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New Hampshire, 1988

By CJ MillerPublished 2 years ago Updated 7 months ago 11 min read

The cabin in the woods has been abandoned for years, but on this night, a candle burns in the window.


Jake Peterson snuffs a match between pinched fingers, cringing as the sulfur hits his nostrils. Kimber Lane follows his lead, the room aglow amid a dozen feasting wicks.

She coils her arms around his neck, her voice mingling with the branches as they scrape and batter the glass.

It's hurricane season, a fact they're choosing to ignore.

"Thank you for this. I just want it to be special."

He leads with an innocent peck before darting his tongue past her parted smile. She tastes of bubble gum and Bonne Bell gloss. Mocha Mousse, to be exact.

He goes back for seconds.

"It's your first time. You deserve whatever your heart desires."

She ruffles his wavy strands, her hazel eyes shining. "Yours, too."

"True," he agrees, "But I could do this anywhere, long as we're together."

Judging by the heat of her embrace, that was the correct answer.

Nerves on fire, they make their way to the rusty bed. Earlier, Kimber exchanged the mildewed blanket for fresh linens nicked from home. The rosebud sheets are promising, if a tad foreign, and Jake's blood is swiftly redirected.

This is really gonna happen.

Discarding the majority of his clothes, he climbs in, careful not to disturb the shroud of nearby cobwebs. The last thing he wants is to lose out over something trivial.

He pats a spot on the mattress, attempting to channel those with actual swagger. Bless you, Tom Cruise.

"Come here, beautiful."

The line, so enticing in his mind, lands like a sack of bricks, and Kimber snickers. Fortunately, it's the gentle variety, imbued with a decade of affection.

"Not yet," she teases. "I have a surprise. A... belated graduation gift."

"Okay," he says, trying on a British accent for laughs. "But your maidenhead is more than enough, m'lady."

Freeing her scrunchie, she shoots it at him like a poisoned arrow. He raises his palms in mock defense.

"Hey! At least let me get laid before I die."

"Wait there, wise guy. You haven't seen the best part."

She grabs her purple Jansport, a flashlight already clutched in the opposite fist.

This, he doesn't like.

"Um, Kimmy? Where are you going?"

"To the living room. I wanna change before we...ya know."

"Sure you don't need company? I'm awesome at unhooking bras."

"I'll be fine. Are you afraid to be alone?"

"No," he lies. "Just looking out for my favorite girl."

She gives him a pointed stare, one he can barely discern through the ambered shadows.

"You mean your only girl."

"Well, yeah. That, too. Besides Phoenix."

His collie.

"Phoenix is adorable. Suppose I can cope with sharing you."

She closes the door, her beam reduced to a receding sliver.

Adrenaline on standby, Jake glances around in appraisal. While the joint is certainly worse for wear, Kimber had it right.

The familiar remains.

A rocking chair sits in the corner, no doubt crafted with elbow grease at some distant moment in history. As if propelled by an invisible guest, it rolls forward before retreating in equal, glacial measure.

Must be a breeze coming in through the broken pane.

The heavy curtains, well soiled by time, now resemble the robes of Druids. They, too, appear alive in the intrusive gusts. One menacing panel reaches for him, sleeve drooping, skeletal hand obscured.

He has to look away.

A braided rug encircles the bed frame, its surface matted by pensive feet, their owners long since buried. If memory serves, it used to be blue...

Crooked planks trim the studs, birch made all the grayer by colonies of dust. There's even a leak over the bathroom, its foul odor competing with the scented pillars.

Cinnamon Spice is no cure for fungi.

As nature rages on, he can hear water striking the filthy clawfoot, drop by eerie, echoing drop.

Plink. Plink. Plink.

The air, a mix of cool and humid, is causing his sunburn to prickle. He shudders and scratches a knee, debating which feature is most disturbing.

Easy. The wilting wallpaper in the kitchenette.

Once a depiction of citrus, the current motif tells of melting dolls, their sockets hollow, tortured mouths agape.

Less than ideal, sure, but it will have to do.

This is, he reminds himself, what Kimber asked for. Beggars can't be choosers, and Jake is definitely the former.

Shortly after her eighteenth birthday, they tried doing it in his prized Firebird. She complained about the limited space. His busted tape deck. The pine-shaped relic dangling from the mirror.

The way the racing seats tweaked her spine.

Frustrated, he threw in the towel. Then, ever the dutiful boyfriend, he splurged on a post-prom suite at the Mount Washington Hotel, his brother helping to skirt the registration policy. It cost more than his ride and rims combined, but some things—reality-bending sex among them—are worth the expense.

So he assumes, anyhow.

Blaming cramps, Kimber again backed out. He wound up watching campy horror as she snored beside him, still chastely wrapped in her puffy pink gown. His own John Hughes flick from Hell.

It's now the end of August, their final chance to get busy before life drags them down a forked path. In a week, she'll begin college in Boston—some pretentious moniker with a zillion jocks—while he stays behind to learn plumbing.

From there, the future seems daunting, unknowable, no matter how strong their bond. Hence Jake's shock when the tides took a recent turn in his favor.

While driving by Sutton Lake, Kimber mentioned the cabin in which they used to play. Back in the day, the local dads were all fond of fishing, fussy kids in tow.

Lacking any interest in trout, their group of six would set off for the woods, exploring with gusto until dusk. On such an occasion, they stumbled upon a dwelling.

The owners, an elderly Mr. & Mrs. Goddard, were happy to let them wander about, even providing refreshments when the weather became oppressive.

Our house is your house one or the other would graciously declare.

After Cliff's death, Sadie Lynn, his merry-cum-lonely widow, was thrilled to continue the tradition. When she passed in '82, there was no one to inherit the property. Disrepair was a fait accompli.

Later, their teen selves would only think to use it when up to no good. It was during a rowdy round of spin the bottle that 14-year-old Jake found the courage to move on Kimber.

Prior to that party, he considered her unattainable, the kind of chick he was destined to drool over from afar. They've been glued together since, his crush blossoming into bona fide romance by eleventh grade.

With this development, he became the envy of his peers, a rep that left him both cocky and, oddly enough, anxious. The latter seemed to pick up steam whenever she refused him.


"We could do it there," Kimber offered.


"The cabin, silly. I love the symmetry. First kiss, first date..."

"First time," he finished, hopes soaring.


Thus he's sprawled among the spiders, an especially bold bastard marching across his knuckles.

"Kim?" he hollers, alarmed by how long this is taking.

"One sec!"

Jake recognizes the clicking that accompanies a cassette swap. A moment later, Take My Breath Away permeates the dark like smoke.

Watching every motion in my foolish lover's game

Not just any song.

Their song.

Never hesitating to become the fated ones

At last, the door opens.

Turning and returning to some secret place to hide

Kimber crosses the floor, hips swaying.

Through the hourglass I saw you

She stops in front of him, a trio of votives illuminating her face.

If only for today, I am unafraid

Holy shit.

Her tank is gone, replaced by a flowing nightie, sheer and bridal white. From a certain angle, he can almost make out the blush of her—

"Do you like it?" she whispers, her shyness peeking through. "I bought it for your eyes only."

Jake's palate is parched, his mouth a speechless desert. He drinks of her tanned complexion, the topography of her breasts, sighing in appreciation.

"It's gorgeous," he says softly. "You're... perfect."

Haunted by the notion

Pleased, she leans in, her lips cupping his brow, the spirals of her hair grazing his chest.

Somewhere there's a love in flames

He pulls her on top of him, peeling the lingerie up and off in one fluid gesture. She gasps, her flesh smoldering.

"Smooth move, mister."

"I aim to impress."

Without warning, Jake flips her onto her back, trembling as their legs intertwine. Brushing her bangs aside, he makes a confession.

"I've needed this for ages."

"Me, too."

He traces his thumbs over her temples, residual soot from the match marring her perfect skin. "Do you mean that?"

A high giggle escapes her throat.

"More than you can imagine."

He kisses a trail along her collarbone. She whimpers, ravenous for his touch.

Outside, a wail emerges from deep within the trees. The threat is amplified by a howling wind, itself a needful banshee.

Kimber jumps, her nails digging into his forearms. Without slowing, Jake mutters, "It's just the storm. You know I won't let anything hurt you."

The candles waltz in the draft, casting macabre scenes on the ceiling.

Tenderly pinning her wrists, he asks, "Are you ready?"

More plea than query.

Her pupils are the size of saucers, pools of ink harboring a stray streak of moonlight.

"I... I think so."

Vibrating, he slides into position, drunk sans a sip of booze.

"Jake?" she murmurs, uncertainty on her breath. "Is this forever? My body yours, your body mine? No one else's?"

Lids clamped shut, an inch from nirvana, he pauses.

"Yeah, of course."

She pushes herself upright.

"I'm serious. I need you to swear that we'll be together, that the magic won't disappear when dawn creeps in."

He swallows, mind and hormones a blurry tangle. His temperature has gone up several degrees in a brief stretch, and everything's taken on a golden sheen, the same hue as Kimber's curls.

He can scarcely recall a time when they weren't in this room, this cabin, limbs inseparable, hearts pounding to the beat of the brutal rain.

She nibbles his jaw, at once feral and kittenish, and the urge becomes desperate, too primal to restrain.

"I want you," she hisses.

Three simple words that utterly undo him.

"I swear," he moans, timbre all but a growl. "Forever."

With each syllable, she draws him closer. Realizing the effect this is having, he keeps talking.

"You and me, baby, no one else. First and last and always."

Then, spewing lyrical lava he never knew lay dormant, "Ever thine."

Worries dissolved, her pelvis arches to meet his form. She grins, her teeth long and putrid in the evaporating dim.

"Okay. I'm ready."

He gives into his craving, senses scattered on the embered ether, unaware of the fading world. The walls radiate eternal warmth, a contrast to the festering figure in his grip.

With the last bit of available oxygen, he croaks her name.

"Ki... Kimber?"

"Shhhh," coos the rotting old woman beneath him. "You're home, Jacob."


"You just left him there?"

Marnie is incredulous.

Shrugging, her blonde friend ganks a few fries, having already devoured her own.

"Yep. He had it coming. My sister planned the whole thing. She even parked near the docks to pick me up."

"But how did you sneak away?"

Kimber takes a noisy slurp of Coke.

"I pretended to 'slip into something more comfortable'. Put on my Berlin single and walked out the front door. The idiot probably waited around for hours, holding his you-know-what."

"I dunno, Kimmy. It seems sort of cruel."

The bitterness comes on fast and hot.

"Really, Marn? Worse than sleeping with a stranger while I was in the city? Or claiming he's a virgin, praying I'd let him use me? Probably dump me?"

Her lashes are damp, tears tinted black by cheap mascara.

Marnie winces. "Sorry, you're right. He earned this. Has he at least bothered to check on you?"

"Nope, and that joke of a car wasn't in his parents' garage this morning. My guess is that he's waiting for me to apologize. Not happening."

"Maybe he took a road trip with Nate?"

"Yeah, maybe. Honestly, I don't care anymore."

"Kimber Lane?"

At the abrupt sound of her name, she pivots towards the mall's entrance.

"That's me. Am I in trouble or something?"

The cop's expression is icy, a stern cliché. His fellow officer, a lady of about fifty, reads as more sympathetic.

"No, but we need to ask you some questions," she replies."Your mom said we might find you here. I'm afraid it's urgent."

The greasy fare sinks like a boulder.

"No one's been in contact with Jake Peterson since Friday."

"I haven't seen him," Kimber volunteers, her pulse spiking.

"Yesterday, his Pontiac was found near the blaze. Any idea why?"

As if viewed through a fractured telescope, the food court shifts out of focus.

Blaze. The Firebird. Jake.

Her Jake.


The only response she can muster.

"You two haven't heard? The Goddard shack burned down. In Whittaker's Glen. It's been all over the scanners."

"Nothing but a heap of ash," adds her indelicate partner.

"Oh my gosh!" Marnie shrieks. "No way! We used to hang out there with Sadie Lynn. She adored that place. What did she call it, Kim? Everwood?"

Kimber shakes her head. This much she remembers with clarity.


Short Story

About the Creator

CJ Miller

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  1. Masterful proofreading

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  • Al2 years ago

    love it, beautifully written

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