My cousin Josh and I watched the waves curl into perfect barrels at Cardiff Reed, one of California’s famous surf spots. I should be out there tricking my stuff for the upcoming contest, but I lost my ambition to surf. I got the wins, the bucks, and the fame followed, and someone paid the price for my stardom.
“I need her back,” I said.
“Emily? She’s married,” said Josh.
1“No, last I heard they divorced.”
“Then go get her.”
“But what do I do if she found out the real reason I left her, and she doesn’t want me back?”
Josh shrugged. “You always say you love a challenge. You keep trying until she calls the cops on you for harassment.”
I pondered on the harassment part until my phone rang that startled us. “You’re on speaker.”
“Nat, we . . . I mean Emily, I mean . . . oh hell, get your ass back to Hawaii, now!”
“Jazmine?” She was Emily’s best friend and my pain in the . . . hell, everywhere.
“I’ll explain when you get here. Hurry!” She clicked off.
Josh bounced his brows. “Emily wants you.”
“It didn’t sound that way.”
This was the first time Jazmine had ever called me, so, for her to track me down, it must be an emergency.
“Go get her, bro.” Josh patted my shoulder. “Call me if you need bail money.”
On the porch of Emily’s parent’s home, I stared out at the famous surf spot on the island of Oahu, Sunset Beach. My heart sunk when I saw Emily sitting alone near the shoreline. Her slumped body was distinct she was in distress. There were so many questions that need to be answered and so many apologies that I hoped she’d accept.
“What have I done, Jaz?” I asked. “How do I fix stupidity?”
“I don’t know. Is it possible to fix stupidity?” Jaz mocked. “She wants off this island.” She faced me. “We almost lost her.”
“What?! She tried to kill herself?”
Emily was my best friend and my first love. I left her with a lie because I couldn’t tell her the truth. Aware of how frail she was, how could I ever tell her the truth.
“I still love her,” I said with a low tone, purposeful and direct.
“That’s why I called you.”
“Tell me what happened. What’s the reason for her to attempt suicide?”
Jaz bowed her head. “I introduced her to Dillon, but I didn’t know he was an abuser.”
“He abused her? What the fuck did he do to her?”
She shook her head. Tears pooled. “She married three months after they met. We knew she was rebounding, but she was so happy. No one had the heart to tell her to wait. I supported her decision, Nat. I lied to her!” She grabbed my forearm. “And was surfing the real reason you left her?”
“No. I screwed up. I mean I really . . .” I raked my fingers through my hair, squeezed my head before it exploded idiot all over the porch.
I closed my eyes, envisioned the moment I told Emily I was leaving. The life drained out of her eyes, then she doubled over her aching heart—it was the most horrible day of their lives.
“You had her thinking your surfing was more important than her.”
Shit, I never thought she’d feel that way. “What I’m about to tell you, please don’t tell Em. Let’s leave it in the past.”
I pondered on my stupidity. “I was drunk, and I screwed another woman two weeks before I left Em.”
“What? Didn’t you hear me? I took another woman to bed.”
“So, instead of telling her and prove your love by apologizing for the rest of your stupid life,“—she whacked my arm and picked up the volume— “she felt worthless!”
“I’m sorry. I thought using my career as a reason would be a softer blow.”
“No, you just couldn’t man up to your guilt.”
She was right. I ran, and her insecurity misguided her that made her marry too soon.
“I ask again, Jaz, what did Dillon do to her?”
“I’m not the one to say. Let her tell you.” Jaz sniffled.
“Then tell me how bad was she abused?”
“He put her in the hospital.”
“He what?” The air around me burned my skin. I clenched my teeth from anger, and my knuckles cracked when my fingers curled into fists.
“She’s in the bottom of a barrel that’s in hell. The doctor was about to admit her to an institute. You’re our last hope, Nat, and you can’t screw up this time.”
“No, I’m never letting her go,” I said with no doubt.
Jaz pointed toward the beach. “Let me talk to her first.”
I focused on Emily, her head down, knees curled into her.
Oh, babe, what did he put you through?
Jazmine discretely signaled me.
I walked toward my future, and I fought my trembling innards to stay calm.
I'm going to rekindle the love and forge our future together. I promise she will never grieve in a heartache again.