- Chapter Four –

The rest of dinner was a bit of a blur. Broyn's family were practically merged with Bethany's, so they had absolutely no trouble finding things to talk about. After dinner, the parents moved inside to have coffee and continue their catch up.

Bethany and her brothers were arguing about something all three had seen on tv the night before, as they cleared the table. Bryon, who had drifted over to the edge of the deck, and had his legs swinging over the edge, got the impression that they had all watched different shows, from the way they were carrying on. They left him outside, alone with his thoughts. Which, unlike normal, weren't so brooding. The darkness that wrapped around Bethany's place, seemily sweeping in from the sea in front of him, didn't seem to be as cold tonight as it usually was, possibly due to the sounds of chatter and movement coming from behind him.

"Hey." Bethany slid down to join him on the edge, crossing her legs beneath her.
"Hey," Bryon said instantly in reply, before mentally hitting himself for being so unclassy. He knew he should say something, get her talking, but of course now was when his mind felt like shutting down. When he was trying to fall asleep it had no problem running at 20 times its normal speed, but now, when he actually needed to fill the air, it completely failed him. Bryon had no choice, but to sit in silence, and curse his stupid brain.

"Sister, it is your turn to do the dishes!"
Suddently, her brothers were standing in the doorway behind them, and wanting to drag her away.
"Are you guys kidding me? I've done it for the last week, it is totally your turn!" Bryon turned around to look at her brothers as they outright deny all that Bethany claimed. He noticed how they would both glance at him, as they assured her it was her turn to help, which gave him the impression that their determination to make her work could possibly have to do with her spending time with him. Bryon had a feeling it was subconscious on their level, but doubted that questioning them would bring any positive results.

"Fine. Guys. I will help you. Go get started, I will be there in a second," she grumbled and contempt that they had won, her brothers headed back inside.
"I'm worried Bethany. You are far to kind, giving in to them like that."
"I know right? They don't realise how good I am to them!" She was turning to pull herself up, off the edge of the deck, and suddenly he realised what he really, really needed to say.

"I'm sorry!" He blurted out. She stopped moving, one leg up already pulled up, and looked startled back at him.
"What for?"
"For how… how I left this afternoon. I'm sorry. I kinda had, um…" to literally run away? Probably best if he didn't share that with her. But as he looked back at Bethany, trying to think of a legitimate excuse, she smiled gently back at him, and swung her leg back down.
"It's totally cool Bryon," she whispered, looking back out at the darkness around the two of them, in the direction the sea was crashing in. "I'm sorry I intruded into your life. It wasn't really my place to ask."
"No. Bethany. You are my friend, its fine for you to ask. I just… didn't have an answer for you."
"Do you have one for me now?"
"Um… I don't think so. Not yet."
"Well, when you do, let me know okay? I just want to know you are alright."

She was smiling back at him, like she always does. And even though smiling is so much easier when she is there, he just couldn't bring himself to return it. Inside him was hurting too much. He just so desperately wanted to be better, to feel better. So he turned away from her, and squeezed his eyes shut.
"Absolutely," he assured her.

When she pulled herself up to go help her brothers, he climbed up and silently followed her. Inside the parents were making a racket as they carried on like the children they were inside. The boys were arguing over who had to dry the dishes. Bethany walked over and stole one of the towels from Noah, who turned around and made sure he got to wash the dishes, which in his mind was less work. Bryon stood there awkwardly watching the Hamiletons for a moment, wanting to help Bethany, but not wanting to seem like he thought she needed saving. He reached over and grabbed a plate, offering it to Beth, who was drying a bowl with her only hand.
"Swop? I don't know where any of the dishes actually belong," She pretended to look mortified.
"How could you not! That is just disgraceful!" Despite her words, she was laughing as she threw her towel at him.

The entire time they worked away at the dishes, Bryon couldn't ignore the way her brothers would watch him, judging him, checking he was behaving. And apparently, so did Bethany. Because the moment they had finish, Bethany order Bryon to grab a drink, and head back to the balcony. When nobody followed him outside, he started to worry, instantly fearing that they had worked out how damaged he was. So he hovered just outside the door, where he could hear Bethany as she cornered her two brothers.

"What are you guys doing?" She snapped at them both.
"Nothing!" Bryon could almost hear their hands raise up, in defence.
"Oh come on! You've got your subtly from our mother!" Her voiced had raised a little bit, but she pulled it back down once again. Bryon strained to hear what she was trying to say, his heart pounding so hard against his rib cage. "I can see how your treating Bryon, like he is some… some kind of criminal! How can you be so rude? He has done absolutely nothing wrong!"
"It's not that he has done anything wrong, Beth!" It was Noah who was trying to defend their actions. "It's just… We have heard things. We are worried about you, that's all."
"What are you guys on about?" She sighed at the two of them.
"He gets really spaced, all the time Beth." It was Tim who was sharing now, and Bryon couldn't help but feel the dread rise within him. "Apparently he is super stressed and whined up all the time. And clearly he doesn't look very well!"
"We just don't want you to get involved with someone so… trouble." Noah whispered to his sister.
"Guys. You are aware that you are both talking about Bryon, Broyn Blanchard right? The nicest guy on the planet? He is practically family!"
"We know! And he is great, but he has changed Beth. He is different."
"Well, regardless of whatever is going on with him, he is still a good guy. And I hope he hasn't seen how you have both been acting!"
"We are just worried about you, that's all little sis. We don't want you to get hurt."

"You are too late with that one. I was attacked by a shark, can't get more hurt than that."

Bryon pulled back from the door, and away from their voices. She said it so calmly; it was a simple fact. Whilst he blocks that day out of his memory, spending every waking moment pretending like it never ever happened. How could they be that different?

By a pure miracle, he managed to get himself far enough from the door to not look suspicious, by the time they joined him. Bethany's words had done the trick: the boys were back to their normal selves, seemingly not worried about Bryon's presence. So the only person who was acting weird, by the end of the evening, was Bryon himself. But since that was normal for him, at the current point of time, he considered the entire evening quite a success!

The younger ones remained outside on the balcony, chilling out until very late in the evening, when their parents came searching for them. Noah and Tim said their goodnights then, and disappeared in their own directions, but Bethany followed the Blanchards out to their car.
"It was cool seeing you again Bryon!"
"Likewise Beth. Thanks for having us over." She laughed lightly at him, the sound so absent of any pain or suffering. Again, he realised their difference.
"Anytime! You should come ova some time and go surfing with us!"
"Thanks. Sounds like fun." Bryon inwardly noted to himself that he ever intended of following through with that, it would probably be a good idea to get back into the water.

His parents were calling out, telling him they were going to leave without him. Bryon turned back around to Bethany Hamilton.
"Crazy how eager they are to disappear now. 5 minuets ago, they did not want to get out of your couch!" She laughed at him, before wrapping her arm around his waste and giving him a brief hug. He probably should have seen it coming. But he didn't. So instead, he stood awkwardly trying to work out how he could hug her back, without hitting her in the head. His parents called again, which encouraged Beth to pull back, and he didn't really have a chance to say anything more to her as he thanked her parents for dinner, and climbed into the car.

As his parents drove home, chatting happily about their great evening, and how lovely it was to see the Hameltons again, Bryon let his mind wonder. If he ignored the last 2 minuets of the visit, the rest of the evening went pretty well.

His thoughts turned to how different they both were. Maybe that was why the two of them had different responses to that day. Maybe it is because he hasn't been able to accept what happened, that he doesn't know how to deal with it, and his just pushed the memory, and all its afteraffects away. And because of that, he isn't able to handle it. Where as Bethany has accepted what happened to her, and learnt to deal with it all. That's why she smiles, and laughs and acts like she is okay…

Because she generally is okay…

And he isn't.