BackWash

By CJ Adler All Rights Reserved ©

Romance

Riding The Wave

“No way. I don’t believe you,” Caleb insists the next day at the surf shack, refusing to accept it.

“Well believe it, because I crushed it out there,” I grin, opening up to Leb and Zeke in excitement. I’ve been waiting all day to tell them. My mother wasn’t all that stoked for me (especially with what happened to Matt), hence why I just had to tell the two people who would appreciate the update most.

“You’ll have to prove it,” Caleb winks teasingly. “I won’t believe it until I see it,” he remarks stubbornly, being difficult for the hell of it. If he wasn’t difficult, he wouldn’t be Caleb.

“Is Shaw challenging me?” I ask with a conniving grin as I stare up at him patiently. I then shrug, “Sounds good to me. We can catch up on a surf sesh after work.”

“Then I’ll see if you’re still fit in action. You’d better not steal my waves,” Caleb jokes, expressing his astoundment with my latest achievement.

I laugh, “Can’t make any promises, Leb.”

“You never seize to amaze me,” Zeke grins down at me, patting the top of my head as if I’m nothing but a mere toddler, “and you conquered it all on your own too. I’m seriously impressed, Gabs,” Zeke congratulates me in pride.

“Thank you,” I smile up at him. “You were right. I’m not done with the ocean.” I remind of the talk we had a while back. “You’ve always believed in me, even when I didn’t have enough strength to believe in myself.”

“I’ll put my bets on you any day,” Zac says playfully, but meaning it.

When we reach a lull in the conversation, I glance around the surf shack to see that there are more surfboards occupying the space than usual. No wonder I feel cramped. I raise a brow, curious, as I motion to all the extra boards, “What’s up with all this?”

Zeke chuckles and glances Caleb’s way as if seeking permission to tell me. Caleb nods as if to assure him. Zeke turns back to me, “Caleb’s giving away all his valuables to us as gifts so that we each have something to remember him by.”

Of course, all his valuables will only consist of his countless collections of surfboards. Surfing is his entire world. Nothing else is valuable to him, except for his family (obviously) and his friendship with all of us.

I push through sadness and nod in understanding, taken aback that Caleb’s doing this so soon. I thought I had more time to kill. I thought he had more time to spare.

Caleb sees me looking at the longboards and explains himself, “For Stells, Duke and Jacob. They’re the only longboarders of us.” He sees through me and offers me a side hug as if to extend his comfort my way, “Please don’t worry about me. I’m just preparing, that’s all.”

I wipe away a stray tear and nod up at him, trying to stay strong for his sake. I can’t have him see me break down yet again. It’s unfair to him. If anything, he should be the one breaking down. He’s coping with his fate better than any of us ever could.

“I gave Jacob’s board already, and Ty’s,” Caleb tells me, changing the subject before I get any more upset. I’d rather not digest any of this as of now and he knows it.

“And you gave me mine,” Zeke holds up his shortboard with a proud grin. “She’s a beauty,” he breathes out in awe as he takes in his gift again. He turns to Caleb with a wistful sigh, “I remember you used this board on the day you and I went surfing in the rain on New Years, a year back.” Zeke frowns, “It was so long ago, but it feels like just the other day. It’s a memory I’ll never forget.”

Caleb grins in glee, “Exactly why I’m giving that specific board to you. It’s so that you’ll never forget that day…” he pauses, sucking in a deep breath before cracking a small smile, “or me,” he concludes, showing some fear for the first time since I’ve found out about his terminal cancer.

“Dude,” Zac swallows, his eyes glossing over ever so slightly, “I could never forget such an idiot.”

Caleb chuckles through his uncertainty and nods, “Good.”

“I have something for you,” I hand Caleb the tape I’d put together, “seeing as we’re doing gift exchanges and all.”

“Feels like Christmas,” Zeke jokes, hoping to ease all of our minds.

Caleb won’t live to see his next Christmas and the thought ruptures my heart.

“Aww, thanks Gab Gabs,” he takes it from me, “I’ll be sure to watch it with Ty later on.”

“Sure,” I smile, not enjoying the bittersweet moment. I don’t think I’ll ever be quite ready to say goodbye.

I made a tape filled with combos of all his solo surf sessions. I added snippets of what cancer is, what it does and Caleb as an example of someone suffering from it. It was done to raise awareness for his cause and for people to see just how truly great Caleb is. I did it so that he’d never be forgotten and so that he’d be able to inspire people in the way he inspired me, in spite of him no longer being with us.

The tape represents his passion for surfing, his youthfulness, his joyfulness and just him in general. It shows others what an example Caleb is. He’s still able to enjoy life and live it to the fullest in spite of having shorter days than the rest of us.

I sent the tape in and it came out with investors and sponsors all willing to help others with the same condition as Leb. They were all so moved and touched by his story that a non-profit company was started in honor of him. The company’s main goal and sole mission are to help raise funds and offer support to people riding the same wave as Caleb.

The credits are at the end of the tape. Caleb will then see what will become of him and the legacy he’ll leave behind.

“Have you guys seen Chase?” Caleb asks. “I still have to give him this board and I haven’t seen him in weeks,” he holds his white shortboard, aware that white is Chase’s signature color in surfing. Even I can remember how envious Chase had always been of that specific board of Caleb’s. He’d always say that he’d steal it from Leb.

Caleb is giving out his surfboards according to each of our past memories spent with him.

“Haven’t seen him in weeks either,” I answer, absentmindedly remembering back to my last conversation with Chase at the cherry blossom tree.

“Last I saw him, he said something about packing. I think he’s heading back up to his university to finish his degree. Spring break is technically over. It’s time he goes back. His visit is up,” Zeke explains to clueless Caleb and I. “I’m not sure when it is exactly that he’s leaving, but I know it is soon.” He directs his attention to Caleb, “I think that if you hurry, you can catch him before he goes.”

“Nah it’s chill,” Caleb waves the matter off. “Chase won’t leave without saying goodbye first.” Caleb boasts proudly, “He loves me.”

Chase does tend to favor Caleb above the rest. Hell, everyone loves Caleb. He’s just naturally a likeable person by heart.

“Well, I better be off,” Zeke pouts, “studying and all.”

I giggle tauntingly, “Enjoy.”

“Mean Gabs, mean,” he glares at me teasingly before leaving Caleb and I to do our jobs.

“Yo Gabriela,” Caleb draws my attention to him, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”

“Uh oh,” I gulp, feigning fear.

He rolls his eyes and chuckles, “I think that it’s time you chase your dreams and go for the whole marine biologist thing. You have the drive and ambition to succeed. I know your dad left and Matt died, but you are not expected to let go of your dreams in order to take care of your mother. Your mom is fine now, she’ll manage just fine on her own. As for your dad, I think you should see him.”

I lift my face to Caleb’s in suspicion, “Where is this coming from?”

“I’m not going to get the chance to chase down my own dreams and I just don’t want that for you. Plus, unresolved relationships - like with your father - always ends up as the last regret. You should just talk it out with him and make peace while you still have the chance,” Caleb, honest and blunt as ever, gives me his standpoint on the entire ordeal.

“I promise to think about it,” I answer hesitantly before grabbing his arm and dragging him after me, locking up the surf shack as I do so.

“Our hours aren’t up yet,” Caleb frowns, puzzled.

“What Zeke doesn’t know can’t hurt him,” I wink. “Now c’mon Leb, we have some waves to hit.”

Caleb laughs in amusement, “Woah, never realized how much I missed sneaky Gabs.”

*~**~

I glance over at Caleb bobbing up and down on his board beside me from the lineup, “Try not drop in on my wave,” I smirk at him, flashing him a cunning grin as we anticipate when the next good wave will roll in.

“Ooh cocky,” Caleb chuckles, “I love it.”

When we spot an incoming swell, we both start paddling for it. “It’s mine!” I call after him teasingly, hoping he’d stop and let me have it.

He manages to get in position first.

“You suck!” I shout so that he can hear me over the rushing water. It’s unfair. He’s a faster swimmer than me.

He turns back and winks at me, “Too slow Gabs,” he jokes as he strokes perfectly into the wave.

I watch him in fascination. He easily pops up to his feet and begins to speed down the line. When the section stacks up, he digs his hand into the water and draws out a skilled bottom-turn. He bends his knees and rotates his upper body as he nears the lip of the wave. He barely skims the top before making a powerful cutback through the wave.

A smile finds its way onto my lips as I float and drift slightly away. Caleb is definitely still as talented as I remember him to be. I forgot what it was like to watch him from within the water itself. He’s incredible.

As if feeling the wave’s energy surging behind him, he leans forward to gain velocity. When the lip begins to curl over and he begins to angle his body, I realize what he’s trying to accomplish and gaze in interest to see if he’s able to make the maneuver.

He turns so that he’s heading up the face of the wave with a good portion of his board going over the curled lip before he quickly twists his hips and snaps back down the wave, successfully pulling off a smooth off-the-lip act.

I can just imagine how exhilarating the rush must be. It’s refreshing and I know for a fact that he’s loving every second of that wave.

However, he’s not quite finished yet.

When he notices that the wave is about to collapse, he ducks under the lip and momentarily disappears from my sight. Having been there before, I know that he’s currently encased in a mass of roaring water and bubbles on both sides. I know what he’s currently experiencing and the feeling cannot be described.

When you’re in the barrel, everything else seems to disappear, and for that split second you feel nothing but peace and content for life. Nothing else matters, because for that single moment, you’re transported far away from any life of problems. It’s addicting, that’s all I can say.

It’s just him and the wave now.

I patiently wait for him to pierce through the side of the wave and eventually he does. He prolonged the moment because he didn’t want it to end.

“Whoo!” He shouts out in pure bliss before diving off his board and making a splash in the water.

I can’t help but laugh and clap in joy, “Impressive Shaw!”

He swims over to me, rejoining me in the empty lineup, before climbing back onto his shortboard and taking a bow, “Why thank you.”

I shake my head at him and smile up at him in fondness, “You’re something else, Leb.”

He grins before running a hand through his wet blonde hair as he motions to his current board with his sea-blue eyes, “You see this guy here?” He asks me, pointing to his board.

“Yeah?” I ask, inquisitive. “What about it?”

“It’s my last board, and now it’s yours.”

I incline my head to the side and send him a sympathetic stare, “Leb…”

“My gift to you. I want you to have it,” he insists defiantly, not taking no for an answer. “Today’s a leap for us and will one day make for a legendary memory.”

I don’t want the memory if he won’t be around to share in it.

A ghost of a smile traces my lips as I agree with a small nod. I swallow sadly, “Okay.”

It didn’t occur to me that it would be our last surfing session together.

The next day, he passed away.

Every time I look at that board, I remember the presence of a beautiful person.

*~*

Hey all :)

This is not the last chapter. There is still 4 chapters left.

Take care Xx

~CJ

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