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Diana and I headed back into our room after out first day of surf lessons and once inside, I immediately started to pull the wetsuit down my body. It felt incredibly uncomfortable, and I don’t even know why we had to wear it today since all we did was, well, nothing. I mean, I guess we really did some important things but really, why did we have to wear the wetsuit for it? I could’ve done these things in my jeans.  

“Thanks a lot for that, Ceecee,” Diana said when she threw her wetsuit onto her bed and placed her hands on her hips. She was wearing a navy blue bikini that complimented her body perfectly. 

“For what?” I asked, spinning around to face her once I had my own wetsuit off.

“For making us get up earlier tomorrow. Seriously.” She grabbed some shorts and a tank top out of her suitcase and slipped them on over her bikini. 

“Well I’m sorry, but you didn’t exactly seem to have gotten the hang of it yet either,” I replied, mimicking her position. “And besides, you’re just as happy as me to spend more time with Joe. Just admit it. I mean, didn’t you think he was hot and all?”

“Okay maybe but, it was embarrassing. I mean, everyone else seemed to get it right and I know for a fact that none of them have ever surfed before. Even that girl Gina got it right and she didn’t exactly look like the most athletic person either. So why are they able to do and we aren’t?” She sat down on her bed and looked at me as I slipped back into my own clothes. This felt so much better than that darn wetsuits. I finally felt like my skin could breathe. “And besides, we can’t both have Joe.”

“If he even wants us.” Sighing, I sat down next to Diana. “Do you think he and Marty are dating?”

“I don’t know,” she said with a shrug before falling back onto her bed and staring up at the ceiling. “Maybe. I mean, she is very pretty and all.”

“Yeah.” I fell down next to her, my eyes fixated at a crack in the ceiling. We were staying at a small camp right by the beach. The girls had their own cabins –two or three people each – and so did the boys, but there was one mass hall with large tables where we’d all have dinner and breakfast. Lunch was taken on the beach. You didn’t have to stay the nights here, but since my parents lived in Carmel, which was about a four-hour drive away from where Santa Barbara, they decided to let me stay here for the week. 

“Come on, Grumpy, let’s go have dinner before all the food’s gone.” Diana jumped up and grabbed my hand, pulling me out of the room behind her. 

We left our cabin and headed down to the mass hall where everyone was apparently already seated. We both grabbed a plate and scooped some food down on it. Unlike what I was used to from summer camp in the past, the food here actually looked edible. I took a big spoon of the mashed potatoes and put it down on top of my chicken breast. I stayed away from the mushrooms, but took another big spoon of vegetables. As soon as Diana was ready, her plate emptier than mine, we went to find a seat. 

Everyone was sitting at the big table in one group and there were exactly two empty seats left at each end of the table. On the right, we could sit next to Brad , the boy Diana had immediately tried to flirt with, and Lane, another girl from our group. On the left, it was Joe and Marty. 

If it had been up to me, the choice had been made pretty quickly, but Diana seemed to be hesitating. I could already imagine what was going through her mind – next to the hot guy or the hot surf coach? After what felt like eternity, she had finally made her choice and slipped into the empty seat beside Brad. 

I didn’t want to walk all around the table to sit down next to Joe, so I decided to just sit down across from my roommate. “Hey, so, you seem to be really good all this, surf technique… stuff,” Diana said once she had gotten Brad’s attention. “You must be very strong to control your body like that.”

“Oh well, you know, I play a lot of sports so…” he answered awkwardly, stuffing another piece of his chicken into his mouth. Rolling my eyes, I looked away from them. I hadn’t started my dinner yet, but I really hoped I’d be able to keep it in and watching Diana be all over Brad was sickeningly disgusting. 

“Alright guys,” Joe said loudly, almost making me choke on my food at the sound of his voice. I quickly took a sip from my water to avoid anything too embarrassing and snapped my head around to see Joe standing up next to Marty. 

Joe was wearing a deep blue v-neck and white jeans and Marty had on a white v-neck and blue short. Matching outfits? Really? Oh my God they were so lame. 

“So tomorrow will be our first day in the water and there are some things we want to go over first. We will expect you at breakfast at eight. Now two of my group, Ceecee and Diana, you will be expected at the beach at eight for and extra session, so you’ll be having breakfast at seven. Sharp.”

“After breakfast,” Marty went on, reading the sheet in Joe’s hands, “we expect you on the beach with your boards and in your wetsuits at nine thirty. We will go over everything that you’ve learned today and if there are any more questions feel free to ask them.”

“And after lunch, we will learn to sit up on the board.” Sit up on the board? Really? Seriously do they really think we’re stupid? I mean, why would they have to teach us how to sit up on a board? Everyone can do that. I bet even my grandma could sit on a surfboard without falling into the water. God, this is such a waste of my time. “It’s important that when we’re doing this, none of you try anything out by yourself. Surfing is still a very dangerous sport, even for professionals like Marty and I. So we don’t want you trying to show off to your group members, okay? Alright, enjoy the rest of your dinner.” And with that, they both sat down again and continued eating.

Tomorrow was going to be the second most boring day of this camp. Oh boy.

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“Why can’t they have Red Bull?” I whined, filling a glass with some orange juice for the second time. “I could really use a Red Bull.” Diana rolled her eyes and emptied her own glass. “Why aren’t you tired?”

“Because maybe I didn’t stay up all night texting.” I chuckled, remembering texting my best friend, who was currently taking summer classes in France, until four at night. Okay, maybe I brought this onto myself, but there’s a nine-hour time difference. When else do you expect me to keep in touch with her? “Come on, Ceecee, I really don’t wanna be late now.”

I quickly emptied my glass and we both stood up to head back to our room and put on our wetsuits. As soon as we were done, we grabbed our boards and headed out onto the beach. Joe and Marty were waiting for us and smiled, happy we had shown up two minutes early. Unlike us, they were dressed in normal clothes. 

“Awesome,” Joe said. “Alright girls, one of you is gonna come with me and the other is gonna go with Marty. I expect you both to be motivated to get this right because I’m afraid that if you won’t get right after this session, which is an hour and a half, there won’t be much you can do here anymore,” he said. Diana and I nodded.

“Why don’t you come with me?” Marty said, smiling at Diana. When she turned around, her blonde hair bounced on her shoulders. Diana looked at me, shrugged and then followed Marty to wherever they were going. Now it was just Joe and me. Perfect yet awkward.

“Okay Ceecee, put your board down and lay down on it,” he said, pointing down at the sand. Jeez, demanding much? I did as I was told, making sure I was laying down far enough on the board so my feet just touched the tail. “Now, let’s paddle. Show me what you learned yesterday.”

“Paddle? I thought we–”

“Yes, you need more practice on the stand-up, but if I remember correctly, your paddle wasn’t as it should be either. So let’s see that again.” 

Sighing, I pushed off the board a little and arched my back. I stretched my right arm out in front of me and my left was stretched backwards. Slowly, I started my paddle. “Hands next to the rails, CeeCee,” Joe said, grabbing my one arm and pushing it closer to the edge of my board. “Use the rails as support, remember?” 

“This is really not easy to do on the beach, you know,” I said with a groan as I kept paddling. There were so many things I had to focus on. I had to make sure I kept my back arched, my arms outstretched and next to the rail, I had to use my hips for balance. God, how do these people even do all that in the water?

“We know,” Joe replied with a sigh. “But it’s the easiest way to teach it to you. Going into the water firsthand would’ve been too big of a risk. We can’t keep an eye on all of you at the same time and that’s how accidents happen. Now focus, Ceecee. You’re really doing great.” 

“How long have you been surfing?” I asked after a while. I could feel my arms getting tired, but as long as Joe didn't say I could stop, I knew I had to keep going if I didn’t want to end up on his bad side.

“For as long as I can remember really,” he said. He sat down next to me in the sand and smiled. “You can stop paddling now,” he chuckled.

“Oh thank God,” I breathed and sat up on the board. Joe laughed and put his hands behind his body, his legs outstretched. He leaned his head back, letting the morning sun shine on his face. “What about your girlfriend?”

“My girlfriend?” he asked, looking back at me.

“Yeah, how long has she been surfing?”

Joe laughed and shook his head. “I don’t have a girlfriend. What are you talking about?” Wait, rewind. He doesn’t have a girlfriend? How was that possible? I’d have thought girls would be flocking around him like moths to a flame when he was doing his thing in the water. I knew I would.

“Oh, well, I thought… Marty, you know she–”

“Marty?” he laughed. “She’s my cousin.” Oh. “Her uncle taught me how to surf and we’ve been teaching together for almost three years, ever since we graduated high school.” So he couldn’t be anything past the age of twenty two, unless he had to double more than one grade, which I highly doubted. He looked like a really smart kid. “Anyway, we still have some work to do. Get back on your board so we can get that stand-up right, okay?” 

I was suddenly a lot more motivated to get back to practicing. Now that I had figured out Joe was single and we had had a nice conversation, even though it was considerably short, I had my mind set on him and I would do everything to get him to like me. 

As I tried the push-up, Joe held me around my waist again to make sure I wouldn’t bend back too far, but after a few tries, he let go, thinking I could do it on my own. He had me push-up a few more times and congratulated me. 

“See, now that wasn’t so hard, was it?” he said softly. “Now we’re gonna take it a step further and you’re gonna jump up, alright?” I nodded. “Are you right-handed or left-handed?”

“Right.”

“Then you’re going to pull your right leg all the way in so it’s under your chest. You’re gonna keep your left leg a short distance from your right so you’ll end up standing like this.” He put his own board down on the ground and demonstrated the perfect way to stand up again. I looked at him, standing up on the board sideways with his legs spread slightly. “You think you can do that?” I nodded and got back down on the board, taking a deep breath before trying to jump up again. 

I tried really hard to focus, and because I was focusing so hard, I started to lose my balance the second I was standing up. Joe could just grab hold of my arms to steady me and I jerked my head, noticing how close he was to me. “Whoa there,” he said with a small chuckle. I could see the amusement in his eyes and it made me laugh, too. “If you had done that in the water, you would’ve gone under.” I got a close look at his face and I tried to remember every feature. Every hair, every mole, every scar. 

“How did you get that scar?” I asked softly, running my finger over the scar on the bridge of his nose.

“Oh, um, I had an accident.”

“Surfing?”

“Surprisingly, no.” He laughed and dropped his hands from my arms, taking a step away from me. “Me and my brothers were just goofing off–” Brothers? Like, there were more guys with the same god-like genes he had? “–and I fell and bumped my head.”

“You have brothers?”

“Yeah. I have three.”

“All surfers?”

Chuckling, Joe stuffed his hands in the pockets of his plaid cargo shorts. “No. My younger brother is actually on Broadway.”

“Broadway? But that’s–”

“The other side of the country, I know,” he finished for me with a sigh. “We actually grew up here, but Nick had always had these dreams of going into theatre. And then when my parents got divorced when I was ten, he moved with our dad to New York. He still comes over to stay with us every summer, but it’s not the same.”

“I- I’m sorry. I didn’t... I mean, you don’t have to tell me. I was just- I was just trying to make conversation, you know.”

“No, it’s okay.”

I smiled at him and got off the board. “You know, my parents don’t even care about me that much.” Joe looked at me, his forehead wrinkled together. “They both work basically 24/7. And every summer, when I finally have the chance to actually see them during the day, they send me off to summer camp, which I guess this year was surf camp.”

“But it’s only a week, so you still have the rest of summer left.”

“Yeah but, still. It’s… it’s not really how I wish my summer would be, you know.”

“Hey, for what’s it worth, we’ve got the sun, the sea and the beach.” And a hot surf instructor. “Let’s make this the best week of your life,” Joe said. “Now, get back on that board and show me the best stand-up you can do.” Snorting, I stepped back onto the board and got back to work.

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I was sitting in the hot sand, staring out at the ocean when I felt someone blocking my sunlight. “Hey, Ceecee, we’re heading down to Rock Mountain. You coming?” Diana asked, Brad and Lane close behind her. After learning how to sit up on our board without tumbling over – which turned out to be a lot harder than I thought – Marty and Joe had decided to give us the rest of the afternoon off. 

“Nah, I’m good. You guys go.”

“Are you sure?” Diana asked, raising her eyebrows.

“Yes I’m sure,” I said laughing. “I’ll see you guys at dinner.” Diana gave me one last look, but then walked away again with Brad and Lane. 

I adjusted my bikini top and focused back on my book. My attention didn’t stick for long though. Just as I had finished reading the page I was on, I heard Joe’s voice and looked up. He was heading towards the water, surfboard in hand and Marty right beside him. I closed my book and kept my eyes on Joe as he went into the water and started paddling on his board. 

I saw a big wave rolling in and Joe and Marty looked at each other. Joe went in for the wave and stood on his board in less than a second as the wave passed. He rode it like a pro, never falling. It was as if he had become one with the wave. He did several tricks and I was seriously amazed by his talent, and the grace with which he rode the wave. 

Marty took the next wave while Joe sat on his board and watched. She wasn’t as good as Joe and ended up falling off her board mid-spin. I chuckled, but then quickly pulled myself back together. I knew I wouldn’t be any better at it either. I probably wouldn’t even be able to stand up before the wave would take me down.

I put my book in my bag and stood up, walking towards the water. “So, that’s what we should be able to do at the end of the week?” I asked, standing with my legs in the water as I stared at Joe coming back to the beach. He laughed and I followed him to where he was going to sit. 

“I think a frontside air is a little too hard for you guys, even though it’s one of the basic maneuvers,” he said. He pulled his wetsuit down to his waist and sat down in the sand. I sat down next to him, staring at Marty who was still riding some waves. “I could teach you though,” Joe said, breaking the silence between us, “if you want.”

“Well, if you can just teach me to ride a wave without any flips or spins and keep my balance, I’ll be a happy girl already.” I smiled at him and brought my attention back to him. As I did though, my eyes immediately darted off to look at his chest. God, I could never get enough of that sight. “I really wanna try though,” I said simply.

“Try what?”

“To ride a wave.”

“Ceecee, we’re not doing that until tomorrow.”

“I know but, I really want to try it right now. Don’t you think I deserve a little extra after the hard work I put in this morning? I mean, you taught me how to correctly stand up in an hour and a half. That was like magic.”

“It’s dangerous, Ceecee. I can’t just let you go out into the water.”

Was he worried about me? “It won’t be just me. I mean, you’re here, Marty’s here… what could possibly go wrong?”

“I’m sorry Ceecee, but I’m not letting you do that right now.”

“But what about tomorrow when you’re teaching a group of ten? Isn’t that gonna be more dangerous?”

“Please just drop it. I’m not letting you go in.”

“Fine,” I groaned.

“Ceecee, promise me you’re not going into the water until tomorrow.”

“I promise, okay. What do you think I am? Stupid?”

“No… I just don’t want you going out into the water all by yourself.” He stood up and grabbed his board. “I’ll see you at dinner.” I watched him walk away and turned back around to stare at the ocean. Marty was still in the water, riding the waves as if she had never done anything else her entire life. Sighing, I stood up and grabbed my bag to head back down to my cabin. 

I was going to get into that water one way or another.

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After dinner, Diana was too busy being all over Brad, so she wouldn’t notice me sneaking out to the beach. I left the mass hall and headed into our cabin. I put on my wetsuit quickly and grabbed my board, running for the place by Rock Mountain where Joe had taught us the basic surfing techniques yesterday. I secured the board around my foot and I could feel my heart beating in my throat. 

“It’s dangerous, Ceecee” Joe had said. His words echoed through my mind and for a second I was doubting myself. Did I really want to risk this? 

Closing my eyes, I shook all the thoughts out of my head and went for the water. I laid down on my board and felt it shift underneath my body. Water splashed up in my face, but I focused on my techniques and managed to balance myself on the board perfectly. The sun was setting already and I knew it wouldn’t be long until it would be dark outside. I didn’t have much time – we had a strict ten PM curfew. 

I focused on the wave heading my way and braced myself for what was coming. I tried to remember the exact moment when Joe had jumped up on his board and anticipated it. When it was finally there, I attempted to stand up, but the wave was too fast for me and I lost control, crashing into the ocean. I went down deeper than I thought and when I wanted to swim back up to the surface, I realized I was stuck. I opened my eyes and tried to look around. It was really dark underwater, but I could see my bright white surfboard floating around beneath me, pulling me down.

I didn’t have a lot of air left in my lungs, but I was going to free myself from my board one way or another. I went back down and realized the chord hadn’t gotten stuck around a sharp piece of rock. When I couldn’t immediately get the board away from the rock, I decided to rid myself of the board. I reached down my ankles to release the leash. After a few tries, I got the leash off, but as the board went shooting up to the surface again, it hit me in the head.

And then, everything went black.

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