Home > Between the Sheets

Between the Sheets
Author: Melanie Shawn

CHAPTER 1

 

 

Hank


“I miss you…and… I’d love to catch up. Call me.”

I sat at my kitchen table and slid the toggle bar on my phone back to the middle, replaying the end of the message for the tenth time. Over fifteen years had passed since I’d heard the voice that came out of the speaker.

“I miss you…and… I’d love to catch up. Call me.”

Melody Jean Gibson was my first love, high school sweetheart, and the only woman I’d gotten down on one knee for. We’d dated all through high school. Then two days after graduation she told me she was pregnant. I hadn’t planned on getting married at eighteen, but even at that young age, I knew all too well that life didn’t give a shit about my plans.

So, a week after finding out I was going to be a father, I’d taken Melody out to “our” beach at dusk. As fireflies lit up around us, I got down on one knee, told her I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her and asked her to marry me. In one breath, she turned me down, told me she’d lost the baby and that she was leaving town.

I asked her to reconsider. I told her that I still wanted to marry her. But she’d told me that she couldn’t because of the “Comfort Curse.”

The Comfort men had a legacy in our tiny Georgia hometown. Three generations back a curse had been put on the male heirs of my bloodline that doomed us all to fall in love and then have that love end in tragedy.

I’d never been one to put much, or any, stock in magic or spells, and I sure as hell didn’t believe in curses. But the thing about curses, I’d found, is that they didn’t have to be real for people to believe in them. And that belief sometimes turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

At least that had been the case for the past three generations of Comfort men. Either that or really bad luck. Not one of them had lived happily-ever-after. All of the men in my family had either died prematurely or their significant others had.

My pops had come the closest to beating “the curse.” He’d been married to my mother for over ten years. It was a good stretch, but it ended with my mom dying in a car crash when I was thirteen. Pop spent the final twenty years of his life doing his level best to join her. He drank from the moment his eyes opened in the mornin’ till they closed at night. His method took two decades to do the trick, but he finally succumbed to kidney failure. It was a side effect of his cirrhosis of the liver.

Pop had been gone almost nine months now but I knew exactly what he’d think of the message I was playing on repeat. When he was alive, he wasn’t a fan of Melody. I could still hear him now.

“You stay away from that girl.”

“That girl ain’t nothin’ but heartache.”

“She’s a walkin’, breathin’ death sentence.”

“Trouble in a skirt, that’s all she is.”

I hadn’t paid him any mind when we were together. But I had to admit, when she left, he’d been vocal about his feelings on the situation and that stung.

“Good riddance.”

“She did ya a favor.”

“Her leavin’ is the best thing that coulda ever happened to ya.”

“You should be celebratin’ she’s gone, not mopin’ around like someone pissed in your Cheerios.”

Pops always did have a colorful way of puttin’ things.

I hadn’t seen or heard from Melody since that night on the beach. So why was she calling me now? I was about to play the message for the dozenth time when my brother’s face appeared on the screen of my phone.

“Have you seen it?” My brother Billy asked as soon as I answered the Facetime call.

“Seen what?” I snapped. I wasn’t tryin’ to be a dick but he’d caught me at a bad time.

Billy didn’t pay any mind to my tone. He knew that my bark was worse than my bite. “The article.”

“What article?”

Billy held up the Firefly Island Tribune. “In the paper.”

I’d sat down at the kitchen table over an hour ago with a cup of coffee to read the morning news but then I saw I had a voicemail from my ex and got sidetracked.

I set the phone down, grabbed the paper and slid the rubber band off of it. It fell open with a soft thud revealing a picture of myself and my brothers sitting at the bar we owned, Southern Comfort. It was a still shot from an interview we’d done for a documentary called What is Love?

The headline read: A New Generation Challenging “The Comfort Curse.”

No wonder newspapers are going out of business if this is the crap that they are writing about.

“How in the hell is this front-page news?” I questioned.

“Not just front page,” Billy explained. “It continues on page five.”

I began to read, hoping that this was some elaborate prank my brother was pulling on me. With each paragraph, it became clear it wasn’t.

Firefly Island is making international headlines thanks to a new Netflix documentary What is Love? featuring the native-born Comfort brothers.

Named for its beaches that come to life with lightning bugs each night, Firefly is a small town with a big heart. Its population may be modest at a little over five thousand residents but it attracts over half a million tourists each year.

Nicknamed The Jewel of Georgia our cozy, coastal community is known for many things including thriving historic and arts districts nestled in the heart of the city, world-renown deep sea fishing, the tallest Ferris wheel on the East Coast on Firefly Pier, and Abernathy Manor which regularly makes “The Top Ten Most Haunted Places in The U.S.” list and has been featured on several paranormal investigation and reality shows.

For locals, our idyllic island is well-known for a more personal reason. The Comfort Curse. Legend has it that Lucille Abernathy had a torrid affair that ended in a secret engagement to Phillip Bruce Comfort, a longshoreman who was beneath her station. When her affluent family learned of her betrothal they forbid it.

Lucille chose love over family, giving up her wealth and inheritance and was disowned. In a cruel twist, after being shunned, Lucille’s beloved left her at the altar and ran off with a chambermaid who worked for the Abernathys. Brokenhearted and abandoned, Lucille tried to return to her family home but was turned away.

The next day, the family woke to discover a window broken in the parlor. Later they found her lifeless body in her childhood bed. She left a note explaining that she’d poisoned herself, but not before putting a curse on Comfort and all of his male heirs, dooming them to a lifetime of the same heartache that she had endured. Each of them would fall madly in love, only to have it end in tragedy.

For three generations the Comfort men have been cursed, whether from Lucille or just fate. Each man has either died prematurely or lost the love of their lives in tragic deaths.

(Cont. on pg. 5)

I sighed as I flipped to the next section.

Billy must’ve heard me turning the pages, he said, “This is where it really gets good.”

I doubted that. Against my better judgment, I kept reading.

Today there is a new generation of Comfort men who are known for more than just the curse of their bloodline. The three Fs. The current crop of Comforts each has an adjective beginning with F associated with their names. One for fighting. One for flirting. And one for another F-word that a gentleman wouldn’t say in mixed company much less put down in print.

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