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BackWash

By CJ Adler All Rights Reserved ©

Romance

Return of the Devil

I take off my sunglasses as I glance up at the sparkling sky above. I’m temporarily blinded by the bright red sun located directly in my line of vision. I tear my eyes away from the sun and its sharp intense rays as I let my gaze drift back to the view in front of me. The sea, some distance out from where I stay, remains calm. It’s absolutely stunning, in spite of the fact that the waves are too small to surf. The view is worth it. These are the kind of days I live for. These are the days where I’m thankful to live in a coastal city. I’d never relocate. This is home.

I suck in a deep breath of the fresh air on this lovely day and relish in the feeling of pure bliss. I can practically taste the salt coming off the waves in viewing distance. The gentle breeze rides with the breakers before rolling off into the other winds, gently stroking through the air effortlessly, providing some type of relief from the blazing heat.

I readjust my position on the front porch to get comfortable. I pick up the weekly magazine and begin to skim through the articles on each page whilst I soak up all the sun. I smile to myself, satisfied.

“What are you reading there, Missy?” Someone asks as I flip through the pages of the popular magazine that all the surfers here in Cali, Half Moon Bay, happen to enjoy reading. I don’t answer immediately. Brent takes that as a sign before he flops down beside me on my front porch.

I tear my eyes off the magazine in my hands and set my gaze on my friend, his eyes shining a vibrant green and his black hair tousled by the flowing breeze. He places his hand up to shield his eyes from the sun as he waits patiently for me to answer his question. It’s a hot yet beautiful day. There’s not a cloud in sight and Brent doesn’t seem to be enjoying the heat as much as I am. He’s the type who happens to thrive during rainy seasons. He’s odd like that.

I turn the next page before raising a single brow at him with a small smile, “What do you think?”

He grins brightly before snatching the magazine right out of my hands and shutting it closed to see the front cover, “BackWash Magazine? Should’ve known. It’s the most popular surfing magazine here in Half Moon Bay. Of course, you’d be reading it.”

“True,” I nod, agreeing as I reach out for my beloved magazine and grab it back from him. I have an entire collection, stash, of the BackWash magazine editions. As a previous surfer, you can imagine their value to me. I rely solely on the BackWash Magazine when I get nostalgic about my surfing days.

Brent clears his throat as his emerald eyes find mine again, “So I’m assuming you heard?”

I cock my head to the side in response with a frown gracing my lips, “Heard what?”

Brent furrow his eyebrows in confusion, “How have you not heard? Everyone is speaking about it.” To answer my question, Brent takes the magazine back and flips the book open onto a specific page, a specific article. “How did you miss this one?” He points to the heading of the article as my eyes widen in disbelief.

“I just bought the magazine. I’ve barely ready anything in it yet,” I answer Brent, my eyes skimming through the article he’d shown me as my hands begin to subtly shake. I stand up in a rush as a result and run a frustrated hand through my hair, my terrified expression giving me away to Brent instantly as he stands up with me.

The heading of the article: ‘Chase Fuller, young surfing prodigy, to return back to Half Moon Bay.’

This day is not perfect after all.

He’s coming home.

The devil is returning…

He’s back.

“You okay?” Brent asks aloud from beside me, breaking me out of my trance completely, only to find him watching me carefully as if afraid of how I’ll take this.

I nod, swallowing. “I’m fine,” I lie swiftly.

“Yeah right,” Brent comments with a look that clearly says, ‘I don’t believe you’. “It’s been two years, Gabs. That’s a long time. It makes sense if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with the news - especially after everything that happened.”

“I-I have to get out of here,” I stutter but recover quickly. I cannot be here when he gets home, not after having not seeing him for two years, not after the accident. Call me a coward, but I don’t want to face him.

Brent’s eyes leave my own and move to something behind me. I don’t follow his movement, too lost in my own world to care to what caught his attention. I’m so busy stressing, so distracted and lost to the world that I fail to see the shadow of someone towering over me. Brent starts in warning, “Um Gabs-“

“Not now Brent,” I interrupt him, “I need to get out of here before he gets back. I don’t want to see him. I don’t want to see his face.” I conclude bitterly, hatred inside of me for one current human being - if I could even classify him as one.

“Avoiding me so soon, Gabriela?”

I spin around in my spot at hearing his voice, my head snapping up as I come face to face with the devil himself. He’s got shades on and his famous white surfboard under his right arm. His hair is wet and spiky, indicating that he’d just been surfing. No surprise that surfing would be the first thing he does upon his arrival back into town.

He takes his shades off and flashes me a cocky grin. He hasn’t changed a bit, personality wise and appearance wise. My eyes travel down his form to study him properly. His beach outfit screams laid back. He’s always been the epitome of the ‘cool’ and ‘go with the flow’ kind of guy. The boardshorts and lose V-Neck says it all. Of course, it wouldn’t be Chase Fuller without his silver dog tags intact too.

He still has the same arrogant smirk and the same messy brown hair sweeping just above his piercing blue eyes.

I mutter a few curse words beneath my breath before crossing my arms over my chest in a protective stance as if to defend myself from him. I don’t trust him. I make a point to sigh loudly as I glower up at him defiantly through my lashes. I don’t bother greeting him or offering him words of any kind for that matter.

He chuckles humorlessly at me, spitefully, “Oh don’t look so upset, Gabriela. I’m only here for spring break.”

“Thank goodness, I wouldn’t survive otherwise,” I mumble just loud enough for him to hear, though I can’t help but wonder why he’d come back here for spring break. In the past two years, he hasn’t been back for spring break once. Why now?

He flashes me a smirk as his familiar blue eyes rake over my stature shamelessly, “And here I thought I’d come home to a warm embrace from you. Surely we’re passed our past. At least, I was hoping so.” He says coolly, but through his mockery, I can make out the deep hatred he holds just for me. “Other than that, you’re looking good,” he grins cockily, his hand twirling a lock of my hair around his finger teasingly.

We’ll never be passed our past.

I close my eyes at the sound of his voice, wondering when the hell he got here. How had I not noticed him? How had I missed his presence? He must have got back earlier than expected. He’s caught me off guard.

I open my eyes again to slap his hand away, “Don’t. Touch. Me.” I snap at him through clenched teeth.

“Chase, now’s really not a good time,” Brent replies, interfering on my behalf, trying to put me out of this anguish that I am currently feeling.

“In case you forgot, Brent, I happen to live here too,” Chase says nonchalantly, motioning to his house next door to that of my own.

It’s then that I have the courage to speak up again, his blue glare already set on me, “Nice to see you again, Chase,” I lie, trying to be the better person after all this time, even if it means being deceitful. After all, we’re young adults now. We’re supposed to be mature. Maybe I can pretend that we’re passed our past.

“Liar,” Chase replies point black. He’d never been one to sugar coat or beat around the bush. He’s always been straight forward. I’m glad to know that some things never change, yet there’s something still missing.

There’s something different about him.

It’s his eyes. They’re no longer a bright hue filled with warmth and playfulness. Now his eyes are coated grey, cold and detached. Then again, he hadn’t been the same ever since it all happened. Neither had I.

“Chase please,” I beg helplessly, “can we, at least, try to be civil when we’re around each other? There’s no point in avoiding each other. Our families are close. We’re bound to see each other during spring break. All I’m asking is that we put the past in the past and just be courteous and polite in the presence of others.” I say in desperation before adding another ‘please’.

Chase seems thoughtful for a few seconds before he nods briefly, “I think I can do that.”

“Thank you,” I whisper in gratitude, hoping that we start off better this time.

Chase lingers around for a few minutes as the air thickens in tension and silence.

Well…this is not awkward at all.

“You can go now,” Brent says aloud, directing his statement to Chase.

“Or I can stay,” Chase suggests solemnly, standing his ground. He always has to have the last say. He always has to win. Somehow, he always does.

He’s not impressed with Brent being here. The two of them never did get along.

“Gabriela?” Chase whispers almost hesitantly as if cautious.

I glance up at him, “Mhmm?”

He contemplates saying whatever it is he wants to say for a few seconds longer before his mouth closes on its own accord. Clearly he’s changed his mind. He isn’t going to say it then. I know what he wants to say and I’ve been waiting two years to hear him say it, but he never does. He always backs out on the last second. I don’t bother getting my hopes up anymore. He’s disappointing. That’s all I can say about him. Things between us will never be the same again, not since…

“Stay out of my way as much as possible and I’ll stay out of yours.”

With that said, he’s gone, entering his house just beside that of my own. I watch in silence as he walks away. It wasn’t a mere suggestion. I know better than that. It was a command, a threat if you will. In other words, ‘stay out of my way…or else’. He always resorts to threats when he can’t just come out and say the three words that has been haunting him and me for the past three years.

I sigh sadly, dwelling on the past. Brent sees this before wrapping his arm around my shoulders in a gesture to offer me comfort. “Hey. This is good. This way he will leave you alone. He can’t hurt you anymore,” Brent tells me, his green eyes burning in a fire of compassion. Brent has always been one of my closest friends, perhaps not my best - but he’s always been around. He’s been here and there for quite some time. Then when Chase left, he stepped up to the plate and we grew closer as friends. We’ve never been romantically inclined to one another. Everything is merely platonic between us. Still, I appreciate Brent’s presence.

Before I can even process it, Brent is already leading me back inside my house. We’d been standing on the front porch when he told me of Chase’s arrival back into our hometown. He’d assumed I knew. My mother had purposely kept the news from me to prevent me from having another anxiety attack. It’s not much better when someone bursts your bubble out of nowhere. I hadn’t even had time to prepare for Chase’s return. I would’ve been better off knowing about his return to town.

“I thought you two were off to a college party,” my mother states as she busies herself from somewhere in the kitchen. She didn’t even see us, yet she knew it was us. We are the only ones coming in and out of this house these days.

“Change of plans, Mrs Hill,” Brent takes the liberty to answer her for me.

I shoot him a thankful smile for always saving me from having to speak up when I don’t feel up to it. However, my mother doesn’t catch the hint that something is up. She continues on with her interrogation as she walks into the lounge where Brent and I happen to be standing, “How come?” She asks feverishly.

As if she had no idea…

“Chase Fuller is back in town,” I come out with it, not able to deal with an argument right now. “I assume you knew this entire time?” I pose my statement into a question to get a legit answer from her. I need her to confirm it.

“Yes,” she sighs. At least, she isn’t going to lie to my face this time ’round. I notice how her brows furrow, the wrinkles between her eyes indicating how old she’s been getting, the stress having taken a toll on her. Ever since the accident, it seems she’s been ageing quicker - perhaps it’s depression. “I knew you wouldn’t be prepared to see him.”

“So you thought that me running into him by mistake would be a better way for me to handle it? That was rather foolish and impulsive of you. I guess you’re none the wiser than dad,” I reply back brutally, tired of this lifestyle. It never ends, always ongoing.

My mother closes her eyes and pinches the bridge of her nose in frustration. When she opens her eyes again they’re ablaze in immense pain, pain that she’s been hiding beneath those pools of green for months. “Gabriela, I don’t want to discuss this now. I’ve had a long day as it is.”

“Well, maybe I want to talk about it. Did you ever consider that?” I hiss bitterly. She isn’t the only one who is hurting. This whole family is.

Brent shoots a look between our exchange as he backs off slowly, “I’ll catch you later Gabs,” he says softly, deciding to let me be with my mother. I nod, indicating that I wouldn’t mind if he left. I can only imagine how he must feel, standing here and listening to an ongoing debate that has lasted for precisely two years. Of course, he’s grown used to it - but still, he doesn’t deserve to be put in such a position with me and my family. “Call me later,” he says before leaving.

I’m brought back to reality by my mother’s sharp voice, “Watch your tone, Gabriela. You still live under my roof,” my mother goes on to remind me like she always does. It is always her fall back plan.

“Not by choice,” I remind her as she had reminded me. After everything happened, my family was put under a lot of strain. Then, to top it off, my father packed up and left us. Yes, I pity my mother. She’s lost too much, but so have I. She never acknowledges that we’re suffering together. She’s not the only one who lost everything that day. I did too.

“No one’s forcing you to stay here, Gabriela. You can walk out that door…” she trails off as she points to the door, “whenever you want. I never asked you to stay.”

You didn’t have to,’ I think to myself.

How could I have left my mother to fend on her own when she’s was unstable at the time? It’s simple really, I couldn’t. I made the choice to get a job instead of studying. It has always been my dream to study marine biology, considering my family’s history with the ocean. However, circumstances had it otherwise. My mother needed me at the time, she still does. I will always be here until she can stand on her own two feet again. That’s what family does for family. Despite our debates, I still love her. After all, she’s the only family I have left in this world.

“That’s a real slap in the face considering all I’ve done for you,” I say begrudgingly. I gave up my dream for her, not every daughter would be prepared to do that. I put my mom first. I chose her over myself.

“You act like it’s my fault that he’s not with us anymore!” My mother snaps at me, having finally lost her temper.

“Who? Dad or Matt?” I ask accusingly, even though I already know to whom she is referring to.

“Don’t mention his name,” my mother says quietly, a sign that she is incredibly angry. “Don’t you dare ever mention his name.”

That’s the problem, I never get to ease my pain because I never get to talk about my problems. I can hear how she’s hurting. Her tone is an indication of the pain she always hides, the pain we both share in.

“It’s not your fault, Mom,” I whisper aloud into the air, hoping she’d heard.

She freezes on her spot, an indication that she had indeed heard. She looks at me with a soft smile - a faint one - yet it is there, barely. She never genuinely smiles anymore, none of us do. Dark days call for dark moments and dark years erase the light we once held.

“You need to let go,” she advises.

My mouth falls agape at her accusation. How dare she point fingers at me? What a hypocrite? “I’ve let Matt go, mother. You should try too,” I use his name even if it makes her cower and cringe in fear. The fact she can’t even say his name shows that she hasn’t let go.

I don’t care.

His name was Matt and he was my little brother. He shouldn’t have to be forgotten. I will take the liberty to acknowledge that he once lived, breathed, smiled, loved…because that’s who Matt was. He was our light, and now he is gone. He didn’t just survive, he lived. He didn’t just live, he thrived.

My mother shakes her head at me, her faint smile being erased at the mention of his name, “I’m not talking about letting go of your brother. I know you’ve come to terms with what happened to him.”

I raise my eyebrows in confusion, “Then what or who are you referring to?” Perhaps my father? I haven’t quite forgiven him for being weak when we needed him strong. But I have to remind myself that he was also only human, we all are. Still, he left me.

“Chase Fuller,” she answers blatantly. “You need to stop blaming him for your brother’s death. It was an accident. It could have happened to anyone. It wasn’t Chase’s fault. You need to realize that and accept it. Stop blaming Chase. Your blame is going to kill him one of these days.”

I nod, “When it happened, I’ll admit, I blamed Chase. I believed it was his fault for encouraging Matt to enter the ocean that day, despite the storm,” I reply truthfully. There is no point in lying when my mother already knows the truth. I am an open book. Anyone can read me, I am the most transparent person to ever exist.

“You could have died that day, Gabriela. He saved you,” my mother reminds me as if defending Chase, the absolute devil, against me.

Yes, he did save me.

No, he didn’t save Matt.

He was too late.

“I know mom, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. I don’t bare a grudge against Chase anymore. I’d say I’ve forgiven him, but I haven’t. There’s nothing to forgive him for. It was never his fault. I just needed someone to blame, and at the time, I took it out on Chase. I’ve let it go now. It’s Chase who hasn’t let go,” I inform my mother of the recent happenings, hoping she’d understand.

“How can he let go when he still believes it’s his fault?” My mother asks, much to my dismay, placing her hands on her hips. I’m not stupid. I’ve considered her exact question many times before. I’ve even picked up the phone during spring break to call Chase and apologize, but every single time, I backed out. I was a coward. I’d make up excuses for myself as if it was okay that he was suffering in guilt because of what I had said to him. He was away at college, probably very busy and atop of it all, he hated me. “You made him believe that it was by his misdoings that your brother ended up dead.”

With that said and my mother being so rash, a tear escapes down my cheek. I’m quick to swipe it away, but my mother sees it. Oh, she’d seen it. Knowing she’s right, I don’t say anything more as I rush up to my room upstairs. I close the door after me and lean against it as I place a hand over my beating heart.

The new Chase has been created by my hand. He now carries guilt, a burden so heavy, and it’s all my fault. I handed my own burden down to him and he’d been carrying it for me, even when it wasn’t his to carry.

Slow tears flow down my cheeks as I crumple down to the floor against my door, trying to compose myself.

Matt would never have wanted this. He would have wanted us to move on with our lives, yet we’re all stuck living in the past because each of us holds the other back.

Feeling as if I’m being watched, I happen to glance up to meet his blue penetrating gaze across from me. For a second, his eyes express a hint of concern at seeing me break down, but as soon as my eyes meet his own, they turn cold and stony again. Fortunately, I’ve grown accustomed to it. He reserves his endless supply of hatred just for me.

The con about living next to him is that he can hear and witness everything that goes on inside my home. He’s been gone for a long time. He must’ve forgotten all about my personal hell back here.

Even now as he sits on his windowsill, staring into my room at me, I can’t help but feel responsible. It’s my fault he’s this way now. I did this to him. I made him like this. I killed the Chase that everyone once loved. Left in his place is now this cold, heartless, hollow jerk. Yet, it’s the only thing I have left to remind me of how Chase used to be, how we used to be.

I hold his gaze, unable to turn away. He has seen me crumple before, but never has he seen me so…so very broken and torn. No one has. I don’t often cry, especially not in front of people. However, Chase has now just seen me at my weakest. I never wanted anyone, especially not him, to see me like this.

I’m unable to break his gaze, so I meet him halfway, trying to communicate with him through my eyes.

It wasn’t your fault…

Just when I think I might get through to the old him and see a glimpse of who he once was - he disappoints me yet again as he stands up, quickly shutting his curtains closed so that I can no longer see him, and vice verse.

However, I can’t forget that piercing gaze. Sometimes it feels as if he’s looking right through me, seeing past me; other times, it feels as if he’s looking directly into my soul, seeing all of me.

Either way, that intruding gaze of blue always leaves me painfully breathless.

*~*

New story =)

Let me know what you think! ;)

~CJ

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