77 comments

Submitted on 09/17/2020

Categories: Drama Funny Romance

The morning was crisp and clean but smelled like sandy floors and clogged up anger. Kaitlyn sat with her arms around her knees, chin buried in her purple skirt. The ocean gasped and shuddered, steps from their front stoop, but she did not look at it. Her hair was pinned back in a loose braid, trailing sleepily down her rounded back, and her eyes were rimmed with hatred-colored red.

She sat on weathered, peeling planks, once painted white but scuffed yellow by years of feet and sand and hurricanes. Her bare feet poked into warm white sand.

Kaitlyn rubbed her eyes under her glasses, sighed, and straightened her back with a quiet crack. Behind her, the small water-stained house rumbled with moving furniture, groaning knees, and stamping boots. A trio of big men with big beards came tramping down, rubbing big arms, and she stood and walked forward to let them by. She turned on her heel in the wet sand and watched them go, her arms folded.

Her head ached.

Her fingers ached, too. She needed to sit down and write something. She felt blocked. She felt like she didn’t know what was happening. Like a cork, all stopped up. The paper didn’t come out this far, all the way to the shoreline. And none of the big magazines she subscribed to and wrote for had been delivered yet. It had been two days and too long. She was tired and she could not rest.

Oscar was standing apologetically in the doorway. “Kaitlyn,” he called, and “Katie,” when she didn’t answer or look up. She was looking at her ankles and exposed calves, under the purple light cast by her skirt line. The sand was much darker, greyer, than her almost-brown skin. She didn’t like it.

“Katie, we’re done here, do you want to look.”

“Oscar!” she called, flinging her arms down and prying her balled fists apart in a conscious effort to quell herself. “Oscar!”

It was all she could say. She felt a bubble rising, hot and hard, up her chest. He came down the peeling steps, both wood and man creaking as he went. He was older than she; already grey from the temples flooding upward, skin craggier than wrinkled, and touched by both smiles and sadness. He went to her, tried to hug her, but she stared at him, dark eyes, beneath her glasses. Directly in the eye.

“I’m sorry,” he said, more gently this time. “Would you like to come look? I’m not sure where you want your Florence Brown paintings.”

She sighed and said, “If I were a writer, I’d stay here at the ocean and spend the night. Romantic. And I wouldn’t go in that ugly house. But I hate the ocean. I’m no writer.”

Oscar threw his head up and laughed. “I know that,” he said, leading her inward. “You are a critic, the bane of my existence, my dearest heart.”

You are the one who would spend the night by the ocean,” she said scathingly. “Romanticists never take practicality into consideration.”

They went up the stairs together and she clenched her teeth at the creaking boards. They’d lived in New York before this, with a big apartment in a nice rosebush-covered neighborhood, with mahogany stairs and marble lobby floors. And the papers came each morning at the same time, and she would take them to the coffeeshop on the corner and eat a croissant and write her piece. And each day was like that, work in the morning, friends in the afternoon, dances or concerts or movies in the evening. He leaned on her as they went up, but she still heard his joints clicking, and looked at him in a mix of concern and exasperation.

Kaitlyn opened the door for him and said again, “I hate the ocean.”

But he was sitting by the door on a folding chair, rubbing at his knee.

“You idiot, Oscar,” she said, rubbing a line of sand off her skirt. It brushed the few inches above her knees and she was cold in the westerly ocean wind. “You should have made them do the heavy lifting.”

“I did,” he protested, standing.

“Obviously not,” she said, smile creeping up no matter how hard she tried to frown. “Look at you.”

He turned in a circle, arms up, and she laughed.

“Come see the kitchen,” he told her. “I think you’ll like it. It’s cute and—”

“—Quaint and everything a writer wants,” Kaitlyn said. “Not that I’ll use it much. I want to try all the restaurants in town before I give up on this hinky-dinky village.”

“Katie, why do you hate it so much?” the writer said, throwing out his arms and loping to the open door. He stood before it, hands at his hips, just watching as the ocean pulsed.

The ocean was laid out like a silver carpet, dappled in darkening nail-colored waves. The smell folded up against the house, soft and careful. Wind blew in gently, though they both knew it could turn like a tiger and rush in with clawed black screams and turn everything upside down. Kaitlyn didn’t answer. Instead, she walked past the kitchen through the open door to the sole bedroom. The double bed had a purple bedspread that matched her skirt on accident.

“I miss New York,” she mumbled under her breath. Then, “Oscar! Where is the king bed? The yellow quilt?”

“Oh, that. Well, it wouldn’t fit in here. We did measurements and everything. I thought I talked to you about this, and you said to use the double bed that was in the guest room. In the New York apartment.”

“Well, you must’ve been talking in your sleep because I never said that. Where’s the yellow quilt? I like that one better.”

He spread his arms.

She crossed hers with a huff and tried to leave the room, but he put a hand on her shoulder. “Katie, what about compromise? You heard of that word? This is just for a little bit, just for four months, until my grant runs out. Then we’ll be back in the city!”

“I hate that word,” she said. “I’ve just finished writing a review of Olson’s Compromise essay and I’ve had enough of that damn word in two days to last me for a year.”

The ocean pulled itself up, sighed in a shivery, pleased way, and darker clouds began to roll in, blanketing their beach house in a sweet, soft sea salt light. The wind whistled through the lapping boards, and the sound it made was like a child giggling. Oscar and Kaitlyn look at each other, eye to eye because they were about the same height, Kaitlyn in her purple skirt and long braid, and Oscar in his sandy corduroys and laugh-scarred eyes.

Oscar’s eyes started to crinkle first. She kept a serene expression for a split second longer, and then both burst into laughter together.

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77 comments

Zilla Babbitt
17:37 Sep 17, 2020

I do try to have a happy ending, sometimes. Also, new quiz is out! It's much more serious and thoughtful than the others. If you're actually going to take it, don't just write "idk" or "aa" as the answers, because that's lazy and passive. Thanks, hope you enjoy it!

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17:37 Sep 17, 2020

Great, will do

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Zilla Babbitt
01:20 Sep 18, 2020

Yay!

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14:53 Sep 19, 2020

I liked this story. I felt for Kaitlyn. Others seemed to find her selfish, but Oscar was controlling; her bed and bedding were important to her and he dismissed her feelings too easily.

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Zilla Babbitt
20:57 Sep 20, 2020

Thank you! I like Kaitlyn too, though I don't find Oscar controlling. I didn't mean to write him that way, he's supposed to be a kind of absentminded guy who loves his wife. They're very different people but they both have to compromise.

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Kaitlyn James
13:20 Oct 15, 2020

Thanks for liking me.

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22:26 Sep 17, 2020

What an incredible story. Your description was amazing and left me with a crystal-clear image of your characters and the scenery. You have a way of writing that makes you just want to be able to meet the characters and shake them by the hand. I absolutely loved this! -Eliza-May

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Zilla Babbitt
13:42 Sep 19, 2020

Thank you, Eliza-May!

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16:54 Sep 19, 2020

:)

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Maggie Deese
18:13 Sep 17, 2020

This was too cute, Zilla! I loved your characters and their witty dialogue. Great job! (Also, I just took both of your quizzes!)

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Zilla Babbitt
18:17 Sep 17, 2020

I saw that! Thank you so much :) Glad you enjoyed them.

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Pratheeksha R
22:46 Oct 04, 2020

Hi Zilla, I'm a novice author in here. I just have 1 submission and am currently working on another. But before I took to participating on Reedsy, I've been analyzing the prompts and submission for nearly three weeks. Each time I have come across your submissions and I love how unique they are in the plot unfolding (Sometimes no plot - Queen Cymbaline), how you approach characters, how you allow the readers to have some assumptions. Definitely you're an inspiration for me. For now, I'm just pouring my heart into stories and writing as the...

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Ranya Navarez
00:38 Sep 29, 2020

This was great, Zilla! I especially love the imagery you so vividly depicted in your descriptions of the ocean, Oscar, and the house. They were wonderful! And I feel sad that Kaitlyn doesn't love the beach! I understand the helpless, sometimes angry (though extremely rare for me), and anxious feeling of being out of my comfort zone, and you showed that in her flawlessly, though I would prefer being at the beach than in a large city like New York. ;) This is a job well-done, Zilla. Keep it up!

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Zilla Babbitt
13:26 Sep 29, 2020

Thank you! I don't understand anyone who doesn't love the ocean, but they're surely out there.

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Ranya Navarez
15:23 Sep 29, 2020

You're welcome! And I know!

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Maggie Deese
02:50 Sep 19, 2020

Hi Zilla! Sorry to just be messaging you on your story, haha, but I had a question. Since you have been shortlisted multiple times, what do you do with the gift card to Reedsy's Marketplace? I am thinking about looking into web design, but I'm just not sure! Thanks!

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Zilla Babbitt
13:34 Sep 19, 2020

I do nothing with it. They will only let me use one of them, no matter the number I accumulate and $25 just isn't enough for editorial services. Maybe one day I'll redeem them.

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Maggie Deese
13:45 Sep 19, 2020

Ah, okay that makes sense. Thanks!

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Bianka Nova
14:57 Sep 18, 2020

Short and sweet. Wonderful character development. I'm sure that most people would find themselves siding with one or the other by the end of the story. Like I thought that Kate is somewhat unreasonable (all the tantrum for just 4 months?) and could be explosive at times. I'm glad she seemed to come to her senses towards the end 😄

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Zilla Babbitt
13:41 Sep 19, 2020

Thank you! Yes, she's kind of annoying but the theme is like compromise, and she hates the ocean but loves Oscar so she compromises.

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B. W.
13:41 Sep 18, 2020

I really enjoyed this story and you did really great with it ^^ so i'm going to give this a 10/10 :) i was also wondering if you could maybe help me with something?

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Elliot Thomas
13:20 Sep 18, 2020

This is sweet. I love how wonderful a writer you are. Each of your stories are easy to visualize because of how descriptive you are. Don't ever stop writing. Have an amazing day :)

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Zilla Babbitt
13:41 Sep 19, 2020

Thank you!

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23:35 Sep 17, 2020

Your writing is so beautiful!! A lovely story and after so many sad endings I’ve read tonight, I adore the happy last paragraphs :D Keep writing, Zilla!

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Zilla Babbitt
01:21 Sep 18, 2020

Thank you so much, Samara ;)

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21:15 Sep 18, 2020

Of course :) Also, I just posted my first story! I’m super excited. Could you pop on over and check it out? Thanks!

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Zilla Babbitt
13:42 Sep 19, 2020

Yay! As I told Megan, I probably won't have time this week, I'm so busy, but I will if I do happen to get time.

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Kaitlyn James
13:19 Oct 15, 2020

You literally just wrote a story about me. Thanks! lol

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Dhananjay Sharma
10:05 Sep 25, 2020

Simply beautiful. I am speechless. Kindly go through mine. https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/60/submissions/35763/ Looking forward to collaborate with you.

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Meggy House
17:53 Sep 22, 2020

Wow! This story is so deep, so emotional, so eloquent...it's just gorgeously written and amazing. I love how you characterized Katie; I felt as if I was personally following her. If you wouldn't mind, could you read one of my stories? I would really appreciate feedback from such a beautiful writer :)

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Dhananjay Sharma
10:35 Sep 20, 2020

amazing https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/59/submissions/34852/ give a read to mine

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B. W.
14:13 Sep 19, 2020

I think i've already said something about this story but if i haven't this is a really great one (well really, all of your stories are great, but still) so this get's a 10/10 :) in your Bio i saw that you mentioned some stuff about writing two? novels, so i was wondering if you could maybe help me with my novel a bit?

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Zilla Babbitt
14:15 Sep 19, 2020

Thanks! Yep, in the middle of two. I should really set one aside but I love them both. The demigod novel? What kind of help do you need? (Sorry if I seem like I'm ignoring you. I check Reedsy only a couple times a day).

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B. W.
14:18 Sep 19, 2020

No i was talking about the other one, the one with Harlow i was talking with kendra not long ago with it? i think ya said something in our conversation, though sure i haven't even started the demi-god one so maybe you could help with both? The Harlow one i need help with some romance and trying to come up with some deaths, the demi-god novel is where i need a plot because i can't think of anything and i'm not sure if it should be like the one i'm doing here or a bit different, and it's alright i understand ^^

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Zilla Babbitt
14:31 Sep 19, 2020

Plot, okay. If I were you I'd take the plot of one of your short stories and expand on that, basically stretch it out into a novel. Or make it like your first chapter.

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Zilla Babbitt
14:30 Sep 19, 2020

The Harlow one... I don't know, B. Rhondalise and I wrote a book very similar to the idea you have. Not saying you're plagiarizing, just that it's too close for comfort. I'd be glad to help with the demigod one, though.

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Wowowowowowow I HAVE TO READ ITTTT

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B. W.
14:38 Sep 19, 2020

I feel like i am though and i never meant to, i'm sorry about that! Well with my demi-god series i think you've already read the stories, right? I want the plot to be a bit different then how it goes in this one maybe because i'm not entirely sure if the one i'm doing here would be that good so it might need some changes or something

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Zilla Babbitt
14:42 Sep 19, 2020

That's okay! I talked to her a bit and she just said, At least change the names. As long as you've never read it, you can't be plagiarizing! Anyway, what's the plot idea you have now? I'll look at it and tell you what I think. Don't be shy, it's okay, all rough drafts are terrible, especially for good writers :)

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Orenda ♧
18:51 Sep 18, 2020

Hey Zilla! Just wanted to say that i did your new quiz and i loved it sooooooo much, can't express it in words lol.....imma walk to the corner and go emo...I WANT MOREEE!!

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Zilla Babbitt
13:40 Sep 19, 2020

Yay! Thanks!

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Maya W.
20:02 Sep 17, 2020

Aww, a happy ending on a Zilla Babbit story! Always nice to see, lol. Nice story. I love the characterization. Would you mind checking out some of my more recent stories? Thanks!

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Zilla Babbitt
13:43 Sep 19, 2020

Thank you very much!

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Scout Tahoe
19:00 Sep 17, 2020

Another show-stopper from Zilla. Oh dear, what are the rest of us going to do when she’s famous? I love the name Kaitlyn. It’s beautiful. I’d recommend Batool for your bio, but knowing you she’s already on the list. Just keep it up. :)

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Zilla Babbitt
01:21 Sep 18, 2020

Thank you! And yep, she's there :)

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Megan Sutherland
10:10 Sep 18, 2020

Hey, Zilla! I read your bio, and I 100% agree that downvoting is mean-spirited. I myself lost nearly 200 points. Anyway, back to your story. I've read a few of your other ones, and they all seemed really good as well. You're very descriptive with your scene and your dialogue flows incredibly smoothly. I really enjoyed reading this! Would you mind coming and reading a story of mine? I would greatly appreciate any feedback you may have. Thanks! -Megan Sutherland

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Zilla Babbitt
13:42 Sep 19, 2020

Thank you very much! I'm not sure I'll have time this week to read anything extra, I'm really sorry. If I do have a magical half hour or so I'll catch up on what people ask me to read :)

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Megan Sutherland
15:01 Sep 19, 2020

Thanks so much, and take your time! I appreciate you getting back to me.

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Zilla Babbitt
02:19 Sep 24, 2020

Hey! I've been meaning to respond to your request re following you and just decided to reply to your soonest comment :) I'm so flattered you value my following to-- but as I told Batool, I try to choose who I follow very carefully, because I know a lot of people may see that. I follow my very favorite and more apt-to-post writers. Basically: Not yet. I am sure I will follow you soon. Keep it up!❤

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Megan Sutherland
02:21 Sep 24, 2020

Thank you so much for your honesty, Zilla! I totally understand. I try to choose who I follow carefully as well, though I follow more people than uou do.

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Megan Sutherland
02:22 Sep 24, 2020

*you Thank you for following me! I literally just saw it. 👍👍

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