“Question, what’s going on with you and Chase?” Duke, of all people, asks me point blank. He’s free off work today and stopped by to say hi. Stels is going to meet up with him later. In the meantime, he’s been talking to me.
Fortunately, Zeke and Chase just stepped out the surf shack to go grab something to eat. Ever since our little water fight, Chase and I have been hanging out a lot more lately. “Well I…” I pause as I contemplate it, really putting thought into it before answering, “I’m not sure.” I conclude truthfully. “I really don’t know.”
“I’m not judging girl, I’m just curious.” Duke quickly covers, “Despite what people say, deep down, Chase is still the same old Chase we used to know. He’s a good guy.” Duke, being the nice person he is, backs Chase up even though he has no reason to. Stella and Duke are a match made in heaven. You don’t get any more perfect than them. “You know I always got your back, girl.” Duke adds on a note of reassurance.
I smile up at him in warmth, “I know, and I’m grateful.” I tell him before coming clean, “You know I’ve always had a soft spot for Chase.” Duke nods, allowing me to proceed on with my explanation, “Despite everything, I still care about him.”
Duke grins, having received the subtle message in my words, “You like him.” He states in a matter of fact way as if certain of it. When I don’t reply, his grin merely broadens, “I hope things work out for you two this time ’round.”
“I hope so too.” I reply quietly, my voice just above a whisper.
I know that I can trust Duke. He always keeps things to himself. He’s good with secrets, as well as advice.
“Hey you two!” Stels chirps upon seeing us as she gives me a one armed hug in greeting, followed by planting a kiss on her boyfriend’s cheek. “What are you two gossiping about?” She teases, knowing fully well that Duke and I detest talking horribly about others when they’re not there to defend themselves.
“You.” Duke smirks down at her in amusement, “Obviously.”
Stels turns to me for confirmation. I glance at Duke’s pleading expression before nodding, “Totally.” I lie, choosing to play along with Duke.
Stels swats Duke’s chest in good nature before she shakes her head at me, “You’ve always been the worst liar on the face of the earth, Gabs.” She catches on quickly.
I shrug, clueless, “I take pride in that.” I admit.
“Of course you would.” Zeke chips in as he and Chase return from their lunch break. “You’re lame like that.” Zeke mocks me, Chase nodding in agreement - a small smile on his face as he chuckles beneath his breath.
Stels steps forward as if to hit Zeke for his remark, but he’s quick to dodge her advances, ducking under her arm and stepping back from her swiftly, “Too slow!” Zeke teases her before winking at Duke, “Your girlfriend is out of practice bro.”
“So are your manners.” Stels defends herself and me in the process, “Ty and Leb already pick on Gabriela all day every day, you two should cut her some slack.” Stels lectures Zeke and Chase, pretending to be stern. We all know she’s just kidding. Stels is too nice for her own good. She’d never scold anyone…maybe Caleb - he’s the exception.
Zeke turns his wandering gaze to me, “The more people that tease you, the more people that love you.” He says in a serious voice as if truly sincere.
“Aww.” I beam at him, “You’re too sweet Zekie.” I nudge him in the side with my elbow, making fun of his rare kind side.
Zeke’s expression transforms into a scowl, “Shut up.”
We all end up laughing at his reaction much to his distaste.
“Which one of you lunatics is going to Austin’s party tonight?” Caleb asks as he and Ty make their usual, over the top appearance. Caleb always has to but in whenever he arrives. The two of them enjoy their fair share of attention. They thrive in the spotlight.
Austin did mention something about him hosting a party tonight on the main beach. He asked me to come. Other than that, we haven’t been in touch much. Can’t say that I’m not relieved. Austin’s a sweetheart, but he’s just not the one for me. We’re not compatible.
“I refuse to answer until you fix that inappropriate sentence.” Stels narrows her eyes at Caleb as she stares him down boldly. She hates it when he refers to us as ‘lunatics’. The ongoing bantering between Stels and Caleb never seizes to amuse me. If Duke wasn’t so perfect, I’d be routing for Caleb and Stella.
“Fine.” Caleb agrees too easily before correcting his previous question directed at all of us, “Which one of you lunatics is going to Gabriela’s boyfriend’s party tonight?”
I punch Caleb in his arm for that one, “Austin’s not my boyfriend!” I protest in vain. No matter what I say, Caleb is convinced we’re going out. Nothing will convince him otherwise.
Caleb snorts at that as if what I said was humorous, “Sure Gab Gabs, whatever you say,” he replies before turning to Tyler and mouthing the word ‘crazy’, all the while motioning to me as if I can’t see him and his every action.
“I love it when we get onto the topic of Gabriela’s love life,” Jacob, having also arrived, pitches in his opinion.
Duke and Stels can’t even stand up for me this time considering that they both also enjoy taking an interest in my latest romantic ventures. Thus, they can’t even vouch for me.
“Don’t we all?” Zeke grins down at me mischievously, wagging his eyebrows teasingly.
I roll my eyes at him and shove him away, “The whole lot of you…” I motion over to Zeke, Chase, Jacob, Tyler and Caleb, “need girlfriends pronto.”
Tyler takes it as his cue as he moves in on me, “But Baby you keep saying that you’re not an option.” Ty hits on me openly. I’m fortunate to know him and how he operates. His flirting is harmless. He means nothing by it. It’s just how he deals. I’ve grown accustomed with his ways by now. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be single right now.”
“Knock it off.” Duke grumbles as he removes me out of Ty’s reach. Duke is now fully aware that I harbor some type of feelings for Chase. He doesn’t want Ty ruining that between us. Chase and I have failed enough as is.
“Knock it off.” Ty mimics Duke with sass, “You’re so bossy.”
“It’s not Ty’s fault Gabs gives him mixed signals.” Caleb tells Duke before he winks at me as if implying something.
I glance up at the ceiling of the small surf shack in frustration, “Go away.” I breathe out in a low murmur.
Caleb, having heard me loud and clear, purposely cups a hand to his ear, “What was that sweetheart?” He leans into me, teasing me further, “I didn’t quite hear you.”
I glare up at him, “You heard me.” I take a stand, crossing my arms over my chest, “Go away.”
Caleb doesn’t take it to heart and instead, his mood is brightened, “You love me.” He insists as he flashes me a smirk.
It’s difficult not to love Caleb. He makes people laugh. He instantly uplifts spirits. He spreads joy. It’s all unintentional. It’s just in his nature. It’s who he is. You can’t help but not love him. He brings smiles to people’s faces by just walking into a room. It’s his gift and I don’t even think that he’s aware of it. He’s definitely a people person.
“Damn!” I snap my fingers in defeat, “I can’t even deny it.” I conclude in an exasperated tone. There’s no beating him. I’m about to say more, but stop abruptly when I feel a hand clasp mine from beneath the counter - out of view. I glance up at Chase in bewilderment, my heart beating that much faster at his actions. He avoids my gaze, refusing to acknowledge me. He continues to listen to the other conversations in between as if holding my hand is nothing out of the ordinary for him. A ghost of a smile traces my lips when it becomes apparent that he isn’t planning on letting go anytime soon.
“I leave ladies speechless.” Caleb smirks in pride, “It’s the ‘Caleb Effect’.”
He leaves ladies speechless because of his upfront, weird tendencies and habits.
“None of you idiots even answered Caleb’s original question.” Jacob points put, reminding us all seeing as we got distracted. Chase affects me.
“What is it with the name calling today?” Stels asks with a frown, whilst everyone else confirms that they’re going to Austin’s beach party tonight. The thing about Austin, he’s stinking rich. Only Duke can relate in that department. Austin is also well known for hosting massive, expensive parties. He’s always down for having a good time. I, on the other hand, am not big on partying like my friends. I prefer to avoid such events.
“Are you going?” Chase asks me softly, knowing fully well that parties are generally not my scene. I open my mouth to answer, but he’s already saying something else, “If you’re not going, I’m not going. If you’re out, so am I.”
Feeling flattered, I change my mind for his sake, “If you want to go, I’ll go.” I tell him, letting him know that I’d attend the stupid party for him. Also, Austin asked me to come. “It’s up to you.” I breathe, flustered as my words send a smile straight to his lips. I’d never admit it to his face, but I really do love it when he smiles…which is rare nowadays.
His smile quickly transforms into a smirk, “Since when do I ever turn down a party?”
“Yeah buddy!” Caleb fist bumps Chase in enthusiasm, “I’ve missed you man!” Caleb whistles, “Chase Fuller, the party animal, is back b*tches!”
I raise an eyebrow at them, I guess that means I’m going after all.
“He’s been back for a while now Leb.” Stella reminds him with a roll of her eyes, “You’re still so slow.” Stella huffs, picking on Leb today, “And again with the name calling!” She has a valid point. We’ve now been called lunatics, idiots and b*tches.
“Stop nagging me woman!” Caleb places his hand up in front of Stella as if to shut her up. She hits his hand away. “Ouch! That one stung!” Caleb complains as he cradles his hand to his chest, a pained look on his face.
“Good.” Stella smiles innocently as if she didn’t just whack him hard. I stifle my own giggles behind my fist.
Zeke starts rounding them up as he shoos them all away, “Go surf already. My employees need to work. They don’t get paid for nothing.”
“Speaking of paid, can any of you loan me some cash?” Caleb asks just as Ty swats him over the head, Duke dragging them both away.
“Is that guy ever not broke?” Zeke asks with a shake of his head as if shocked by it. He’s known Caleb long enough to know that Caleb is indeed always broke. Caleb is lazy. He doesn’t work. He leeches of Tyler and girls. He’s dependent on others for money. He has no plan in life, he just goes with the flow in hopes of something great happening to him. His life isn’t a burden, but instead, a wild adventure.
“Are you seriously asking that?” Chase poses the question I’d just been thinking myself.
Zeke laughs, “Yeah, I should know better. It’s Caleb Shaw we’re talking about.” He reminds himself before saluting us, “I’m going to take off too. Got a test tomorrow. Better get studying.” Zeke informs us before leaving.
An uncomfortable silence enfolds us, Chase awkwardly releasing my hand and saying nothing more on the subject.
I bite my bottom lip, tempted to question his motive behind it - yet, as always, I let it go.
Chase clears his throat, stepping back from me, “You…uh…” He trails off in a stammer as he gets a grip of himself. He shifts in stance as if nervous, forcing himself to meet my gaze. I furrow my eyebrows, confused as to why there’s a faint blush coating my cheeks when he’d said nothing yet. “You look good today.” He finally concludes, scratching the back of his neck as he averts his eyes from me shyly.
Taken aback by his unusual shyness, I offer him a coy smile of my own, “Thanks.” I hadn’t done anything differently today. My appearance is the norm. Nevertheless, I’ll take the compliment from him seeing as he’s not the kind of person that hands out compliments easily.
He nods, “Sure.” The conversation dies after that, the tension between us heightening immensely. Still smiling, I find us both staring at each other in silence. My gaze is drawn to him and I’m having a hard time tearing my eyes away from him. His own eyes flicker from my eyes down to my lips. My smile falters when he steps forward as if ready to make a move. I pause, hesitant but determined to stay still when he dips his head slightly as he inches closer to me.
“Just forgot my car keys,” Zeke interrupts as he reaches for his keys, not bothering to take in our close proximity. He could care less. He turns to leave again, sending a suggestive wink our way on the last second, “Don’t fraternize on the job you two!” He calls over his shoulder, letting it be known to us that he had seen how close we were to each other.
Leave it to Zeke to escalate it all.
“Gabby, listen…” Chase starts quietly, confidently, “I want you to be straight with me,” he takes another step forward, “are we good?” He pauses as if cautious with his next words, “After Matt and everything before, are we good?” He repeats, a hopeful expression on his face - one that I simply cannot bring myself to crush.
I purse my lips, thinking it over before nodding up at him, “We’re good.” We’re more than good. I’ve forgiven him and it’s obvious he’s forgiven me too. We’ve put the past where it belongs, in the past.
Chase blows out a breath of relief as a perfect grin clouds his features, “Great.” He whispers, “I’m glad we can put one foot in front of the other and move on from all our terrible history. I’m ready to start over.” He admits to me and I appreciate his honesty. It means the world to me.
“Me too.” I confess softly.
“You cold?” Chase asks me, concerned, as the cool wind begins to pick up.
Shivering, I force myself to shake my head, “I’m fine.” I lie, my teeth chattering as the icy breeze flows off the breaking waves. It’s high tide now.
The sun has set and we’ve just now closed up shop. Austin’s party is going to start very soon. Chase and I decided that we should stay at the beach. There’s no point in going home first. We’re here, we might as well wait a few minutes for the party to start.
Chase drapes his jacket over me in spite of what I’d said. I stare up at him gratitude, “Thank you.” I say.
“So nauseating.” Caleb joins us as we walk along the beach front. “It’s always back and forth with you two, isn’t it?” Caleb smirks as he throws his arms over both of us. I scowl up at him. He’s unfazed by it and merely flashes us a wolfish grin in response, “Tonight’s going to be fun.”
Chase shoves his arm off him, “Don’t you have somewhere else to be?” Chase asks Caleb, his tone not as light as when he was talking to me.
“No way!” Caleb fist pumps the air, “You guys are my best friends! Where else would I have to be?” Caleb queries, toying with my emotions. He knows I can’t stay mad at him when he says sweet stuff like that. Caleb is a manipulator.
“Where’s Tyler?” Chase asks, skepticism in his voice. Caleb and Tyler are practically inseparable. It’s unlikely not to see the one with the other.
“With a girl, probably.” Caleb answers nonchalantly, “Speaking of which, I need you…” He glances at Chase, “to be my wingman tonight. I’m in dire need of a girlfriend. It will be a calamity if I stay single. Ty says that he’s done loaning me money.”
“Just get a job, man.” Chase advises, suggesting the same thing that I had said to Caleb. “If I was Tyler, I would’ve killed you ages ago.” Chase adds as an after thought.
“I’d take my side Chasie boy, considering the fact that Tyler can’t stand you as of recently.” Caleb points out, meaning it to be a joke, but unaware of the consequences of making such a blunt remark like that.
“That’s because he’s still hung up on Gabriela after all these years!” Chase snaps, “It’s not my fault he never got over his infatuation with her.”
I gape at Chase’s words, speechless by the latest revelation.
Had this argument been ongoing?
Caleb, unmoved by Chase’s aggressive tone, responds by chuckling in amusement, “Trust me dude, Ty’s over Gabs.” Caleb reassures Chase, the two of them speaking as if I’m not here. “He’s had his sights set on someone else for a while now.”
“Good.” Chase grits out, irritated. “I’m done holding back for him. It’s high tide for him now.”
Caleb nods, as if actually understanding, “You’re a good friend bro. Ty’s stupid for not seeing that.” You know you’re in a tight spot when even Caleb gets the gist of what’s going on. “I’d say she’s all yours now, but there’s still her boyfriend, Austin.” Caleb jokes, his eyes darting to me to see my reaction. He keeps himself entertained that way.
“He’s not my boyfriend!” I hiss at Caleb, still trying to process all this new information that’s suddenly been leaked by blabber mouth Caleb.
I freeze when I hear his voice, mentally cussing out Caleb for this current predicament that I’ve found myself stuck in. I pull myself together as I turn to face him, “Hey.” I greet softly, earning a knowing smirk from him. He’d heard most of that debate. No doubt about it.
“Hey Beautiful…” He smiles down at me, “I was hoping to see you here. Can we talk?”
Before I can answer, Chase intervenes as he addresses Austin, “You have a party to set up.”
Caleb backs up Chase as he eyes Austin wearily, “You heard the man.”
It’s like they want to be uninvited…
“Later then?” Austin asks me, his tone filled with hope.
I’m about to say ‘yes’ when Chase takes the liberty to speak on my behalf yet again, “It’s high time you get lost. Gabby isn’t interested in a one night stand. Catch a hint and leave.” Chase replies bitterly, a dark expression morphing over his features - the rude side to him making an appearance. He’d once said that Austin isn’t the relationship type. He’s now settling that.
“What the hell is your problem?” Austin asks with a glare directed solely at Chase, “Don’t take your daddy issues out on the rest of us.” Austin spits, now furious, raging like the very pits of hell. Secrets and gossip spread like a wild fire around here. It comes as no surprise that Austin knows all about Chase’s recent issues with his dad. I can bet that it’s not just Austin that knows. Unfortunately for Chase, popularity comes with its downfalls - one of them being in the fact that your secrets are never just yours to keep.
“Austin!” I exclaim, exasperated with the two of them. They’re both being incredibly childish.
Before I can do or say anything more, Chase reacts by sending his fist into Austin’s face.
“Chase stop it!” I gasp as I try to tug him back, but to no avail. It’s a futile attempt. It soon becomes clear that Chase is not going to back off and neither is Austin.
“Fight, fight, fight!” Caleb cheers, encouraging them to continue. He’s of no help at all.
Of course, Austin punches back - a complete fight breaking out as the two begin to pummel each other with their fists.
“Fight, fight, fight!” Caleb chants repetitively, thinking it all to be a joke. He never takes anything seriously.
In desperation, I spot Tyler nearby. He’s busy kissing some girl. He opens one eye as if having sensed me staring or as if having heard all the commotion. I gesture to the fight at hand before me. His eyes widen as he breaks away from his make out session with the mystery girl, only to come sprinting over.
“What happened?!” Ty asks above the commotion.
I all but shrug at him, “I have not the faintest clue.”
Fortunately, Duke and Stells arrive on scene immediately after Ty.
Duke takes in the scene - his first move being to hit Caleb upside the head hard for pushing them to fight, “You always have to be right in the middle of everything, don’t you?!” Duke growls at Caleb (he’s always the instigator) before dragging a heaving Austin away from Chase.
Duke is well built - a sports fanatic. He makes breaking up a fight look easy, effortless.
Tyler, surprisingly enough, tries to console Chase’s flaring temper.
“Flip!” Jacob groans, slapping his knee in disappointment, “I always miss out on everything.”
“That’s ’cause you’re always late dude,” Caleb accuses him.
Stels shakes her head at Austin and Chase, “Straighten out your issues.” She scolds them before turning to me, “Males.”
“Tell me about it.” I sigh, agreeing with her.
Once they’ve all calmed down, Duke takes the chance to speak, “You four…” Duke motions to Chase, Austin, Tyler and me, “need to sort your sh*t out.” He mutters in demand before flashing me an apologetic look, “No offense Gabriela.” He adds, “It’s just…you’re kind of the very epicenter of it all.” He goes on to explain, “You’re their focal point.”
They all disperse, leaving just the four of us, as well as Caleb (by his own accord). Stels has to come back to drag the protesting Caleb away seeing as he refuses to leave.
“I don’t need this, I’m out. I’ll find another girl to mess around with.” Austin is the first to speak up, finally showing his true colors. Turns out, Chase was right about him.
“Piss off already then.” Chase snarls, not surprised, as Austin storms off. He’d been expecting that reaction from Austin for a while now. He knew Austin’s true motives all along.
I turn to Tyler with a frown laced upon my lips, “Your friend is a real jackass.”
Ty shrugs as if he could care less, “Something we have in common.”
“You’re not like him Ty.” I reassure him before putting on Chase’s jacket. It engulfs me in warmth as the wind continues to blow carelessly, my hair flowing about in the breeze itself.
Ty speaks, directing his next words at Chase and me, “I’m past my problems. Whatever is going on, it’s between you two.” He then turns to Chase, “I’m sorry for always being a dipsh*t. I know what you did for me back then. I’m grateful, but I never asked you to do that.” Ty tells Chase, leaving me in the dark once again.
“You didn’t have to ask for me to back off.” Chase replies back in a more at ease tone now that Austin is gone, “I saw the way you used to look at her. It was obvious. Just the pictures of her in your locker was enough evidence - it was enough to convince me to stand down.” Chase explains, “Friendship first, right?”
Ty grins and shakes Chase’s hand, “Always brother.” Ty then glances back at me, “See you around Gabs.” He winks at me flirtatiously, blowing me a kiss before he too leaves us be.
I’m glad they’ve forgiven each other. I prefer it when everyone is on good terms with each other. This isn’t high school anymore. Thank goodness for that!
I frown at Chase once we’re entirely alone, “Mind elaborating?” I need to be filled in.
I’m starting to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, but I’m still not quite seeing the complete picture. It’s blurred.
“You might want to sit down for this,” is his only answer.
Hey all :)
Sorry for ridiculously long wait, been busy as usual :’(
Anyways, just a thank you for the support and feed back :D