Short Story: Red by the River
Red by the River first appeared in Filament magazine, Issue 7, Volume II, December 2010. It was my first professional publication, and in a magazine whose philosophy I fully support(ed – they have unfortunately closed, which is a real shame.)
This short piece is about art, sunsets, and lovely red-headed young men, and is approximately 2200 words long. Also, erotica, and not safe for work images.
There were worse things in life than a bad mark for an art assignment, Angie knew, but she’s had it with her teachers’ and lecturers’ pretentious twaddle. She’d come to the art college to sketch things as they were, and now they were demanding ‘high concept’.
“Give yourself over to the art,” Angie mutter, imitating a lecturer whose pomposity had inspired only a sarcastic running commentary within her own head. “The art should be giving itself over to me.”
As she stomped her way up the riverbank, Angie caught sight of Flynn. She knew his name from her watercolour class, which was small but earnest, Angie the solitary cynic among them. He was one of the youngest, with red hair that burnt copper in the afternoon sun. Various unkind names came to mind – ginger, ranga (as they said back home in Australia), carrot top: all of them implied something ugly or alien.
He had a small easel in front of him and a paintbox and brushes to one side. The canvas was untouched. He was reading intently, eyebrows furrowed. He looked up from his book as Angie approached and smiled in recognition. His smile was trusting and sincere, and it made her feel bold.
“I see you’re busy,” she said, hand on hip, eyes shifting between his book and the blank canvas.
“Oh right, I see. I’m waiting.”
She raised an eyebrow, looking at the perfect landscape across the river.
“What are you waiting for, exactly?” Perhaps a herd of wild horses was about to charge over the hill.
“Sunset. I want to try and catch the moment.” Flynn held up the book for emphasis. “So I’m waiting.”
“How do you know it’ll be worth the wait?”
“If it were blue sky, I’d not bother. Clouds add depth – gives something for the fading sun to reflect off. Could be any sort of colours today.”
From anyone else, that explanation would have sounded kitschy, but he made it sound logical and matter-of-fact.
“Can I watch?”
He looked unsure. “You won’t find it dull?”
“You might teach me a few things.”
He beamed, delighted.
Angie settled on the riverbank. “Can I sketch you reading while we wait for the light show?”
Flynn looked a little embarrassed and cast his eyes downward, chewing on his lip.
Angie continued, “I’ve just been told my work is too controlled; I need something to distract me.”
“Are you sure I’m interesting enough?”
” ‘Flynn waiting for sunset’ – the title alone will be intriguing.”
He shrugged. “It’s not original – what I’m doing, I mean. There was a man who painted the sunsets the year Krakatoa erupted. All that volcanic ash in the atmosphere, it made the sunsets look spectacular. He would do one every ten minutes to catch the change.”
Angie pulled out her sketch book and pencils. “Hold still if you can. Besides, how important is original?”
She caught a sly grin before his eyes plunged back into the book. “You ask that and you’re still studying here?”
She drew the base lines to get the orientation of his head and neck. “Original is all very well, but I prefer precision.”
“How about passion?”
Angie found his look hard to read, but it quickly vanished as he remembered holding a pose.
Angie got the basic shape of his head and features down quickly. The quicker she captured that, the sooner she could get to sketching his hair. There was something lovely about the way it fell over his forehead, the almost cow-lick curl around one cheek. His mouth was small and red.
She was about to start detailing his fringe when he said, “Maybe you haven’t found your subject yet.”
Angie blinked. “Sorry?”
“The thing you’re really passionate about. I’m still looking for mine. That’s why I’m trying this.”
Her skin prickled. She hated being asked to spill her innermost desires into her work, waiting on judgement of her as well as her art.
Angie focused on her sketch pad and drew the lines of his hair, enjoying her ability to grasp the elegance of it on the paper. She wondered if he’d let her do more of this.
Flynn looked up and snapped the book shut. “Sorry–”
Angie followed his line of sight and nodded, closing her sketch book. “Yeah, I see.”
Gold light spilled down from the sky, followed by crimson, bright yellow and savage burnt orange. The clouds became a canvas.
Flynn worked in a flurry. Brushes and paint flew against his easel and his hair swished from side to side, catch the light, glittering as he chose and discarded one colour for another, blending paint in frantic swirls. The side of his face grew damp and he was panting quietly, his pink tongue resting on his lower lip.
Suddenly, it was finished. Flynn put down the brush and turned to Angie, boyishly proud that he’d done something, anything in the time. There was a small daub of blue paint across his cheekbone.
“What do you think?”
She looked over his shoulder and they both scanned the picture. Perhaps not a masterpiece, but Flynn had conveyed the loveliness, and the sense that this moment had been important to him.
“You’ve captured the reds and oranges very well,” she said, looking more at the line of his neck and curve of his jaw than the painting.
His expression was gleeful when he turned to her, but the smile faltered when he saw her face. He swallowed, and took a deep breath. “You…like the red?”
“Very much.” She tucked some of the stray orange strands behind his ear.
His cheeks were burning, but he didn’t stop looking at her.
Flynn fastidiously turned the key in his bedroom door, locking them both inside. He didn’t look at Angie directly. She lifted his chin to see the blue eyes and traced the curve of his cheek. Twirling strands of his hair around her fingers, she pressed her lips to his ear. “Such a lovely colour.”
“Not many people think so.”
“I’m not many people.”
He rested his head on her shoulder. “I don’t normally do this. Go home with someone so quickly, I mean.” The confession seemed embarrassed, like he was afraid of sounding uncool.
Angie stroked his head, hoping to convey reassurance whilst hiding how much she liked his nervous excitement. “You won’t mind if I start then?”
Flynn shook his head. She unbuttoned his shirt, revealing soft downy hair a little darker than that on his head. Her nails caught in it as she ran them down his chest.
“Are you different colours all over?”
She kissed him and pinched his nipples. He whimpered against her mouth.
“I guess I’ll have to find out,” she murmured.
She undid his belt and tugged down his jeans. He kicked them off and she grinned at the sight of his cock straining beneath the blue cotton boxers, but she didn’t pull them down. Instead, she pushed him onto the bed. Flynn’s eyes grew wide and startled, but he was willing, so willing.
When she did pull the boxers down, freeing his cock, it revealed that yes, beneath the elastic strap lay fur of a different colour again. Still unmistakeable red, though.
Flynn just shrugged. “Yeah…”
His cock wasn’t large but it was hard. She traced his hip bones with her fingers and swept her nails down the smooth skin of his thighs.
His breathing grew heavier and more rhythmic, and she couldn’t wait any longer. She took his cock in one hand, grasped his balls in the other, and squeezed.
“Oh god!” He threw his head back. Angie felt herself get wet just seeing him so turned on.
His cock twitched, pulsed as she slid her hand up and down it. Soon he was thrusting his hips in time with her steady pumping. The head of his cock was a little larger than the rest. Her thumb rubbed over it, against his slit. He dug his fingers into her shoulder.
Flynn’s mouth was open and he took sharp and shallow breaths. Angie lent over him, brought her mouth close to his murmured how gorgeous he was, how sexy, how she could have thrown him to the ground at the river’s edge and shagged him then and there. Soon his breath hitched to yell out a euphoric, ‘Yes!’
He came all over her hand. Angie relished the feeling of wet heat spurting on her skin. She was giddy with accomplishment, and felt the moistness between her legs with an incredible satisfaction.
She lay down, pulling him to her. Flynn curled up in her arms, wearing a smug grin.
“You liked that?” Angie ran a finger down his cheek.
He chuckled. “Yeah.”
“I’d be up for doing it again sometime. And maybe a bit more.”
He curved his neck upwards, the better to kiss her collarbone. “Sure. Maybe you can finish the sketch of me.”
Angie admired his pale body sprawled languidly over the bed, looked into his eager eyes and ran her hand over the bright strands of his hair.
“Yes. We definitely should do that.”
The illustrations are by Ana Laura Borowicz and they appeared along side the story in Filament. Please see her website for more of her work: Anita Boro @ Deviant Art