“The sunrise is the best, don’t you agree Gabs?” Matt had asked me.
Watching the sunrise was our thing. We’d always done it since little kids, our way of sibling bonding, not that we needed any sibling bonding. We’d always been very close. Other kids found it peculiar as one is suppose to fight on a daily basis with their siblings, but not Matt and I. No, we were best friends.
“The very best.” I had smiled at him, feeling warm inside that at least if I had no one, I’d still always have my family - my brother.
But how foolish was I to be so naive. Now Matt’s gone and I’m left with nothing, feeling empty inside as a result.
I was his big sister. I was supposed to protect him, yet I couldn’t save him.
“Hey Gabs?” Matt asked as he sat beside me in the golden soft sand, watching the sun rise over the gorgeous blue ocean.
“Mhmm?” I replied with my eyes closed as I faced the glittering sun fleeting it’s form over the sea.
“I love you.”
I opened my eyes at his words and turned to face him.
I grinned before offering him my hand. He saw my gesture and took my hand into his as we performed our famous sibling handshake that we created as tiny tots. “I love you too lil bro.” I replied genuinely before having giving him a playful nookie which resulted with me landing up into the cold murky morning sea.
People speaking from a distance tears me from my callous memories. I glance down at my wristwatch to see that it was a little over five in the morning, which meant one thing, they’re coming and I’m too late.
I was suppose to leave at four, but I got carried away and lost track of time.
How can I escape now?
No doubt they’ve all seen my car standing in the parking lot by now. They must know I’m here. It’s too late. This is my nightmare, everything I’ve been dreading - bumping into them.
I stand up frantically, quickly surveying the area to see if there was somewhere I could hide, only to find nowhere to hide except for in the ocean itself. Typical, only sand and sea. Not the best place to avoid people.
I sigh, mentally aware of what’s around the corner.
I’m not ready to speak to them or see any of them, not after all that’s happened. We drifted. This would be easier if Brent were here, but I know for a fact that he’s gotta be at home passed out from the party. I can bet he’s got a hangover. He won’t be here until late midday.
I close my eyes and try to control my breathing as their voices grow louder. They’re nearing. My heart begins to race at the thought of facing them all on my own.
And then out of nowhere - just like that - everything grows dead quite. The voices disappear as if they were never there to begin with.
Maybe I had been imaging it all along. My mind enjoys playing tricks on me. This wouldn’t be the first time. One day I had been so hellbent that Matt had been standing right next to me. I had even been talking to him. It wasn’t a memory. It was real, it felt so real. Then Brent came and asked who I was talking to and just like that Matt vanished, the spell broken, reminding me that he was never there. He wasn’t coming back.
He is dead.
I let out a breath of relief and slowly turn around, this time glad that the voices weren’t really there.
But turning around was a mistake.
My heart shatters when I turn to see a group of people I once held dear staring at me in utter disbelief. Mostly likely because I’m standing here on the shore where it all happened. From what they know, I don’t step foot near the ocean after the accident. Only Brent knew that I still came every once in a while to hold onto precious memories, to feel Matt’s presence right beside me where it belonged.
Tyler’s the first to break the silence, “Gabriela?” He frowns, puzzled, his dark eyes flashing in confusion. “I-I…” He falters off in a stutter - at a loss for words. I watch him intently, waiting for him to say something because I sure as hell wasn’t going to. He clears his throat with an awkward cough before continuing, “I didn’t know that you still come here.”
My heart constricts at Tyler’s words, my breathing picking up in pace. I was nervous. Yet his words awakened something inside me, the fact that he wouldn’t expect to find me on this beach because this is the damned beach where it all happened - where I lost Matt. This should be the last place where I’m to be found…yet here I am.
I suppose it’s the fact that this beach was the last time I saw Matt alive. After that, he was just gone - out of my reach forever. Now I come here to feel his presence and spirit that remains after his body had diminished. His legacy has become one with the ocean. He now watches me from the horizon, the sunset and the sunrise.
“Tyler.” Stella remarks with indignance as she elbows Tyler in the ribcage indiscreetly. She’s reprimanding him because she pities me.
At least Tyler has the decency not to sugar coat. I admire his bluntness. I don’t want them to look at me the way they’re looking at me now. I’m not a charity case. They don’t realize it, but their sympathetic gazes is what drove me away from them in the first place.
Brent had never been that way. He had quite the opposite approach. He could relate as he lost his sister to a freak accident a couple years back before Matt died. He told me the worst thing to do was pity myself. He made me strong, stronger than I have ever been. He gave me the courage to let Matt go and move on. If it weren’t for Brent, I swear I wouldn’t have survived the personal loss of blood.
Feeling intimidated beneath all of their penetrating gazes, I squirm uncomfortably and make a move to get past them so that I could go home and forget this ever happened.
“Hey Gabs.” Caleb being Caleb says nonchalantly as he takes a step toward me.
I shy away from his greeting, feeling smothered and slowly suffocating by all of their overbearing presences. Of course Caleb would be the bold one and try to rekindle the friendship I once shared with all of them.
“I have to go,” is all I manage to say aloud in a ragged breath of anxiety. “If you’ll all excuse me.” I whisper, refusing to meet their piercing stares.
But before I get the chance to maneuver my way past, a random hand shoots up and latches itself around my waist, drawing me against a defined yet familiar warm body. My breath hitches at the close proximity as I come to realize who it is, Caleb.
He never was one to give up easily.
I stiffen from beneath him as he continues on embracing me like it’s no one’s business. Talk about awkward. I hadn’t spoken to him in two years and the first thing he can think of doing upon seeing me again is hug me. Yet suddenly a calming - soothing - feeling takes over me. I feel safe, protected. I haven’t felt that way in such a long time. I’d forgotten what it felt like to be in the arms of someone I once trusted.
And so just for a split second I get caught up in the moment. I allow myself to relax in his arms and drown in his comfort because God knows I needed it.
“Dude.” Duke clears his throat as he pulls Caleb off of me, sensing my first reaction only - discomfort.
Strangely I feel a loss as Caleb is yanked away from me. Caleb shrugs and sends Duke a questionable gaze, not understanding what he’d done wrong. Caleb had the mind of a toddler. He was innocent. He was tainted pure. He didn’t understand what I’d went through or how I’d feel if he intruded in my personal space like he just had done. To him, nothing had to change. To him, we’d never stopped being friends. I missed that about him. I missed him.
“I should go.” I mumble almost inaudibly whilst fumbling with my fingers nervously.
“But why?” Caleb pouts, jutting out his bottom lip like a toddler being denied candy.
Seeing that expression on his face - the one he became famous for - pulls at my heart strings. I feel nostalgic in that moment, wishing to rewind time and then pause it the days where I was still happy - when I still had Matt.
“I-I…” I stumble in my explanation that I tried to give to Caleb. It doesn’t matter. He wouldn’t understand. I fall silent, giving up.
I quickly move past them as I head for the ancient wooden stairs hidden in the golden sand leading past the Pierre and back to the parking lot.
I grumble a curse beneath my breath. I had been so close to getting away without an interruption. I turn back to Tyler who had stopped me. I raise my eyebrows, “Mhmm?” I mutter shyly, cynical of their intentions and my own motives to leave this meet up.
“See you around.” Tyler concludes as he sends me his charming and dazzling yet timid grin.
For an instant, my heart stops at the gesture and at what he’d implied. His smile is addictive, contagious. It’s heartwarming, heart-stopping really.
And then impulsively, all on my own accord, my lips lift up into a soft smile as I nod at him appreciatively.
Then I leave him and the others to their surfing - something I would never do again.
“I’m telling you Brent, it was a awful - downright terrible. I wasn’t ready for that.”
Brent reaches for another cheesepuff before stuffing it into his mouth like a caveman. He resembled a hamster with his pouched up cheeks. I was almost tempted to laugh. He had a obsession with puffs and a nasty obsession with stuffing his face, very ungentlemanly like if you ask me. To top if off, he tends to speak with his mouth full. Perhaps I should take the blame on that one. I don’t give him the chance to first swallow before answering my many questions.
“Gabba, you were more than ready. It’s been three years. How long were you expecting or planning to avoid them? Sooner or later you were bound to bump into them.” Brent comments through a mouthful of cheesepuff.
He sees my narrowed stare as I weigh down what he’d said. He didn’t realize the impact of his words until he saw my expression. He’s quick to swallow before turning to face me properly, “I’m sorry Gabriela. I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Yeah?” I ask defensively, offended by his comment, “Then how did you mean it like?”
Brent’s face falls at the harshness behind my tone. I can’t help be besides myself. What he’d said cut and it cut because he was so right, right in more ways than I wanted to admit.
“I just meant - look Gabriela, I think you made progress. Baby steps. The way I see it, you did good today. From my perspective, this was a good thing. You had to face them sometime or another.” Brent explains himself and instantly I feel guilty for snapping at him. He was merely trying to hep me. That’s all he does lately, help me. I’m the one in his debt. I have no right to be mad at him.
A small smile graces faintly onto my lips, but I’m quick to hide it when I see Brent perplexed by it. It was not often that I smiled. “You think?” I ask softly and rather insecurely.
Brent flashes me a heartthrob grin, “Of course Gabba.” He says reassuringly as he places his right hand over mine. I relish in the warmth his gesture brings. It’s touching and it makes me feel loved every once in a while. I’m grateful I still have Brent. “Caleb hugged you and Tyler suggested that he missed you. That last comment he made to you hinted that he wants you around again. Even Stella and Duke, in their own way, showed their longing to have their friend back. They were never mad at you Gabriela, just confused as to why you ditched on them. But the great thing about true friends like your’s is that they always come back to you.”
I fall quiet, thinking over all Brent had said.
After my rush back home from the sea, I decided to drop by at Brent’s place despite how early it was. Just like expected, he was hungover from the massive blast he had had at the college party. I was happy for him, but also disappointed because he wasn’t there with me this morning. Not like he could always be there with me. I had to realize that.
I woke him up before offering him Advil. Fortunately he sobered up by the time afternoon came.
He always took care of me. I only got the chance to return the favour when he was drunk.
“Brent, I’m sorry.” I say earnestly before elaborating, seeing his puzzled expression, “I’m sorry that when I lost Caleb, Tyler, Stella, Duke and Jacob and all the others, that I made you lose them too and I never acknowledged it. I never acknowledged to how I ruined your life along with mine in the process.”
Brent chuckles vaguely, “You make it sound like you’re having my baby or something.” I blink up at him, moving my hand away from his as I wait for him to give me an actual response other than that, “I never lost them Gabriela. I mean…I guess I did in a sense. But I was never that close with all of you to begin with. I always chilled with a different friend zone at school in any case. They were all just my surfing buds. That was it.”
My face falls at this as I take offense. He never considered himself real friends with us at the time.
“Hey…” Brent notices my hurt expression as he lifts my chin gently so that I’m looking straight up at him, “You know it’s true Gabba. But I’m here now and we’re friends now. That’s what counts, right?” I nod at that. It was what counted most in the end. “Good.” He smirks before placing a soft friendly kiss against my cheek.
I glance around Brent’s lounge, envying the fact that he had his own place. He moved out his parent’s house at the age of eighteen, meaning he’d been living by himself for a year now. I wish I was as successful as Brent. He was intelligent, majoring in medicine, whilst still working a job at the local garage for income to pay rent. He had a knack for mechanics.
Then atop it all, he’s also a pro cross country runner. To put it simply, he’s the town’s golden boy - at least that’s what he likes to think. He never fails to remind me. He’s really not the arrogant type, in fact he’s modest and down to earth. He just likes pissing me off is all.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you for a favour.” I state aloud, deciding to stop beating around the bush if I were to ask him.
“Anything for you my Gabba.” He winks playfully, waiting for me to say what I needed to say.
“Are you free tonight?” I ask hesitantly, feeling a little insecure that he might reject my request. He’s my friend and all and I know it’s ridiculous to feel nervous to ask a friend a small favour, yet somehow I always felt anxious when I had to depend on Brent. I’m afraid I overstep boundaries. I don’t want to lose him, but I fear he’s growing bored of always looking after me. I’d hate for there to ever be bad blood between us.
“Is this your way of asking me out, Gabriela?” Brent asks with a stern yet confident tone, his lips slowly tugging into a smirk, giving him away.
I roll my eyes at his insinuation. “No, it’s me asking you to accompany me to a dinner tonight with Chase’s family.” I reply rather bluntly, getting down to the point.
“Oh.” Brent says dryly before adding, “Sure. You’re definitely going to need me there.”
“Indeed.” I nod defiantly, agreeing.
I tried to fight my mother on this, but apparently Chase’s father insisted on seeing me again. My mother says that it would be impolite to refuse the invitation. Now I feel inclined to go and if I’m going, I’m dragging Brent with me. There is no ways I can handle an entire evening in the presence of Chase by myself.
It is too soon.
“It’s so wonderful seeing you again Gabriela. It’s been long, despite living right next door to each other.” Mr Fuller comments as he takes a bite of the creamy pasta that he’d twirled onto his fork; the table silent - the only noise to be heard is the clanking of knifes and forks.
“Yeah,” is all I manage to get out, nodding and agreeing with the man sitting before me. I don’t miss the scolding look my mother sends to me for being rude. She didn’t like it when I answered in one word. To her, it signified a lack of manners. “I’ve just been very busy lately.” I add for my mother’s sake.
“Well I’m glad you’re here this evening.” Mrs Fuller chimes in, her husband agreeing profusely.
“Me too.” I mumble dejectedly beneath my breath as I advert eye contact, clearly lying. This is the absolute last place I want to be.
The table falls into silence again almost as if everyone at the table knows that I’m a liar.
“So Chase Hon, hows your studies been going?” My mother breaks the silence as she directs her question to Chase.
I’m really not on good terms with him at the moment, not after our squabble the other day. Chase will never let go and it’s my fault.
He seems surprised that someone is actually addressing him. He’s quick to swallow his mouthful of food before answering, “Fine.” He answers in a one word syllable like I had been doing. I guess we’re more alike than we’d hoped to be.
My mother nods and tries to work with that, “What again have you been studying?”
Can’t she catch a hint.
Chase doesn’t want to speak.
Chase’s father seems to brighten up at Chace’s response. He sends a proud smile in his son’s direction before adding his input to the conversation, “Yes and when Chase gets his honours in that, he’ll be studying chemical engineering.”
It’s really no surprise. Chase has always been super intelligent. He’s an overachiever, an all star if you will. He’s the only one that’s able to beat Brent, academic wise. Chase would have been our valedictorian had he not graduated school early. Thus, Brent took his place as valedictorian of our grade.
Chase use to tutor me in chemistry and math. He’s always been a math and chem wiz.
“Yeah. That’s always been the plan.” Chase mumbles, defeated, adverting eye contact as he stares down at his empty plate.
I raise my eyebrows at him skeptically. Just by the way he’d said that makes me think that he’s changed his mind. His plan has changed. His father just doesn’t know it yet.
I feel bad for Chase. He never gets the option of making his own decisions because both of his parents are rather controlling, especially his father. Mr Fuller is a very opinionated man.
“Very impressive,” my mother grins before adding, “I remember that Chase was always defined by his intellectual abilities. I’m glad you’re putting those brains to use young man. You’re gifted son.”
I hate it when she calls him son, which just so happens to be very often. Chase is not Matt and he never will be. Chase can’t replace Matt.
I watch for Chase’s reaction and he seems unhappy at what my mother had just said. To him, what she said wasn’t a compliment. It was an insult. Chase never wanted to be defined by his intelligence. He once told me that himself.
Chase use to be down to earth, modest and humble in the sense that he didn’t want his brains to be credited for. But now that his surfing has been taking him places, he’s become well known here in Half Moon Bay. People idolize him and amateur surfers look up to him seeing as he’s now gone pro. Point being, the fame has gone to his head. He’s grown to be rather obnoxious and arrogant.
This time it’s Mrs Fuller who breaks the uncomfortable silence, “So are you two going to Chase’s reunion party too?”
I glance at Brent since she’d referred the question to the both of us. Brent raises his eyebrows in query. So he too didn’t know about it then. I open my mouth to answer, but before I can even get one word out, Chase drops his fork in anger as he narrows his eyes at his mother, “Mom.” He scolds through clenched teeth at the sound of the fork shattering against the glass plate before him.
Mrs Fuller catches on and very quickly she falls quiet. But she isn’t the only one to catch on, we all did. Chase obviously doesn’t want us at his stupid reunion party. Like I care. I’m not fazed by it. It’s not as if I’m dying to be there surrounded by all my old friends in any case.
Mr Fuller places a hand over his wife’s to reassure her that all is fine at the table. Then he turns a lethal glare onto his son and his lack of manners, “Chase, don’t be rude.”
This time it’s Chase who shuts his mouth.
Chase has always respected his parents, but he’s also always been terrified of his father’s wrath and with good reason too. His father is damn frightening when you piss him off. Thankfully, I’d never been on the side of his wrath - nonetheless I’d seen him unleash it on Chase and it isn’t pretty.
“Yes Father. Sorry.” Chase mutters beneath his breath, watching his father cautiously, almost as if waiting for his father to lose his temper and slap him senseless like the last time Chase had the audacity to backchat him.
His father ignores his apology and brushes it aside as if nothing happened.
Mr Fuller then directs his gaze to Brent specifically as most of the time Brent had been left out of the conversation. Mr Fuller enjoys including everyone in conversation at the table, “Would you two like to accompany Chase to his reunion party?”
Brent glances my way with a weary expression. He wants me to step in because he doesn’t know how to handle this one.
Mr Fuller must see our uneasiness about the topic as he concludes, “You two are more than welcome to join. Don’t mind my son.” He and his wife are still under the impression that Chace and I are friends.
In that moment I happen to look Chase’s way to see his obvious distaste at the idea of Brent and I tagging along. His expression is no different from mine. I’d rather stay behind and gouge my eyes out with a spoon that spend another second in Chase’s company. He’s unpleasant to be around.
It’s not Chase, it’s me. Every time I see him - see what a mess he is - I feel guilty because I know I’m responsible and the guilt eats me from the inside out. It’s dreadful.
Brent nudges me in the ribs with his elbows from underneath the table, reminding me that we were being spoken too.
I glance back up to see Mr Fuller waiting for our decision. I’m quick to reply, “Rain check Sir. I’m not really feeling quite up to a party tonight.” I reply courteously before adding, “But thank you for extending the invitation our way.”
“Are you certain?” Mr Fuller repeats, wanting to mend the obvious drift between Chase and I. But it’s too late. The drift only extends each day. Our relationship can never be mended - at least not in a single night.
There are days where I’m one hundred percent certain that we could never be friends again. Chase and I aren’t the same people we use to be. We’ve changed and so have our interests and perspectives on life. We hold different values nowadays.
“It’s not my scene.” I say, nodding, making my decision clear.
I wasn’t going anywhere with Chase. It hurt too much.
“No doubt.” I hear a dark menacing voice whisper from beside me so that I’m the only one that hears his discreet insult.
Very subtle Chase, very subtle.
I turn to see Chase glaring at me from the corner of his eye. I brush it aside as his chair scratches against the floor, an indication that he was standing up. “If you’ll excuse me,” He says to all of us seated at the table, “It’s been an…interesting evening, but I have a party to get to.”
“You’re excused.” Mr Fuller retorts as Chase picks up his plate and walks out back to the kitchen to wash his dishes.
I can still remember the day Chase forgot to wash his dishes. His father punished him severely for it. To this day, Chase never forgets to take his plate to the back room and wash it. According to his father, it’s manners.
Chase’s family have always been big on courtesy. It’s why Chase is so grounded, or was grounded. I can’t vouch for him now because I don’t know who he is anymore.
“You two can also be excused.” Mr Fuller comments just as Chase returns from the kitchen after washing his own plate. “Chase take their plates to the kitchen and show them something by which they can entertain themselves whilst you’re gone.”
A frown finds it’s way onto Chase’s lips at the thought of washing Brent’s plate too, including mine. It almost seems like he wants to protest, but then his father narrows his eyes at his son and Chase is quick to fall back in line.
The Fuller’s house is a dictatorship for sure.
Fortunately, I react swiftly. I stand up and take my plate and Brent’s in my hands so that Chase would not have to. “Don’t worry Mr Fuller, I got it.” I reassure him, clearing my throat, uncomfortable with the entire situation I’d just been put in.
“Let Chase wash them. You’re a guest when you’re in our home.” Mrs Fuller insists, backing her husband up.
I motion to my mother with my eyes for her to interfere and say something. She catches the message and waves her hand at Mr Fuller, “No worries. Gabriela can wash her own dishes,” my mother chuckles playfully, trying to lighten up the mood. I send her a grateful expression filled with appreciation that she had stepped in.
“Very well then.” Mr Fuller agrees, “Chase show Gabriela where the backroom to the kitchen is.” He then turns to my mother to elaborate, “We’ve been revamping our house a little. The kitchen has changed immensely since Gabriela has last been here.”
I glance at Chase’s disapproving stare at the fact that he was forced to baby me in front of his parents. I have to fix this. I have to make Chase see that I’m not enjoying this. I don’t want him as a pack mule.
I speak up, “Really that’s not necessary Sir. I’m sure I’ll be able to find the back room on my own-“
“Chase.” Mrs Fuller interrupts, “Now,” She says kindly, but her eyes are demanding of him. Chase will not dare defy her orders. He’s never been the cheeky type, unless I happen to be visiting, then in which case he is extremely cheeky. Had it been anyone else’s plate that Chase was ordered to wash, he’d have no problem with it.
Chace gives and motions for me to follow after him and so I do, wishing that Brent would’ve stood up and went with the flow. Then at least I wouldn’t have to be alone with Chase, even if it is only for a few minutes.
I follow Chase, absentmindedly, down a new corridor into the kitchen and then take a right into a small room - the room known as the back room to the kitchen.
I snap out of my thoughts at Chace’s soft spoken voice. He gestures to the sink. I’m about to step forward and place the two dishes in the sink so that I can wash them, but much to my astonishment it is Chase who takes the plates from my hands ever so carefully. His fingers brush against mine as he places the dishes in the sink and begins washing them.
“You don’t have to do that.” I mumble, caught completely off guard by his considerate actions.
This is something the old Chase would do.
He doesn’t reply as he packs the dishes away, leaving me to stare after him in bewilderment. “Come,” he commands to me as he waits patiently for me in the corridor that would lead back to the lounge. I nod obediently and follow. I would hate to defy Chase. I’m already on the receiving end of his wrath as it is.
“Brent is in the TV room. He insisted on playing Xbox when he heard we have one.” Mrs Fuller laughs as we enter back into the dinning room.
There’s no surprise. Brent is a nerd at heart. He’s obsessed with gaming, all kinds and on all formats. I like to join him occasionally if I get to blow people’s heads off. Shooting games are the most fun.
“Well I’m out.” Chase grumbles to his parents before turning to Brent and I, barely acknowledging our existence before he leaves out the front door to attend his ‘welcome back’ party.
And as for me, I’m still dazed that Chase washed my plate. It was shockingly thoughtful of him. He even washed Brent’s despite hating Brent’s guts.
It may not seem like much, but I think this counts as progress. Baby steps, after all, are a necessity before you take the leap, fly and then soar. At least I hope we fly. I’d rather not fall. But with Chase, it seems inevitable not to fall.
I miss Chase.
I miss my friend.
“Gabba?” Brent says my name affectionately, sensing that I was pondering deeply on something, “You okay?”
I shake my head, being truthful as always. Brent has a knack for seeing through my lies. Besides, I hate lying to the people I love. “No. No I’m not.” I reply quietly, not bothering with the ’but I will be’ because then I’d be lying to Brent and myself.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay again.
Brent offers me a regretful yet sincere smile before he makes space for me on the couch. He gives me a puppy eyed stare as he pats the open seat next to him.
My lips quirk up at the kind gesture and I almost smile.
Brent is adorable. He’s really the sweetest - always sensitive toward how I’m feeling and considerate of others. No one but Brent knows how to deal with me. He always says and does the right thing. Always.
“Take it out on these suckers.” Brent says as I sit down beside him. He hands me the other Xbox remote controller. He motions to the bad guys on the game, “You seem to have a gift for it.”
I gladly take the remote from his hands, unleashing my anger and sadness on the game as I start demolishing the opposing team - resulting in a very impressed Brent and an emotionless, desensitized me.
I feel empty all the time. I never use to feel this way when Chase and Matt were still around.
I need the old Chase back in my life.
I see that now.
But how do I go about it?
He absolutely despises me.
He hates me.
It’s a hopeless situation.
Hey all =)
I know that Gabriela is pretty miserable most of the time, but within good reason. However, she will change and adapt to her circumstances in a more positive light. Same with Chase.
In the meantime:
1. Who is your favourite character thus far?
2. Who do you hate?
3. Do you want to see more of Gabriela’s old friends?
Thanx for the support from the few of you reading haha ;)