By Gaynor Jones
I’m dripping wet, repacking your clothes in this beautiful hotel room and remembering our first date.
You asked me what I liked and I said nature, walks, everything I’d seen on your profile. You asked me my favourite animal, like we were in school. I panicked and said otters. I wanted to seem quirky.
On our third date you brought me a stuffed toy otter with black beady eyes. You let him watch from the bedside table as we kissed.
You told me that in some cultures otters are believed to shape-shift into beautiful women, then asked if I was really human as you ran your fingers along my collarbone.
On our eighth date, you took me to the zoo. You told me, in Korea, otters are thought to attract rain, and looked up at the clouds while I watched the whiskered creatures darting in the tank in front of me.
My jaw began to clench every time you opened your mouth. Please. Please don’t let this be about otters.
You told me, in a restaurant I never could have afforded pre-you, that Bangladeshi fishermen use otters to chase fish into their nets. You said you wished you could catch something so creatively. At the end of the meal, you took out a clam and got down on one knee. At least you didn’t roll down onto your back with it, clasp it to your chest like the creature in the video you sent me. The waiters applauded and brought us more champagne. You said it was the happiest moment of your long life.
You told me, when browsing gifts for our registry, that otters were hunted for their pelts, but also for their penis bones. I actually wanted to listen to that one. You told me, rich men wore them as tie pins and I tried to picture you, with a bone at your neck, or down your throat, stopping you from breathing, or at least talking about otters.
You told me we were going to Scotland for the honeymoon. I was not surprised.
I thought about telling you, I don’t like otters. I wondered what your face would do, I wondered if your old heart could take it.
You drove us to a loch, then insisted we trek through marsh and mud until we reached a tree, with a mossy nest at the base. I could see a cluster of brown matted hair and tiny webbed feet and, I have to admit, even I was moved. You held my hand and told me, a group of otters is sometimes called a family, and looked at me shyly, although we both knew that ship had sailed. Then you told me, they are also known as a romp, and began to pull at my skirt. My face was streaked with green moss when you finished and I tasted the soil in my mouth for hours after.
The next evening you took us out in your car. You told me, it’s a beautiful night, why don’t you have a drive? You buckled your seat belt as I left mine undone. I wound down my window and felt the cold damp air then slammed on the accelerator.
I told you, otters can hold their breath underwater almost as well as fish, as I swam out of the window.
A group of otters can be known as many things, a bevy, a family, a lodge, a romp. But when they are in water, they are known as a raft. I saw some swim around you, as the car sank.
Gaynor Jones is a writer of micro, flash and short stories from Manchester, UK. She organises the Story for Daniel flash fiction competition to raise awareness of blood stem cell donation and childhood cancer support