I stared out at a sea that seemed to stretch for an eternity, watching the waves toss and spray foam onto the sandy beach. The waves slowed to a thin, transparent caress over my feet.
I curled my toes around the sand and eyed a wave that was beginning to form in the distance. I adjusted my grip on my surfboard and waded out before laying on the board and paddling deeper. Slowly, my board caught the wave, and I cautiously rose, keeping my weight forward on my goofy foot and my knees slightly bent.
The action felt so natural, as if I were merely breathing. And perhaps that's all surfing was for me—maybe it was merely the way I let my soul breathe. At times like this, when the sky was covered in clouds and just the slightest hint grey, it felt like it.
Many called surfers reckless—daredevils. And maybe that was true, to an extent. But I felt more like a dancer. I felt as if all the sea was my stage and all the sky had gathered to watch. I felt exhilarated. I felt happy.
I felt free, and the gorgeous waves today seemed to amplify that freedom.
I reached down and grabbed the side of my board just as I reached the base of the wave and completed a smooth bottom turn, sending me further up the wave. The wave misted my face and hair as I placed a hand into the water and watched it glide around my fingers. I straightened some and shoved the side of my board down into the water, carving into the side of the wave.
As the wave carried me higher, I spotted a second surfer. He was too far away to make out any facial details. His hair was dark and his skin had a deep tan, similar to my own. I had the sudden urge to show him what I was made of—to show him that I wasn't a newbie, and wouldn't be intimidated.
My lips twisted upwards into a determined sort of grin as I let the wave carry me, only to turn sharply and spray a sheet of mist his direction. It was a challenge.
—And he accepted.
The wave I was on was growing taller and taller as it carried me back towards the land. I suddenly found myself inside a tunnel of water. I leaned with the wave and let it carry me through the barrel. I was gliding perfectly, leaning into the water. When I left the wave's loose grasp, I found that I was nearing the shore. I allowed the wave to carry me back. Then I squealed—quietly, of course, but I squealed. I had only ever successfully completed a tube ride three times in my life. Perfect tube waves were rare.
Once I made it to the beach, I took up my board and watched the new guy.
He saluted me before catching a wave and riding it. Suddenly, the wave launched him forwards and he was flying through the air, focused and calm, where he landed on a wave in front of him and let it launch him upwards. He flew straight up into the air, kicked off, and then perfectly reconnected to the board just in time to hit the water again.
My jaw dropped.
He paddled back towards me and stood, grinning. Beads of water dripped down his dark hair and ran past brown, almond eyes and a strong jawline, lightly shaded with a beard. Suddenly, as he recognized me, he froze.
No way. . .
"Josh?!" I exclaimed, my eyes wide. "Josh Okwai?!"
"Sara?! Sara Parker?" he mimicked. "That was you?!"
I nodded and grinned. Josh and I had dated in highschool way back, but we broke up after he confessed to liking my best friend. My heart felt oddly numb and warm all at once, as if it didn't quite know what to feel.
When we were young, he'd had braces and glasses and looked a little nerdy. No one would have guessed that he was one of the best surfers I'd ever seen, and no one would have guessed that he'd turn out to be this. . . well, frankly, he was pretty hot now.
He raised his brows at me. "Those were some pretty sick skills out there, Sara. I never would have guessed that you'd stick with it."
I shrugged and played with a strand of hair. "I almost didn't after you left—I figured why bother if my teacher wasn't there anymore. But. . ." I gazed out to the waves, tinted grey from the sky. "They wouldn't let me leave, I guess." I glanced back at him.
He nodded. "I feel ya. When we moved to Minnesota, I thought I'd die of dehydration—and not from freshwater, either."
I tilted my head at him. "So that's where you've been? Minnesota?"
His brows furrowed. "Kaitlyn never told you?"
I swallowed and shrugged. "Well, I kind of. . . never talked to her after that happened. . ." I avoided his gaze.
He was quiet. "Sara. . . that wasn't the real reason I told you that. . . she didn't—I never. . ." He sighed and nervously raked a hand through his hair. "I never liked her. She made me tell you that, just to get you to not like me anymore."
I blinked. Should I believe that? Would it matter if I did believe that? I stuck with the safest answer I could muster. I nodded. "Well, that's. . . nice. . ."
He shrugged. "I just thought I'd let you know. That's. . . always bugged me that I had to let you believe that." He cleared his throat. "So, how've you been? Anything new? Did you ever publish that book of yours?"
Thoughts still bombarded my mind from his last statement, but I saved them to ponder over later as I replied, "That old thing? Nah." I laughed. "I haven't written a word in months, and I trashed it a good two years or so ago."
He looked sad. "You. . . always seemed so. . . goal-driven, though." His eyes widened. "You didn't trash it on my account, did you?"
I shook my head. "Oh, no." Lies. "I just got tired of it." I glanced at my feet.
He hummed in a tone that insinuated that he didn't quite believe me. "You know, I seem to remember that you used to look at your toes whenever you told a lie, " he mused. "I wonder if you still do that. . ."
I shrugged, but quit looking at my toes. "Nah, now I break out in a random chorus of Jingle Bells."
He laughed. "Well it's good to see that your sense of humor hasn't changed too much."
I was quiet for a moment before asking the question that had been nagging me. "How did Kaitlyn make you tell me that?"
He swallowed and scratched his head. "Looking back, I guess it was dumb, but I. . . I'm adopted, and she knew it. I didn't want anyone to know, because my parents were so perfect. . . I thought people would make fun of me, and I might lose you, so I went with it." He shrugged and I saw his throat bob. "Surprise." His tone held no excitement.
His parents weren't rich exactly, but they weren't average joes, either. They always seemed to have everything together. They had a nice house, fancy cars, a housekeeper. . . I could see why he would be apprehensive.
I smiled sadly at him. "I wouldn't have cared, Josh. You know that." I wasn't at all surprised that he was adopted, though. His parents were blondes, his Dad was short, and his Mom was scrawny.
He scratched an eyebrow. "Now I know it. I should have known it then as well, but. . . I was stupid."
I snorted. "Well, you were, a bit."
He laughed—a deep, lovely sound that I hadn't realised I'd missed.
I wiped a bead of water off of my face and asked, "Do you. . . wanna meet back here tomorrow? Maybe you can teach me that Superman stunt you pulled off." I slowly looked into his eyes.
His eyes seemed to brighten for a moment, but I wasn't sure if I truly saw it or not. "Oh, did you like my skills?" he asked in mock-pride, glancing at his fingernails.
"Pshh, no way. You're just the closest I've seen to a person completing it." Then I shook my head at my sarcasm. "No, you really did do well. I've never seen anyone actually pull it off before."
"Thank you." He grinned, then sobered. "Could it be like. . . a second chance? Just as friends?" he asked.
"Mm"—I pretended to think about it—"Alright." I held my hand out and he shook it. "A second chance."