Disclaimer: I own everything but their names.

April 13, 2011 – Honolulu, Hawaii

The smell of salty ocean air hits me as I step into the bright afternoon sunshine of Banzai. The North Shore is deserted, pretty common for the end of competition season. Besides those who weren't brave enough to try Pipe in the presence of the endless number of tourists, locals are pretty much the only ones you'll see surfing around here for months.

The waves crash one on top of the other, and I stare. It's gorgeous, really, and an absolute shame that it's so dangerous. If I could, I'd spend every day in that water trying to master those killer waves, even after what happened last time.

Today, though, I have somewhere to be.

Turning away from the view, I jog across the street and look up at the sign above the door. I grin at the familiar name: Kama'a 'ole.

It's been way too long since I've visited.

Seashells alert my presences as I pull open the door and step inside. The greeting I receive is immediate, and I can't help giggling as Kainoa jets across the store and pulls me into his arms. He's exuberant, just like I remember. Just like I love.

"Izzy! Oh, tita, we missed you," he gushes, and I smile up at him.

No matter how many beaches I've been sent on assignment or how many shop owners I've met, these two remain high on my list of favorites. Kai and his wife Ahe have been friends of mine for years; ever since my first Pipe Masters when I thought 'hey, that looks fun!' and was stupid enough to get my little ass into the big water across the road.

It if hadn't been for Kai, who knows what would have happened that day. He saw me go in and noticed when I didn't come out soon enough. When he finally got me back to shore, my board was cracked in two and I was covered in blood. The scar the reef left on my leg is pretty gnarly, but that doesn't stop me from showing it off. I'm proud of myself for being brave enough to at least try. And I would totally do it again.

"I've missed you guys, too," I say as he puts me on the floor and wraps his hands around my face. I don't know what it is that Kainoa shares with old ladies (you know the ones) but he definitely has a thing for cheeks. "They gave Pipe Masters to some rookie and it's been so crazy the past few years… "

Back when I first started covering competitions, I was here on Oahu every year, sometimes two or three times. As I became more experienced and earned my place as a journalist, I began covering ASP comps and, instead of Hawaii, ended up visiting places like Australia, Portugal and France.

Sadly, earning a name for myself also meant I saw less and less of the friends I'd had for years.

"We understand, Sistah," Ahe, emerging from the office, interrupts in her soft, melodic voice. Kai lets me go so I can dash over and wrap my arms around her. "Just means we haven't had to drag any white girls outta da water lately."

I laugh as she separates herself and moves to Kai's side. I love her subtle accent and the way she can't resist teasing me for my one stupid mistake from all those years ago.

"Very funny," I say with a scowl. "How are you guys? I want to hear everything!"

They exchange a very secretive look before returning their eyes to mine. "We have some big news, Tita," Kai tells me proudly as an infectious grin pulls at his cheeks.

Ahe's smile is full and bright; she rubs her abdomen softly. She doesn't even need to say the words.

My eyes widen. "Really?" I squeak.

Ahe nods and I leap forward to wrap my arms around her again, only softer this time. I know they've been trying for a while, and I'm so, so excited for them. Though we haven't been able to visit, we keep in touch through e-mail and I've been there for her through a lot of rough times in their baby-making journey.

"Finally, a baby I can spoil!"

On the outside, I'm animated, jubilant even – because truly, I am – on the inside, though, I'm frozen, unable to combat the pang of regret that beats inside my chest. The fact that I walked away from what could have been my only chance at what they share still haunts me in ways I can't put into words. But I can't think about that now; I can't think about that ever. Like always, I squish the feelings down, locking them tight in a corner of my mind that I don't open very often.

I breathe a sigh of relief for the distraction of an actual customer when the shells above the door do their thing behind us, hoping the moment to compose myself will draw the tension from my body. Stubbornly, I force my cheeks higher and turn. I'm used to this: feigning fake smiles and happiness that isn't really there is something I excel at.

I'm a pro at wearing this mask.

My smile slips as I stare slack jawed at the boy who's just walked in. My heart takes off inside my chest, pounding like it hasn't in a long, longtime. The panic I feel is expected… the hurt, though, knocks me back a step, all one-two uppercut.

Dirty blond hair, big green eyes and those lips.

…They're his lips.

Though he's twice the size I remember, his hair has that same goofy flop, that same crazy twist in the middle that leaves it laying this way and that. He's not a little kid anymore. He's a young man. A young man who looks so much like his father it makes my knees weak.

A memory flashes; one of him then… eyes red and cheeks stained with tears. My own eyes burn at the thought of how much I've missed. How many years have gone by.

I'm frozen, unsure what to do. I'm not ready for this... but I know it's too late to hide.

I reach up and grip my necklace, running the worn charm between the pads of my fingers as I stare at him. At first I think he might not remember me anymore, but then he's staring at me, too. Like he's just seen a ghost.

Perhaps that's all I am to him now.

Perhaps it's all I ever should have been.

The door opens again, and I close my eyes. As if not seeing his face will make the man I know has just followed his son inside my quiet little hideaway suddenly disappear. As if I can just float away and pretend that this isn't happening to me.

But when I hear it, I know that it is happening… and there's nothing I can do to stop it.


My name from his lips is all it takes to send me back to where we met, where it happened…

Where my life changed.

I've been working on this story for months and I'm so happy it's finally (almost) complete so that I can share it with all of you. I have quite a few ladies to thank for their help and motivation and love: anniej13, bellamarie117, Kassiah, ltlerthqak, LolaShoes, nicnicd and tby789, you all mean the world to me and I couldn't have done this without you. Special thanks on this chapter goes out to moijojojo for giving me the scoop on all things Hawaiian.

In case you're wondering, this story is completely written, and I have several chapters edited, so updates will happen at least once a day if not more.

Some vocab for those who're curious:

Banzai – Also known as Ehukai Beach Park; located on the North Short of Oahu. The name Banzai comes from surf cinematographer Bruce Brown, who shouted it out while filming Surf Safari in the 1950's when a surfer dropped into a particularly gnarly wave.
Pipe – Surf slang for the hollow portion of a large wave.
Pipe Masters – A surf competition held by Billabong as part of the Triple Crown of surfing which is a Hawaiian specialty series of professional surfing events.
tita – A Hawaiian term of endearment for a woman who is strong and independent.
Kama'a 'ole – Translates in Hawaiian to barefoot.
ASP – Association of Surfing Professionals.

Thank you so much for reading! Reviews are love. And I kinda love getting love, js.

Until next time!