And I’d caught quite a few. But now the others were riding while Claire and I lay on our boards, side by side, hands linked so we wouldn’t float away from each other.
“You seem quiet. You okay?”
“Are you having fun?” she asked.
“Yes, I am actually.”
“Don’t sound so surprised.”
I laughed. “Well, I’m not used to being the worst at something, so that’s my only complaint. Well, that and my completely valid original points: the cold water, salt in my hair, and—”
“Sand everywhere. I know.” She smiled over at me.
“I’m impressed, Claire. You’re really good. And you taught Jules, right?”
“You did a good job. She’s good too.”
She squeezed my hand. “Should we catch another?”
Just as she asked, Jules paddled up. “Did you see me ride that one? My longest yet.”
I sat up on my board and Claire followed. “We missed it.” My gaze found Tyler, who was riding a wave now. “Did you see that trick he just did? Way to find a surfer boy, Claire.”
“I didn’t even know he surfed until after prom.”
“And he’s Claire’s date, Gia,” Jules said.
“Um . . . I know.”
“It’s just you’ve been flirting with him all day. I thought I should remind you.”
“Jules,” Claire said. “Stop. It’s nothing.”
I turned my stare to her now because “it’s nothing” wasn’t even close to “she is not.” “I haven’t been trying to, Claire, I promise.”
“I know, Gia. You’re just friendly. Seriously, it’s nothing.”
Jules gave me a look like, It’s something, and I wondered if this was something they had talked about before. Me flirting with their guys. I had never flirted, on purpose, with their guys.
“Let’s surf,” Claire said. “This one’s mine.” And just like that, she dropped in and caught the wave, leaving Jules and me alone.
“Why’d you do that?” I asked.
“You know what. Why are you lying about me not inviting you places and now accusing me of flirting with other people’s dates?”
“It’s time to stop playing innocent and own up to the things you do. You already flirted with Logan when you knew she liked him. Leave Tyler alone.”
“I did not flirt with—”
She glanced over her shoulder and caught the next wave.
I was trying not to hate her but she was making it really hard.
As we finished up for the day, paddled into shore on our boards, and said good-bye to Matt’s uncle, I saw Bec on the beach with her friends. I cringed. It was the closest beach to where we lived so it wasn’t out of the ordinary to see people I knew. I quickly scanned the area to make sure Hayden wasn’t with her. He wasn’t. That made me relax a little, but I still feared my friends would recognize Bec from prom. I was already on their bad side today with the supposed flirting. I didn’t need to add to it.
“Freak alert,” Jules said, walking up behind me.
I tried to steer our group in a large arc around Bec and her friends, but the quickest path to our stuff was the one that led right next to them. My attempts to go to the right only resulted in them all outpacing me by staying the course. When I caught up again, I noticed that Garrett, who was carrying both his and Jules’s surfboards, had slowed to almost a stop.
“I didn’t know they let you all out in the sun,” he said. Jules laughed.
Bec met my eyes but then looked back at Garrett. “I didn’t know you knew how to speak.” I wished she wouldn’t egg him on. It only made it worse.
Jules took a step forward, like she was going to walk away, but her foot dragged in the sand and kicked a spray of dirt over the group. They all jumped to their feet, Bec brushing at her face. “Hey!”
“Oops, sorry,” Jules said, her tone proving she wasn’t.
“Come on, guys,” I said. “Leave them alone.”
“Yes, listen to your leader,” a girl behind Bec said, dripping with sarcasm.
This comment was the wrong one to make. Pointing out my supposed status only made Jules more cruel. She draped her arm around my neck. “Since it’s obvious you all have never been to the beach before, our leader would like to share a few rules with you, starting with appropriate beach attire. Right, Gia?”
“No. I wouldn’t.” I ducked out from under her arm. “You guys can do what you want.”
Bec smirked at me. “We didn’t realize you owned the beach, but thank you for giving us permission to do what we want.”
Jules stared at Bec hard, and just when I thought she was going to throw back another mean comment, she said, “You look familiar.”
My heart stopped when Bec’s piercing stare met mine again. She was going to tell. I could see it in the way her dark-colored lips lifted into a smirk. “I go to your school” was all she said.
I took a relieved breath, grabbed Jules by the arm, my rented surfboard still in my other hand, and dragged both the girl and the board away. The others followed. When we’d walked ten steps that way, Jules yanked her arm free.
“Since when do you show charity to the freaks?” Jules asked.
“They weren’t doing anything to us. You didn’t have to be so mean.”
“I wasn’t being mean until they told Garrett they thought he didn’t know how to speak.”
“Garrett started it.”
“He was just making a joke.”
Why was everyone looking at me like they agreed with Jules? “Whatever. I thought we were going to change and go out.”
Claire hooked her arm in mine. “We are. Let’s go.”
I had just broken up a fight between my group of friends and Bec’s group before it got too heated. This kind of felt like being a better person. Too bad my friends weren’t on board with my efforts.
I stared at my computer, confused. The Facebook page of a guy named Bradley was up on my screen. He didn’t look familiar and I wasn’t sure why this page was pulled up at all. Had my brother been using my computer? I went to close out of the page when my eye caught on a detail beneath his picture—UCLA. My eyes darted to his picture again. It wasn’t my Bradley.