Genre: Contemporary Romance 2500 words.
The squeak of suitcase wheels followed her down the brightly lit hallway. The sound eerie in the silence, as was the distinctive click of her key sliding in the lock.
Aimee swung the door open, running her hand along the wall in search of the switch. The fluro flickered on to reveal a small kitchen and sitting room beyond. She’d decorated tastefully, choosing furniture which most complemented the limited space. The apartment was neat, ordered with a clear system of organization and a minimalistic approach to keeping only bare essentials on show.
Aimee carried the suitcase into the bedroom and immediately unpacked it, storing the empty case neatly in the wardrobe. She slipped off her heels gratefully and returned them to the empty slot awaiting their return.
Laptop satchel in hand, Aimee moved about the apartment flicking on the kettle as she passed, pressing the message button on the answering machine and heading for her desk –an antique rolltop she’d restored after finding it in a garage sale. She rolled back the lid and began unpacking her laptop, notebooks and papers.
‘Hi Aimee. It’s Tom,’ Aimee rolled her eyes at the first message. ‘Call me when you get in. We should do dinner or something. Let me know when you’re free next.’
Aimee leant over and hit the delete button. ‘I don’t think so Tom,’ she said, plugging her computer in to the wall socket. Tom Fraser, thirty-four, bank manager and utter bore. She’d met him at a mutual friend’s dinner party and had been unable to shake him since.
She listened to the rest of the messages while fixing tea, finding nothing urgent she cleared the machine. Fresh brewed tea in hand she stepped out on to the balcony. The price tag on her apartment was all due to what awaited her outside. Before her, under a quarter moon, lay the pacific ocean and below, the Gold Coast city lights glittered like beacons calling out to her, enticing her.
Aimee, a travel writer, was sent to many exotic locations around the world but there was nothing like home.
The cool ocean breeze caressed her bare skin, fanning her long brown hair behind her. She sighed heavily. A familiar depression blanketed her. She watched the lights of cargo ships far out to sea long after her tea cup was empty, all the while chastising herself for allowing such a dark mood to wash over her. Having just returned from two glorious weeks in Venice Aimee felt she had no right to feel anything other than blissfully happy.
What was wrong with her?
Dawn found Aimee on the beach. The sun peeking over the horizon giving the illusion it was in fact rising from the ocean. The sky lightened, awash with an astounding array of colours as if God had kicked over numerous paint tins in his rush to bring on the morn.
Aimee allowed her bare feet and painted toes to bury themselves in the fine sand. The waves crashing hypnotically on to the sand and she felt a calm washing over her. She was greeted with friendly waves and cheerful good mornings from joggers and people out for a casual stroll before the heat of the Queensland summer claimed the day.
How could you possibly be unhappy? She asked herself while drinking in the sun. For once she allowed her thoughts to delve towards the darker places she normally hid away. It was time she tried to discover the cause of her melancholy.
Aimee was not usually prone to depression. She loved her life and made the most of the great opportunities that had come her way. She often felt blessed so to now feel anything less was a mystery. She should be so proud of herself, coming from the poor start in life as she had. Her childhood was not one she thought on for any great length of time.
Her parent’s home was not one that held fond memories for her. But when she had come of age and left, she had vowed to leave the memories back there as well. That was over ten years ago and she’d made good on her promise, or so she thought. She was starting to think she had brought some of the trauma with her.
Aimee was close with no-one. Sure, she had friends but no-one really close. She had cut all ties with family and none of her relationships lasted more than a few months.
It had been years since she’d had a steady boyfriend and even then her heart simply wasn’t in it. Aimee was beginning to feel she purposely kept people at a distance because of the scars remaining from her youth. It was safer that way. She couldn’t get hurt if she didn’t allow herself to feel, to love, to be vulnerable.
Aimee allowed that thought to sink in as she watched the handful of people enjoying the mild swell and cool water. A brief flash, like sunlight hitting a watch, caught her eye. Nothing astounding , it just drew her attention.
She wasn’t sure where it came from but her focus was suddenly drawn to the godlike figure of yummy emerging from the waves. His board shorts clinging to his frame and shaping his muscular thighs. Aimee prayed he’d turn around so she could inspect the wet shorts tautness on his ass. He didn’t turn but she was far from disappointed. He continued up the sand, his ripped abs and muscular arms were tanned and glistening from the sea water dripping from him.
He was perfection. The tourist strip of the Gold Coast was a mecca for the young and beautiful so the glorious specimen before her was nothing new. She glanced up the beach, looking for the tall blonde model whom would undoubtedly be waiting for him. Such gorgeous men always had gorgeous girlfriends. Aimee was surprised to see there wasn’t anyone waiting for him. In fact, he approached a solitary towel a few metres away.
Aimee turned bright red, embarrassed when he looked up and caught her watching him. Well, more like ogling. He smiled and Aimee snapped her head around, mortified.
A shadow passed over her. He’d come to stand beside her. Oh god, she thought, too horrified to look up at him.
‘Hey!’ His voice ran over her like melted chocolate. A shiver ran through her.
She forced herself to face him. ‘Hey,’ she muttered. What does he want?
‘On holidays?’ he asked, towel drying his hair.
‘Um no…I live here,’ she stammered like an idiot. She waved a hand back at her apartment building.
‘A local girl,’ he nodded approvingly. ‘Are you enjoying the morning?’
‘Yes, thank you,’ she said, noting she sounded a little rude, dismissive. What’s wrong with you? A gorgeous man is talking with you and you’re being rude.
He smiled, as if he knew her secrets and his inspection had gleamed all there was to know about her. Aimee shivered. ‘Hopefully I’ll see you around town then,’ he said.
‘Quite possibly. Have a nice day,’ Aimee said just wanting him to go away. There was no point even talking to him. A man that good looking would never have to worry about being alone. Beautiful girls would simply flock to him.
He frowned for a split second as he studied her face. Aimee felt a little uncomfortable under the scrutiny of his blue eyes. He smiled and turned to walk away but he only made it a few feet before turning back. ‘I’m Zac by the way,’ he called.
‘Hi Zac,’ she said and looked away.
She heard him chuckle and watched him from the corner of her eye as he headed up the beach.
Aimee returned home, showered off the sand and headed down to her favourite café for breakfast. Reading, sipping her coffee and taking the occasional bite of her fruit toast she’d try to forget the encounter on the beach.
‘Hello again,’ came a silky voice bringing Aimee up from her book. Surprised to see him so quickly again, now dressed in casual shorts and shirt, Aimee was momentarily distracted by the sordid thoughts that rushed through her mind and body as she gazed up his arms, chest and eventually landed on his face.
It had been a long time since she’d been with anyone and her body was screaming at her to end the drought.
‘Hello Zac.’ He seemed pleased she’d remembered his name.
‘Is there any reason why you didn’t give me your name earlier?’ he asked, a hand brushing through his sandy blonde hair.
Zac radiated a relaxed confidence. He seemed so sure of himself. Aimee noted he had a tendency to shrug as if nothing fazed him or he took everything as it came, unbothered and without a second thought.
‘I didn’t feel it relevant,’ she finally answered him, caught off guard by his playful manner. She’d assumed his good looks would make him arrogant or egotistical but she’d been wrong.
‘Aimee,’ she relented.
‘Nice to meet you Aimee. Enjoy your breakfast,’ Zac said and headed for the counter.
Aimee stared after him. See, nothing to get worked up about. He’s just been friendly. However, if she was honest with herself, she was surprised he hadn’t asked to join her. Had she read him wrong because he’d seemed to want too? Aimee decided it best not to think on it. A man like that would have better offers than some plain local girl.
Weeks passed and Aimee would often bump into Zac around town. It was strange since she was sure she would have remembered seeing him before the beach but now she saw him everywhere.
Life went on. She flew to China for a week and then New York. She found it curious she was eager to come home, more than usual. She was beginning to hope she would run into Zac and found herself thinking about him. She loved the way his eyes would light up when he smiled or the how one eyebrow would lift in surprise when they ran in to each other.
She began to long for those accidental meetings, her heart skipping a beat when she spotted him coming towards her. It was all so foreign to her. Never had she been drawn to a man like she seemed to be with Zac. The feelings scared her. What was she doing to herself? Zac would never feel for her that way. Aimee was starting to feel like she was heading for a world of pain but then she would see him and she’d forget caution for the few moments they would chat.
The next time she saw Zac it was totally unexpected and for once she wasn’t thinking of him. She was getting out of a taxi, in front of her building and placing her suitcase on the pavement when he called her name. She loved it when he said her name. She looked up, caught off guard by his sudden appearance.
She quickly got a handle on herself when she noticed she was grinning far to happily at seeing him.
‘Hey stranger,’ Zac said as he approached her. ‘I haven’t seen you around the last few days.’
Does he seem anxious? She thought with a frown. She shook it off. Don’t be silly.
‘Um..I had to go to New York ,’ she said, lifting up the handle of her suitcase and putting her laptop bag over her shoulder.
‘New York? Wow, do you have family there?’ he asked and Aimee couldn’t help but feel he was probing. Why would he be interested?
‘No, I’m a travel writer so I go where they tell me.’
‘I’m slightly jealous,’ Zac said. ‘Can I help you with your bags?’
Aimee was taken aback but secretly pleased she’d get a few more minutes with him. She shrugged ‘Sure, if you’d like,’ she tried to sound nonplussed. Didn’t want him to think she was too keen.
The elevator ride was done in silence. Aimee was so nervous her mouth was dry and couldn’t have spoken even if she had been able to think of something to say. She would glance at him occasionally and he seemed just as laid back as he always did. Damn him, she thought.
Aimee led the way to her apartment, conscious of how close he followed her, her stomach churning with nerves. She unlocked the door and led the way.
Zac nodded approvingly. ‘Nice, very you.’
‘Thanks,’ she said, unsure of it had been a complement or not.
She turned to find him standing very close. Too close. She couldn’t breathe and then suddenly he was kissing her. Gently, tentative at first and when he felt her respond to him he became more eager, more forceful.
Aimee was the first to step back, breathless, shocked. She was watching him, trying to read his response. He seemed just as pleased with the turn of events as she was.
‘I have been waiting to do that for weeks,’ he said, a boyish goofy grin on his face.
‘God yeah. From the day I saw you on the beach. I’ve been accidently on purposefully bumping into you for weeks hoping to get the chance.’
‘Really?’ she groaned at her lack of words. Some writer you are.
‘I got the impression if I came on too strong I’d scare you off. So I would just happen to run in to you, hoping you would begin to want to see me,’ he smiled, quite pleased with his brilliant plan since it was clearly working.
Aimee was surprised at his words but she realized he was right. She would have run a mile if he’d done this any earlier.
‘You looked so low and lonely on the beach that day.’
‘Actually I was,’ Aimee frowned. He was right again. She realized all the depression all came down to being lonely. She’d been alone for so long it had never occurred to her that was the problem.
‘So now I get to do the second thing I’ve been dying to do for weeks?’ Zac said and Aimee’s knees went weak thinking of the possibilities that statement could mean.
‘And what would that be?’ she stammered nervously.
‘Ask you out for dinner,’ he laughed and drew her in for another kiss.
Aimee willingly surrendered to him. Her depression lifting and a sense of being complete came to her. But she realized it wasn’t Zac she’d been missing. It wasn’t Zac who completed her however he had helped find the missing piece. The piece of her that could love and was willing to be loved.
Word Count – 2448