luke checked out Julia’s wound, Julia checked out Luke. He was a bit of a knockout. Tall and pretty, with sparkling blue eyes and lashes Julia would kill for. His brown hair was short and spiky, and he was wearing a chest hugging, white t-shirt and what Julia suddenly realised was his underwear; tight, black boxer-briefs that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. She blushed and looked away, but not before Luke noticed and glanced down.

“Oh my god. I’m sorry. I didn’t even…”

Julia shook her head.  “No. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

“I ran out the door without…”

“No, really. I shouldn’t have…”

They stared at each other in silence for a moment, then started to laugh.

 

Luke stuck the final strip of tape to the gauze on Julia’s knee. “I think you’ll live,” he said, as he stood and smoothed out the front of his jeans. “So… Wilbur was thinking he’d like to make it up to you, and… um…buy you a coffee.”

“I would love that, Wilbur,” Julia said, looking at Luke.

“Wilbur also hopes you don’t think he’s an idiot.” Luke said, looking a Julia.

“No. Not at all. In fact, I think we could become…good friends,” she said, as she ruffled Wilbur’s fur.

“Man, I sure hope so,” Luke said, and flashed her another dimply smile.

Julia felt woozy again, but this time, she knew exactly why.

© Amy Hutton 2020

Baby, We Were Born to Run

Music boomed out of the speakers causing the wrapper from his lunchtime burger to bounce up and down on the dash where he’d tossed it. He hummed along, happily drumming out the beat on the steering wheel. The driver’s side window was down and the breeze was ruffling his light brown hair. It had grown so much over the last two weeks that it was starting to curl over his ears. He knew his old man would tell him it needed cutting, but Dean kind of liked it. A little longer. A little less military. More him. A little wild.

He hollered out the words of the song he knew so well; the song he must have listened to a thousand times…

“Sprung from cages on Highway 9
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin’ out over the line
Ohhhhh
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
‘Cause tramps like us, baby, we were born to run.”

That’s how he felt. Like he was born to run. Run from everything. Everything he knew. Everything he was. Everything he was expected to be.

Just run. Him and Baby.

He let his fingers caress the leather of the seat beside him. “You hear that, Baby? You and me, we’re born to run, right?”

 

Dean Winchester loved the feeling he got when he drove his dad’s car. His car now. His Baby. She always made him feel special. Like she was created just for him. Crafted out of steel and leather just for Dean. To guide him down the rambling back highways of America. They took care of each other. Kept each other safe.

He wished they could keep driving. Him and Baby. Just go and keep on going. Stopping wherever they wanted. Dean could pick up work, make a few bucks, and then they’d move on. Since his brother, Sam had left to go to college, the thought of taking off and never looking back had crossed Dean’s mind more than once. No roots. No responsibilities. Just time. Freedom and time. He put his foot down and heard Baby’s engine growl as if that’s what she wanted as well.

“1, 2, 3, 4
The highway’s jammed with broken heroes
On a last chance power drive
Everybody’s out on the run tonight
But there’s no place left to hide.”

This was Dean’s last chance power drive. At least for now. The job was done. He had no excuse to stay on the road. “Maybe I can drag it out one more night,” he thought. “Stop in the next town. Have a few beers. Shoot some pool. Maybe meet a pretty girl. Knock boots…” A grin spread wide across his face. The pull of the highway lay before him. Beckoning him and Baby. Yeah. He could make the job last one more night.

“Tramps like us. Baby, we were born to run”

When he felt his phone ringing in his pocket, his heart sank.

 

Dean turned the radio down, wound up the window and pulled out his cell. He subconsciously sat up a little straighter as he flipped it open and said, “Dad?”

“Where are you?” he heard his father say on the other end.

“On the road, somewhere near…” he peered out the window. “I don’t know. A couple of hours out from you I guess.”

“Is the job done?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Well get your ass back here. We head out in the morning.”

“Yes, sir.” Dean said. “See you…” But his father hung up before Dean could finish.

 

Dean snapped his phone closed and tossed it onto the seat. Looking in the rear-view mirror, he ran his fingers through his hair and thought he better stop for a trim before he saw the old man.

As his good mood drained away, he watched the world going by. The one he never really felt a part of. There was no escaping the life. No place to hide. Not even for a night. He was stupid to think there could be.

He turned the music up.

Someday, girl, I don’t know when
We’re gonna get to that place
Where we really wanna go and we’ll walk in the sun
But ’til then, tramps like us
Baby, we were born to run

“Someday, Baby,” Dean said. “Someday.”

 

   © Amy Hutton 2020
   Story by Amy Hutton based on characters created by Eric Kripke.
   Lyrics: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
   You can read more of Amy's Supernatural fanfiction here

Tidal Flow

A kaleidoscope of colours swirled before her. Vibrant streaks of red and daubs of yellow. Azure splashes reminded her of the sea; flecks of shimmering white, the foam of the surf. Her head swam with the dizzying image, and she rocked back and forth as cool ocean memories washed over her.

“Is everything okay?” a voice said, as if from far away.

Julia blinked at the intrusion as glaring down-lights and clinking glasses leaked into her solitude.

“Do you need to sit down?” the voice came again.

She pulled her gaze from the painting and turned towards the interruption. “Huh?” she said, as she slowly focused on the man standing in front of her. He was tall, and fair, with concern etched into his rather handsome face

“You were swaying.”

Heat rushed to Julia’s cheeks, and she unintentionally fussed with her hair, pushing a ginger strand behind one ear “Oh. No,” she said. “I’m fine. I just… I got kind of lost in this piece.”

The man lit up. “Really? That’s pretty cool. I’m the artist,” and he reached out his hand. “Alec Masters.”

Julia shook Alec’s hand, their grasp lingering a little longer than it should, as a squeak of something almost intangible passed between them.

“You’re the artist?” she said, trying to ignore the goosebumps that had erupted along her arms. “Well, I love it. What did you call it?”

“Summers at Freshie.”

“Like, Freshwater Beach?”

“Yeah. You know it?”

Julia nodded.

“I painted it from my memories as a kid,” Alec said. “Going to Freshie at Christmastime. The gentle waves. The scorching sand!”

“The smell of pies wafting from the canteen at the surf club. The chocolate paddle pops. Or Icy Poles!”

“Yes! The lemonade ones!”

They both laughed.

Silence rested easily between them, as reflections of their childhoods rippled through the air.

“You didn’t tell me your name,” Alec said, breaking the stillness, and shifting closer to her.

“It’s Julia.”

“Hi Julia,” and he turned towards his painting. “I dug those summers. The carefree, lazy days. Hanging with my mates. I even fell in love one year. Though, I don’t think she knew I existed.”

Julia watched him as he considered his work. “I get the yellows, blues and whites,” she said. “But what does the red represent?”

“That’s the love part. She wore the cutest red bikini and her hair was… like yours, actually. Ginger.”

A whole raft of butterflies started flapping inside Julia’s stomach. She studied Alec out the corner of her eye. His sandy locks, the freckles across the bridge of his nose, the familiar way he chewed on his lip.

“I fell in love too,” she said, her voice so soft it was barely audible. “With a boy in bright orange boardies.” She held her breath as Alec turned towards her.

“I wore bright orange boardies.”

“I wore a red bikini.”

“I never knew your name,” he said.

She smiled. “Now you do.”

Alec stepped up to the piece of card on the wall beside his painting and took a Sharpie from his pocket. “Now I do,” he said, and he crossed out the title, and in its place wrote a new one. Julia.

© Amy Hutton 2020

Serendipity

“You just have to have faith.”

“Faith in what?”

“Destiny.”

Beth spoke along with the characters on the screen. She couldn’t count how many times she’d watched Serendipity. It was her favourite movie and she threw in the DVD whenever she needed a pick me up. Like tonight.

It was New Year’s Eve and Beth was sulking on her couch as the rest of the world celebrated. “At least I have John Cusack,” she thought, smiling at his face on the TV. With his dreamy eyes and floppy hair. He had been her favourite actor ever since she was a teenager, swooning while she watched him shotgun beer in The Sure Thing.

“Can you keep a secret,” she whispered to her dog, Cassiopeia. The staffy’s tail wagged, thumping against the cushions. “I lost my virginity after shotgunning beer, with a guy named Greg, in the back of his van at the caravan park my parents used to take us to for the school holidays.” She laughed at the memory. She had never told anyone that. Not even her best mate Sharon. She always said her first time was with her first real boyfriend, when she was twenty. But it was at fifteen, with Greg, with his dreamy eyes and floppy hair.

Suddenly Beth had a brilliant idea. She peeled herself off the couch and padded barefoot across the tiled floor; Cassiopeia’s nails tapping behind her. Searching through a kitchen draw, she pulled out a biro pen. She opened the fridge, grabbed an Asahi beer and gripped it tightly in her hand. Raising the pen above her head, she swooped it down dramatically punching a hole in the side of the can. She quickly sealed her lips around the hole and pulled on the can’s open tab. Frothy liquid rushed down her throat, spilling from her mouth, and dribbling off her chin. When she finished, she wiped her palm across her face and let out a loud belch. “I still got it,” she said, grinning at the dog by her feet. Hesitating for a split second, she shrugged and pulled another beer from the fridge. It was New Year’s Eve, if she wanted to shotgun ten beers she would. But it turned out her limit was three.

Back on the couch feeling tipsy and a little bloated, Beth checked the time on her phone. It was almost midnight, so she stopped the movie and turned on the ABC. Charlie Pickering was already counting down to the fireworks, “Six, five, four…” When the clock struck twelve and the fireworks exploded, Beth leapt into the air, the dog excitedly joining in. The pair bounced around the room, Beth whooping “Happy New Year,” as Cassiopeia barked. Until breathless and sweaty, Beth dropped back on the couch in a heap. John.” She sighed wistfully and pressed play.

 “When did you get to be so unabashedly romantic?” Beth said, as she spoke along with the characters on the screen.

© Amy Hutton 2020