Red by Anna Marie Hamilton

We don’t talk about that afternoon. But this is what I remember: late summer, dappled gold light, the smell of dry grass and water. I wore a white t-shirt tied at the waist and short jeans over my bright red bikini. I was fourteen years old.

He and I stood at the edge of a pond in the woods. He was sixteen and a friend of a friend. We had brought his dog with us—a shaggy, graying, wheezing creature with gentle brown eyes and a pleading face. Rusty red fur hidden under the gray, and so, its name was Red.

“Let’s play a game,” he said.

He threw a stick into the pond. The dog leapt in. I heard its wet sloshes as it swam out to get the stick.

He kissed me on the mouth, hard. I was limp and too surprised to react.

The dog bounded up, shaking murky water out of its heavy coat, and meekly presented him the stick. He threw it into the pond again. Then he kissed me the second time. My legs were weak and my heart was numb.

The dog returned. Splash—and the dog was swimming again. He pulled my shirt off.

The dog returned. Another splash. He unzipped my jeans.

The dog returned with that pleading look in its eyes, like it was saying please don’t throw the stick again, I am  so tired, but I will do whatever you want. He threw the stick again. He undid the tie on my bikini top.

The dog came back slowly this time, waterlogged and panting, that pleading look again, please, not one more time, please.

He threw the stick.

I jumped into the pond.

I thrashed against the water, coughed it out of my lungs. The water grabbed me around the waist and pulled me down but I seized the stick and struggled to shore.

I handed him the stick. “What do you want from me?”

He took the stick and walked away. No words. He disappeared between the trees. The dog did not follow. When I walked home, the dog followed me.

We never talk about that afternoon, so nobody asks me why—but I kept the dog.

Anna Marie Hamilton is a scientist who writes, or perhaps a writer who does some science on the side. She has been inventing fantastical worlds and flawed but strong characters for as long as she can remember. She is currently at work on a novel which she hopes to publish traditionally…as well as whatever other shiny narrative ideas catch her fancy. You can find more of her work and her random thoughts on writing and life on her blog,