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AbandonThought

The Hurricane

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Readers: During a recent chat and a 'Hey, what do you think of this new story I wrote,' Bex (ready2fly) and I realized we had written stories with a similar theme. Not wanting to appear 'inspired' by the others work we decided to post simultaneously and link to each other's stories. So, after you're done with this, check out "Anticipation" by Bex.

The Hurricane

“Twenty minutes ‘til we’re shuttin’ ‘er down for good, hon’.” The man in the yellow slicker eyed me with a sidelong glance. The ancient wooden floorboards creaked under me as I purposefully made my way through the bait and tackle shop toward the back door that led onto the pier.

I gave him a nod, a conciliatory thank you for the information, even though the giant ‘closing at 4pm’ signs were unmistakable at the front entrance. I answered his sidelong glance with one of my own as I passed by him, seated on his stool behind the counter. I reached the rear door and pulled open the light wooden patio door covered in chicken wire, letting it fall behind me with a clatter.

The wooden deck of the pier was sodden. It’d been raining steadily since the previous afternoon. The sharp pops of the rain drops on my navy blue North Face rain jacket served as a reminder that the rain had not let up. It wasn’t yet a hard rain, but steady… hard would come later.

I sauntered on down, heading toward the end of the wooden structure, looking out at the gray, foreboding sky as the last remnants of the fishermen were packing up their tackle and shuffling by me. They glanced at me curiously as they past.

I suppose I did look out of place: a petite brunette wearing shorts that were completely engulfed by the length of her rain jacket; soaked running shoes squishing with each step. I took my hood down and let the soft rain fall on my head. It felt good. It felt real.

Leaning my elbows on the rough fibered railing I glanced down at the water below me. Already it was churning as the powerful winds offshore drove the currents in. It was dark and thick with sediment. This was the way I liked the sea. The crystal clear waters and ludicrous blues of the tropical oceans did little for me. I liked it dark and harsh. Deep, impenetrable, and threatening to pull you down with every swell.

A gust of wind fought against me as I ended my break, straightened up and continued my stroll down the pier. The sky got progressively darker the further out to sea I gazed. I heard a rumbling in the distance and even saw a bolt of lightning snake across the sky to the water. It was hard to judge the distance with nothing but gray sky and gray water to compare, but I knew it wasn’t close. In fact, it was difficult to judge anything at all; I almost couldn’t tell where the sky ended and the water began.

Finally, I reached the end. Apathetic to the pool of water on the deck beneath me, I sat down, letting my feet dangle off the edge, leaning my arms onto the foot rail and resting my chin on my wrist. I just sat and stared progressively further out, letting my eyes lose focus and getting lost in the storm. From my perch looking through the wooden bars of the railing the pier fell away and I was lost in the illusion that it was just me out there, hovering magically above the roiling and tormented sea.

I suspected I had brought the storm with me.

I could feel the cold rainwater from the deck seeping into my cotton shorts, soaking me to the bone. It didn’t matter. I was wearing a bathing suit underneath, and it wasn’t as if I was going to melt; I certainly wasn’t made of sugar.

I had essentially fallen into a trance watching the rough ocean, but another thunderclap pulled me out of my stupor and pulled my thoughts back to the present. How long had it been? The man in the yellow slicker—who it suddenly occurred to me reminded me of the “Gorton’s fisherman”—would likely be pissed if I wasn’t back through the tackle shop by closing time.

The wind picked up, blowing the rain into my face and stinging my cheeks, as if confirming my thoughts. Reluctantly, I climbed to my feet and walked a bit more hurriedly back down the pier.

The island had basically emptied, and it was obvious as I drove my Honda CR-V from the pier back to my small cottage on the beachfront. The only cars that I passed by on the street were headed urgently in the direction of the ferry to the mainland.

Nearly all of the houses and businesses that I drove by had been closed and boarded up in anticipation of the incoming storm. I wasn’t going anywhere though, except back to my cottage. It was only a voluntary evacuation anyway, and besides… hurricanes had never bothered me. Not to mention, with the way I was feeling right then, a good knock-down, drag-out storm was very apropos.

It wasn’t as if I had come to the coast looking to stir up turmoil. I’d already had enough turmoil in my life; that was why I had sought to escape to the isolated North Carolina fishing town for as long as necessary to pull myself together.

I turned into the driveway of the small stilted house and pulled my car into the carport underneath the structure. The one-bedroom beachfront house had been in my family for as long as I’d known. When I was very young my mother and father and I would use it occasionally as a vacation house, but when my twin brothers had arrived, there was nowhere near enough space for us all. We started renting a house at Emerald Isle after that.

Since then, the little house had fallen into relative disrepair. It was still habitable, but needed a good coat of paint. Or, a little more, I thought as the staircase handrail creaked and threatened to give way while I made my way up from the carport to the house itself.

When I got into the house I headed straight to the kitchen counter to my cell phone. Knowing that I would be out in the pouring rain, I had wisely left it behind, not caring to repeat the incident a few years prior when I had completely destroyed my cell by carrying it in a rainstorm. I glanced at the display, which showed no missed calls. I had half-expected to get a frantic call from my mother, demanding that I evacuate the island. As I put the phone back down on the counter I remembered that I hadn’t bothered to tell her I was heading out there.

I just wanted time alone. I needed to think things through. A run down beach house on a remote island that few people had heard of, at least a hundred miles from anyone who would be looking for me sounded like just the ticket. Hurricane, or no hurricane.

I wasn’t worried. The house had survived hurricanes before unscathed, including a few direct hits. It was old, and, on the whole, it was solid. When the first indications that the storm would be headed toward the NC coast had surfaced I had gone out to the store and stocked up on gallon jugs of water. I had fifteen of those, as well as more canned food than I thought I could consume in a lifetime. In addition, I had a stack of books, a reading light with extra batteries, and a gas lantern. That wasn’t to mention the kerosene camping stove that always lived in the pantry of the beach house. So, even if the power was knocked out and the ferries couldn’t reach the island for weeks, I would be living it up with plenty of hot food and even coffee. I wasn’t worried.

I went back into the small living room and collapsed onto the ancient couch, sending a not-insignificant cloud of dust flying. I picked up the book that I was currently reading; a high-action crime novel. It was the third book that I had gone through since arriving five days before.

Still, within a few seconds I had closed the book again and placed it gently on the ground. I just couldn’t concentrate. Too many thoughts were swirling relentlessly in the whirlpool that my brain had become. I leaned over the back of the couch and placed my fingers in the slits of the blinds, spreading them apart to gaze out the window at the ocean beyond. Instead all I saw was the dark brown of the plywood. Right. I’d boarded up the windows like a responsible girl. Even though Hurricane Sam was supposed to make landfall further north, it was still a powerful storm and required that some attention be paid.

Hurricane Sam, I snickered. What ridiculous synchronicity.

By four-o-clock that afternoon all of the businesses on the island had shut down. The storm was still a few hundred miles offshore though, and the worst of it was not supposed to arrive until the next afternoon.

I pressed my head back onto the couch cushion behind me. I was restless. I thought about heading out for another walk on the beach. Often neat shells and other debris were washed ashore during storms… After some laboring and remembering the sting of the rain on my face earlier that afternoon I decided to stay put.

Besides, I couldn’t spend the whole trip running from my thoughts. My life was s**t, and one of the reasons I’d decided to take the unplanned holiday to the beach was to try to think things through and figure out where I was headed.

Where was I headed? What choice did I have, really? My life looked nothing like the life that I had a mere month before. Some of the change was positive. There was no way I would have survived another year if I’d stayed in law school. I was so miserable there that by the end of my last semester I didn’t even recognize myself anymore when I looked in the mirror. I went from a vibrant, motivated woman to someone who could barely make herself get out of bed in the morning. I was literally dying inside. Despite the fact that the nearly one-hundred thousand dollars in debt was for nothing, I couldn’t regret my decision not to return. After taking a year of leave and traveling abroad to pursue a true interest of mine, I just couldn’t go back to the drudgery of a career that I knew I didn’t want. I had intended the year off as a rejuvenating diversion, but instead, it had changed everything.

I’d gone back to New Orleans just long enough to sell nearly all of my possessions and tell the University that I wouldn’t be returning for the fall semester as I had planned. After that, I hadn’t even looked back as I drove out of town.

Still, I didn’t know where I was going from there, and there were so many other things to consider now. Was I going forward alone? Was that even an option anymore? My stomach started to feel queasy when I mentally went down that road, so I changed my thoughts and put that one off for another day entirely. It wasn’t a decision I could make in a day. But I was prepared to do whatever needed to be done.

With my thoughts as clouded with worry as the stormy skies outside, I drifted off to sleep.

My mood was brightened minutely with the advance of the hurricane the next day, as paradoxical as that was. The sunrise that morning was one of the most beautiful I’d ever seen, with the tumultuous and widespread cloud-cover dispersing the colors of the rising sun into a huge variety of hues. Not that it had a lot of competition; as a night person I was rarely awake to see the rising sun. My internal clock had been thrown out of whack as of late though, and so falling asleep at five in the evening had meant that I had woken up around four-thirty in the morning.

The wind had really kicked up around ten a.m. though, and my weather radio was telling me that the cyclone was about to make landfall over Ocracoke at eleven-thirty. By one in the afternoon my power had been knocked out and I was lying contentedly on the couch, listening to the howling of the wind and the thunderous cadence of the rain on the rooftop.

When my watch beeped to inform me that it was two p.m., I’d finally made a decision. I still didn’t know where I was heading in my life, but at least I knew I wasn’t going to be alone. Ever again.

I was startled as the pounding of the wind against the back door that led out to the beach became even more furious. I began to entertain the notion that a tree branch had dislocated itself and was then being slammed into the back of my house by the wind, when I realized that underneath the pounding was a voice.

“Kate!” the voice screamed.

Though thoroughly puzzled, I ran to the door with urgency and pushed it open against the crushing force of the wind. A man, soaked to the bone, tumbled into the house as I closed the door behind him.

His inch-long curly brown hair was matted against his head, and he was busy wiping the rain from his face as I drunk in the sight of him. I couldn’t believe my eyes, even as his gorgeous green ones stared back into mine. He was wearing nothing but jeans and a t-shirt, which was soaked through and clinging to his strong chest. He couldn’t be there. It couldn’t really be him.

Even as I reached out and placed my hand on his arm, I still couldn’t comprehend that what I was seeing, and feeling, was real. He was supposed to be across the world. And how could he have found me?

We stared at each other for what felt like an eternity, neither of us knowing what to say. Finally, he ran his hands over his goose-bumped arms and spoke.

“Do you have a towel?” he asked as his teeth began to chatter slightly.

“Uh, yeah.” I shook my head, shaking myself out of my daze as I jogged to the linen closet and pulled a large bath towel out and returned to him. When I was standing in front of him again, I had gathered my wits about me enough to truly respond to his sudden appearance.

“What the f**k are you doing here Sam?!” I demanded angrily as I basically threw the towel at him.

He wiped his face and shook the rain out of his hair as an out of place smile spread across his lips. “I guess it was too much to ask for a warm reception,” he laughed in his thick Scottish brogue. Quintessential Sam. He never seemed to take anything seriously, and he was always prepared to charm the pants off you. I was living proof of that.

After he had gotten his face relatively dry he wrapped the towel around his shoulders and stared at me expectantly. If he thought I was going to carry the conversation, after he showed up at my door from half a world away, he was f**king crazy.

I stared at him with my arms crossed tightly over my chest. I raised an eyebrow, waiting for him to begin his explanation. He did nothing, just let the smile linger on his lips. He waited me out.

“How the hell did you get here?” I demanded.

“Plane, car, then boat.” I wasn’t amused. I think he could see the exasperation in my eyes though, so he altered his approach. For once in my life, I was succeeding in ignoring his charm, and he realized it.

“I had to come find you,” he told me, his smile fading. He reached to pull me into him, but I jerked my body back as if he were diseased, avoiding his touch. I was remembering how we had parted three weeks before, and I was suddenly nauseous at the memory. Tears threatened my eyes, but I swallowed them.

“I called Jayne,” he told me, referring to my best friend, and the only person I had informed that I was going to the beach house. “She didn’t want to tell me anything, but I wore her down. I finally got the address out of her, and I came right here, hurricane or not.” He smiled again. “Something told me that wouldn’t be a deterrent for you, either,” he laughed.

“Why?” was all I could choke out. Behind us the wind continued to howl and the rain continued to pound against the house. The harshness of the storm and the dimness of the unlit room was the perfect setting for the conversation that shouldn’t have been happening in the first place.

“I love you,” he told me earnestly, reaching for me again. I stepped back once more, though not as urgently. I love you. His words echoed in my mind. That part I knew. But sometimes, that wasn’t enough. He hadn’t been there for me. I had been panicked and frightened, and he hadn’t been there for me.

Our relationship, which had lasted the entire year that I’d been pursuing my Creative Writing masters during my law school hiatus in Scotland, had been deep and intense. I had never believed in love at first sight before, but the moment that I gazed into his endless green eyes I honestly felt like I’d found something that I’d never known I’d been searching for. I thought I’d found the love of my life, and I always thought he’d felt the same.

When I’d given him the news though, a week before I was booked on a flight back to the States, his reaction was something I never would have imagined. He was cold. He got quiet, and then he got distant. Then he disappeared. He wasn’t even there to see me off at the airport. I knew that my news was tough to take, but I hadn’t thought he would handle it so badly. I’d never felt so alone.

My mind retreated from the past and returned to the present. Sam was standing before me again, once again looking tortured.

“I’m so sorry, Love,” he told me. He placed a hand on my arm, but I jerked it back. He looked pained. “Please let me hold you,” he pleaded desperately. In truth, I wanted him to hold me, but I didn’t know if I could. Suddenly I felt like I couldn’t move.

He took a cautious step toward me. When I didn’t retreat, he took another and wrapped his muscular arms around my petite frame. He pulled me tightly into his body, soaking my pajama t-shirt as his chest engulfed me. Despite the chill from the wetness, I melted into him, and my body warmed. I wrapped my arms around him finally. I’d forgotten how I felt in his arms… complete.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered again, into my ear. “I didn’t know what to do,” he began to explain. “I know that’s no excuse, but it’s all I have right now,” he went on. He began rocking my body back and forth in his arms, rhythmically to the sound of the whistling wind outside.

I couldn’t hold it in any longer, and I began to cry. I buried my face into his chest, letting the rainwater from his still-soaked t-shirt blend with the tears on my cheek.

“I’ve missed you,” I admitted quietly, amazed that I was able to keep my voice from trembling.

“Oh God, I’ve missed you so much,” he echoed, grabbing my face with his hands and pulling me away to look into my eyes. “I didn’t think I was ever going to see you again,” he admitted. He looked honestly terrified at the notion. “It would’ve served me right after how I left things, but I couldn’t let that be it.”

I gave him a slight smile through my tears. The whole situation was still surreal. He was saying everything that I had been dreaming that he would show up and say since I’d last seen him.

“No matter what you decide to do, I’m going to be right here beside you,” he assured me. I’d never seen such determination in his eyes. “I can’t live without you, Kate.”

“Why did you leave?” I asked him desperately. I didn’t know if I wanted to know. I didn’t want to go down that road. He was here again, and he was telling me that he wanted to be with me. Did it really matter to me what had made him panic before? The truth was though, that it did matter.

“I got so wrapped up in my own s**t,” he shook his head. “I started thinking about my life and how everything was going to be thrown out of whack. I started worrying about what other people would think. I worried about what my Mum would think. She’d not even met you!” he exclaimed, ranting now. “I imagined looking into her eyes and having to tell her that… that you…” Even then, he was unable to bring himself to say it. “But then I realized that that was nothing compared to never being able to look into your eyes again,” he gushed. To my amazement, he now had tears in his eyes.

I stood on my tiptoes, reached up and wrapped my tiny arms around his broad shoulders. He put his arms around my waist and pulled me into him tightly.

“Kate, this year was the most amazing of my life.” He paused, before continuing. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” he admitted, the nearness of his breath warming the prickled flesh on my neck. His words took my breath away and I gasped.

I pulled far enough away so that I could look into his eyes. I could always find the truth when I looked into his eyes.

“And…?” I asked, searching urgently.

“And the baby,” he confirmed, without hesitation. “Marry me,” he said quickly. “Marry me, and let’s be a family,” he smiled broadly.

My face must have shown nothing short of amazement, and I realized after a few seconds that I wasn’t breathing.

“Yes, let’s!” I exclaimed stupidly, throwing my arms around him again.

“And we can live in Scotland or we can live here in the States, I don’t care either way, as long as I get to be with you,” he assured me, holding me tightly.

“Scotland!” I answered enthusiastically, through laughter and tears. “It’s the only place I’ve ever felt at home.”

He pulled away and looked into my eyes, laughing as well. “Thank God,” he smiled. His eyes glanced down over my body, away from my eyes for the first time in the conversation. “I’ve soaked you!” he laughed, seeing the dark wetness that had spread across my t-shirt and pajama bottoms from him holding me up against his rain-soaked body.

He shot me his smile, the same old charming smile, but it was different than it had ever been before that moment. He leaned into me and kissed me deeply on the lips. The kiss seemed to last for minutes as his hungry tongue groped passionately against mine. “C’mon,” he said breathlessly, pulling away finally. “Let’s get you out of those clothes.”

Just a few hours earlier I had given up on Sam and made the decision to have our baby and raise it on my own. With no job, no money (other than debt), and no idea what the future held, it was a daunting thought. Still, I knew that underneath it all there really was no other option.

My future felt dark, difficult, and lonely. I felt the rain pounding down on me, but I couldn’t see my way back to the sunshine.

And then, with the force and fury of a tropical cyclone, Sam had blown back into my life and changed my world, for a second time. He was my Hurricane.

Hurricane Sam.

Steph

Edited by AbandonThought
marking as approved

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Steph...Once again you set the stage beautifully with your descriptive words. I know I'm reading a good story when I stay focused and my mind does not wonder. I saw you in this story and of course our beloved Gerry, but I still thought of the characters as individuals in their own right. A simple, not complex story, but the writing made it a classy story. Really enjoyed it, Steph!!! Looking forward to the next one.

~HUGS~ Kathy

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I loved this story!!!!!!!!!! Ha, it made me cry!!!! (but then here lately I am a complete emotional mess for some reason and everything happy OR sad has me in tears!). Thanks so much for sharing this!!! It was great!

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