Sea Glass

Sea Glass by Amanda Huggins

Alfie held out two pieces of pale blue sea glass, rumbled smooth by a thousand tides.

‘These are the souls of fishermen lost at sea,’ he said.

‘My da was lost at sea,’ Cathy said. ‘I don’t remember him at all.’

Alfie looked doubtful, but she had already crouched down on the sand again, so she didn’t notice.

‘What ‘bout these smaller pieces of glass?’ she asked, scooping up a handful of wet sand that was speckled with chips of emerald and amber.

‘They’re the eyes of ships’ cats,’ he said. ‘Cats who ventured up on deck and were swept overboard by freak waves, or who lost their footing on the rigging. If you match a pair of eyes, and sleep with them under your pillow, then the cat’ll find his way back to land.’

‘You’re a liar, Alfie Machin!’

‘No, you’re the liar, Cathy Mainprize. Everyone knows it were Marnie’s da who was lost at sea. Your da lives at 17 Castlegate with Vera Cappleman, and works on a trawler out of Whitby.’

Cathy’s eyes grew round, but she continued to fill her pockets with sea glass.

When she got home, she told her mam what Alfie had said about Da. Mam paused at the sink for a moment, but she didn’t answer, and Cathy knew that Alfie hadn’t lied.

She slammed the door and ran upstairs, spreading out glass and shells under her bedside lamp, peering through tears until she found two nuggets of amber that were exactly the same colour. One was the shape of a fat sunflower seed, like a cat’s half-closed eye; the other was only a slender shard. She wasn’t sure whether that mattered, but she tucked them under her pillow anyway.

In her sleep, the cat came, half-hidden by the leaves of the laurel hedge, his grin as wide as a plate, and his stripes as fiercely orange and as densely black as a tiger’s. She couldn’t quite make out his eyes, yet she sensed there was something odd about them.

In the morning, Cathy took the bigger pieces of sea glass and slipped them into her blazer pocket, and on the way back from school she walked down Castlegate. She slowed down as she passed number seventeen, and threw the largest pebble as hard as she could at the parlour window. There was a loud crack, and when she looked over her shoulder, Cathy saw a woman peering out, her mouth wide in surprise. A man flung open the door, and she knew it was her da; she recognised him from the photographs Mam kept hidden at the back of the bureau. He shouted after her, cursing, as though she was another good-for-nothing school kid. A stranger. She ran home through the ginnels, beads of glass falling from her pockets and skittering across the cobbles.

When she passed Alfie’s house, she noticed a tabby cat sitting on the garden wall. He weighed her up through one half-closed eye that was the colour of thick-cut marmalade. His other eye was sewn shut.

Originally published by Retreat West

About the Author

  1. Avatar Amanda Huggins (1 story )


    Amanda Huggins is the award-winning author of the forthcoming novella All Our Squandered Beauty, as well as four collections of short fiction and poetry. Her travel writing, fiction and poetry have been widely published in anthologies, textbooks and travel guides, as well as newspapers and magazines. Her short stories have also been broadcast on BBC radio. She has won a number of awards for her travel writing, most notably the BGTW New Travel Writer of the Year in 2014, and has been shortlisted and placed in numerous short story and poetry competitions including Bridport and Fish. In 2018 she was a runner-up in the Costa Short Story Award and her prize-winning story ‘Red’ features in her latest collection, Scratched Enamel Heart. In 2019 her novella, All Our Squandered Beauty, was shortlisted in the Best Opening Chapter Competition at York Festival of Writing and this year she won the Colm Toibin International Short Story Award, was included in the BIFFY50 list of Best British and Irish Flash Fiction 2019-20, and her poetry chapbook, The Collective Nouns for Birds won the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet. Amanda grew up on the North Yorkshire coast, moved to London in the 1990s, and now lives in West Yorkshire. She worked in engineering for twenty years and is now a freelance editor and creative writing tutor.

2 thoughts on
Sea Glass

    1. Thank you – I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Both the cat and the sea feature in my novella, All Our Squandered Beauty, which developed from this tiny story 🙂

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