The Rift

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Chapter 2

“Let’s do this,” yelled Judah as he bolted towards the waves, surfboard tucked under his arm, and the surf leash tethered to his ankle. It wafted out behind him like a neon ribbon, connecting boy with the board. Bethie shielded her eyes from the glare of the sun off the ocean water, watching her brother and Judah hit the water together, both in a race to catch the first set of waves before the other.

“Always a competition with those two,” she said to no one. The oversized beach towel, she was trying to spread out, caught the ocean wind and ripped itself from her fingers. It danced across the sand like a prehistoric winged monster in vivid colors. Her yelp of surprise, and frustrated cursing, followed her as she chased it over the dunes. “What the hell.” She stood there and scanned over the seascape hoping to find the wind stolen towel.

“Are you perhaps looking for this?”

Bethie’s eyes went wide and her tongue suddenly felt three sizes too large for the hollow space of her mouth. Her chin bobbed up and down, while momentarily struck mute. The boy, with the brightest green eyes she had ever seen and unruly, bed head hair, the color of sand, stood there with her towel in his hands. His tanned and toned chest was fully exposed. The browned skin, visible past his navel, ended and disappeared at the low rise of his board shorts.

“Well, here you are then.” He handed her the towel. Her new favorite beach towel. “Are you all right? You seem a bit stunned. Too much sun?”

Bethie shook her head and clutched the terry cloth material to her body.

“Okay then, have a good day.” The boy started away and Bethie’s heart kicked itself into beating again.

“I’m Bethie,” she squeaked out.

The boy stopped and turned back around with a gleaming, win-you-over smile. She swore his eyes glittered and his teeth sparkled. He extended his hand forward toward her. “Pleasure to meet you, Bethie. I’m Jaylin... Jay.”

“Jaylin,” she repeated, and thought she had never heard a better name in her whole life. “Hi, Jay.”

He laughed. “Hi.”

“Do you surf?” Of course he surfed, she thought, look at him.

“A bit. I’m afraid we don’t have much need for surfing in Reading.”

Bethie’s brows knitted together. “By the sound of your accent I don’t think you mean Reading, Pennsylvania.”

There was that glorious smile again. “No. Quite a bit further away. Actually, not even the same land mass. Reading, England.”

“Wow, are you here on vacation?” Bethie walked back over the dune and Jay followed. She tried to appear casual and nonchalant, but she feared he could hear her heart thumping in her chest.

“No, we’ve just moved back this summer. I was born here. We moved when I was less than a year. However, my father was originally from Liverpool.”

“A real Beatle, hmm?”

Jay laughed, grabbed a corner of the material in her hand and helped her spread out the beach towel, anchoring it down with his sandals. “Hardly. He is more like a staunch minister.”

Bethie quirked her eyebrows.

“He works for the church.”

“Your father’s a priest?” Her shock was clear in her tone.

Jay laughed. “No, he’s an accountant who fancies himself a religious man.”

Bethie sat down on the towel and made room for her newest acquaintance. “I have the feeling that you don’t agree with what he does.”

It was Jay who smirked this time, placing one finger to the tip of his nose and pointing at her with another. His heavy lashed eyelids fluttered, and he winked at her. “Not that there is a thing wrong with being an accountant,” he shrugged. “It’s the false religious aspect he portrays.”

“No worries here, Jay. The last item I can speak on is religion. My parents are one hundred percent agnostic. What does your mother do?”

A cloud filled his bright eyes for a split second. “She’s not with us any longer.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” She desperately wanted to change the subject. Bethie looked out towards her brother and Judah, who were fighting to catch the same wave. She pointed out to them. “That one there, on the right, that’s Judah. The other one is my brother, Liam. You should meet them.”

Jay gazed out over the surf and watched the two boy’s water antics. “They’re quite good, aren’t they?”

She laughed. “They’d like to think so. Both are pretty much hams, in my opinion.”

“Think they’d be open to give a few pointers?”

“On how to be a ham? Absolutely,” she joked. Her nerves had calmed and chatting was more natural now.

Jay smiled at her and she felt like it melted her insides, like butter on a hot sidewalk. “Do the three of you live here, or are you vacationing?”

“Neither, we are all from New York, but we are all going to the university here. Freshman.”

Jay’s eyes went wide. “That’s absolutely wonderful.”

She giggled. “Is it?” She was in awe of the excited vibe he was giving her.

Jay leaned back on his elbows, exhibiting how comfortable he was, like he had known her for decades and not minutes. He lengthened his body out along the beach to absorb the rays of the sun. “Yes it is,” he sighed, tucked his hands behind his head and closed his eyes.

The two lay back on the towel, soaking up the warmth of the ocean sun. Jay spoke of his recent move and Bethie added in her trials and tribulations of dorm living with her twin brother and his two best friends.

The boys emerged from the water. Their wet skin glistened in the late morning sun. They dropped their boards in the sand beside the lounging, young couple. Judah shook his long wet hair and doused Bethie in droplets of salt water. She squealed and swatted at his tanned legs. Liam stood still, looking at the stranger beside his sister. He put his hand out, offering it to Jay. “Hi. I’m Liam, Bethie’s older brother.”

“By two minutes,” echoed Judah and Bethie in unison. They both laughed at the age old, personal joke.

Liam didn’t flinch. “And you are?”

Jay stood up and brushed off the grains of sand, blown by the wind, from his bare skin before taking Liam’s hand. Bethie watched his green eyes dance. They were intoxicating. “I’m Jay. Nice to meet you, Liam.” He stopped to look at Judah, sizing him up. He nodded. “And you are Judah.”

“Beth’s been talking about me? So unlike her,” Judah teased and shook his wet hair over her once again.

“Stop.” She scooted away from the dripping water. “I was simply telling Jay that the three of us are starting college here. He moved back from England with his dad, so I guess we will be seeing him around, sometimes.”

“Actually, quite a lot. I’m attending university here as well.” Jay glanced at Liam. “Freshman term.”

Bethie squealed again and clapped her hands. “Why didn’t you say so?”

“I like to keep people guessing.” He smiled a magical, mischievous smile.

“Nothing wrong with that,” announced Judah and smacked Jay on the back, welcoming him into their fold. “I’m starving. Anyone up for a bite before I head into the Surf and Sun for my shift?”

Liam hadn’t said another word. He stood there, chewing his bottom lip with a strange look on his face. After hearing Judah’s words, he picked up his board and started towards the car. “I’m out.”

Bethie’s gaze followed her brother. “Odd.”

“Nah, he’s just sore ’cause I crushed him out there today. Early lunch?” Judah looked to Bethie and Jay. “On me.”

“I’ll need a ride back to the dorm, Judah.” She looked back in the direction Liam had taken.

“I can drive you,” offered Jay.

“Problem solved. Ready?” asked Judah while he collected his gear.

“Sure,” they both agreed.

The trio munched on nachos and fish tacos outside the Surf and Sun. Judah’s shift didn’t begin for another thirty minutes, but the local girls had spotted him and Bethie watched them whisper and giggle across the boardwalk. She rolled her eyes and picked off a black olive from a cheese-covered chip. “Groupies.”

Judah swung his feet around the bench seat she was sitting at, a basket of fries in his hand. “I can’t help that I am adored and adorable,” he teased and popped two long fries into his mouth.

“Conceded is more like it,” Bethie retorted.

One girl from the gaggle twiddled her fingers at their table. Judah gave her a wink and then Bethie saw his face drop. She turned to look at the girl who was pointing towards Jay. Bethie’s laughter cut through the ocean air and drifted out to mingle with the passing tourist’s conversations. Judah tossed a greasy French fry at her, which she promptly ducked out of the way of. “Looks like you aren’t numero uno of the beach bod boys anymore,” she smirked.

Judah puckered his lips and furrowed his brow. He gave Bethie’s comment some serious thought while he looked from Jay to the gathering of girls, and then he laughed. “I’m not worried. Plenty of fish around. Right, Jay?”

Jay looked at Judah and suddenly Bethie felt left out of some male secret. Judah finished his fries and the nachos while the threesome continued to talk and poke fun of one another.

When it was time for Judah’s shift to begin at the Surf and Sun, he brought Jay in and explained all the various boards, the gear and the adventure class he planned to take during his first semester. It enthralled Jay until Bethie cleared her throat. She glared at Judah over the suntan lotion display and tapped her wrist like she was wearing a watch. “Enough chitchat,” she mouthed over the plastic pool toys.

Judah stuck his tongue out at her. His hand came down on Jay’s shoulder and he guided him around the displays to stand in front of Bethie. “The Princess awaits. Get her back safely, dude.” He pecked Bethie’s cheek. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t,” he whispered rather loud in her ear.

“Doesn’t leave much, Judah,” Bethie said. She and Jay both waved and made their way back down the beach, side by side.

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