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Authors: Erin L. Schneider

Summer of Sloane (20 page)

BOOK: Summer of Sloane
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“Finn, I’m sorry, this was a bad idea. Let’s go back in.” I start to paddle back toward the beach that is now much farther away than I realized.

“No way you’re getting out of it that easy. Besides, you talked me into this, you’re getting your lesson.” He sits up on the board, straddling it between his legs, and flips it around to face the shore. “Your turn,” he says. Like he actually believes it’s something I can do.

I literally grunt. Out loud. Me straddling the board like he does is highly unlikely, thanks to my height and awkward limbs that have zero control now that we’re out on the water. But I try it anyway and fall right off. The board shoots forward and the leash I have strapped to my ankle tugs at my leg. Finn steadies the board as I slither my way back on none too gracefully.

I finally manage to get my board turned in the direction of the beach, and I realize it’s sapped about all my energy. Around us, there are a few other tourists taking lessons, so at least I don’t feel so nervous.

“Okay, we’re watching for a decent set to make its way in. This is Waikiki, so we’re not talking anything big. But something with a little cap to it. Once we see it, you need to start paddling hard toward the shore. When the wave gets just behind you, pop up like you practiced on the beach, okay?”

“Just pop up like I practiced, huh?
Yeah
,” I mutter. I get the feeling he has a lot more confidence in me than I do in myself.

“Okay, this looks like a good one. You ready? Let’s go!”

We both begin paddling. As the momentum of the wave catches us, I watch Finn easily hop up, but I stay solidly rooted to my board as if I’m glued there. His feet do most of the work, prodding him in the direction he wants to go. It looks so effortless, but when he glances over his shoulder, he finds me still laid out flat, like a harbor seal on dry land.

“Yeah, I don’t quite think that qualifies as surfing,” he says as he makes his way back to me and we paddle out again.

“I swear, next one for sure, I’m totally standing up. Maybe.” Which I kinda do. Sorta. Mostly my feet become tangled in each other, and I go flying off the board as it shoots out from under me, yanking at my ankle once again.

But now I have a taste for it and I want more. Because while I’m getting really good at the falling-off part, I want to stand at least once.
Once
. That’s all I’m asking.

Finn spots a good set, the best one we’ve seen yet, and hollers at me to start paddling. I do exactly that, and as the wave chases me down, I stand up. And I don’t have a single clue what I’m supposed to do next.

Finn rides the small wave right next to me and holds out his hand for a high five. I slap it, and my board careens into his, wiping us both out. I come up shooting water from my mouth as he laughs.

“Nice! Looks like you might have some Hawaiian in you after all!”

“Only needed someone that knew what they were doing to teach me, is all.”

We bob on our boards and wait for another decent set to come in. Which it turns out in Waikiki, can take a while.

“Thanks for doing this, by the way. Man, it’s been forever since my muscles hurt like this.” I stretch my arms and roll out my neck as I float on my board. “Can I ask why it’s been so long since you’ve been surfing? I mean, before today? From those pictures, you look pretty amazing at it.”

He rubs at the back of his own neck and stares out at the water.

“I’m sorry, never mind.”

“No, it’s okay. It’s probably about time I told you anyway.” He coughs to clear his throat. “Those pictures…they aren’t of me.”

I frown, because the guy in the photographs looks exactly like him.
Exactly
. “You have a brother?”

It takes a while before he responds. “Had. I had a brother, Quinn. He was a year older than me.” He runs his fingers in the water, making small ripples with his hand. “He was the good surfer, not me. I raced motorbikes and played football and constantly fucked up. But Quinn, he surfed in competitions all around the world, won most of them, too. And according to my father, there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.”

I can’t imagine what that would be like. Growing up with Penn, our parents never favored one over the other. Well, if they did, they never showed it. So I have no idea how to relate to that.

“But then one morning he went out to surf…and didn’t come back.” He shuts his eyes tight.

“Oh my God, Finn.”

“There was a big storm getting ready to hit and the swells were insane, but that’s exactly the type of surf Quinn loved to ride most. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but they think he took a bad spill and hit his head, knocking him unconscious.” He slaps at the water, sending a spray of it away from us. “He drowned doing exactly what he loved, and I don’t think he would’ve wanted it any other way.”

The last part comes out almost in a whisper, but the meaning hits me loud, almost like he shouted.

“I was supposed to go surfing with him that day, but I wanted to go race motorcycles instead. So I packed up my bike and went. But Luce…Luce was there.” He swipes water off the top of his board, like he can’t believe it had the audacity to take up residence there. “She was the one that called 9-1-1, and she never set foot in the water again, not until I saw her with you in your pool. And according to my father, I’m the reason my brother is dead and my sister needed to see a shrink for over a year.”

“Finn, I’m so sorry.” I stop right there, because I don’t know what else to say. I reach over and pick up his hand, bringing it up to my lips. “And I’m so sorry I made you come out here today. You didn’t have to.”

“Sloane, it’s fine, really. You’re right—I could’ve said no. But actually, it’s been kinda nice being back out here; I’m having a good time.” He looks over at me and squeezes my hand, still holding on to his. “I miss him…but he’s gone now. And I can’t do anything about that.”

I can’t even imagine what I’d do if I ever lost my brother. If something were to happen to Penn, I’d never be the same.

“I’m still really sorry, Finn.”

He smiles but it doesn’t reach his eyes, then he turns to stare back out at the water.

“I think that’s enough serious crap for the day.” As if Mother Nature agrees, she sends another decent swell our way, and Finn points it out. “Ready to give your legs another go?”

We spend the rest of the afternoon trying to make a frequent habit out of me standing, and I don’t do so badly. When we finally return to the beach, I flop down into the wet sand next to my board, and Finn does the same.

“It looks so easy, but then the tiniest of waves comes along and proves you wrong!” I drop an arm over my eyes as I try to catch my breath.

“You did really well for your first time. It takes most people much longer to get up on the board. And technically, you stood up on your first real try. Granted, it wasn’t for very long, but still.” He smiles at me from under his own arm as he shields his face from the sun.

“Yeah, well, at least you didn’t end up like Shep, so there’s that. I honestly think he’d leave the Islands if he saw me holding a surfboard in his direction.”

Picking up our boards, we head back to his room.

“So…any big plans for the Fourth?”

“Um, nope. What did you have in mind?” I really hope he has something in mind.

“Well, since my dad just left for Thailand, I was thinking about throwing a party here at the hotel. Actually, I’ve been thinking about it for a while. And I’m talking nothing but the good stuff—food, drinks, and definitely fireworks. You can’t have the Fourth without blowing something up.”

I turn toward him and nod. “Now
that
sounds like an awesome idea.”

On the morning of the Fourth, I roll out of bed and instinctively grab my phone to text Mick. I can’t wait to tell her all the details about the big party planned for tonight, because she’s completely going to freak out. And I so wish she could be here.

It’s always been tradition for us to text back and forth today—not only to touch base, but also to share whatever crazy excitement would be taking up our holiday. So I’m surprised when I don’t see a text already waiting from her on my phone.

But then I fully wake up, and remember why.

I sag with disappointment as I delete my text without sending it. Chalk that one up to yet another BFF moment the two of us will no longer share.

I head off to take a shower, only to come out afterward to find a text from Finn. It’s a picture of the barge off the beach of Waikiki that contains all the fireworks for the Echelon’s celebration tonight.

And that’s when I realize not even Mick can ruin today.

Because this party I’ve been helping Finn plan is going to be huge. Epic even.

It’s all everyone’s been talking about…and I mean everyone.

I finish wrapping the straps to my new sandals around my ankles and buckle them before standing, giving my mirror one last look. I have to admit, my mom does have great taste and I love the new denim skirt and fiery orange halter top she bought for me the other day.

I walk out to the living room where Penn and my parents are waiting.

“Look how great you look, Sloane! I knew that would fit perfectly!” my mom says, giving my forehead a kiss. “You two have fun tonight. But be careful, okay?” She gives us her stern mom look, but it doesn’t stay in place for long. “And call if you need one of us to come pick you up.”

Every year, all the hotels on the Waikiki strip put on this huge fireworks war against one another, trading off back and forth, taking turns lighting up the sky in colorful explosions. And there couldn’t be a better location to watch it all than from the rooftop deck at the Echelon. Especially since their fireworks show is supposed to be the best.

When Penn and I arrive, Finn is waiting for us in the lobby. He takes my hand in his, then gives a key card to Penn.

“Suite 1601. Everyone crashes here, dude. You and Mia included.” He winks at my brother. “She’s already upstairs.”

Unlike all the other partygoers who are directed by the staff to the normal elevators, Finn leads us to the elevator that goes up to his floor.

We stop in Finn’s suite, and I disappear into his room to drop off my bag, then we make our way up a flight of stairs to the rooftop above, where the party is already in full swing. The coolest lighting effects cast the entire space in a vibrant shade of magenta with different shadow patterns that swirl and ripple across the floor. A few seconds later, the color fades and changes to a deep purple. Cabanas line the perimeter and are packed with milling guests, and a DJ cranks out loud music as bodies grind to the beat. There are dozens of kids in the rooftop pool, some dancing, some shooting hoops, and some even playing chicken.

“Oh, we’ll be giving that another go, don’t you worry about that,” Finn says in my ear. He leads me over to a line, where I see Mia and a few others already grabbing beers. Shep is standing in the group with her, which I’m hoping is a good thing.

I can’t believe this party has its own bar, considering we’re all underage. Then again, it’s not like this is a public event, and Finn does have the means to do whatever he wants. He squeezes my hand, and I squeeze his back.

“Luce is staying with a friend tonight, so you can crash in her room if you want. I can also get you your own room or you can always stay with me—your choice.” He says it in a way that lets me know the decision really is up to me. And I like that. Because right now, even though the thought has crossed my mind a time or two, I haven’t decided what I want to do—if I’m really ready to go there with Finn.

Beers in hand, Mia and Shep make their way over to where we stand in line, but she gives me a pleading look like she’s begging me to help her shake him. I have to wonder if he hopes he has a chance at rekindling what they had, and I can only pray for the safety of my brother when Shep finds out Mia has moved on.

“This party is off the rails!” Mia squeals, giving Finn a sideways hug. He slaps hands with Shep, then speaks to the bartender to order our drinks.

“Hey, you! I see you finally ditched the cast?” Mia throws her arms around my neck and steers me away from the others.

“Yeah, it came off the other day!” I say, looking over at Shep. He’s now in conversation with a group of guys waiting in line for drinks and doesn’t seem to notice he’s been given the slip. “Wanna tell me what that was all about?”

She cringes, shaking her head. “He won’t leave me alone, Slo. He showed up at my house yesterday with flowers, and I told him it wasn’t going to work and that I wanted to move on. He thinks I just need time. What do I do?” She stares across the roof at my brother. “It’s hard enough that I want to make it clear we’ve broken up, but it doesn’t feel right to throw it in his face that I’m together with Penn. At least not so soon.”

“So he has no idea about Penn? Mia, he’s gonna lose his shit when he finds out.”

“I know.” Mia bites her lip.

“You have to tell him. It’s going to hurt but it’s the truth, and he deserves to know the truth. You could even tell him that you and Penn got together last year and seeing him again has brought back all kinds of memories.”

After all, I’m an expert when it comes to knowing how seeing someone can bring back memories.

BOOK: Summer of Sloane
11.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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