This story is by Anita Meiszies and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I hold the urn tightly in my arms, headed for a particular cove where the waves roll in and crash over the rocks, sending their spray high into the air enveloping everything in their mist.
Max loved it here, and it was where I thought his last resting place should be. As I reach the top, my mind elsewhere, I slip and the urn flies out of my arms and into the oncoming wave.
‘Nooo!’ I yell.
I wanted to say so much before uncapping his ashes and pouring them into the sea. I saw him for the first time ten years ago. Eight weeks old and paws too big for his body, his tail wagging so quick he lost his balance and stumbled into the bars of his cage to lick my hand. It was love at first sight. He knew all of me, the good and the bad. When I was sad, his shaggy head would lie on my knees looking up with big chocolate brown eyes. His tongue would slowly sneak out to lick my hand. He would bounce around me when I was happy, knocking me over with his bulk. He loved to snuffle into the hair at my neck, making me giggle.
Startled, I stare at a hand, palm up.
‘You hurt?’ the voice says. It’s deep, soft, resonating low in my chest.
‘You’re bleeding, I can help.’ he says softly.
Blood pools in my palms where I caught the rocks to stop from falling. I glance up into warm chocolate brown eyes.
I gasp. His eyes remind me so much of what I’d lost. Laughter lines radiate from the corners, stark in his bronzed face. Shaggy dark brown hair with streaks of a lighter brown hang wet over his brow. I cautiously place my hand in his. My heart beats a little faster, the heat of his hand warming the cold of my fingers.
‘Thanks.’ I say.
‘No probs.’ he replies.
He leads me over to where his surfboard lay. A backpack also stands to attention on the sand. I thought I was alone on the beach.
‘I’ve a gnarly kit in my pack.’ he says.
He spins in his wetsuit, its arms fastened and pulled down over lean hips, typical of a surfer. Powerful muscles ripple across his bronze back and wide shoulders work long muscular arms that strip-search his backpack.
My mouth goes dry, and a hum escapes my lips.
‘Gotcha!’ he says, turning with a wide grin.
He gently cleanses my hands before bandaging them.
‘All done.’ He puts the kit back in his pack.
I give him a sad smile before replying, ‘Thank you.’
He nods, picks up his surfboard, slinging the pack over his shoulder.
‘You okay? Can I give you a ride?’ he says.
I shake my head. ‘No, I’m good.’
‘Okay. I’m here for the surfing. Maybe I’ll see you round.’
‘Maybe.’ I say.
I watch him saunter off and disappear into the sand dunes.
My brother called the next day. His pro-surfer mate, “Simmo,” needed a place to stay, and he thought I could do with the company now Max was gone. Sure, why not.
A knock sounds on the door mid-afternoon.
My first glimpse was the back of a dark brown curly head, broad back covered in a tank top and long muscular legs encased in cut-off jean shorts.
‘Hi.’ I say.
He spins, his shaggy hair covering his eyes.
‘Ah, Matilda Ainsleigh?’ he says, pushing his hair back to see.
We both gasp before laughing.
‘It’s you. Come in, I’ve been expecting you. Most people call me Tilly.’ I say, turning to the side to let him in.
‘You have? But…’
‘Yeah, my brother rang me this morning told me you might stay while the tournament is on.’
‘Um Tilly… I’m not-.’ he says hesitantly.
The sound of my name rolling off his lips makes me tingle.
‘Come in, Simmo, come in.’ I speak over the top of him.
He gives me a wary look, puffing out his breath, shrugs and walks in.
I give him a tour of the house. He notices a photo of Max, my last memory of his shaggy head and doggy smile.
‘You have a dog?’
I clasp my arms around my waist. ‘Not anymore.’ I say.
‘If I can help, I will. You know I can fix anything.’ he says, with a wink. His eyes are gentle and warm. I can feel my heart beat faster as heat thaws the ice of my loss.
Before long, we are chatting like old friends that haven’t seen each other in ages. He makes me laugh. I need to laugh and, for a time, forget.
The days fly by. We’d take long walks on the beach. I’d go out and watch him in the surf comp. His wide grin when he came out of the surf would make my heart beat faster every time. He stayed with me even after the tournament was over.
We spent long lazy days in the sun. We would clamber over rock pools, looking for what the ocean tide left behind, just like I used to do with Max. At night, we would sit outside by the fire telling stories. We would tell each other what we hoped to get out of life. If I stared too long into the fire, his arms would come about me, protecting me from the chill of my memories. Love once again filled my heart.
I received a call from my brother one day, as we walked along the beach towards home. I stepped away from him when I finished the call.
‘You’re not Simmo!’ I cry.
His mouth goes slack and his eyes dim. ‘No, I’m not Simmo.’ he says.
‘You lied to me?’
He shook his head, ‘Not intentionally. You assumed I was. I tried to correct you but…’
‘Why did you come that day?’
My heart broke all over again. I’d fallen in love with him and now the trust we had lay broken.
‘A mutual friend asked me to help you heal.’
‘Does it matter?’ His arms reach out, but I step back. ‘Tilly, I would never hurt you, you know me. Listen to–’ he tried to say.
‘I don’t know you. You need to go.’ I say with a sob.
‘Please Tilly, I Lo-’
‘No! You don’t get to say that to me.’ I turn and run for home.
A few days on and I stand at the top of the cliff. Storm clouds roll in from the horizon. The wind is fierce, making the waves choppy and the sea grey. The sun, hidden by black clouds, tries valiantly to reach the shoreline with its rays. One ray reaches the shore, glistening off something gold in the rocks.
I clamber down the path.
The storm reaches land. Lightning streaks through the sky, thunder rolls over the top of my head, the wind whips in rage. I swear I hear the wind call, ‘Tilly.’ I wipe the sea from my eyes and look into the crevices and spot what I’d seen from the cliff face.
Another wave roars over the rocks. My feet brace. I have to be quick. The sea, when angry, is unforgiving. I take a few steps up and over, bending down and picking up the urn I’d lost days ago. The lid was missing and the contents long gone. An image of Max comes to mind. His warm brown eyes look at me with so much love, bleeding into the eyes of the man who looked at me in the same way. My heart aches from the loss. I had fallen deeply in love with him so fast. Could love really consume you so quickly? It felt like I’d known him forever. He destroyed my trust, but, I still love him.
I turn with the urn close to my chest. A wave more powerful than the last envelops me in its temper. I tumble forward, water rushes into my mouth. It blacks out my vision and silences my ears as my feet come out from underneath me. The urn rips from my hands again.
A band of warmth tears me from eternal sleep. I gaze into familiar eyes.
‘You, you’re here. How?’
‘I’ll always be here for you, Tilly.’
He carries me from the angry sea.
His hands cup my face. Softly, he brushes his lips across mine, their heat warming my heart. His forehead touches mine.
Why do I love him so much? I don’t even know his name?
‘You know who I am.’
Did he read my mind? Did I know him? The feeling of familiarity, how fast I had fallen in love with him. I stare into his warm chocolate brown eyes and realise I’ve always known. Wrapping my arms around him, we cling tightly to each other. He snuffles into my neck.
‘I love you–Max.’