This is before the night at the bar. The second day at the beach, I believe. Ang even mentions later about the yoga on the water.
There's actually more to this scene, but I've cut it off because I chose to take the story in another direction.
This is unedited and copyrighted.
“You really wanna surf?” We move along the quiet hall in flip flops and hardly any clothes. It feels so out of place, so odd to be dressed down in such a fancy hotel. “You know this is prime shark eating time, right?”
“We don’t have to catch actual waves, but I feel like I need to be on a board, just sitting with my legs in the water when the sun comes up. I feel like it’s really important.” She turns to me. “Ya know? We could sit on the sand, I guess, or on a pier and dangle our legs in. That’d get the same result.”
“No, if you wanna sit on a board, we’ll sit on a board. You can dangle your legs, but I’ll tuck mine into my ass and not tempt the sharks.”
She snorts as we reach the elevator at the end of the hall. “If a shark’s coming for you,” she presses the lobby button and stops beside me so her hips touch mine, “if a shark already has his sights set on you, your legs won’t be the problem. He’ll probably mistake your board for a seal or something.”
“Awesome. I’m so glad you dragged my ass outta bed for this.”
Snickering, she taps my arm and sets off sparks that radiate through my blood. “We’ll be fine. We’re kinda invincible now, no?” She looks up at me with big eyes. “We’ve seen hell. Literally. We were in the fire, but we lived. Sharks don’t scare me now.”
“Oh God,” I groan. “Please tell me you’re not gonna become an adrenaline junkie. You survived the fire, so now we’re gonna start jumping out of planes and dancing with wolves. You’re gonna want to walk across volcanoes, and race dangerous cars. I don’t have the nerves for all that shit.” Or more accurately, I don’t have the nerves to watch her sling herself into danger every three seconds.
The elevator dings and the doors slide open. “Nope.” She snags my hand and drags me forward. We’re just friends, so she can’t know that when she takes my hand, my heart races and yearns for more. “No racing cars or volcanoes. I probably won’t jump out of any planes, either.”
“But we’re definitely gonna sit in the ocean. I came all this way specifically to sit in the ocean.”
“And you couldn’t just sit in the lake?”
She pulls me into the revolving door and leads me out into the street. “The lake is not the ocean, Ang. I’m not a child; don’t patronize me.”
I snort and work really fucking hard not to look at her ass as she drags me across the empty street toward the sand. Her skirt is see-through. It’s fucking see-through! Her bikini bottoms are indecent for public. Her bikini top is indecent for me. My cock hurts, and her flip flops smack the bottoms of her feet to the same rhythm as my heart smacks the inside of my chest.
But don’t worry – we’re just friends.
She drags me to a pile of boards on the sand and stops in front of a dude sitting in a lawn chair. “You hire?”
Dreadlocked, and quite possibly stoned, he lazily nods toward his hoard of surfboards. “You need tutoring? ‘Cause Snapper can help you out.”
“Snapper?” She bites her lips closed to stop the smile.
He pokes himself in the chest. “That’d be me. You know how to surf, darlin’?”
“Yeah, she’s got it.” I step forward and take my wallet from my back pocket. “How much?”
“You want one board or two?”
“Two,” Laine answers. “Actually.” She turns and looks up at me. “Let’s get the paddle boards instead. The surf is dead, so the paddle boards will be better.”
“Okay.” I look at Snapper. “How much?”
“Forty an hour for you. Twenty for her. She gets half off, ‘cause she’s prettier.”
I toss a couple fifties into his lap and turn away. “We’ll be a couple hours. Come on.” I drag Laine toward the longer boards amid her silly giggles – which is better than the frozen fear the fuckwit from the Cherry Drop put in her eyes – and wait for her to pick which one she wants.
Smiling conspiratorially, she picks a pink board with loads of faded graffiti; an almost exact replica of her skateboard, but on a much larger scale. I pick a cream-colored board with no graffiti and drag the pair across the sand and stop at the water’s edge.
“Alright. Do you wanna–” I stop and choke back my sentence when I turn to find her kicking her flip flops off and untying the see-through skirt.
Dear lord up in heaven, save me. I can’t be her friend!
“Are you ready, Ang?”
“Hm?” I force my eyes away from her ass. “Huh?”
Grinning, she bends to pick up her board, and glancing back over her shoulder, snickers when my eyes inevitably come back to her ass. “I asked if you were ready. The sun’s coming up, and I wanna be in when it does.”
“Yeah. Um…” I run my hands over my face and pretend it’s because I’m tired and not a pervert. “Yeah.” I toe my board into the water and collect my paddle.
Taking her hand, I help her up. Her balance is impeccable after decades of skating in Britt’s backyard. She doesn’t need my help, but I take her hand anyway.
As soon as she’s on and already moving forward on the softly rippling water, I step onto mine and grumble when it wants to shoot out from beneath my feet. I dig my paddle into the sand and catch my balance before I fall on my ass, but when Laine cackles and flicks water at my legs, I scowl and vow to not get dumped today.
I already look like an idiot most of the time; being dumped by baby waves just isn’t in my plans.
“Let’s go, Angelo. Oh!” Her eyes light up. “That rhymes. Let’s go, Angelo, let’s go.”
I roll my eyes. “You done?”
She snickers. “Jesus, grumpy. This isn’t the first early morning I’ve spent with you lately. I swear, I had no clue how cranky you could be.” She scrunches her nose. “There’s this whole other side to you I had no clue existed.”
“Five in the morning is stupid. It’s for sleeping.”
Expertly floating toward the horizon, she grins. “But you get up at six for work.”
“Yeah, but five is years before six, and I never said I get to the garage in a good mood. The guys know to leave me the fuck alone.” I paddle forward once I find my balance and float just three feet from her board. I could reach out and grab her if I wanted to… or if the sharks attack. “The guys know not to talk to me until ten in the morning.”
“So, like, your sixth cup of coffee?”
“Seventh, actually.” I laugh. “Then I gotta piss. Then I’m ready to talk.”
Laine stands wide legged on her board, in that fucking bikini, with bed messed hair that makes my hands tingle. When I come to the realization that she’s the Xena to my Hercules, I can barely speak.
She holds the long paddle with strong arms, stands on muscular legs, and the scar on her wrist is now all healed up and only noticeable to those who know.
She’s a vision as the sun fights to break over the horizon. A strong, capable, beautiful vision that reminds me of the Laine I used to know.
I was so sure this was the new her. That Graham changed her in ways we can never undo, but in spite of my thoughts, she’s still the formidable woman I used to know.
But now she’s stronger. Warier. Smarter.
“You look good, Laine.”
Distracted, her eyes come back to mine. “Hmm?”
“I mean…” I look her up and down with a shrug. “You look happy. I’m glad you came on this trip.”
“It’s called freedom.” Smiling, blonde hair falls over her face as she looks down at her feet. “This look?” She points down at her body, at tiny scars that mark her ribs and hips, barely noticeable except when the water reflects off them at the exact right angle. “This is the look of freedom. The black clouds don’t sit on my head as much anymore. Bad shit happened. Bad shit happens to everyone. We all have a crappy story to tell, even you; it’s what makes us us. For a while, I let mine beat me down, but I’m done with that now.”
“You think you’re all…” I study her in the lightening sky and struggle to find the right words. “Fixed is absolutely not what I mean. Fixed is a shitty word, because you were never broken. I just mean, you feel better? Back to your old self?”
She switches side with the paddle. “I think I’m a different person now. That was inevitable. So back to my old self is not possible. But better…? Yeah, I think so. I feel stronger. Bigger. More equipped to stand up to my bullies. I still have meltdowns – like with Skeeter. He caught me off guard, it was dark, and I was having my own emotional issues when he stepped in and made it worse. But if we stay there on our way home, I think I might even be able to step up and not freak out.” Floating forward, she frowns in thought. “Sometimes I still feel dirty.” Emotional eyes sparkle against the water. “I feel gross and used a lot of the time, because what kind of freak doesn’t even know all the men she…” She shakes her head and pushes out a heavy sigh. “But that’s only one part of my brain. The other part tells me I’m being stupid and that’s not true, because what happened to me wasn’t my fault.”
“It wasn’t your fault. And it’s not true.” I paddle a little closer. “You’re a good person, Laine. Not dirty or used or any other shitty thing he or anyone else told you. In my eyes, you’re kinda perfect.”
She brushes my heart off so easily with a laugh. “No one’s perfect, but I’m me, and that’s gonna have to be enough. I used to be ashamed of what happened, but it wasn’t my fault. Not really. It’s easy to fall into a cycle of saying it was. I was a grown woman, I had an amazing support system who would’ve swooped in and saved me if I just asked for it, but… I never did. And for a long time, that made me feel like it was my own stupid fault. It’s easy to think that way, it’s easy to degrade myself, but the beauty of being a twin, identical, even, is it’s easy for me to switch roles with Jess. If that was Jess, if the things that happened to me happened to her, if she said she was dirty and undeserving because of it, then I’d call her a damn liar. I can’t think she’s wrong and not apply that same logic to myself. So… yeah. Sometimes I feel gross. Sometimes I get mad at myself. Sometimes I wish I could run into Graham in the street and let him see me smile, just so he knows I’m still standing. But in the end, someone hurt me, and that wasn’t my fault.”
I’m so fucking in love with this girl it makes my chest hurt. “That’s really brave of you to admit.”
She shrugs. “I haven’t seen him in months. I mean, I haven’t gone looking or anything, so it’s easier to be brave when your demons aren’t in your face. And though I wish I could stand up to him, I honestly don’t know if I would. Or if I could… Half of me wants to see him, perhaps push a screwdriver into his eyeball and pop the damn thing out just to watch him bleed.”
Images of power tools, torches, and pliers flash through my mind.
“But the other half of me is scared that if I did see him, I’d probably cry and make a fool of myself. In my head, I have this grand speech about how I’m stronger and how he didn’t break me, I could scream in his face and tell him I’m still loved, how I can be in love, how he’s just a cockroach I intend to step on… but it’s easier to say those things in my head. In reality, I’d probably go back to hiding in Jess’ house.”
“I’d stand with you.” Water laps over our boards as I move closer and they brush together. “Whoever you wanted to confront, whenever, wherever, I’d have your back, and if you cry, I’d cover you up so he doesn’t see. I wouldn’t let you fall.”
She gives a gentle laugh. “I know you wouldn’t. You never have before, so there’s no reason to doubt you now.” Her delicate shoulders lift and drop. “I dunno. I don’t know if standing up to him would bring me pleasure. Even if I said everything I had to say, I don’t think it would make me feel good. I’ve been alive a long time, so a two-year blip’s not worth crying over, right? It’s time for me to move on, to make a different life for myself.”
When people have been wronged, they tend to go through the stages of grief. Sadness. Despair. Denial. Anger… And despite Laine’s plans to use a screwdriver on Graham’s face, I think she might still be in the denial stage.
It wasn’t a fucking blip! It was two-years of hell for us both – her, way more than me – and in the end, that blip almost fucking killed her.
Maybe to her, I’m just her friend.
But to me, she’s my everything.
I refuse to let her call the potential end of her life a fucking blip!
“Here’s good.” No longer paddling, she allows her board to float ahead and move with the soft ripples. Busy talking, we missed the very beginning of the sunrise, so with her ahead of me, and the sun ahead of her, her slim body is silhouetted to perfection. But like she’s not done hurting me, Laine bends forward to start some kind of water yoga bullshit.
“It feels good to be out here,” she groans. And stretches. With her feet on the board, her hands on the board, and her ass in the air, she insists on hurting me.
Remaining in her pose and sending me to a fast grave, she turns and blows blonde hair out of her face. “Yoga, the ocean, the sunrise. It’s perfect, right? No one else on the planet is doing this exact same thing at this exact same moment.”
“Nope.” My dick presses against my shorts and leaves me breathless. “That’s probably true.” She lets out a groan and lifts her hips higher. “Um.” I clear my throat. “I thought you wanted to watch the sunrise?”
“I am.” Her shoulder blades pop as she moves, and soft waves lap at her board as she works to keep her balance. “This is so perfect. I’ve been craving this for the longest time. Haven’t you?”
“Uh-huh.” What was supposed to be a blasé response comes out on a squeak and unmans me. “It’s pretty perfect. Beautiful, that’s for sure.”
“Mmmm.” Arching her back, then bridging it so her spine pokes out, she groans into the early morning until I simply sit down and splash my legs when the water laps over my board.
Her eyes snap to mine. With a daring grin, she drops to her knees and stretches forward on her arms.
Dear lord, kill me now. I’m going to hell for thinking of her this way.
“Hm?” She turns her head. “Did you say something?”
“Nope.” I cross my legs and stare into the horizon. And by stare into the horizon, I mean, I look in the general direction of the world’s end, but I watch her every lean muscle move in my peripherals. “You take up yoga recently?”
“Not really.” She leaves it at that for a long beat. Long enough to torture me, long enough that I’ve probably jizzed in my pants, but I can’t know for sure, since I’ve gone numb from the waist down.
Pulling out of whatever fucking dog pose that is, she turns onto her back and pulls her knees to her chest.
Kill me now. Kill me now. Kill me now. Kill me now.
“Meg taught me a little bit, but I dunno.” She flashes a sassy smirk and doesn’t even care that her chin doubles with the new angle. “I felt like being on the water was the perfect way to start this day. Let’s consider it like a rebirth. New beginnings. A clean slate, even.”
“Mmm?” Please stop stretching. Please stop stretching. Please stop stretching. “You wanna celebrate?”
“Yeah. Like, the old me, I was the little sister, ya know? I grew up with these gruff guys who mussed my hair, instead of seeing me as a woman. But I’m not a child anymore. Jess found a man that treats her well. A man that sees her as a woman.”
“I mean, Graham saw me as a woman too, I guess. More like an animal, if we’re being honest. But whatever he saw me as, it wasn’t a child. Now here I am, on vacation, on the ocean with my sister and friends, and who knows, maybe it’s time I wasn’t treated like someone’s little sister anymore.”
Her board turns until I’m given way too much of a view of her ass as she stretches. Look away! Find a screwdriver and poke your eyes out!
“So, um…” What the fuck was she saying? “You’re here to reinvent yourself?”
“Yeah, maybe.” She flashes an electric smile that surely sizzles the ends of my hair. “Reinvent. Stop being invisible. Try new things. You know what I mean?”
“Ah…” She turns back to her hands and knees and slowly paddles the three feet that separate our boards. Taking the edge of mine in her hand, she drags the boards together until they touch.
I swallow nervously. “But you’re not jumping out of any planes, right?”
“Sure feels like it sometimes.