Hello everyone, Holly here. Tomorrow is release day! Call Me Charles will be let loose into the world. I wrote it to celebrate National Motorcycle Ride Day, which is tomorrow! 🥳
In it, I’m talking about an old fishing hut right next to the sea. It was Hubert’s grandparents’, but now it belongs to him, and it’s on a gravel road outside the city.
I grew up in a coastal town, and lately, I’ve been missing the sea a lot. I used to walk by the sea every day with my two dogs – we only have one now, but back then we had two.
If you walk past the beach where I used to walk and continue on, walk for another 15-20 minutes or so, then you’ll come to a gravel road. There is no traffic there, no tourists in the summer, no beach, just a lot of blackberry bushes and two old fishing huts. If you continue farther, you’ll come to a place we call Algots brygga (Algot’s jetty). Very few people know how to get there, and it’s most often deserted no matter what time of year you show up.
I spent my childhood summers there – bathing, snorkelling, fishing for crabs, and diving for blue mussels.
But let’s back up a little, let’s walk back to the tiny fishing huts. They’re right by a small bay, behind them are low trees bent by the wind and loads of blackberry bushes. It’s like those tiny huts are cut off from the rest of the world, and all they see is the sea. Those are the inspiration for Hubert’s home.
Charles is in an apartment in the city, and at first, he doesn’t really understand why Hubert would want to live where he does, but it’s growing on him.
Hubert had to duck to enter the house. Once he’d cleared the doorway, he motioned for Charles to follow. When they were inside, Hubert unzipped his motorcycle boots and pulled them off.
“Ah… that’s nice.” He smiled. “This is it.” He spread his hands and turned around. Charles took in the tiny kitchen. It was like something out of a fairy tale with a few cupboards, an oven, and a refrigerator. By the window was a small table with two chairs. Through the doorway, he could see an equally tiny room with a two-seat sofa and a TV.
Hubert laughed. “I love it, but I know it’s not for everyone.”
Charles hadn’t meant it was something bad. “Don’t you get claustrophobic?”
Hubert grabbed his shoulders and turned him around. Through the window, he could see an occasional glitter on the surface of the sea when the moon made it through the clouds. “It’s too dark to do it justice, but no, I don’t get claustrophobic. I can see to the end of the world.”
Charles stared. Growing up in a coastal city, he visited the beach many times during a year, but to live right by the sea… New houses weren’t allowed to be built this close to the coastline. “Is it old?”
“Yeah.” Hubert grinned. “My grandparents lived here. Grandpa was a fisherman. The houses you pass on this road are all old fishing huts.”
“Wow. And you live alone?”
Oh… Charles looked around trying to find a clue about who he lived with.
“I’m surprised Jake hasn’t shown. He usually comes as soon as he hears the engine of the bike.”
Jake? Charles tried to control the shivering, but his entire body quaked worse than before.
A sound of a cat flap closing echoed in the kitchen.
“Ah, here he is.” Hubert bent to pick up a black cat. “Charles, this is Jake, the ruler of this house.”
Jake was massive. One of those tomcats with a thick neck and paws big enough to put a small dog to shame. “He’s beautiful.” Charles held out his hand so Jake could smell him. He did a nose bump which Charles assumed was as good approval as any. He’d always wanted a pet, cat or dog didn’t matter, but he lived in a no-pet building.
“He is. I got him from the local shelter when he was about a year old. He was a bit feral, but with time he’s become a social guy, and he keeps the mice away, which is good.” Hubert put him down next to a bowl heaped with dry food.
“Let’s get you into the shower.”
Charles shivered harder when his brain presented a picture of steaming hot water. “A shower would be lovely.”
“Yeah. As you might have assumed, it’s not big.”
Charles didn’t care as long as there was warm water. Hubert opened a cupboard Charles hadn’t noticed, it was in the wall, the door had the same wallpaper as the rest of the room. With a towel in his hand, Hubert opened a door and gestured. “I won’t go in there with you. We’d get stuck.” His eyes sparkled. “Spaciousness wasn’t something poor people prioritized a hundred years ago.”
It was crazy to imagine poor people once had been able to live right next to the sea, but they had. There were many roads like this outside the city, lined with old fishing huts. Most of them were used as summer cabins. Nowadays, Charles didn’t think anyone was allowed to change the look of the fishing huts, they were under a preservation order.
“Did they live here for long? Your grandparents, I mean.”
“Grandpa built this before they got married, and they lived here their entire lives.” He shrugged. “Grandpa died from a heart attack while on a walk, and grandma spent a few months in a nursing home. She got a bit too confused to be left alone toward the end.” He met Charles’s gaze. “They lived a good life.”
Charles nodded. Melancholia spread in his chest despite not having known Hubert’s grandparents. It was the last generation who’d lived real lives. His grandmother had moved to a neighboring farm to be a maid when she’d been eleven. Nowadays, people didn’t let their kids out of their sight, and if they did, the poor monster was covered in bubble wrap and had a GPS attached to their forehead. A middle ground had to be a better option.
“Yeah?” He shook his head and looked at Hubert.
“You’re spacing out—more than usual. Get in the shower and get warm, okay?”
“I’ll go fetch the paddleboard.” He ended the sentence with a growl and stomped away, which made Charles smile.
Hubert stopped and turned. He sighed and shook his head. “I’ve fantasized about bringing you home many times, but I’m gonna kill those bastards if I ever see them again.”
Charles stared. “What?” Bringing him home?
“Get in the shower, Charles.”
Charles Bowman was having a bad day even before his friends showed up to kidnap him for his birthday. He lost his nametag, missed the bus, and was late for his shift in the sandwich shop, but that isn’t the worst. The worst is he’s accidentally been poisoning Hubert, the owner of the candy shop across from the sandwich shop, with gluten despite Hubert ordering gluten-free sandwiches.
When Charles finds himself soaking wet on a deserted road in the chilling October night, the worst gets an entirely new meaning. But right as he’s about to give up, Hubert comes driving on his motorcycle. Being responsible for gluten poisoning aside, Charles has never been as glad to see his knight in black leather, but is going home with Hubert a good idea? Or will the worst get even worse?
Contemporary Gay Romance: 15,071 words
According to Holly Day, no day should go by uncelebrated and all of them deserve a story. If she’ll have the time to write them remains to be seen. She lives in rural Sweden with a husband, four children, more pets than most, and wouldn’t last a day without coffee.
Holly gets up at the crack of dawn most days of the week to write gay romance stories. She believes in equality in fiction and in real life. Diversity matters. Representation matters. Visibility matters. We can change the world one story at the time.
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