Free Short Story - changed every season (solstice and equinox) - Thanks for your interest!
The Last Time I Saw Vicki
It's been seven months since I last saw Vicki. She'd leaned in close, planted a kiss on my forehead then served me my own words, frosted, on a silver platter. But she cast me a smile before slipping out the hotel door.
I met Vicki four years ago in False Key, right after the greatest day of my fishing career. I was in good shape back then. Still had all my hair. So what if it was white?
After spending six months in the Pacific, and what seemed like years in the Panama Canal, I'd dropped off my crew in Nassau before soloing to Florida. By mid-morning I was drifting south of the Keys, trolling a lure on an eighty-pound line.
You see, all the men and most of the women in my family are big game hunters. Most of my life's been spent fishing; strictly catch and release these days. Got enough trophies on my wall. Not my dad though, he's on his fifth trophy wife. Ha! I never understood marriage. Only leads to alimony.
That morning, the water was smooth as glass when a strike shattered the stillness. Whatever it was, it was huge. Took the lure straight down and nearly bent my rod in half! I hurried to get into my fighting belt, and that's when it hit me — I was alone. My crew was in Nassau!
Grabbing my rod I said to myself, Greyson, it's up to you. For an hour we struggled. It took all my strength just to bring the monster to the surface. Then it jumped — the biggest blue marlin I'd ever seen! It must've launched itself ten feet into the air. Water sprayed like diamonds in the sun and its body curved...beautiful.
She hung in air, thrashing, and then fell back in. I'm saying 'she' now, because only female marlins get that big. I let her fight. She'd sound, and I'd reel her in, let her go then reel her back. With every jump, I was nothing but her counterweight. My shoulders caught fire and my back went numb.
Two hours later I reeled her in, and you know what? She lay perfectly still in the water next to my yacht.
I tied off my line, lowered the ladder, and swam out with my camera. Her eye followed me the whole time. Sounds crazy, but I started talking to her, asking her to hold still for a picture. She never moved.
I got some great shots. Here, let me get my wallet. See those alternating lines along the yacht's hull? Those are foot marks. She was over twelve feet long! Must've weighed five or six hundred pounds.
She held still while I swam all around her. Would you believe, when I said, "Let's get this hook out," she opened her mouth?
After I took the hook out, we stayed beside the yacht. She let me pet her, and I'd swear she liked it. Then she moved her head and I saw what a fool I'd been. I'd put myself between her and the yacht. One wrong move and I'd be crushed against the hull!
The look in her eye changed when I realized my danger, like she knew she had the upper hand. But she gently rolled over and floated away. A few feet out, she flicked her tail and was gone in an instant.
Halfway up the ladder, my muscles turned to rubber. I finally got to the top, flopped over the railing in slow motion, and collapsed on the deck. Once I could stand, I set course for the nearest populated island, one with a bar.
Have you ever been to False Key? Looks like some sleepy little tourist town, but its yacht club is outstanding. Halfway through my second ice-cold lager, I glanced across the bar and a pair of ocean-blue eyes caught mine.
I asked the bartender if she was really twenty-one.
He winked and said, "Twenty-two, she's a local. Take her to a jewelry store."
Ha! If a fifty-seven-year-old man wants to attract a woman in her twenties, he'd better go to a jewelry store, flower store, and liquor store, too, don’t you think?
My heart raced as she walked over, young and lean, with short black hair that gleamed under the club's lights. Bellying up to the bar beside me, she said, "My name's Vicki." Her gaze was like the marlin's, watching, waiting for my next move. After we left, I bought her a pair of diamond earrings and she gave me the most intense week of my life.
On the yacht, Vicki could fix the engine, trim a sail, and out- swim me. She'd perch on the top deck with a predatory eye and spot schools of tuna and mackerel a mile away. When I asked her how she could see something that far off, she'd just laugh and say she could smell them.
I'd always send the catch home with her. Lots of mouths to feed, from what I'd gathered. She'd deflect talk about her home life, and I didn't pry.
A few months later, I took her to Miami. We spent the days and nights on my condo's balcony. She told me she'd never been in a high-rise, or even set foot on the mainland before. Never been to a concert, either. You should've seen her, leaning forward stiff as a masthead while Mozart washed over her.
Our relationship was perfect. No demands, no restrictions. I'd stop by False Key a few times a year, whenever I was in the area. Now, you'd think someone like me, who's avoided attachment his entire life, would have been satisfied. But no, I had to go and screw it up.
You see, I used to be a girl in every port kind of guy. Catch and release, right? But after meeting Vicki, I let them drift away. Then I started thinking; a condo on False Key sounded like a good idea. I could give Vicki a place away from her "too big" family, and come see her more often.
I had it all planned. Brought her a sapphire and diamond necklace. She loved it. But when I helped her put it on, and felt her skin soft under my fingers, I blurted out my idea about the condo.
Her body stiffened. She didn't seem upset, just unsure. Then she asked if I thought that I'd be happy that way, and she repeated what I'd said when we first met. Right up front, I'd told her I never wanted to be tied down, and I was happiest when I was traveling. Then she kissed my forehead and took off. But her touch and her smile said, "see ya," not, "goodbye."
She didn't answer her phone after that night, so I headed to Key West, ran into some old friends on their way to Europe, and tagged along.
Since then I've been thinking, mainly about my stupidity, springing the condo idea on Vicki like that. What was I thinking, that she'd stay there, like a trophy? I might as well have asked a wave to live in a concrete box.
Vicki's phone has gone to voice mail for months now. Its battery might be dead, or she could've lost it.
I'm heading back to False Key. Maybe she'll change her mind. Maybe we can forget about that night, and go back to our old routine.
I hope I find Vicki. But if I don't, I'll keep traveling, and I'll try to live like her, one hundred percent in the moment. And maybe then I'll convince myself — she was right.
"The Last Time I Saw Vicki" and its follow-up story "Strung Out" (told from Vicki's point of view) are published in Somewhere South of Sundown, More Stories and Poems from False Key.
Vicki and Greyson made their debut in "False Impressions, Part 1", published in Somewhere South of Reason, More Stories and Poems from False Key
Available on Amazon, Kindle, and most electronic book formats.