Chase sits down.
I copy his movement and take a seat beside him in the cool sand. Once he’s sees that I’m prepared, he starts from the very beginning, “This is embarrassing and reveals a lot, so bear with me.” He warns before his eyes stray back to the calm blue ahead of us. “We started off as best friends, but there was a time in high school where I wanted to ask you out.”
His opening line already manages to spark my interest as I continue to listen attentively.
“But Ty was my friend and he also happened to be the obstacle in my path in getting to you.” I nod at him, now following. I always had a sneaky suspicion that Tyler had a bit of a crush on me. I never played into it though. I put the assumption at the back of my head - out of mind, out of sight. “I couldn’t bring myself to be with you whilst knowing how Ty felt about you. I backed off, hence the start of my…” He trails off, referring to his player phase.
I stay dead silent, allowing him the time he needs to finish. I don’t want to say anything just yet. Right now, he needs me to listen.
“I tried to focus on other girls, but you were always on my mind.” Chase confesses, keeping his eyes off me, “It was hard for me to be around you - thus, we started to drift apart. Our friendship slowly started to deteriorate. Then Matt died and that was the final straw for you.” I wince a little at the reminder of how cruel I’d been to him, “You wouldn’t even look at me afterwards. I figured it was best I just leave.”
He did exactly that and left after school. I didn’t know the reason for him leaving was me. Feeling guilty, I shift in my position, unsure what to say. “I’m glad you’re back now.” I say hesitantly before adding, “For good?”
Chase chuckles slightly at the last part, before he turns to face me fully, “Is that a cry for me to stay?”
I bite my bottom lip in apprehension before deciding to go with it. Nodding, I grin up at him, “What’s a life without a Chase Fuller in it?”
“A better one.” Chase answers bitterly as if honestly believing what he’d said to be true.
“That’s simply not the case.” I disagree, hating to hear the horrendous view he has on himself. If only he could see himself through my eyes. Sure, he has his flaws, but he’s not this terrible person he always makes himself out to be.
Chase smiles down at me in gratitude, “You always choose to see the best in me when I’m at my worst.”
I return his soft, sincere smile, “So are you?” I question him, “Are you going to leave at the end of spring break to continue studying actuarial science?”
I don’t want him to go. I’ve just got used to having him around again.
He shrugs, “I can’t be sure of anything at the moment. Things with my parents are tough right now.” Chase explains, “Then again, my mother has softened up. You might want to tell me what you had to do with that?” He asks knowingly.
“Pssh. Nothing.” I lie, wondering how he knew that I’d spoken to his mother about laying off him and giving him more space to make decisions of his own.
“You’re the only one who cares enough to do something.” Chase points out, putting his detecting skills to use, “It had to be you who spoke to my mom. You’re also the one one she’d listen to. She sees you as her own.”
Changing the subject swiftly, I glance up at him, “I’m glad you told me everything.” I admit. If he’d only told me how he felt back in high school, our present could be very different right now. If he’d asked me out then, I undoubtedly would have said yes.
“Well not everything…” Chase breathes, confirming that there’s still more he wants to say before he loses the chance, “I used spring break as an excuse. The real reason why I came back here after all this time was to mend things with you.” Chase confesses, “I said that I came back to tie loose ends. Gabriela, you are those loose ends.”
Taken aback by his confession, I raise an eyebrow, “But why?” I ask, “I thought you hated me then?”
“I’ve never hated you.” Chase tells me, his words radiating conviction to let me know that he means it wholeheartedly, “In fact, for a long time, you’ve been all I can think about. You might have been the reason I left, but you’re also the reason I’m back. I couldn’t go on living each day whilst carrying such a heavy weight on my shoulders. I had to get rid of all the dead weight in my life and you were the only way I’d be able to achieve that. I came back to receive your forgiveness. I came back to befriend you again, to fix what I destroyed between us.”
“You didn’t do anything, Chase.” I place my hand on his shoulder in reassurance, “I’m the one who lashed out at you and ultimately lost you. Not the other way ’round. If I could go back to that night, I would. I’d take back everything I said to you in a heartbeat.”
“I know you would.” Chase replies in a strained tone, “There’s a lot of things I’d take back too. Back then, I was pissed with Tyler because you were not his to take. You should be mine-” Chase corrects himself all too quickly before I can even pick up on his mistake, “You should’ve been mine.” Chase elaborates the way he once felt about me, “I’m just glad to put everything behind us now. A clean slate feels good.”
“Let’s get out of here. Austin’s an ass.” I suggest, not wanting to stay for Austin’s stupid party anymore.
Duke, having noticed that we’d all settled our squabble (except for Austin - not that anyone cares about him), walks up to us with the rest of the gang, “Party at my place then?”
“It’s been too long!” Caleb exclaims in pure joy as he makes himself comfy on one of Duke’s leather couches - you’d think he lives here.
“You say that every time you come here.” Duke rolls his eyes at Caleb’s antics and over exaggeration on just about everything. Caleb’s take on life is extremely different from a normal person’s. We’re all used to it by now. We’ve absorbed his ‘Calebness’.
“Take the hint for what it is bud and start inviting me over more.” Caleb grins, saluting Duke teasingly. “After all, I am your favorite.” He boasts.
“Why must you lie to him, Duke?” Stells smirks, discreetly insinuating that Caleb is far from being Duke’s favorite.
“My favorites are, by far, these two.” Duke responds by throwing his arms over Stels and I, drawing us both to his strong side. “My girls.” He emphasizes.
“Yeah and I’m the apparent flirt in this group.” Ty scoffs at Duke, all in good strife.
“Speaking of which…” Stells wags her eyebrows, “Who is she?”
Ty flashes her a grin as if he’d been expecting her to fish for an answer. He pretends to zip his lips as if to seal his mouth, “Xoxo, I’ll never tell.” He smirks in delight at seeing Stels pout in disappointment. She’s always been keen on knowing everything and staying on track with the updates on all her friends’ lives.
“It’s sad that you watch Gossip Girl.” Duke points out, having caught the ‘xoxo’ reference.
“It’s even more sad that you know I watch Gossip Girl.” Ty returns the insult, the two of them bickering.
Duke shrugs, accepting his defeat, “Well said.” Duke continues, “But in my defense, I do have a girlfriend.”
Ty, himself, has a girlfriend now, so that insult doesn’t quite work on him anymore.
“Ouch. You just had to go there Duke, didn’t you?” Caleb huffs, taking Duke’s insult aimed at Ty to heart, “We all know that you were meaning me.”
Duke frowns in confusion, now at a loss to where Caleb even fits into this debate.
I place a comforting hand on Caleb’s shoulder, “I really don’t think he was, Leb. You’re not even involved in this.” He always thinks that everything is about him.
“Oh.” Caleb replies dully before complaining, “Well why the hell not?!” He whines, seeking attention. He’s like a puppy, better yet, a two year old.
“Newsflash Cal, the world doesn’t revolve around your gigantic head.” Stels tease before glancing Ty’s way, “But seriously though, who is she? I need a name.”
“It’s Sarah Gillies, isn’t it?” Jacob questions nonchalantly as if he could care less as to whether his prediction is accurate or not.
“Dammit Jacob!” Ty curses, “How do you always do that?”
Jacob has a knack for guessing games. Ninety-nine percent of the time, he’s always right.
Jacob shrugs in pride, “It’s a gift.”
“How the hell did you land her?!” I all but exclaim on impulse, shocked by the news.
Sarah Gillies, like Chase, is famous for her surfing. I took her place alongside Chase on the cover of ‘BackWash’ when she broke her leg. She’s a good friend of Chase’s, but she doesn’t stay in town. She’s gorgeous and absolutely incredible in surfing.
I knew that blonde Ty had been kissing earlier looked oddly familiar. I couldn’t quite make out her appearance because of the distance and because of the dark, not to mention the fact that I’d been a little preoccupied with Chase’s fight with Austin.
Caleb bursts out laughing at my words. The others join in and laugh at Ty’s expense. It’s then that I realize that what I said was offensive. Ty shoots me a flat look as a result, “I just love how much faith you have in me Gabriela. You’ve always had such a great outlook and high opinion on my life, as well as of me as a person.” He retorts sarcastically, unimpressed by my remark. “You know, you’re incredibly mean sometimes.” Ty teases, knowing me well enough to know that it wasn’t intentional.
“I’m marrying this girl. I’m telling you all now - even you Chase - I’m marrying this girl.” Caleb, still laughing, says through tears as he yanks me to him in order to embrace me. “This is exactly why I love you, Gabriela.”
Chase flinches slightly at Caleb’s words, but says nothing back in turn.
“Gabriela can do so much better…” We all turn to see Duke’s house cleaner and our beloved friend/second mother - Accalia - standing in the doorway with a cleaning mop in hand, “if my say counts for anything, that is.”
We all smile and greet upon seeing her.
“It doesn’t.” Caleb smirks, choosing to take his chances with her, “And where is your broom today, Calia?” Caleb teases, making reference to her being a witch, “It better suits you.”
“Mr Shaw!” She gapes before flinging the mop at him, he just dodging it in time, “I will beat manners into you with this mop someday.”
Stels steps forward to hug Accalia, “I’d give up…” Stels says upon releasing her, “Caleb is a case of failure. He’ll never learn manners.”
Accalia laughs, obviously very taken up with Stels, seeing as she’s the girl Duke plans to marry.
“Damn straight!” Caleb agrees with Stels just as I’d predicted him to, “I know that’s suppose to be an insult, but I just can’t quite bring myself to acknowledge it.” Caleb chuckles, enjoying getting under their skin. He has a habit of taking enjoyment in irritating people. He defies barriers and crosses all lines just to get a reaction. He thrives on reactions.
Accalia ignores Caleb as she embraces Duke next and then Ty, “I hope you’re treating Miss Sarah well and not just using her, Mr Anderson.” Accalia subtly threatens Ty. She’s been on a mission to turn Ty and Leb into gentleman since forever ago. I, personally, believe that it’s mission impossible.
“It’s real this time, Calia.” Ty confesses, not wanting to get whacked with the mop like last time he gave her cheek, “With Sarah, it feels different. I swear.”
Accalia holds him down with a locked gaze, reading him. Once she realizes that he’s being truthful, she let’s it go, “I’ll be watching, Mr Anderson.” She warns him.
“You never stop.” Ty mutters begrudgingly. When Accalia’s gaze snaps back to him, he’s quick to fix up, “And I just can’t thank you enough for it.” He adds, sheepish. He throws me under the bus by using me as a shield just when Accalia makes a move to hit him for being rude. “Take her, not me!” Ty yelps in fear like the coward he is.
Accalia’s gaze softens as she lowers the mop to the floor upon seeing me. She launches herself straight into me to hug me, “It’s so good to see you again Gabriela!”
I giggle as I return the hug and the warmth she offers in the moment. I really do see her as family. I see all of these lovable goons as family.
Ty glares at me in jealousy, “How come you’re on a first name basis with her?” He asks as if it’s my fault Accalia doesn’t refer to him and Caleb by their first names.
“Someone clearly has a favorite.” Caleb coughs, envious as well, acting as if we’re all Accalia’s children. It sure feels that way. Ty and Cal are so childish, they tend to act out in order to get her full attention.
Accalia sighs before motioning Caleb and Ty over in good spirits, “Come here my boys, Accalia loves you two too.”
Ty scowls and pushes her away playfully, “Nah I’m over it. The moment’s ruined now that I know the truth.” He says, feigning anger, “It’s too late to make up for it. I don’t feel the love. I see how it is. Gabriela’s your favorite. I’m hurt now.”
Accalia - not denying it - turns to face Caleb with wide, open arms, beckoning him over.
“Don’t fall for it Cal.” Ty interrupts, shooting Caleb a warning stare.
Cal doesn’t hesitate to fall for it anyway as he runs into Accalia’s arms for a hug, “I’ll never let go!” He shouts excitedly.
Ty glowers at Caleb as the rest of us laugh, “You’re weak man, weak.”
Accalia, having shoved a reluctant Caleb off her with much effort, turns back to me with concerned eyes, “How are you, Mi?” She questions, referring back to our last talk when I’d got so emotional.
“Better than ever,” I answer her truthfully before gesturing to Chase and Jacob, “Even brought two old friends. You might remember them.” I wink knowingly.
Accalia eyes Jacob in awe, “You’ve grown up, young Matthews.” Accalia smiles at him before he takes the initiative to hug her. Jacob’s loving like that. Accalia accepts his hug immediately. “You and Matt were always the babies of the group.” Accalia breathes out, tearing up at the memory.
I notice Chase swallow anxiously at the mention of Matt, his eyes fixed firmly on the floor. He’s still gutted about how things went down. He doesn’t blame himself anymore, but he still feels as if he could have prevented Matt’s death. I don’t see it that way, by choice. It will consume and destroy me if I think the same. Chase needs to stop thinking like that. What happened, happened. It’s life. You can’t prevent life from taking it’s natural course. I don’t understand it, but I’ve accepted it. Matt died. That’s the way things are now. A life with my brother no longer exists.
“You could teach Mr Anderson and Mr Shaw a thing or two about good manners.” Accalia adds, shooting Ty and Cal a reprimanding look.
We’ve always had gentlemen in our group, well besides from Caleb and Tyler of course. Duke was raised by Accalia, hence why his manners are intact. He’s a sweetheart when it comes to girls and chivalry. Brent was too. Jacob is to a certain extent. Matt was the same. Chase has his rare moments. He’s much better nowadays. Zeke’s a gentleman with every girl, but me. The only ones that need work are Tweedledee and Tweedledum - Tyler and Caleb respectively.
“Do my eyes deceive me or is famous Mr Fuller actually standing before me?” Accalia teases an uneasy Chase, trying to make him feel more comfortable and at home. She’s trying to let him know that she’s still the same woman, that she never stopped caring about all her ‘kids’, including him. Her humble approach to him is endearing. Accalia is very down to earth. It’s what I admire most about her.
Chase stiffens under her gaze, uncertain on how to respond. Fortunately for him, Accalia’s always been fond of him in spite of his old, despicable ways.
Accalia sees his frustration and takes the liberty to nudge him playfully, “I’m messing with you Chase, Darling.” She smiles up at him in compassion, “I’m overjoyed to have you back where you belong…” She motions to all of us instead of concluding her statement. Her action is more than enough for Chase and the rest of us to understand.
Friends are home. We’re all good for each other. We build each other up and occasionally bicker. In the end, friends are the ones we run to when we need support most.
Caleb, being Caleb, only takes one thing from Accalia’s speech, “Even Chase is on a first term basis with her!” He points out in distaste.
Chase lightens up after that, visibly relaxing, no longer feeling pressured as he comes to terms with the fact that Accalia will not bring up the past unless he pushes her to.
It’s no secret that Chase is ashamed of his past. He will only talk about it with me. His past is off limits to everyone else and Accalia seems to get that.
After the reunion, we all head to Duke’s private cinema.
I take a seat, Chase immediately sitting down beside me.
“How adorable.” Caleb salutes Chase on his obvious efforts.
“Whatever man.” Chase brushes him off as the throws a casual arm around the back of my chair, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I’m sure.” Ty remarks, sarcastic, as he and the rest of them take their seats. “Putting the moves on Gabriela is totally accidental, right?” Ty scoffs, mocking Chase in good nature.
Chase ignored him, as did I.
I tried to focus on the movie, but that was a difficult task in itself when Chase scooted closer and took hold of my hand in secret yet again. I shot him a flustered look, to which he responded by offering me a breath taking smile as if this is now the norm for us.
It was only after the movie - Chase and I alone - when Chase requested something that shook me to the very bone, “Let me help you get back into surfing.” He’d asked. I shook my head, not wanting to hear him out, but he was insistent, “I took surfing away from you, now let me give it back to you.”
He wouldn’t take ’no’ for an answer…