Read Second Star Online

Authors: Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Classics, #Fairy Tales & Folklore, #Adaptations, #Family, #Siblings, #Love & Romance

Second Star (9 page)

BOOK: Second Star
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“The girl was out here alone this morning,” Jas says slowly, carefully. Hughie’s hands are balled into fists. He’s at least four inches shorter than Jas, but the muscles of his arms are tightened like springs, ready to release at an instant’s notice. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone look as angry as Hughie looks right now. It’s hard to reconcile this Hughie with the boy who clapped me on the back last night.

“Her name is Wendy,” Belle says suddenly. She’s standing behind me so I can only imagine that her face matches the vitriol in her voice. She says my name like it’s a bad word.

Pete tightens his grip on my shoulder.

“Get out of here,” Hughie growls. “No one wants you here.”

Jas finally takes a few steps backward, out of Hughie’s reach. “I was just leaving,” he says, glancing at me. He lifts his board over his head and jogs down the beach. We all watch him until he turns around the curve of the cliffs and out of sight.

It’s Belle who breaks the silence. “Great, so now she’s bringing Jas to our side of the beach?”

“It’s not her fault,” Pete says, his hand still planted firmly on my shoulder. “And why’d you tell him her name?”

She shrugs. “What difference does it make? He knows the rest of our names.”

“Why is that?” I ask suddenly. “How come you guys all seem to know one another so well?”

Belle shakes her head. “Screw this,” she says, lifting up her board from the sand and running with it into the water. Hughie soon follows.

“Pete?” I prompt.

He finally lifts his hand from my shoulder and pulls me to sit down beside him on the sand.

“It’s complicated,” he says. The roar of the ocean grows louder as the waves pick up again. Belle drops into a wave expertly, her hair flying behind her in the sunlight like some kind of mystic halo.

“Try me.”

Pete nods. “Jas and I were friends once. I brought him to Kensington Beach, a long time ago. We used to surf together, right here.”

“What happened?”

Pete shrugs. “What do you think? He started selling dust, and I wanted no part of it. So I kicked him out.

“It’s a rough drug, Wendy,” he continues. “Once it gets its hooks into you, it’s really hard to stop. It’s an ugly kind of addiction. I’ve seen it up close.”

“Jas, you mean?”

Pete shakes his head. “Nah, he never really took the stuff himself. The best dealers never use the shit they sell.” He looks out at Hughie. “But a few of the boys got mixed up in it. I had to help pull them through when they finally decided to stop.”

“Hughie?” I say softly, watching the kid take a wave. It’s hard to imagine him addicted to anything but surfing. Right now, he looks like the picture of health. But it would explain the way he lunged at Jas this morning, how desperate he was to get him off the beach and out of his sight.

“And Belle,” Pete adds quietly, a heavy sadness in his voice. “And Belle.”

He stands up suddenly, and I do, too. I know that I’ve just learned something important about this boy, about why he lives and surfs here, why he holds his crew so close, why he feels responsible for them.

“Hey,” I say, grabbing his hand before he can take his board and head into the water. It’s the first time I’ve been the one to take his hand, not the other way around. I pull him close to me and wrap my arms around him in a tight hug. His bare chest is warm against my cheek, and I close my eyes and listen to his heartbeat; this close, it sounds even louder than the waves.

“You’re a good friend,” I say.

“I am?” he asks, his voice so earnest it makes my heart ache.

“You are,” I answer, and I mean it, despite the lies he’s told me. Because I know now that he
tries
to do the right thing, and that counts for something. It counts for a lot.

“Thank you,” he says, pressing his lips onto the top of my head. I can feel his breath through my hair, warm and steady.

Smiling, I loosen my hold on him. “Can I ask you something?”

“Anything.”

“What were you doing in Newport the night I graduated? Why were you surfing so far from Kensie?”

Pete shrugs. “One thing Jas said this morning was true: you gotta follow the waves. Kensie was a little flat that week. So I had to leave.”

“You
had
to?” I say, glancing at the ocean, the perfect waves coming one right after the other. “Why, when you knew the waves would come back here eventually?”

“You can’t wait for them to come to you,” he says. “You gotta chase them. Otherwise…”

“Otherwise what?” I ask. I think about my brothers, of the mornings when they were out chasing waves while the rest of the world was still sleeping.

“Otherwise, who knows what chances you might be missing?”

15

The waves that morning grow ever higher, until they’re obviously way too big for me, so I head back up to the house. Alone in my room—strange that I already think of it as mine—I pull out my notebook, ready to write down more about what I’ve learned about Kensington, but instead I find myself writing in it as though it’s a diary, about my frustration at not having found anything, that I can’t say the words “John and Michael Darling” out loud, about the way Jas took on the waves this morning, the way Hughie took on Jas. And finally, I write that I can’t stop thinking about Pete, about my stomach somersaulting every time he comes near.

I must have dozed off because I almost leap out of my skin when there’s a knock on my door. It’s Hughie.

“Sorry I scared ya awake,” he says.

I shake my head, blushing. “No worries,” I say. “What’s up?”

“You left this morning without taking a single wave,” he says.

I nod. “I know. Those waves seemed a little too advanced for me.”

“The waves have calmed down,” he says.

“Come back down to the beach. Everyone’s there.”

I hesitate. I desperately want to get back out on the water, long to recapture that feeling of possibility, of hope, of invincibility, that came when I took a wave with Pete. But doing it on my own, in front of everyone, is something else entirely.

Reading my mind, Hughie says, “I’ll go out there with you. Everyone else is more or less done. They’re just hanging out on the sand.”

I smile and nod. “Okay.”

 

 

Hughie paddles out beside me, and once we’re beyond the break of the waves he sits up on his board, so I do the same. “Let’s just watch these babies for a minute,” he says. “You gotta get a feel for ’em before you paddle into one.”

I nod, remembering what Jas said this morning, that the best surfers in the world watch before they take to the water. I look back at the beach; Matt and a few other boys are lying in the sun. Belle is sitting up, watching us. At least Pete isn’t around to see what is sure to be my humiliation. Hughie told me that he took off sometime this morning, headed into town for more supplies.

The roar of the surf is loud but not overwhelming, and I’m suddenly tempted to shout my brothers’ names, like they’re out there on the water right now and even from miles away up the coast they’ll hear me and start paddling back to Kensington, back to me.

“I’m sorry about this morning,” Hughie says.

“What?”

“The way I ran at Jas. I’m a little … I shouldn’t have done that. Not like the guy couldn’t take me if he tried.”

I smile, remembering the way Jas towered over Hughie this morning. “I don’t know,” I say. “You seemed pretty pissed. That always adds at least twenty pounds and six inches worth of strength, right?”

Hughie laughs. “Right,” he agrees.

“What was that all about?” I ask gently. The rhythm of the waves rocks us back and forth, like a mother rocking her baby to sleep.

Hughie doesn’t look at me when he answers. “I used to be a duster,” he says softly.

I have to concentrate to hear him over the surf.

“I crashed at Jas’s place for months, and when I ran out of cash, he put me to work.”

“To work?”

Hughie nods, his fingers tapping the surface of the water. “Yeah. I started selling for him, getting other kids hooked on the shit. And for every new client I brought over, I got my own fresh hit.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone sound so ashamed. “How did you get away from him?”

“Pete helped me,” he says, gesturing to the beach, to the house on the cliffs. “He saw me surfing one day—not really surfing, just trying to take the smallest baby waves and falling flat on my face. Waves that I used to be able to take in my sleep. The drug zapped all of that out of me. I could barely even paddle anymore.”

“And Pete offered to help?”

Hughie nods. “He said I could stay with him and he’d reteach me to surf. On one condition.”

“What was that?”

“That I never touch the stuff again.”

“And did you?”

Hughie hesitates, his eyes getting cloudy. “I did once. I thought I could wean myself off of it—avoid the withdrawal that way, you know? I thought, ‘I’ll take a half a pill one day, a quarter the next. It’ll be so easy.’ That’s what I thought.”

“But it wasn’t easy?”

Hughie nods. “Course not. Because I had to bring Jas a new client before he’d give me another pill. And it was so much harder to make myself do it, now that I was trying to get off the shit myself, now that I knew just how messed up it had made me. But I did it, and I got my pill. And of course I didn’t take only half. I took the whole thing, wanting to drown everything else out—the guilt, the ache, everything. Pete found me down at the beach, dancing like an asshole. He dragged me upstairs and locked me in one of the bedrooms.”

Hughie flips over on his board so that he’s lying on his back, looking up at the sky. “I don’t know how long it took—a few days, a few weeks—but finally that junk was out of my system. For good. I swore I’d never go back.”

I smile. “Well, that explains why it shook you up to see Jas on this side of the beach.”

Hughie nods, looking out at the water. “Now we just gotta figure out which of these sets has your next wave in it.”

“‘Next’ implies that I’ve already taken one.”

Hughie grins. “Each set has its own personality. Its own rhythm. Waves are funny. The whole world is made up of waves, you know. Not just the ocean.”

I nod, remembering something I learned in eleventh grade physics called wave theory. “I should’ve paid more attention in physics, but I always hated it.”

Hughie shakes his head. “I loved it.”

“You took physics?”

“I wasn’t always some degenerate living on the beach, you know.”

I blush. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—”

Hughie laughs. “I’m kidding, Wendy. Takes a lot more than that to offend me.”

I nod. “So what happened?”

“I had been living with the same foster family for about six months when one of my foster brothers brought me to Kensie, introduced me to Jas.” He pauses, looking out at the water. “And the rest, as they say, is history.”

“But why didn’t you go back? You know, now that you’re off of dust?”

Hughie shrugs. “This is my home now,” he says, gesturing to the beach, the cliffs. “Pete and Belle and the boys are my family, more than any of my old foster families ever were. Still,” he adds after a pause, “I kinda wish I’d had a chance to finish high school. I didn’t get bad grades, you know? I mean, not straight As like you did, but—”

“I didn’t get an A in physics,” I interrupt. “Damn near failed. Had to get a tutor just to keep my average up.”

“I could’ve helped you with that.”

“If only I’d known you then,” I say, laughing. “But if you really want to finish high school, maybe I can help you. Get your GED or something.”

“Really?” Hughie says. When he smiles, he looks like a little kid. Not like someone who’s been through all the things he’s been through.

I nod, smiling.

“There,” Hughie says suddenly, pointing. “Right there.”

“What?”

“That’s your set, Wendy.”

I look out at the waves; a set is building just in front of us, the waves growing from little lumps in the water. I shake my head. “I’m not sure—”

“I am,” Hughie says, giving my board a shove. “Now paddle.”

I lie flat on my board, stretching my arms into the water below. Behind me, I hear Hughie shouting: “Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!”

And so I do. I paddle with all my strength, until my arms feel like they weigh a thousand pounds, until I feel a wave building beneath me, until I feel my board settle in beneath the crest, as though there is some crevice built there just for surfboards to lock into. And I push myself up to stand, feeling my abdominal muscles scream in defiance, willing me to lie back down. I stand up, shaking, salt water dripping down my hair and into my eyes, and throw my arms out wide, trying to balance myself, just the way Pete holds his arms out when he surfs, so that it looks like he’s flying.

And then I am. Flying. Except not flying so much as falling. Into the water. Over a tiny little three-foot wave.

And then another tiny little three-foot wave is crashing down on top of me. And then another. Every time I try to swim, to reach for my board, tethered to my ankle by a nylon strap, a wave crashes on top of my head. I try to pull myself to the surface, but the waves keep crashing down over my head until my eyes sting with salt water, blinding me.

Then Hughie is grabbing my arm, pulling me up. I cough, wondering just how much water I swallowed. He drags me to shore, where I have to resist the urge to bend down and kiss the sand, solid and dry beneath my feet.

He slaps me on the back until I stop coughing. “Way to go, Wendy,” he says.

I blink the salt water out of my eyes and look up at him, expecting to see a sarcastic expression on his face.

But instead, he’s beaming.

“Hell of a job.”

“Seriously?” I say, my voice coming out as a croak, my throat feeling viciously raw.

Matt comes up from behind us. “Nice wave, Wendy,” he says.

Belle is lying down a few feet away from us, her head tilted up to the sun, her eyes deliberately closed. I’m sure she saw me fall, but now she’s acting as though she can’t hear a word we’re saying.

Matt laughs. “Don’t worry, your voice will be back to normal in a couple hours,” he says, grinning.

BOOK: Second Star
9.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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