1 May 2016

Something different this week for Sunday Snips & Stuff. Part one of one of my romantic short stories.

When my book Remnants of Dreams (Previously Published as Traces of Dreams) won the Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year Award I was invited to submit a short story to a prominent Aussie magazine. So here's the first half of that story: First Love Last Love.

Rachel tossed her shoes in the car and closed the door. She had always loved the feel of sand between her toes. No, perhaps not always, but definitely since that night. The night that had changed the course of her life.

            She leant on the wooden rail and stared at the small island not far from the shore. As she pressed her fingers on the warm wood she sighed. Not a lot had changed in 10 years. But this rail hadn’t been here then. A sign proclaimed that the area had been fenced off to protect the flora. There had been no need then to warn people. Perhaps only about a 100 or so visitors had come here during the summer to idle away the days.

People like the Grahams, who had lived in one of the houses nestled amid the trees that marched up the hill behind her. Splendid homes with lush gardens, snobbish inhabitants, and boats waiting to be hitched to expensive cars. She wouldn't look that way. It was painful enough to look at the island, sitting as it had always sat in magnificent splendor since the beginning of time.


            Her heart stopped, then started again. Her imagination must be playing tricks. Jon was somewhere in the Middle East. She had seen him on the TV news recently, reporting from his latest assignment.

            Not wishing to add to the pain she felt, she continued to gaze at the headland on the island. A soft wind blew through the tall grasses in front of the fence. Yes, it had been the wind playing tricks.

            ‘Rachel, it is you. I’d know that hair anywhere. It’s shorter, but it still has the same glowing golden sheen.
            Holding her breath, she turned around slowly, as if in a trance. There he stood, a few paces away, hands in the pockets of his jeans. As the sun slanted on him, he looked as he had 10 years ago. Just 20 years old and finding his feet in the adult world.

He had to be a figment of her imagination. ‘Jon.’ His name came out on a sigh.

He stepped closer and the image was shattered. This was no young man. Looking older than his 30 years, the lines of experience, of seeing too many horrors, too much reality, were etched on his features. Furrows ran along his face. The lines beside his eyes weren’t the result of laughter, but from squinting into the sun on foreign soil.

            ‘Yes, it’s me.’ Close enough to touch her now, he smiled. For a moment he looked almost like the Jon she’d known and loved with all the passion of an 18-year-old girl testing her feet in the waters of desire.

            ‘I thought you were overseas.’ She suddenly felt gauche, ridiculous for a woman who ran a successful public relations business and faced men just as forceful as Jon every working day.

            ‘I was. I go back in a day or two.’
The breeze sent her hair into her eyes and Rachel pushed it back. ‘I didn’t know you still lived here.’

At last she looked back at the house half way up the hill, and gasped when she saw the high wall that now almost concealed it.

            ‘I don’t. Dad died two days ago.’ He looked back at the house.
‘I’m sorry.’ That was a lie. She hated his father as much now as she had on that awful night.

            His shoulders lifted again. ‘He had a rare disease that had slowly taken away all his faculties. He was glad to go, to join Mum.
            ‘I didn’t know she’d died.’ Now she was sad. His mother had been well-liked in the small beachside community, doing lots of charity work.

            ‘What are you doing here?’ The look on his face said that he too couldn’t believe they were both here, at the scene of her first, and worst, mistake. Rachel shrugged. How could she explain the strange yearning that had brought her back here?

            ‘It’s our anniversary,’ he said, and Rachel’s mind reeled, although she pretended nonchalance. As if she had really not realised that on this very day 10 years ago she had lost her virginity and given him her heart, and perhaps her soul as well.

            ‘So it is.’

            ‘Is that why you came?’ His knuckles stroked down her cheek and she shuddered, recalling all the other ways he’d touched her. Touched her as no other man could.

            Rachel nodded. ‘I never could lie to you, could I?’ She gave a small smile, and his eyes settled on her mouth, sending her nerve endings into a spin.

            ‘No, that’s one of the reasons I loved you.’ His thumb ran along her bottom lip.

            ‘You didn’t love me, Jon.’ Shaking her head, she freed herself from his silken web and turned back to rest her hands on the rail again.

            ‘Of course I did. It might have been the love of innocence, but it was fresh, and clear, and true.’ His gentle hand on her shoulder made Rachel quiver, forcing her to turn and meet his look. Oh, it had been all of those things, and more.

            ‘But not enough to defy your father, to tell him that a girl from the wrong side of town might not have your wealth and power, but had pride, and as much self-esteem as you. My mother and father might only run the fish and chip shop, but they were hard-working and as straight as they come.
            Rachel moved away from the hypnotic touch of his fingers. A lizard ran from beneath a rock, and she stared down at it, realizing tears had blurred her vision. Fool! Hadn’t she sworn long ago that she’d shed the last of them for this man who had betrayed her?

            ‘You never gave me the chance to explain.’ He put a finger beneath her chin and forced her to look at him. ‘We were both too young for the sort of deep stuff we’d got into, Rachel. All my dad asked was we give it time, cool it for a while. Before I had time to talk to you, you’d taken off, gone to live interstate with your aunt. I asked your mother for your address but she said she’d been sworn to secrecy. You didn’t have much faith in me, did you?’

Rachel let out a shuddering breath. ‘I guess not. But I hurt, Jon. I was torn apart by your seemingly apathetic reaction. All right, we were too young for all that passion. It hit us both, I think, how quickly it all got out of control. But you didn’t meet me the next night as we planned. I thought you had used me.
            ‘Never that!’ He swallowed so hard that she saw his throat convulse. ‘What a fool I was.
            Rachel shook her head. ‘It’s all water under the bridge now. There’s no going back, no point in rehashing old memories best left buried.

To be continued…

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