I. far songs
IT LOOKED LIKE A MOSAIC PAINTING.
I saw the afterimage of the sunlight reflecting against my inner lids, like tiny starbursts.
It was a peaceful day, perfect for a day on the beach; the wind was breezy when it cooed in my ears as it blew by, the sounds of the tides crashing against the shore was a never-ending calming track that eased me into the soft, warm sand behind my back.
My eyes reluctantly slowly opened and I turned my head lazily to the right. Ryan stood and was towering over me, blocking the sun. A few rays shone through specks of his brown hair, giving him that angelic image that you'd see in movies with a choir singing in the back. "You're missing out."
"I'm getting my vitamin D," I replied with a hint of a smile.
"I'm pretty sure you have enough of that," he gestured with his head to my body, and without looking down, I knew he meant the natural tan that I got from having Middle Eastern origins. "Man, you're gonna turn into an orange Trump finger, but with curly hair. You're missing out on all the fun before school starts. But suit yourself, you can stay here lounging lazily."
Here we go again. Ryan and I have had competitions to see who was faster, more agile, more athletic, and just better at everything ever since kindergarten. To be fair, it was always an even tie, but my pride would never let me admit that. Like that time we tried to see who can stuff more frogs in our shirts in eighth grade and everyone thought Ryan had grown a pair of boobs. He wasn't able to live that down for the whole year, especially because we were both just really chubby kids that were obsessed with comic books; not exactly the epitome of being part of the popular's.
I got up and pushed past him with a smirk, leaving him still standing in the back as I walked away. "I'm not lazy. You and I both know who's the most athletic one out of the two of us here."
"Ho ho ho, slow down there Alex Morgan. We get it, you're good at soccer," he teased back as he jogged to catch up with me.
I scoffed. "I wasn't bragging. I was simply-"
I was interrupted rudely when he bent down and picked me up, throwing me on his shoulders. Only when I was greeted with the vision of his butt, did my brain register it and I reacted. I thumped on the back of his thighs since that was what I reached because I was so tall. "Put me down, you dimwit!"
He chuckled but put me down. The blood rushed quickly from my head, making me light-headed for a second and I wondered if reading under the sun for so long was a really good idea. Scowling at Ryan's trailing eyes, I embarrassingly adjusted my bikini that was slipping. "There's nothing worth staring at," I roll my eyes, referring to my lack of chest.
"Come on, Ethan was calling out a bunch of people to play a game of volleyball," he side glanced at me, knowing very well how much I love that game, "20 says I serve at least twice."
I snorted. "You're on, Fray."
The sand under my feet was hot and made my walking feel like my weight was brought down by lead. Fortunately, the volleyball net was close and we reached there soon enough. There was a large group of people crowding around the playing area. On one of the tall lifeguard's seat stood Ethan with his hands clasped, shouting the rules.
"And Ryan and Brooklyn just arrived. Now we can play," he said once he spotted us. I laughed as Ryan bowed down when everyone hollered and cheered.
We started the game, easy at first, the anticipation building up in me. The opposing team of six was easy enough to verse, and soon enough we built a steady pace. I forgot how much fun this was, I thought, as I got into my zone when I Like It by Cardi B started playing on the speakers.
Ryan jumped high in the air and served the ball on the other side of the net. He smirked when he turned to look at me and raised 1 finger mockingly. I shook my head at him and turned back to the game with a determined look. Once I got my chance, I soared in the air, and swung with full force from my arm at the ball, feeling a sense of triumph-
A sense of dread quickly rushed over me and a million thoughts rammed into my head as I ducked under the net along with everyone and hurried to the victim of my serve. Is she conscious? Is she bleeding? Do I know this girl? I couldn't answer any of these questions due to the fact that her hand covered her whole face.
"She's bleeding," a girl from the crowd said.
The girl with the bleeding nose was opening and closing her eyes slowly. As if she were slipping in and out of consciousness.
Fuck. Fuck. FUCK. FuCK.
"She needs to go to an infirmary ASAP," someone else said.
I broke her nose. I probably did. A sense of guilt washed over me as I stared at her fanned out dark hair on the sand. The sand was very hot. The air was sticky and clung to my skin. This is must be horrible for her. What have I done?
"No, she can't." I finally tore my gaze away from the girl to see who had said that. It was a guy that looked strangely familiar, yet I could not recognize him. It was like listening to a song you think you know, but not knowing any of the lyrics or the song at all, and trying to remember what song it was. "I can tell it's broken. She needs to lie back and rest and keep her head elevated. The right thing to do is to ice her up until we get there, but I don't think anyone has ice here, so I guess we'll have to take her to an infirmary. I can carry her."
He didn't waste a second in getting up and carrying her in the gentlest way he could. When he saw a bunch of other people follow him, he shook his head. "There can't be this many people there, I'll take care of it."
"No, I have to come. I'm the one who hit her," I said. The guy looked at me for the first time with a somewhat surprised expression on his face. I noticed he was very good-looking. His tanned muscles slightly ripped as he held her. He had brown curly hair that looked very soft, and a curl fell onto his grey eyes. Something about him made me uneasy.
He didn't say anything back and turned, leading the way to the infirmary with the girl in his arms, bridal style.
"I'm coming with you," Ryan whispered as he followed up.
Looking at the sand, I prayed that she'd be okay. I put myself in her place and realized just how much I'd hate me if I were her.
"That's a pretty strong shot for a girl like you."
It took me a second to realize that it as the guy who said that; no one else was with us.
"What do you mean?"
"I haven't seen guys swing like that," he said again, still not turning to face me.
I didn't answer and focused on the sand that was slipping between my toes as I dragged my feet along, feeling like it was the guilt this time that slowed me down.
Soon enough, we reached the infirmary. It was a small straw shack that wouldn't have been recognized as an infirmary if it weren't for the big sign next to the door. Ryan hurried in front of the guy to open the door for him since he couldn't with the girl in his arms, and I followed them in. A woman greeted us at the entrance with an ear-to-ear grin. She seemed to be middle-aged and Native American with salt and pepper hair tied up in a clean bun, and pure brown skin with a reddish tinge. Her gaze fell on the girl, and silently, she ushered the guy to bring her into one of the rooms inside. I followed him and watched as he lay her down softly on the long bed.
"Young boy, there's a small shack next to us that sells food, buy a few water bottles. It'll cool her on a hot day like this when she wakes up," the nurse ordered as she slipped on her gloves and went to examine the girl. The guy obliged and Ryan followed him out.
"So. Tell me what happened here."
15 minutes later, the guys came back and the girl was still unconscious. The guys walked in, laughing loudly and talking enthusiastically like they were best friends.
"Brooklyn, guess what," Ryan grinned as he walked into the room with the guy next to him. It was the first time I saw the stranger smile since I've met him in these unfortunate circumstances. Despite said circumstances, I couldn't help but notice he had a great smile with perfect teeth.
Resting my head on my hand tiredly, I lazily raised an eyebrow in question.
"This is William. My step-brother."
My head snapped to him in shock and everything made sense all at once. I heard a click in my brain as I looked at the familiar gray eyes that once twinkled in mischief as he took my hand and led Ryan and me up the tree house. Images flashed before my eyes: long days in summer camp, him and Ryan attempting to grill corn on the cob in our backyard, our trips to the lake at night, the car accident.
I finally recognized the familiar song.