Can't Knock Me Down
“Ty don’t.” I plead as I catch him by his arm, pulling him back to me before he can do anything stupid.
Ty turns back to me, his dark brown eyes glinting furiously under the bright morning sun, “He let you fall and break your wrist Gabriela, and all because he wouldn’t help you. As if you don’t have enough on your plate to deal with.”
“Exactly.” I say quietly, “Please don’t add to my stress. Let it go. Drop it, just this once. For me yeah?”
I hold Ty’s gaze, my hand still gripping onto his elbow, as he reluctantly gives in and nods, “Fine.” Ty agrees, “But next time Chase slips up, the asshole will pay.”
“Don’t call him that Ty.” I sigh softly, defending Chase for some reason beyond me, “He used to be your friend too.” I remind Tyler before trying to lighten the atmosphere, “Besides, I have this cool cast now filled with colorful messages from all my amazing friends whom I absolutely adore. Now that’s something to wake up to in the morning.” I joke, glancing down at my previously plain white cast. My cast has now been signed by all my friends, including my mother (I didn’t tell her the entire truth to how I broke my wrist, leaving out the Chase part entirely).
“Not making me feel any better Gabs.” Ty says, despite the contradicting smile slowly making it’s way over his lips. I am definitely lifting his spirits slightly.
“I got to get to work Ty.” I smile up at him, using my hold on him to support me as I stand on my tippy toes and place a single kiss against his cheek. I release him completely before waving at him, scampering off to the surf shack not too far off in the distance. Ty and I had just gone for a stroll together this morning. Fortunately, we didn’t walk that far.
“See now that made me a feel a whole lot better!” Ty calls after me. I stop and turn to face him to see his hand on his cheek, covering the spot where I’d kissed him. “Feel free to do it more often! If you’re feeling courageous enough, you can try my lips next time!” He has the nerve to say.
I hold back a smile and shake my head as I keep on walking.
“Morning Chase.” I greet with a peppy smile, ready for the day. I’m not going to let his broody mood get to me today. I will not be knocked down.
Chase, having noticed my good mood, raises a skeptical eyebrow as he replies back to me, “Morning?” He asks more than states, confused as to why I’m so happy today.
At least he greeted me back. It’s progress, slow progress, but progress nonetheless. I’ve turned over to the optimistic side. I want a more positive outlook and approach on my life. I don’t want to be the ‘glass half empty’ kind of girl anymore.
I nod at him, “A good one too at that.” I add seeing as he’s so unsure.
“What?” He asks, at a loss.
“Nothing.” I brush it off, pleased that he’s at least talking to me today.
I begin testing out the surfboards, placing the ones that need work aside for Zeke or Chase to take a look at. I work with the maintained surfboards only.
“How’s the wrist?” Chase, for once, initiates the conversation rather casually.
I just about jump up in my spot, astonished and completely caught off guard that he’d just voluntarily spoke to me.
For a second, I stay rooted in my position - frozen. When it hits me at how rude I’m being, I quickly spin on my heel to face him, only to find him much closer to me than expected. I hold my breath at the close proximity between us. As if noticing this too, Chase quickly takes a step back from me. I blow out a small breath of relief as a result.
“It’s alright. Hurts at the most random of times though.” I answer him in a soft timid voice, still a little shaken up about how close he’d just been to me. I don’t miss the guilt pooling in his cerulean eyes. I know he feels awful about the situation. If he helped me when I asked, I wouldn’t have fallen. “Thanks for asking.” I add awkwardly, not wanting to put him off of speaking to me when he had just started.
“It’s no problem, considering it’s my fault. It’s the least I can do. I seem to take everything from you. First Matt and now the use of your right wrist.” Chase points out, illogical in his thinking patterns. He should really know better, taking into account at how intelligent he is. He worries over such trivial things.
I’m drained. There’s really nothing left of me for anyone to take.
When I don’t say anything, Chase turns around to walk away, his back now facing me. Acting completely on impulse, trusting my gut, I tug on his hand, “Wait.” I breathe as I make him turn back around to face me. I didn’t expect to see shame swirling in the depths of his eyes and it hurts me to see him hurt.
I shake my head at him in response to what he’d said, “You didn’t take Matt away from me.” I whisper, earnest in my words. I feel that Chase is responding to my honesty more positively in comparison to the last time when we had a very similar discussion, “You know better than anyone that I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. Matt had to die. I don’t know why yet, but I know that one day it will be revealed to me. It was Matt’s time to go. Even if he weren’t in the sea that night, he still would have left me. You can’t outrun fate Chase. We all have to die someday and that night was Matt’s night to go. It never had anything to do with you.” I elaborate, hoping he’d receive what I’m saying instead of rejecting it all. “Back then, I was blinded. I couldn’t see that and so I chose the easy way out and blamed you. But my eyes have been opened since then and I now understand. I hope that someday you will understand too. Matt had to go. That’s all it is to it.”
Instead of arguing with me like he would usually do, he resorts to silence as he moves away from me and keeps himself preoccupied with the upgrading of some boards. I take it as a sign that after all this time, he’s finally heard me and taken what I’ve said into account. There’s no other explanation for his lack of response.
“Need some service here!” A voice shouts out from the front counter.
Alarmed, I turn around to see Zeke tapping with his hands impatiently against the counter top. I grin upon seeing him as I skip my way over to him, “Good day Sir. How may I help you?” I ask, putting on the most courteous tone of voice I can manage.
“The service here is slow.” Zeke jokes, obviously teasing. He raises an eyebrow when he notices my upbeat mood, “Why so cheerful?” Zeke asks, glancing down at my cast.
Zeke knows about my injury, except, I left out the part in the explanation where it’s partly Chase’s fault. I had to pick up Chase’s slack because he was too busy flirting during work hours. Zeke wouldn’t be too impressed with Chase. I really don’t want to cause any more trouble than I’m worth.
I shrug, my grin softening into a smile, “Not quite sure. I just feel lighter on my feet.” I haven’t felt this good in years!
“You have a spring to your step and all that jazz. Since when did you stop walking on rain clouds and start walking on rays of sunshine?” Zeke asks before realizing that his words can come off as an offense, “Not that I don’t approve.” Zeke quickly adds, fixing his slip up, “It’s nice to see you happy again. It’s like having the old wacky Gabriela back.” Zeke concludes.
My mouth falls agape at his words, “Hey!” I point an accusing finger at him, feigning offense as I put up a pretense of hurt, “I was never wacky.” I defend myself, holding back my laughter. “I was just ‘happy-go-lucky’ all the time.”
Zeke grins cunningly, shaking his head, making it clear that he disagrees with me, “Nope, you were wacky.” He teases, enjoying my reactions as he tests out my patience. Zeke glances behind me, “Chase, back me up my man. She was wacky, right?”
I frown up at Zeke’s tall stature, “Don’t bring Chase into this.” I tell him, knowing fully well that nothing good can come from involving Chase. He’s not lighthearted anymore. He can’t take jokes.
I glance over my shoulder to see Chase’s blue eyes moving from me to Zeke as if he’s actually considering in taking part in this. He’d obviously been watching the exchange just before Zeke decided to include him in the banter.
A suave smirk makes its way onto Chase’s lips as I meet his playful gaze, drowning in his blue depths that I always seem to get lost in, “Total whack job.” Chase says, his eyes moving past me to Zeke, “She was a giant weirdo. You don’t get any wackier than Gabby. Fact.”
He said ’Gabby’.
Even though I’ve just been insulted, I can’t help the smile lighting up my face to hear Chase partake in a joke. I knew his sense of humor still had to be intact.
What surprises me all the more is when Chase smiles right back at me, his cute dimples visible, right on for display. He just about knocks me breathless - senseless - at the sight. He looks so much better when he doesn’t have a scowl on his face. His smile can literally brighten up a dark starless night. I can barely think straight, it’s that distracting.
I have to force myself to tear my eyes away from him before I really do look like some total whack job.
A laugh resonates from Zeke before he thins his lips into a straight line and leans down toward me, feigning pity, “See.” Zeke says, shrugging, as he pats my shoulder as if to comfort me in the fact that it’s one up against two. “You heard the man.”
I scoff, rolling my eyes at him before changing the subject, “What are you doing here anyway Zeke? Shouldn’t you be studying Mister?” I taunt him, enjoying the upper hand as he squirms at my reference to the word ‘studying’.
“What are you? My mother?” Zeke chuckles before he clarifies, “I’m taking a small break to check up on my employees.” Zeke grins, “As in you guys. I gotta make sure my staff aren’t slacking. You all have to be kept on your toes. If I give you an inch, knowing you two, you’d take a mile. If I gave you my fingers, you’d take my hand. If I gave you my hand, you’d take my arm. If-“
I wave off the matter with my hand, interrupting Zeke’s rant, “Yeah yeah Zeke. I think we got the gist of it.”
Zeke flashes me a big white sparkly grin, “So long as you got it.”
“I got it.” I assure him, “Don’t manipulate nor take advantage of my boss - thee great, not so humble, Zeke Ferguson.” I retort sarcastically.
Zeke’s expression drops at this as I stifle my giggles behind my fist, “I think I preferred it when you weren’t so feisty. Your sass is like a dagger to the soul, it kills.”
“Don’t go complimenting her Zekie boy, it will just go straight to her humongous head.” Caleb says, appearing out from nowhere as he fist bumps Zeke and offers Chase a nod of acknowledgement.
I glower up at him as I shoo him away, “It’s like you never have anything to do. Are you ever busy?” I question, merely messing with him. I love Caleb. His personality is just a lot to juggle when working.
Caleb raises a single brow at my nerve, “Oh? She got words now huh?” Caleb teases, running a hand through his wet platinum blonde hair, “When did you get so full of spunk?” He grins that mischievous grin of his as he takes me in with his light blue eyes.
“Right?” Zeke adds, turning to high five Caleb. “You get me my man. She’s wacky, right?”
Not this again!
“Totally.” Caleb nods upon seeing my distasteful expression.
My eyes land on the pristine board under Caleb’s arm. He may be an idiot, but he sure knows how to maintain his surfboards. His boards are the only objects he values in life. Keeping his boards covered and protected is like a religion for him. He even went as far as to install L-brackets on his bedroom wall in order to hang up all his boards above his bed.
“What happened to your tail?” I ask him, noticing the small chip in the tail of his board. It’s unlike Caleb to carry around a damaged board, even if it a minor scratch or so. Caleb has too much pride when it comes to his all time favorite hobby - surfing. He takes it very seriously.
Caleb frowns at the reminder, “Waves are rough today. It’s choppy out there. Backwash took me to the damn rocks. I bailed, missed an imminent wipeout.” Caleb complains, “Chipped my tail, even got a damn scratch across my deck.” Caleb sighs, “This beauty here is dead to me.” Caleb tells us as he haphazardly plops his surfboard down in front of me. If he’s so rough with the board then obviously it’s going to end up in a brutal demise.
“Let me guess, you want us to check it out for you for free ’cause you’re broke - again?” I ask him, already aware of the answer. Like Ty says, Caleb’s a leech. Caleb enjoys taking the easy way out of things. If he can get someone to do the job for him, so be it.
“Nah duh.” Caleb grumbles as he waves Chase over, “Yo buddy, check it out for me will ya? I don’t trust Gabb Gabbs with my treasures.” Caleb pleas with Chase as if they never stopped being friends. Caleb, unlike Ty, can’t hold grudges to save his life. To him, everyone is his friend. I admire him somewhat because of that.
I mimic Caleb’s words as I grab hold of his board and pass it to Chase who actually seems to be keen to help an old friend (Caleb) out. Chase is the expert when it comes to surfboards. He knows what he’s doing. As a professional surfer, he has an idea what he’s talking about.
Zeke shakes his head at Caleb as Chase checks out Cal’s board. “Dude, you never pay for my surf shack’s services. It just ain’t right.” Zeke lectures Cal, pretending to care. We all know that Zeke couldn’t care less. He’s never been about the money. He merely has a heart for his own people - surfers. Fortunately for Caleb, he’s among Zeke’s people.
“That’s ’cause we’re tight Zekie boy.” Cal grins, making a not so discreet attempt to sweet talk Zeke into letting him off the pay. “We’re birds of the same feather, we ride the waves together.” Cal winks as I shake my head at his cheek. He has no shame. He’s such a beach leech. He doesn’t even bring his own wax for his board. Cal sees my action as he winks at me next, “Don’t be jelly Gabriela.”
“This board is battered. Dinged. The skeg is stuffed. Directional stability thus stuffed.” Chase interjects as he inspects the board, “It’s no wonder it’s riding significantly worse. It’s less responsive to your turns, it’s most likely why you ended up in the rocks. Give me a week and I’ll have it working efficiently again in no time. Fixing it is beneficial to your performance out there.”
“A week?” Caleb repeats, blinking rapidly, “Naaw man. I need it fixed now. She’s a beauty. I want her fixed. I can’t walk around without her. It’s gonna considerably lower my ‘on-the-beach’ coolness factor.” Caleb whines, over dramatic as usual. He’s got like a million more boards in his garage. He’s just being stubborn now. He’s persistent on this board. He goes through his favorites every now and again. This week’s favorite happens to be this current damaged board. Then again, he wouldn’t be Caleb if he wasn’t a difficult human being.
I raise my eyebrows at Cal with a taunting smirk on my lips, ” Your ‘on-the-beach’ coolness factor? Really Leb, really?” I mock him like any good friend would do.
“Shut up Gabb Gabbs. You’re a girl. You wouldn’t get it. How am I suppose to pick up chicks when my board sucks?” Caleb asks me, Zeke nodding along to everything he’s saying as if actually understanding Cal’s twisted logic. “I need money.” Caleb concludes.
“Most girls won’t even notice your board, Dumb-Dumb.” I tell him, aware that most girls know more about tanning than surfing, “Plus, I’m so telling Calia (Duke’s house cleaner) about your ongoing quest to use girls for their money.” I threaten him before purposely coughing, “Gold-digger.”
“So you seeing anyone lately Cal?” Zeke asks Caleb, genuinely curious. It’s very rare to find Caleb in a relationship. He prefers to surf solo.
“You should expand and upgrade your quiver again. You’re out there a lot.” Chase intervenes, speaking up as he dabbles about with Leb’s board, directing his words to Leb himself, “I recommend you invest in cut away fin for those sharp turns. It’s a little more versatile than most fins. You’d still be able to nose ride. Actually, just get a 5’11” DHD single concave thruster. It’s an all round quick turning board, up to four or five feet long. It’s sick in most conditions. We got one in the back if you’re interested, though, you’d have to speak to Zeke about the prices, or should I say, discounts.” Chase jokes.
“What of straight line speed? I want to shred the waves. I’m not all about turns.” Caleb replies back. I smile at the sight of Chase rekindling his friendship with Caleb. It seems Caleb is over the whole fight that went down at Bev’s Diner. “I’m not a junkyard dog. I ain’t an amateur. I don’t want to lose my street cred.”
“You don’t have any street cred Caleb.” I remind him with a devious grin, pulling his leg.
“I don’t remember talking to you Gabriela.” Caleb snaps at me playfully.
Chase grins as if he can’t take Caleb seriously, “I know man. It’s just…”
I zone out of their conversation when I see Stella heading my way, having finished up her surfing for today.
“Hey girl!” Stells greets, “I feel cheap. Forgot my wax today. You mind waxing my board?” She asks me. She’s alone ’cause Duke and Ty are working at the moment.
“No problem.” I smile as I wax down her purple board, “Enjoy yourself?”
“Had a party wave earlier with Jacob and Caleb. Was rad.” Stells replies as she moves her wet hair to one side of her shoulder, “Still miss your presence out there though. You used to be kickass.” She compliments, as sweet as always.
“Jacob’s out there?” I ask her, hoping I heard right.
Stells nods, “Sure is. Cal and Ty said you spoke to him. Whatever you said, it worked. He’s back, even talking to us now.” Stells informs me as she nods at Zeke and Chase in greeting, “Hey guys.” She waves at them confidently.
Chase seems a little taken aback that Stells is talking to him. He really shouldn’t be so surprised. Stella has never been rude to anyone. The only one that Chase should worry about is Tyler. Tyler currently has it in for him.
“Out of the ‘big blue’ so soon?” Zeke questions Stella, making small talk.
“Line up got busy - ridiculously crowded.” Stella answers before her eyes move to the board - Caleb’s board - that Chase is busy working on, “You always had a knack for crafting boards.” Stells says, trying to initiate a conversation with Chase. She wants him to feel included. I can’t help but smile at the effort she’s bothering to put in.
Chase lifts his head, meeting her gaze, surprise evident in his eyes, “Uh…thanks.” Chase replies, taken aback that Stella is talking to him. He’s obviously slightly uncomfortable, but at least he’s responding.
“Ey, ’least Leb brings in something to do, right? You guys should all be stoked that Cal’s such a disaster.” Stella teases, mocking Caleb’s surfing skills in the process.
“Eat it Stell!” Caleb glares at Stella, crossing his arms over his broad chest, playing along. The two of them enjoy bickering every once in a while. The rest of us would usually stand aback and watch it play out. It’s amusing.
“I’m starving.” I whine for no apparent reason, maybe it was Cal’s ‘eat it’ that brought it out of me. I glance up at Zeke, “I’m taking five. Lunch break anyone?” I offer, not wanting to go alone.
“I’ll go with.” I spin around to see that Chase was first to volunteer in joining me for some snacks.
I quickly mask by surprise with an easy going smile, “Great.” I reply as I gesture for him to come over, the both of us briefly leaving the shack in search of something to eat. We end up getting chip sticks, ’cause c’mon, they are tasty.
Seeing as I don’t want to head back just yet, I make a turn for the beach front and take a seat in the warm sand, the cool water just lapping at my toes. Chase joins me. We eat in silence for a while, Chase receiving the occasional greeting from random people I don’t even know, most of them being of the female gender.
I glance out at the ocean to see it filled with surfers out back. Stella was not kidding. It’s full today. Surfers have a thing for choppy waves, the thrill seeking ones anyway - that’s probably most of us. We wouldn’t surf if we weren’t looking for an adventure - that rush that only surfing can bring.
The sun is out today, almost blinding. It’s hot, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that the beach, in and out of the water, is full with masses of people. They sky is cloudless. It really is a fantastic today to kick back and do whatever the hell you want - not that I have that option anymore. I’m not a fan of being classified under the working class - though, I can’t complain too much. Zeke’s great and Chase is alright for company - when he wants to be that is. In other words, very rarely.
Confused at the gentle tone he’s taking, I turn slightly in my position to face Chase, “Yeah?” I reply, still wondering why he even bothered to come with me to get food. It surely can’t be because he wants to spend time with me just the two of us. I can’t picture Chase wanting to get me alone. But then, he definitely didn’t come with because he’s hungry and that’s judging by the way he keeps picking at his chip stick as if in deep thought. He’d barely taken a bite at all.
“I’m sorry.” He comes out with it and I can tell that those two words are difficult for him to say seeing as it exposes his vulnerable side. From experience, I know Chase finds it hard to apologize, whether it be with me or anybody else. He has a lot of pride, perhaps too much at times.
He must see my sense of confusion as he motions down to my wrist. My lips form an ‘o’ shape as it dawns on me. “Right.” I say, “No worries. No harm done - well not much anyway.” I reply back, trying to not make a big deal out of it because it will only discourage him in future when it comes to apologizing. “It was mostly my fault anyway. I’m clumsy, as you’d probably remember.” When Chase’s lips don’t lift into a smile, I have to add, “I’ve been told that I can be a ‘total whack job’ at times.” I quote what he’d called me earlier on today.
A soft chuckle resonates from him and for a second, I’m transported back in time when he’d always laugh for me. To hear him laugh is refreshing, bringing about my own laughter. His blue eyes light up immensely at my words as his gaze flickers down to the small smile gracing my lips.
Suddenly feeling a little awkward, I clear my throat and change the subject, “How are you doing after the breakup?” I ask him, genuinely concerned. Breakups are rough and I say that with very little experience in the department. I’ve only been through one.
“I could be worse.” Chase admits, “It helps when you’re distracted, though, I’ll admit, there wasn’t anything there. I only used her to keep my mind off stuff. No chemistry - nothing. Didn’t feel anything for her.” Chase confesses, explaining the situation to me as he actually chooses to open up on his emotions, outlook and views. It’s a step in a different direction and it’s invigorating to say the least. I enjoy his company when he’s true to himself. I like this side to him.
“No?” I question softly, extremely cautious as not to tread on dangerous grounds. The last thing I want is for him to shut me out again. I’m not really surprised that he wasn’t serious about Summer Rawlins. He wasn’t serious about her in high school either. She’s always liked him more than he’s liked her. For some odd reason, Chase has a tendency to hold back when in a relationship.
“Nah.” He confirms as his eyes find mine yet again, his own glimmering beautifully beneath the sun’s harsh rays. His eyes portray a warmth of their own, a warmth that even the sun cannot compete with. He’s so attractive, it’s no wonder he’s the poster child for ‘BackWash’. “Besides…” He falters, managing to recapture my attention as he rubs at the back of his neck - a clear indication that he’s on edge, “I prefer brunettes.”