BackWash

By CJ Adler All Rights Reserved ©

Romance

To Old Beginnings

“What you working on?” Stells asks Chase, seemingly interested in what he’s doing, especially since he’s been busy with his current work related project all day. He hasn’t even taken a break since, been too concerned about his work to care to be hungry.

Chase cusses beneath his breath in aggravation at being interrupted from his work. He reluctantly tears his eyes off the board and forces himself up to meet her gaze from his seated position on the wooden floors of the surf shack, “Caleb’s board. I’ve been working on it all week.” He explains, exasperated, “He really knows how to stuff them up.”

Stells giggles and nods, agreeing, “Totally. That’s Cal for you - downright irresponsible.”

“I thought you said you fixed it?” I but in, quirking an eyebrow at Chase, confused.

“I did,” Chase states, “I’ve been upgrading it since, fixing it so that Caleb won’t break it as easily next time.”

Once Chase gets really invested into something, he doesn’t stop until he gets the job done.

“Speak of the devil…” Stells murmurs, motioning to behind us.

I turn around to see Caleb himself, distraught.

What now?

My eyes widen at the board - pieces of board - under his arms and in his hands. “What the hell did you Cal?” I ask, motioning to his replacement board that has been snapped in half. I really should not be shocked. This is Cal we’re talking about. He’s capable of anything.

“Ty, the stupid jackass, jumped on it in the rock pools.” Caleb frowns as he chucks the two pieces across the counter at me.

Why they were surfing in the rock pools…I will never know.

I slide the two pieces over to Chase who has stood up from the floor since then. Chase starts, “I’m almost done with your other board, so not to worry too much about this one -“

“I don’t care about that board anymore.” Caleb chips in, cutting Chase off and ultimately bursting Chase’s bubble, “I just want this current one fixed.” Caleb insists, motioning to the board Ty had just snapped in half.

Chase’s face falls at this as if he cannot believe what he’s hearing. He’d been working on that board all week and now Caleb just decides that he doesn’t care about that board anymore.

I shake my head at Caleb, coming to Chase’s defense all too quickly, “No way Leb. Chase is not going to fix this one for free too. Hell, it’s not even fixable. It’s literally in half.” I say halfheartedly. I can’t help but compare Caleb’s board to Matt’s one. Matt’s one had also snapped in half.

“Chase can fix anything.” Caleb argues, his faith in Chase’s abilities unmovable. He’s missing the entire point. Chase worked so hard on that board and now he doesn’t even want it back.

I roll my eyes at Caleb’s audacity, “Maybe so, but that doesn’t me he wants to fix yet another of your boards after he spent the entire week fixing and upgrading your last one…for free, might I add.”

“Yeah but I’m over that board.” Caleb persist, “I’m all about this one that Ty just ruined, so can you fix it yeah?” Caleb asks - more like demands - Chase to do his bidding.

Chase had been so excited to finish off the last of upgrades. He was psyched to show Caleb his new board - the board Caleb doesn’t even want anymore.

Chase sighs, grumbling beneath his breath, “Forgot how annoying you are.”

Caleb, having heard Chase’s complaint, merely grins as if proud, “Glad to refresh your memory buddy.”

Stella hits Cal upside the head, “Knock it off Leb.”

“Please Chase, do me this one solid.” Caleb persists, stubborn in his driven ways as always. He can be so self-centered sometimes - unintentionally of course. It’s like he doesn’t realize how selfish his attitude is. He’s too up front and to the point.

Chase opens his mouth to answer, but closes it upon seeing someone behind us. We all turn back to see Ty, Duke, Zeke and Jacob strolling down the shore our way.

“Gabs!” Ty exclaims upon seeing me. It’s been a few days since I’ve last seen him. Duke, Zeke and Ty are preoccupied with work and studies despite it being spring break.

“What’s up?” I greet them as Zeke takes a seat in one of the wheeled chairs. Duke is at Stell’s side in a flash. The two are inseparable. My eyes move off them and to Jacob, “Jakie!” I chirp excitedly as I tug him forward for a hug. He chuckles against me as I release him, “Good to see you again.” I make a big deal out of it to show him how much I care - how much we all care. At least I have one of my brothers back.

“Jeez Gabs. Don’t scare the guy off now with all that enthusiasm.” Ty jokes, completely ignoring Chase. The others all greeted Chase, even Jacob who hasn’t spoken to Chase in years. Ty tends to hold grudges and he’s clearly still infuriated with Chase after the incident back at Bev’s Diner with that idiot Jason.

“Please, it’s Gabriela. She’s an angel. She doesn’t scare people away, she draws them in.” Duke, as always, comes to my defense.

“I second that.” Stells pipes up, backing me up too.

“I don’t think any of you guys can scare me away again.” Jacob replies, “I’m done running.” He concludes, a smile on his face. I can’t help but smile too at hearing that. Things are really taking a turn for the better as of lately and it’s ever since Chase returned home.

“I wouldn’t underestimate Gabb Gabbs. She’s feisty.” Caleb gives his opinion. He and Ty both enjoy teasing me. Apparently my reactions are hilarious.

“Heard that brother.” Ty agrees, a wolfish grin on his face as he places his fist out, Caleb bumping Ty’s fist with his own just before Duke clouts Ty and Stells Caleb.

“None of you have changed.” Jacob laughs. It’s so good to hear his laugh again. He’s been so lowkey and MIA. It’s nice to ave him back where he belongs.

“So how’s my employees doing?” Zeke asks as he spins around lazily in the chair, hands folded behind his head. He thinks he’s so cool.

“Could be better.” I answer for Chase and I as I narrow my eyes on Ty, “If people were more careful with surfboards…” I trail off to glance at Caleb, “and if certain people were more considerate with others who have been working a week on end for them.”

“I feel like we’re being attacked.” Caleb whispers loudly to Ty.

“Yeah I’m feeling it to buddy.” Ty whispers back loudly in turn.

“Good.” I say, “Because I am silently attacking you.” I clarify, shooting them daggers with my eyes as I try to keep up a serious expression. Caleb gives me the stare down (something we always used to do when arguing) as we both wait for the other to crack a smile.

“Bets on Gabs.” Duke calls out.

“I’ll take Leb then.” Zeke insists, “Five dollars says Gab breaks first.”

“You’re on.” Duke agrees before encouraging me, “You got this girl. Take him out.”

I can’t help it, I end up smiling. I hate this game. I always lose against Caleb. It’s not fair. He cheats. He pulls funny faces. How am I suppose to keep a straight face? His expressions are already funny enough when he’s not even trying.

“Awe Gabriela. I had faith in you girl.” Duke sighs before coughing out cash and handing it to Zeke who seems more than pleased at the outcome.

“I owned you b*tch! You got schooled son - I mean guuuurl!” Caleb jumps up and down, throwing his prideful finger in my face. I frown and swat his hand away. You’d think Caleb would be horrendous at this game seeing as he’s the humorous one in the group. Yet, that is not the case.

I glance up to see Ty watching me carefully, his brown eyes glowing with amusement. His face breaks out into a smile as he draws me in for a side hug, “Oh Gabs. You’re so cute.” He breathes as he messes up my hair.

I shove him away from me and let out a huff, “Just ’cause you all have off days today, doesn’t mean the rest of us have off too. That being said, away with all of you, shoo.” I wave them all off with my hand as a real customer approaches.

Ty chuckles, “So cute.” He repeats before they all take off to go surf again, Caleb taking one of the shack’s spare boards with Zeke’s permission seeing as he’s wrecked two of his own boards as is

“Tyler hates me, doesn’t he?” Chase asks me as soon as they’re all out of hearing distance.

I glance over my shoulder at him, offering him a sympathetic look before turning fully to face him, “He doesn’t hate you Chase.” I assure him, “He just doesn’t like you.” I say without thinking, “I mean-“

“Wait to soften the blow Gabby.” Chase laughs, referring to me by the nickname he always used to use for me, “You never were good with sugarcoating.” Chase reminisces back, a small lopsided smile on his face. He has my heart doing flips in my chest with the simplest of things that he does. I can’t help but be over the moon whenever he’s around. Having Chase back is like having an old piece of me back.

I give him a flat look before continuing, “What I meant to say, is that I think Ty’s just offended with all you said back at the diner. It isn’t that he doesn’t like you, it’s more so that he feels hurt and betrayed. You guys used to be close, you know. I get where he’s coming from.” I admit, “Maybe if you just try talking to him.” I suggest. Ty’s always been very protective over his friends. When Chase spoke to me like that (rudely) at Bev’s diner, Ty was infuriated and still is with Chase for treating all of us that way - for treating us like the scum of the earth. Caleb gets over things easily. He’s resilient like that.

Chase’s eyes soften until I see the guilt embedded there. He has a lot to feel guilty about, there’s no denying that. His expression drops in regret as he reaches out to me, taking my hand into his ever so gently and carefully, “Gabby…” He breathes out quietly as he tries to gather his thoughts, “I’m really sorry about all I said back then. I’m sorry for giving you such a hard time. I really am.” He confesses, giving me a true sincere apology - one that he should give to Caleb and Ty too. He insulted them as well. However, I am grateful that he’s standing here and allowing me to see the more vulnerable side to him. “I lied back at the diner. I do need you guys.” He clarifies as he releases his cautious grip on my hand, “I need you Gabby. I need you in my life.”

I feel the same. Not only do I need Chase, I need Stells, Ty and all the others too. My friends, aside from my mother, are my support system. I see that now. I was stupid to let them all go two years back. Life’s struggles are not so much struggles when I have people who to talk to, when I have people in my life who genuinely care for me.

I don’t want to have to live a life without Chase Fuller in it. I rely on him more than I realized. He’s important to me. We have too much history as friends to throw it all away. We need each other. “Friends?” I hold out my hand to him with a smile gracing my lips. This is the exact way we first started our friendship as kids. To old beginnings and new endings!

Chase glances down at my hand before shaking his head at me, refusing to shake my hand.

My face falls at his actions. My hand drops limply back to my side. Guess I’m not on the same page as Chase after all.

Before I can say anything more, Chase steps forward. He doesn’t hesitate to take me into his arms for a warm embrace. I freeze from beneath him. He’d completely caught me off guard just now. I relax into his arms and return the hug, feeling his heart hammering beneath my own quickened one. His arm tighten around me, “Friends.” He whispers into my ear, agreeing with what I’d said.

I smile into his shoulder, “Until the grave?” I question in the way I used to as a child. It was our thing - our motto.

Chase nods against me, “Until the grave.” He confirms with absolute conviction.

It feels good to have my best friend back. It feels good to be in Chase’s arms again. It’s just like the old days where everything was still perfect. Matt and Brent aren’t here, but life goes on. I’m beginning to learn that only now.

We break apart from each other rather reluctantly when someone at the counter clears their throat. It’s that same lifeguard that always seems to be making an appearance as of lately, the one that always hits on me.

“Hey Gorgeous.” The life guard known as Austin greets me, his charming flirty smirk on full display. He has no shame. I’ve tried to hint that I’m not interested. He’s either dense or stubborn. Either way, he’s wasting time on a lost cause.

“Hi Austin.” I greet back courteously, keeping as formal as possible, “How can I help you?”

“Let me take you out on that date we’ve been discussing for so long.” Austin answers. I admit, I walked right into that one. Serves me right. I only met him like two weeks ago. “I mean, I don’t waste my time chatting you up for nothing. I want something out of it. One date Gabriela, c’mon. I can promise it will be a good one.” He insists, making it obvious that he’s not going to let up easily.

I sigh mentally. I have a difficult time in saying ‘no’. I’m the ultimate people pleaser. It’s unhealthy. I always end up in situations I don’t want to be in. “Okay but only one.” I ramble out all too quickly, not wanting to get on bad terms with him. I hate disappointing people. I consider that specific characteristic trait of mine as my greatest flaw - weakness. It always ends the same - me being used and walked over like some door mat.

“Really?” Austin asks as if astounded that I had finally agreed to his stupid date. My words spark a light of hope in his eyes - a hope that I can’t bring myself to crush.

Austin’s not a bad guy. He’s good looking, charming and has a sweet side to him, but he’s also over confident and arrogant - occasionally obnoxious. His company isn’t always wanted - at least not by me in any case and that’s really putting it lightly.

Fortunately, Chase backs me up this time, “Gabriela can you work a bit on that board we spoke about earlier. It needs to get done pronto.”

I let out a relieved breath and nod gratefully at Chase, catching on to his plan. I turn back to Austin and feign an apologetic expression, waving goodbye as I head to the back of the shack to pretend to work on some apparent board that needs apparent fixing.

Chase sends me a wink on the way as he takes over for me so that I don’t have to deal with Austin any longer.

It’s a few minutes later when I hear Chase bidding Austin goodbye, “You can come out of hiding Gabriela, the shubie’s gone.”

I creep out from the back and to the front to where Chase is. “He is a shubie now that I think about it.” I agree with Chase, holding down a giggle.

Chase frowns, “The guy buys boards, surf clothing and surf gear just to impress you. He doesn’t even surf. He’s a life guard, not a surfer.”

“Thanks for saving me from him.” I change the subject. I’ve never been particularly big on gossiping. I try to avoid insulting people behind their backs. It’s not how I role. If I really have something to say, I’ll just say it to your face.

“You don’t have to thank me, I’ll do anything for you.”

I can’t really tell if he’s kidding around or he’s being legitimate right now. Either way, I’m left speechless. He needs to realize that he can’t just say things like that to me. It’s like the whole ‘I prefer brunettes’ thing all over again.

Feeling uncomfortable all of a sudden, I glance down at his wristwatch to see that it’s way past closing time.

“We should pack up.” I suggest, not rally knowing how else to reply to what he’d just said.

Chase merely nods as he packs up all the boards he’d been working on, including Caleb’s - that ungrateful little brat. I chuck Caleb’s latest broken board (the one Ty tried out in a deep rock pool) away in the trash. No way is Chase fixing that. I won’t let him spend another week or possibly longer on another of Caleb’s boards. We all know that Caleb will grow attached to another board by tomorrow already. He moves on fast. He doesn’t waste time crying over spilt milk like the rest of us. In life in general, it’s a good quality in him. But for all the surf shacks out there, watch out for people like Caleb. He’s a walking hazard waiting to happen.

I just about lose it later when I see that my car has a flat. It’s not that I have a problem waking home, my house is in walking distance after all, I just prefer not to leave my car behind for the night. Call me a pessimist, but I’m rather paranoid. Anything can happen. I can’t exactly afford to buy a new car if something were to happen to my current one.

“You walking too huh?” Chase asks upon noticing my flat tire, “I’d offer you a ride, but I didn’t take my car this morning.”

It’s not unusual for Chase not to take his car. Often a time he’d walk to work. He enjoys working and seeing as he lives next door to me, he too lives in walking distance. He prefers it. For him, walking is more energy sufficient for the day’s routine.

“The thought that counts.” I reply back, touched that he’d offer me a ride home. As of recently, he’s been offering to do more things for me whereas in the past, he was insistent in avoiding me.

“No. Saying that it’s the thought that counts means nothing. It’s like saying that you’ll be with someone in spirit. All what you’re really saying is that you won’t be there at all. So it’s not the thought that counts, but rather putting the thought into action.” Chase corrects with a heartfelt smile aimed at me. It’s one of those special smiles that I swear he has reserved just for me. “It’s the action that counts.”

And that’s how Chase ended up walking me home.

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