Chapter 1: Too Close for Comfort
It was three weeks before Reggie's 16th birthday and this summer was shaping up to be one of the best on record. Since school let out in June the weather had been perfect, not a single day of rain. That's right, nothing but clear blue skies and killer surf. She'd never seen waves so gi-normous in Ocean Shores! Between shooting the curl nearly everyday with the gang, working part time at the Shore Shack and her driving lessons, Reggie barely had time to rest. But she couldn't have asked for a more exciting summer. So when her dad had announced that they were going to Hawaii for a two weeks to take part in the annual Kona Kai surf competition, she'd almost fainted. Reggie couldn't think of a better 16th birthday present, except maybe her driver's license.
That had been a week ago when it seemed like nothing could possibly ruin this golden summer. But this morning was seriously trying her patience.
"Let's go, Rocket Boy! Come on," she yelled. Reggie was holding open the front door, a nylon duffle hanging from one arm and her longboard tucked under the other.
"Chill, Reg, I'm coming," Otto called from upstairs.
"Otto, we're going to miss the plane!"
"Will you relax? We've got hours."
"We still have to pick up the others! If you make us late-"
"-Okay, okay. Here I come." Otto bounded down the stairs at last in a faded yellow t-shirt and a pair of loose shorts. His roller blades were tossed over one shoulder and on the other he carried a large equipment bag crammed full of clothes and other gear that bulged out of the top. The bag was so full that the zipper wouldn't close and a pair of sweaty socks oozed its way out onto the floor as Otto strolled toward the front door.
"If you had started packing last week instead of this morning, maybe we'd actually get to the airport in time."
"Whatever, Rocket Girl." Otto was a study in unruffled calm. "Where's Raymundo?"
"In the car already waiting on you," she said through clenched teeth.
He shrugged and took one last look around the living room to make sure he wasn't forgetting anything. He spotted the socks, walked over to them, picked them up and gave them a quick sniff. Otto's nose wrinkled in disgust, but he shoved the socks back into his bag anyway.
"That's gross." Reggie made a face. She supposed she should've been used to the sketchy standards of cleanliness associated with living in a house full of men by now. Well, officially Otto and Raymundo were the only two men in the house, but Twister and Sam hung out so often it was like they, too, were living under the same roof. Between the four of them there were enough sweaty socks and funky t-shirts to pretty much carpet the whole first floor.
"So sue me, Reg." Otto pushed past her, his bulky bag bumping and scraping along her surfboard.
Reggie rolled her eyes. Her little brother was so inconsiderate sometimes. "Otto Rocket, if I see one scratch on this board, you're gonna spend the whole vacation waxing it!"
Otto sauntered over the car, dumped his stuff in the trunk and slid into the back seat. Tito and Ray were in the front seat and they all waited for Reggie as she locked the front door and struggled down to the curb with her board and bag. Ray helped to fasten her board to the roof of the car with the others. She tossed her bag in the trunk, climbed in next to Otto and finally they were on their way! Reggie took a nervous glance at her watch.
"Give it up, already," Otto said as he stretched and clasped his hands behind his head. "We've got plenty of time."
Not the way Dad's driving, Reggie thought. Raymundo was creeping along the road at a snail's pace.
"Tito, my man, remember the summer of '74? Just you and me on the Lost Beach of Kauai. 20 foot waves. Man, those were the days."
"I hear you, brudda. Surf like that only comes once every hundred years or so. The Ancient Hawaiians have a term for it hemolele kai, the perfect wave."
"So how many have you guys seen? Perfect waves, I mean." Otto asked.
"Just one. It's a once in a lifetime thing. Like I said, every hundred years."
"But you and Dad must be at least two-hundred by now."
Ray glanced up from the road to see Otto's smirk in the rear view mirror.
"Raymundo, your boy just called us old."
"We'll show him old, Tito," Ray chuckled. "He thinks he's seen his old man rip here in Ocean Shores, but Hawaii's a whole different ball game. With surf like that, it's experience that counts."
"Well, you guys sure have a lot of experience."
Reggie glanced at her watch again. "Uh, sorry to interrupt," she spoke up from the back seat, "but Dad do you mind if I drive?"
"I don't think that's a good idea, Reg. You don't have a license yet."
"I've got my permit. I've been driving for 3 weeks now."
"Nah, not right now. We're on our way to the airport."
"And at the rate you're driving we'll never get there," she muttered under her breath.
They finally pulled up in front of Sam's house. He came tearing out of the screen door with his board and a couple of bags, but before he could clear it completely, Paula Dullard grabbed her son. It was obvious that she was telling him to be careful and lecturing him on everything from sunscreen to water safety. At 12 years old it had been kind of cute, but now that Sam was 14 it was downright embarrassing. The speech concluded with a kiss on the cheek and Otto snickered from his vantage point in the car. Sam stowed his gear and joined Otto and Reggie in the backseat. He was still flushed with embarrassment as he mumbled hello to the both of them and he kept his eyes lowered behind his black, plastic-rimmed glasses.
"Hey Squid," Otto smirked. "Looks like your mom's gonna miss you."
"Oh, shut up, Otto." Reggie snapped.
"It's okay, Reg," Sam smiled. "We all know my mom's a bit over protective. I did convince her to get me a new Mobley for the event, though."
"No way," Otto's jaw dropped. "A Mobley? Custom made? It's the hottest board on the beach!"
"It's also the safest," Sammy winked "an argument she couldn't refuse."
They got so caught up in the talk of Sam's new board that they barely noticed they'd stopped in front of the Rodriguez residence until Twister attempted to pile into the back of the car.
"Hey man, there's no room," Otto said.
"I'm afraid Otto's right," Ray spoke. "You guys are going to have to lap sit."
There were groans from the backseat.
"Sam can sit on Twister's lap," suggested Otto. "He's the shortest."
"Well, I guess I am," Sam said, "but I'm not the lightest."
The boys turned to look at Reggie.
"Oh, no you don't. I'm the oldest and I'm pulling rank. Otto, you sit on Twister."
"No way!" said both boys simultaneously.
"What's the big deal, Rocket Boy? He is your best bud."
"Yeah, but not like that."
"Just scoot over, will ya?" Twister tried to force his way in, elbowing Sam mercilessly and wedging his butt on to the edge of the seat.
"This is ridiculous," Reggie said, finally giving in. If they wasted any more time they were never going to get to the airport. "I'll sit on Twister's lap."
They all climbed out of the backseat and rearranged themselves. Otto, then Sammy on the hump, Twister and Reggie on his lap. Suddenly she realized that they had all gotten so big. When Raymundo had driven them up to the lake last summer, all four of them had fit comfortably in the back of the car. When had all this growing happened? It was true that Otto was more or less looking her in the eye these days. They were practically the same height now if you counted his hair. Even Sammy had gotten taller and lost some of the baby fat. But if she were going to blame anyone for taking up more than his allotted space it was Twister. He was hands down the tallest of them now, having shot up in height just before the end of the school year. His long, lean limbs made riding in the backseat difficult. Reggie noted that his knees were flush with the front passenger seat and his head touched the roof of the car.
"Everybody in?" Ray asked.
"Yeah," Reggie answered. She leaned over to pull the car door shut and wriggled on Twister's lap. He shifted uncomfortably.
"So Twister, where's your brother?" Ray said from the front. "I saw that he signed up to compete in the Kona Kai. Does he need a ride?"
"And where's he going to sit, the roof?" Reggie asked annoyed.
"How about the trunk?" was Otto's suggestion.
"He's traveling with friends," Twister said. "They don't leave for another couple of hours."
"Man," Otto complained. "I thought this vacation was going to be free of whompings."
"Don't count on it, bro," Twister said. Though truth be told Lars hadn't whomped anyone in a good six months. Twister liked to think that his sudden growth spurt was responsible at least partially. But with that growth spurt had come all sorts of other problems: riding in the back seats of cars for one.
Ray finally pulled out on to the road again with a quick jerk that sent Reggie jostling into Twister. He groaned inwardly as she righted herself.
"Sorry, Twist." She looked at him sheepishly.
It wasn't the elbow in the ribs that bothered him, but one of those "other problems" he'd just been thinking about. His body was unpredictable. It might grow two inches in a week or it might react in ways he couldn't quite control, especially where Reggie was concerned. It wasn't her fault that she was sitting on his lap, but she could at least sit still and keep her bare legs from brushing against him. And her hair, couldn't she pull it back into a ponytail or something? It was loose and as usual pushed back by a pair of shades that rested on top of her head. The breeze from the open window kept blowing the soft strands into his face.
"…right Twist?" Otto was saying.
"Were you even listening to me, man?"
Otto continued to talk about the upcoming competition but Twister couldn't seem to concentrate on anything he was saying. Ray sped into a turn causing them all to lean to the left and Reggie slipped an arm around Twister's neck to steady herself. Before he could even think about what he was doing he held on tightly to her waist. They came out of the turn unscathed and it was Sam who was the first to notice the color in Twister's cheeks.
"Um, Twist," he said quietly, "you can let go of Reggie now."
"Oh," he said, and moved his hands. The rising color in his face became a full-on blush. Sam picked up on his friend's embarrassment and sought to change the subject.
"So, Reggie, I'm assuming there'll be full coverage of the surf competition in the next issue of the 'Zine."
"You bet, Sammy. Which reminds me, I think it's high time the 'Zine got a web site, don't you? I've been meaning to talk to you about it."
"Really?!! I'd be happy to help. I packed my laptop you know. We can work on it in Hawaii."
"I was thinking we could even use some of Twister's movies on the site." Reggie turned to ask him, "If that's okay with you?" She angled her head so that she was looking right at Twister and suddenly felt very shy. It was completely weird sitting on his lap.
"Sure Reg," he said quickly, not quite looking at her. It was no use looking at her, it only confirmed what he already knew: Reggie was really pretty and she was sitting on his lap. Reggie, Otto's sister. His best bud's sister. What was he even thinking? That's just it, he wasn't thinking and before he knew it his body was reacting to the fact that she was so close. No… not now… please, he thought. He shifted slightly in the seat hoping against hope that there was a way to hide it, that somehow she wouldn't notice his sudden hard-on.
Reggie shifted again thinking that maybe she was sitting on the seatbelt buckle. Twister squeezed his eyes shut in despair. She wasn't helping matters any by moving. How much longer could he stand this? Weren't they at the airport yet?
"Everything okay back there little cuzzes?" Tito called from the front seat. "You're pretty quiet."
"It's all the anticipation of the Kona Kai," Sam said, though what he was really anticipating was the roast pork and poi at the Welcome Luau before the first day of competition. "We're speechless."
Reggie fidgeted in Twister's lap. What could she be sitting…? Wait a minute. She turned to look straight at him and noticed the blush that crept up from his neck to the roots of his hair. His eyes were averted.
Twister knew that she was staring at him.
Reggie gasped in understanding as it dawned on her. The small sound she made drew his attention and against his will he raised his eyes to her face. She looked at him, startled and he wanted to sink through the bottom of the car in utter mortification.
"So Twist," Otto began his mind focused solely on the 20 foot waves in his near future, "are you ready to go totally tubular?"
Before he could even respond Reggie spoke.
"God Otto, are sports all you ever think about?" she snapped.
"What's eating you, Rocket Girl? Don't tell me sports aren't all you ever think about."
For this first time in her life Reggie wished that Otto were right. She'd much rather think about Sam's new board, than Twister Rodriguez.