BackWash

By CJ Adler All Rights Reserved ©

Romance

Tauntless

I swim deeper down and take it in - the bubbles, the intense pressure, the emptiness, the darkness, the loneliness, the silence - just all of it.

The feeling of being back in the water is addictive. You always have to come back. It’s a thrill, one that you thirst for everyday, one that doesn’t keep you satisfied for long enough. People like me, we have to return back to the water. We can’t function otherwise. The dependency to live is our love for water in itself.

All thoughts leave my mind until I’m merely gliding gracefully through the water, wielding all emotions to my will until there’s nothing left, but me and the water.

Christopher Columbus knew what he was talking about when he said that one cannot cross the ocean until one gains the courage to lose sight of the shore. I can’t be held back by my past anymore. I’ve given my past too much power. My future is the water. I’ll never surf again unless I conquer my past and look unto the future instead. It’s the only way I’ll ever cross the ocean and reach the other side.

I float up a little further, needing to break surface so that I can take that much needed breath before I drown in the sea’s dark, powerful depths.

I sit up straight and glance around, my heart still beating erratically. At least it wasn’t a nightmare this time. It was a twisted dream, a dream that constantly haunts me.

I sigh and force myself to wake up completely before I drag myself out of bed, preparing to face yet another repetitive day. It never ends.

*~**~*

“What do you mean?” I ask Zeke, at a loss, as his words slowly register in my head.

“I’m sorry, Gabriela.” Zeke extends his sympathy my way, understanding why I’m having such difficulty accepting this.

“What did he say when he quit?” I ask, aware that Chase quit because of me. There’s no other explanation for his brash actions.

“He didn’t really say anything. He just said that he can’t work here anymore. He didn’t give a reason,” Zeke informs me.

“That’s because he didn’t have to,” I whisper.

“On a lighter note, Cal’s stoked to be your temp co-worker,” Zeke tries to brighten my mood, however, it’s a vain attempt.

“I love Caleb and everything, but he working with me is not a good combination,” I force a smile, wondering how on earth I’ll manage this surf shack without the great Chase Fuller. I can’t maintain and fix boards like him, and Caleb has proven time and time again that he certainly can’t either.

“Speak of the devil,” Zeke grins and leaves Caleb and I to get to work.

“Hey,” I greet Caleb warmly.

“What’s up loser?” He grins widely as he takes me in for a hug. “I missed ya ‘Old School’.” He teases, in good spirits as always.

“I saw you yesterday,” I remind him, failing to stifle a smile. He never fails to amuse me.

“Yeah but yesterday came and went,” Caleb smirks, “I’m all about today.”

I wish I had his optimistic outlook on life. I envy him.

“Yeah?” I grin as I wipe down a few surfboards before applying some wax. It doesn’t feel the same without Chase. It feels like I’m missing a gigantic part to myself. “Hey Leb?” I question softly, seeking his opinion on where I stand.

“Mhmm?” He answers in ease, turning to face me, giving me his undivided attention.

“Is it my fault he quit?” I ask, feeling guilty on the inside. Maybe I was too hard on him…

“No,” Caleb answers bluntly, “Chase makes his own decisions. It’s not your problem. It’s his.”

“But it feels like mine,” I confess shyly, vulnerable.

Caleb’s blue eyes soften, “Listen Gab Gabs, I don’t know what to tell you,” he pauses as if uncertain, “Chase has problems. He’s relentlessly stubborn and takes out his issues on people like you, people who don’t deserve it.”

I smile slightly at his words, touched, “You give me more credit than I’m worth.”

Caleb flicks my forehead playfully, “No, I really don’t. You just underestimate yourself and your ‘wow’ factor.”

“I have a ‘wow’ factor now?” I joke, raising an eyebrow at him in curiosity.

“You’ve always had one,” he admits, suddenly turning serious, “it’s your compassion, when people see it, they automatically think ‘wow’.”

My smiles fades behind glistening eyes, “You can’t be serious?”

“I am,” he confirms, “you’re something real special Gabriela Hill and Chase knows it. He’s afraid of it. He’s afraid to commit.”

“You think he’ll ever come around?” I ask hesitantly.

“I heard he’s leaving town again,” Caleb shrugs before answering me, “Honestly, I don’t know. But what I do know, is that you can’t wait on him forever. Time goes by too quickly. You have your own life to lead. Don’t hold back for anyone. Live you life before your time runs out.” He shakes his head before mumbling to himself, “What I’d give to have more time.”

He hadn’t meant for me to hear the last sentence.

It sinks in and my gaze snaps up to him in panic, “Caleb, what aren’t you telling me?” I interrogate him, shooting him the question that has always been roaming at the back of my mind. His reckless, ‘go-getter’ behavior makes more sense to me.

Caleb merely smiles, not giving away anything, “There’s a reason I don’t have any future plans like the rest of you. There’s a reason I just surf all day. It’s to remind myself that I’m still here, that I’m still breathing that my heart is still beating. I have no motivation for the future, because I…” he sucks in a deep breath and averts his eyes from me in shame, “because I don’t have one.”

I stare up at him in contemplation, my heart pounding loudly from within me. A wave of nausea overcomes me and I feel myself become dizzy and lightheaded. I blink in confusion as it all hits me hard, it all making sense now. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?” I croak, my voice hoarse as a few tears glisten down my cheeks. I’m quick to wipe them away before I jump to any more conclusions of my own.

“I have cancer.”

I swallow, freezing, and begin to shake my head at him, putting up a violent protest, “No you don’t. No you don’t, Leb!” I say frantically, now in hysterics, refusing to believe what I’m currently hearing. I reach the brink where I feel like I’m suffocating. Drowning is even a better feeling.

Caleb tries to place his hands on my shoulder in order to calm me down, “Listen Gabs, it’s going to be ok-“

I shove him away from me, “Don’t you dare!” I shout and take a step away from him, my hands placed in front of me in defense as I fall into a pit of darkness, “Don’t you dare tell me that it’s going to be okay, Caleb!” I sob and slide my back against the wall until I fall to my knees as I cry softly to myself, not able to console my wild emotions.

He gives me a few minutes to myself, staying silent as he watches me break down before him.

I manage to quieten down and it’s then he takes the gap. He crouches down before me and carefully moves my hands away away from my face. His calm eyes meet my worried ones, “Hey, don’t cry for me yet. I’m still here.” He reaches out toward me, offering me his hand. I instantly take the comfort, I take his hand and clasp on tightly, not willing to let go of him. “I’m right here, Gabs. I’m right here.” He assures me a second time, allowing me to clutch onto his hand tightly.

“For how much longer?” I whisper as he continues to soothe me.

“A couple of months,” he answers, “all the treatments are failing. I was told a couple of months.” He updates me in pure stillness as if he’s already made peace with it.

I see through him, “When were you told a ‘couple of months’?” I dare ask him, afraid to hear the answer.

“A couple of months ago,” he answers bravely before grinning down at me, “you’ve always been way too smart for me.”

The tears escape uncontrollably when it registers. His time to go is soon, very soon. He could even be gone tomorrow. His time has run out. “Caleb,” I cry, “I can’t lose you too. I can’t. I can’t go through it again. Please don’t leave me behind. Please.” I whimper, shedding more tears.

“It’s inevitable,” Caleb prepares me, “but it’s okay. I’m okay.”

“Well I’m not!” I snap at him, not meaning to be insensitive towards his condition. I just don’t want to see him go. He’s probably my best friend now and I can’t lose him. I can’t.

“You can bounce back from anything, Gabriela, even this,” he assures me in conviction, “I have faith in you. I have faith in you, even if no one else does, even if Chase doesn’t, even if you yourself don’t. If there’s anything you should know before I go, know that I believe in you and that I always have.”

My chest tightens in excruciating pain whereas I’d swear that my heart feels is constricting itself. It’s an agonizing blow to withstand. “Caleb,” I whisper as I wipe away a few stray tears, trying to come to terms with reality, “I can’t fathom a life without you in it.”

“You don’t have to,” he winks at me in all playfulness, “I plan on sticking around this part of town.” He encourages, “Even when I’m gone, I’ll still be around.”

Even through all my tears, a ghost of a smile traces my lips, “That doesn’t even make sense, Leb.” I take in a deep breath and slowly release it, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“Because you were far from ready to hear it, but quite frankly, I’m running out of time.” He smiles sadly, “I needed you to know so that you won’t be caught off guard when it comes.”

Seeing his weakness, I offer him the last of my strength and squeeze his hand to reassure him that I’m still here too.

I lose track of time, unknowing of how long we just sat there in complete silence.

*~**~*

I walk along the street. It’s quiet here. It’s the only place where I can truly be alone to think.

The sun is setting behind a cloud, orange and red filling the sunset. I finished work early today. Zeke heard about what happened. He knew. They all knew. Caleb kept me in the dark and I owe him for it. He was right. I wasn’t ready to hear it and I’ll never be ready to accept it.

It had stormed the previous night. The cherry blossom trees above are bare. The trees’ pink flowers now engulf at the foot of all the trees. Life in itself is dead. However, as if to contradict me, there are new pink buds in full bloom. The view is exquisite, an array of colors, bringing a sensation of complete peace upon me. It’s almost refreshing - it would be if I didn’t feel so alone and empty inside.

I use to walk down this long empty driveway all the time, except Chase had always been with me. We used to play under the cherry blossom trees as kids. It brings back memories.

I glance up to see the sun fade behind a dark cloud, and for a split second, my heart goes with it - in hiding. My soul drops at the flashbacks of the past. I let out a wistful sigh at the reminder. I once led a perfect life.

I’m tired. I’ve had enough. I don’t want to fight anymore. I don’t want to lose anymore.

A single tear escapes out the corner of my eye before slowly running its track down my cheek.

“Gabriela?”

I stiffen and tense up upon hearing his voice.

I don’t want to see him. He never understood. He will never understand.

I never did give up on Chase - not completely. All these years, I’ve been holding onto him, onto who he was and who he is supposed to be. But it’s recently come to my attention that I’ve been holding on alone - Chase had long since let go.

I don’t have it within me to put on a brave face just for his sake. I don’t have it within me to face him, to argue, to see my old friend as someone else. I can’t.

“Go away, Fuller.” I mutter, keeping my back turned to him, not even bothering to make the effort to spare him a single glance. He knew, all along, about Caleb’s condition and never one said anything to me about it. He kept it from me.

I hear his footsteps getting closer from somewhere behind me. I shudder involuntarily. I don’t have the strength to hold my own right now, especially against someone as fierce and harsh in his words as Chase. He’s capable of breaking me and he knows it - having done it time and time again to me in the past.

“Leave me alone, Chase.” I say weakly as I begin to walk away from him, still not acknowledging him. I don’t want to see him.

“Gabriela, hear me out,” he pleads as he matches my pace, catching up to me quickly with his long, effortless strides. I ignore him. He sprints the rest of the way to me before placing his hands on my shoulders and gently spinning me around to face him, “Caleb told me,” he breathes out in desperation, willing me to listen. My eyes meet his piercing blue ones and all my words of blame manage to get stuck in my throat. It’s not his fault. “I’m sorry,” he says softly as if truly meaning it, “I’m so sorry,” he repeats, drawing me into him for a tight, supportive embrace.

“I have to go,” I mumble against his shoulder as I draw back from him, not up for talking.

He doesn’t hesitate to grab my wrist and pull me to a halt in front of him, “I lied.”

I raise an eyebrow at him, puzzled, “What?” I huff. I don’t have time to play his mind games.

“I don’t believe in myself, so I put all my faith in you,” he confesses. I search his eyes for any trace of lies, but he’s being completely honest. “My faith in you alone has got me where I am today. I owe you everything.”

I shake my head at him, “Don’t play that card, you’re already forgiven.” I narrow my eyes at him, seeking courage, before coming out with it, “That night, the night when I lost Matt, what were you going to say to me before Tyler interrupted?”

The memory replays in my mind:

“Gabriela-“

I put my hand up, stopping myself from hearing his sad excuses, “Save it, Chase. If you want to make it up to me, get Matt out the water before the storm hits.” I suggest to him, turning to leave.

He suddenly reaches out and takes hold of my wrist, gently turning me to face him.

“Gabby, what you saw back there with that girl was nothing.” He whispers ever so softly.

That was out of the blue.

I cross my arms over my chest and raise an eyebrow, “And so?”

Why would I care?

A pink blush lightly coats his neck at my question. His blue irises turn to a darker hue as his hair flattens messily against his forehead under the rain, droplets slowly edging their way down his face as if in a soft caress. “Gabby, there’s something I need to tell you.”

I furrow my eyebrows in bewilderment, truly puzzled, “So say it, Fuller.” I demand, wanting to hear it so we can go get Matt already.

“I think I…” He trails off, faltering slightly as if losing the courage to get it out. Another rumble of thunder cuts him off from finishing as the heavens above us open up with more rain to shower us.

“What is it, Chase?” I coax gently, encouraging him to go on, letting him know that he has my full attention. Whatever he has to say, it’s obviously important.

He sucks in a deep breath as he struggles to keep eye contact with me, “I’ll just say it and finally get it off my chest.” He mutters aloud more to himself than to me.

Finally, he summons the determination and faces me, his blue eyes alight and sparkling beneath the stars. A rain drop falls off the tips of his long lashes when he blinks. Subconsciously, I follow the movement of the drop with my eyes. It runs down his cheek and stops at his lips, leaving my eyes to linger.

I’m quick to fixate my eyes back to his before he gets the wrong impression.

“Gabby…” He breathes cautiously, taking me off guard when he interlocks our fingers, willing me closer against him, “I lo -“

Chase never got to say what he wanted to say, but I’d be stupid to not have realized what he was about to say that night. I just need to hear him say it, even if it is just once.

*~*

Hey guys :)

Sorry for the long wait. When I started writing the HBK sequel, I lost all passion for this story. However, I am going to finish this stroy one way or another. I am determined person. I’ll try to update soon again :) The end of this book is close.

Let me know your thoughts on this chapter. Did you see any of it coming?

Take care Xx

~CJ

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