Thank you to everyone who participated in the April Short Story Contest! The assignment was simple. Write a short story (1500 to 3000 words) based on this image: Selected entries receive a feature here on heidislowinski.com. The next contest will be posted on May 12th! The Featured Story Is: The Unexpected Vacation By John Scott […]
Short Story Feature: Riptide
Thank you to everyone who submitted work for the June Short Story Feature Contest. The featured entry is:
By: Rylee Alexander
Rylee is a thirty-something-year-old author from Central New York with big dreams to travel. She has a husband, two boys, and a dog, and spend what little free time she has reading, and binge-watching Netflix. She has published one novel with more coming soon.
Small towns are beautiful. They’re quaint, personable, and full of charm. But small towns are just….small. They feel even smaller when you’re seventeen and in the epicenter of the community. I want adventure, fun and to be carefree. I have always been studious. I’m graduating high school in two weeks with a 4.3 GPA. I have more volunteer hours than I could count. I’ve raised money for countless charities. And yet, I haven’t even begun to experience life or any type of adventure. I have big dreams of moving to a larger city. A place where no one knows my name, or my face. A place where I’m not known as the mayor’s daughter.
I gaze out my bedroom window and see the rippling water and I smile. I feel ease and calm whenever I focus on it. It would be the one thing from this small coastal town that I’d miss. I know that even if I went somewhere with a body of water, it would never compare to this. I tap my pen onto my notebook, trying to gather my thoughts for my valedictorian speech. I despise public speaking or public appearances, but this one was giving my panic attacks one right after another.
I am most nervous about speaking in front of my parents. I don’t want to let them down; I’m the second of two kids and Scott is the perfect son. He was the valedictorian while getting a basketball scholarship to Duke. He is charismatic, and everyone loves him. I am an introvert with my peers or those of authority. We are almost complete opposites, but I have always tried my hardest to follow in his footsteps. A knock at my door diverts my attention from my speech and my….life.
“Come in,” I say as I spin around in my computer chair.
“Skye, honey,” my mom says gently. “I know that you’re working on your speech, but Bradley is here to see you.” I sigh, not wanting to see my ‘boyfriend’. He is my boyfriend for all intents and purposes, but I’m not in love with him, nor is he with me. I’m only dating him because my parents keep forcing my hand. I’m a people pleaser and as much as Brad and I are done, I can’t break up with him and disappoint my parents. But I think I need to.
“Mom, can you please shoo him away? I’m trying to get this done.”
“Skye, I will not shoo that boy away as if he were some fly. I’m not rude.” Mom scoffs.
“I don’t think I can handle the distraction,” But I was standing up and placing my pen down in my notebook. “I’ll just come downstairs and tell him I’ll call him later, is that okay?”
“I suppose that would be okay, but please appreciate the effort that he puts into your relationship. He takes it seriously, and I think you should, too.” No, he takes trying to get me into bed seriously, but I wasn’t going to tell my mother that.
“I’m sorry, Mom, I’ll do better.” I have no idea why I just said that. I didn’t want to do better with Brad. He is sort of an asshole. He is the “perfect” boyfriend around our parents, but when they are out of sight, forget it. He gets handsy and talks to me like I’m below him.
I kiss Mom’s cheek and walk down the spiral staircase to meet Brad. I look out over the banister and see him standing there in his white polo shirt and khaki shorts and I internally roll my eyes while plastering on my fake smile. He looks like a tool.
“Hey Brad,” I say as I reach the foyer. “What are you doing here? I thought that we decided that I was going to work on my speech tonight and we’d see each other this weekend?”
“No, I know, I’m sorry.” He flashes a smile, seeing my mom behind me. “I just wanted to see if you wanted to grab a bite to eat or something, maybe take your mind off of things?”
“Thank you for the offer, but not tonight. I’ll take a rain check.” I smile, breathing a sigh of relief.
“Skye, go out. Get some food and take a break, you need to recharge.” Mom urges. I wish I was a bratty teenager who could yell at my mother and storm away in a huff, but that isn’t me.
“Are you sure, Mom?”
“Oh relax, honey. You won’t be gone long, will you?” She looks over my shoulder at Brad.
“No ma’am. I’ll have her back in two hours. Scouts honor.”
“If you insist,” I say looking in her eyes trying to plead with her silently. She nods.
“Do you need anything from upstairs? Cell phone? I’ll grab it while you get your shoes on?”
“No ma’am, I have my phone,” I say retrieving it from my pocket. “Never go anywhere without it.” I laugh. I slip my flip flops on and head for the door.
Brad gets into the driver seat of his shiny brand-new BMW, without saying anything to me. He pulls out of my driveway and heads in the opposite direction of all the local restaurants. I look around confused.
“Brad, where are we going? The Pier is that way.” I say as I point behind me. The Pier was our normal go-to hang out.
“I know that. I’m not stupid. We’re not going there.” He huffs, rolling his eyes at me.
We drive for fifteen minutes in silence and pull off into a clearing that overlooks the water. There are two other cars parked in the clearing along with a red Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle. The cycle catches my eye because I have been dreaming of owning a bike since I was old enough to know what a motorcycle was. Of course, my parents will never allow me to get a motorcycle.
“What are you looking at with such a goofy smile?” Brad asks.
“The bike,” I said nodding my head toward it, “I would kill to ride on the back of that.” He scoffs at me, and I shrug my shoulders, knowing he feels the same way about motorcycles as my parents. They all think that bikers are delinquents and noncontributing members of society. I disagree with each of them. Brad knew that I wanted a bike, but only because he thought I was checking out the men on the bikes, versus the bikes themselves, but I was just admiring whatever they were riding.
Brad hops out of the BMW and heads toward the trunk while I reluctantly get out of the car.
“There’s a nice spot near the water, just down these rocks.” He says pointing over to our left. The beach was beautiful, but the water was angry. It crashes along the shoreline violently, taking anything in its way out with it. I admire its power and the force it comes in with, wishing that I could be that strong and powerful in every aspect of my own life. I let others push me around and I take everyone’s opinions as gospel.
“There’s a small cove just beyond this bend right here, that’s where we’re going.” He says while I trail behind him, still admiring the waves. “Come on, let’s go. We’re on a time crunch here, you know. I told your mom we’d only be two hours.” He snaps. This is Brad. Everyone else loves him, I can hardly stand him. Still, though, I find myself speeding up to catch up with him.
“Sorry, I was just–”
“Staring at the waves, I know.” He rolls his eyes. “You’ve lived here your entire life you’d think you’d be used to it by now.”
“I am, I just love it. It’s so–”
“It’s stupid,” he cuts me off.
He lays the blanket down and sits on top of it while I sit on a nearby rock.
“Look, we’re graduating soon, don’t you think we should just call it? This isn’t a relationship.” I said as I play with the bottom of my shirt. “You don’t like me, I don’t like you, the only thing you want from me is someone to sleep with you, and I’m not your girl, I’m sorry.”
“Who says I don’t like you?”
“You do, all the time. Your actions and the way you speak to me. The way you’re so fake in front of everyone around us. It’s over. We’re not the same kids who used to be best friends and play in the sandbox together.”
“What’re you going to tell your parents?” He asks.
“The truth. We’ve drifted apart, college is coming up, we’re not in love, pick any of those because they’re all true. I don’t hate you; I just don’t like you very much. You’re not the kind of person I’d ever want to be with.” I say gently as I try and smile at him.
“Well, thanks?” He says as he rolls his eyes. “You’re not exactly my cup to tea, either.”
“So why the hell did we keep this facade up for so long then?”
“I have no idea….our parents, maybe?” He shrugs. “I didn’t bring you out here to break up though, this isn’t what I had in mind when I said we needed to relax…”
“This is exactly what I needed.” He nods his head in understanding, and we sit in silence for a while.
We drive back to my house, again in silence, and I give him a gentle hug goodbye. I walk upstairs to my room with some weight lifted from my shoulders and a smile on my face and I walk into my room and finish my speech.
I walk downstairs feeling accomplished and look at the clock on the stove. It’s nearly ten PM and I’m starving since I haven’t eaten since lunch. I open the fridge and grab a plate of leftovers. Mom comes into the kitchen wearing her pink silk bathrobe and slippers.
“Mom, I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to disturb you,” I said pulling my plate from the microwave. “I just finished my speech and I’m starving.”
“You finished your speech? That’s great! Can I read it?”
“Would you mind if I made you wait until graduation? It would make me feel better….”
“Not at all, honey. I’m so proud of you.” She says as she walks to the cabinet and retrieves a glass for some water. “Well, eat your dinner and head off to bed. You have an exam tomorrow.”
I spend the next few days doing the same things, studying, taking finals, and practicing my speech. It was uneventful and less stressful than I thought it would be. I haven’t heard from Brad since our break-up and my parents handled it better than I imagined that they would. My mom backed me up and my dad followed suit once he read her expression.
My phone pings next to me on my nightstand and I pause my show and open the text. I smile seeing that it’s a text from the closest thing I have to a best friend, Alexa, telling me that there was a party tonight.
I walked to ask my mom’s permission and promised her that I’d be home by midnight. She was loosening the reigns on me since college was around the corner, and I was appreciative of her efforts. I don’t need the car since the party was within walking distance, and I think that makes her feel better.
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I walk to the party, and as I’m getting closer to the party house, I see the red Kawasaki Ninja out in front of the house. My heart speeds up as I stop walking to take a closer look.
“Like what you see?” I hear a deep voice behind me. A deep voice with a northern accent. I turn around slowly and see the most handsome man I have ever laid eyes on. Tall, dark, handsome, and a tattoo on each arm. Piercing green eyes and dark spiked hair. I’m not sure I can speak so I just nod my head. “Do you ride?”
“No, I wish I did though. My parents would never allow me to.” I smile weakly.
“I’m sure they’re just trying to keep you safe,” he grinned at me. “I wouldn’t want a beautiful thing like you to get hurt, either.”
“Maybe,” I smiled. “But one day I’m going to ride. It’s on my to-do list, and there’s never been a list I didn’t finish.”
“Gage,” he says as he extends his hand to me.
“Skye,” I say as I take it. Shockwaves begin in my hand and spider throughout the rest of my body. Looking into his eyes, I’d say he feels it too.
“I’d love to take you for a ride sometime. On my bike, that is.”
“Before I agree to that, can I just sit on it?” I smile, breaking eye contact with him, staring at the bike.
“Of course,” he says pulling his helmet off the back of the bike and sliding it on to my head. “This will complete the look.” I laughed at the weight of the helmet on my head, it felt weird but good. I could worry that there were people around me looking at me and thinking things about me, but I was choosing not to care and to be present at the moment. I sat down on the bike and Gage sat behind me, and I was thrown off guard. “No funny business, I swear,” he said as if he was reading my mind. “I just don’t want you to tip over or lose your balance.”
“I appreciate that,” I smiled under the helmet. “This. Is. Awesome. Oh man, I can’t wait to ride one of these, for real.”
“Maybe I can take you out on it sometime,” he said as I stood up and took off the helmet.
“Maybe,” I smiled handing it back to him. “I feel euphoric just from sitting on it, I can’t imagine how I’m going to feel riding on it. Thank you for letting me check it out.” I said as I turn to walk away.
“Hey, wait,” Gage said running in front of me. “Can I have your number? So, I can take you for a ride?” I smirk at him and before I can answer him, I hear someone calling me name, angrily. I turn around to see Brad walking toward me from the backyard.
“Skye, what the hell?”
“What are you doing? Jake said that you were on a motorcycle.” He walks over and eyes Gage but doesn’t say anything else.
“I was just sitting on it, calm down,” I say looking around us, not wanting him to cause a scene.
“People are going to talk, you know. And as your boy–” I put my finger up to him.
“Not my boyfriend. We broke up. You have no say in anything I do.”
“I’ll bet your parents-”
“Leave my parents out of this,” I say in a low growl. “I was just checking out Gage’s bike. It’s not a big deal. Go away and leave me the hell alone.”
“I will not do that. I think we need to leave.” He said as he grabbed my arm.
“Let go, Brad. I haven’t even been inside yet.”
“I’m taking you home, you clearly can’t take care of yourself.”
“Excuse me, Brad, was it? I think the lady said no,” Gage said speaking up. “I’d appreciate it if you took your hand off her arm, though,” Gage said as his jaw tensed.
“Who do you think you are?”
“I’m Gage, the owner of the bike that you have an issue with, and the new friend of the girl your hand is on.”
“Okay, Gage, I think you can leave now, I’ve got it from here.”
“Sorry, pal, I’m not going anywhere. At least not until you unhand her.”
“What are you going to do about it?” Brad scoffs.
“Just let her go, please. So, we can all just go and enjoy the evening.” Brad drops my arm but walks up and gets chest to chest with Gage. Gage is an inch taller than Brad and has a more muscular frame. There is no way Brad is dumb enough to pick this fight right now. “Thank you, Brad. Have a good night.” Gage says calmly and joins me a few feet away.
“I wasn’t done with you!” Brad yells as he tackles Gage from behind. I start yelling at Brad to stop as Gage rolls over and connects a fist with the side of Brad’s jaw. They roll around for a few minutes until I hear a police siren. I plead for them to stop, but by the time they do, both of them have been placed in handcuffs. I look at Gage with apologetic eyes.
“It was worth it,” Gage mouths to me before being placed in the back of the police car.
“What the hell?” Alexa asks as she walks up to me.
“Now? You show up now?” I ask her. She shrugs.
“What did I miss?” She asks as she looks at the police car. She sees Brad outside the police car being questioned and Gage inside the car.
“I guess we’ll talk about this back at your house. Let’s get the hell out of here.”
“I can’t leave. Gage wouldn’t be in handcuffs right now if it wasn’t for me. I have to stay.”
“On the contrary, I need to get you out of here before your parents find out you’re at a party that the cops showed up to.” She was right. I was so close to getting my freedom, I couldn’t disappoint my parents now.
I look at Gage and mouth that I’m sorry to him before I walk away never knowing if I’m ever going to see him again.
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