The sound of the loudspeaker drifts up from the beach behind us, and even with some distance I can still hear the huge waves pound against the sand, punctuated by cheering and clapping. The smell of fried food mixes with the salty sea air as Rose and I wait for the food line to start moving, my stomach grumbling impatiently.
Punta Galea sits on the coast of Spain, about twenty kilometres from the city of Bilbao. The secluded beach is one of the best spots in the world for big-wave riding, and after a huge low-pressure system hundreds of kilometers offshore promises swells of fifteen to twenty feet, the seaside town is turned upside down with the arrival of the Big Wave World Tour.
That's the thing about these big waves – they don't happen all the time, so when they do, you have to be ready. Luckily, Edward and I just happened to be in Portugal with some friends, so when Embry called to say that he would be just a plane ride away, we'd packed up and hauled ass north. Emmett and Rosalie turned up, too. Even at twenty weeks pregnant, there was no way Rosie would have missed Embry's first real chance at a win.
I watch as she rubs her belly absently while the line shuffles slowly forward. When she turns her face up to the sun, I know she's thinking the same thing I am. That this feels like home: the smell of the ocean, the sound of the crowds, the bubble of anticipation that comes with competition. It's been a while since Rosie has been a part of it, but no matter how long it is, there's nothing that compares.
After Rio, Edward and I spent the rest of that first tour together. Rosalie quit her job; I put a hold on my journalism studies; and the four of us followed the ASP Championship Tour from Rio to Fiji, then on to California, France, and finally South Africa. That year Emmett ranked second in the world, with Edward coming in at ninth place. You couldn't wipe the smile off his face for weeks. Ninth was better than anyone had expected—even him.
Once the tour ended though, Emmett decided to officially withdraw from the following season. His knee had taken a hammering after a fall off his board at Trestles, and Rosalie was desperate to go home, having had enough of travelling. She'd never admit it, but I think she missed Jasper. So, rather than push on and wait for his knee to blow out completely, Emmett opted to sit it out for a year.
Edward and I, on the other hand, were just getting started.
That first tour was like a revelation for me. With every new place we visited, I wanted to see more. Touring with the team meant having to leave before we got a good chance to see everything we wanted, and often meant Edward had to spend time training rather than being a tourist. So, once the tour was done, we packed up what little we had, sent Emmett home with all but two of Edward's boards, and set off into the unknown.
By the time pre-season came around the next year, we simply met up with the team and started the tour all over again. By that time I'd made friends with a lot of the other girls on tour; wives, girlfriends, family – the ones who spent their days sand-locked, watching and waiting.
That next season was all Edward's, too. He'd trained hard, and with no shadow of his older brother looming, he blew away the rest of the competition, clawing his way up to third place by the end of the year.
I loved it. Every single minute of it. In the off-season and between competitions, we zigzagged our way across Europe and Southeast Asia, staying here and there with surfing mates, or friends of friends. We sailed through the Greek islands and the south of France, and we spent a month motorbiking through Vietnam and Cambodia. During a trip through Spain we slept in the back of a van, the back doors wide open so that we could hear the waves crash while we made love.
We ended up travelling for two years, following the sun around the world in an endless summer.
Half a world away, Emmett and Rosie finally got their shit together, and Emmett made it official at last with a huge rock on her finger. And so, after two years of non-stop travel we decided it was time to head home and maybe think about doing the same – settling down.
Back home in Clearwater, we found a place just a few streets back from the water, not too far from the house that Jasper and Alice had recently moved into. While Edward went back to working for his Dad's surfboard company, I dove headfirst into studies. Journalism, and, more importantly, writing, turned out to be something I really enjoyed. Within six months, I'd completed a short course in freelance journalism and had loved every second of it.
The week after I completed the course, I threw myself into gear, writing about all sorts of things. I got some small pieces in the local paper to start out with, and then, once I had some clips to show, approached a few national magazines and was lucky enough to find editors who liked my style and were willing to give me a shot. Just short stuff, but work nonetheless, and I was getting my name out there and building a resumé.
But all the while, I itched with the want to get out and see more. The travel bug had officially buried itself deep under my skin, and now I couldn't get it out.
Rosie and Em were married eight months after we arrived home, in a small ceremony at Bird Rock, with the waves roaring behind them and the sand between their toes. Everything about it was perfect.
I was there right beside her, of course. And, right between Emmett and Embry, just across the sand, was Edward. I remember looking at him across the aisle, standing on the very beach where, three years earlier, we'd had our first kiss. I can remember the feel of the warm sand beneath my feet, the smell of the salt spray as it clung to my skin, my hands sweating around a bunch of peonies as I thought about how lucky I was to have fallen into such a crazy, amazing life. Sure, it hadn't turned out like I'd planned, but then, what is it they say? Life is what happens when you're busy making plans.
As Rosie and Emmett exchanged their vows, I remember glancing up and finding Edward's eyes on me, still happy to feel the bubble of warmth I got when he looked at me. And in that moment it was almost as if he were standing right beside me, whispering into my ear.
We both did.
When he smiled at me with that knowing grin of his, I knew he was thinking the same thing I was, and so the following day we bought one way tickets to South Africa, packed up our things, and took off again.
We spent a year living in Barcelona, and then six months in Portugal. The fantastic part about my job meant that I could pick up work anywhere in world. I wrote for Elle magazine sitting on a balcony in Istanbul. I picked up a regular spot for an American surf magazine while in Mexico. I even wrote for National Geographic while sitting on a rocky beach in Cornwall, watching the boys fight frigid water and hypothermia.
It wasn't the life I would have chosen for myself just a few years earlier, but damned if it wasn't everything I wanted.
Edward and I saw the world; we surfed the world's biggest beaches; we made lifelong friends; and in the end I got to do it all with my best friend in the whole world—I wouldn't have changed it for anything.
Two years after we left Clearwater for the second time, our Bronte was born on a humid afternoon in August, in a hospital outside of Paris, just two days out from the Quiksilver Pro. She was—is—the perfect baby; our perfect little girl, with the trademark Masen eyes and the Swan dark hair. She was the final piece to our puzzle, our final adventure.
I plop myself down into the sand beside Edward, who holds a squirming Bronte in his arms.
"Can you take her?" he asks, his hands desperately trying to keep her still while he keeps one eye on the surf over her head. When she squeals loudly for no reason but to hear the sound of her own voice, he looks down, his eyes softening. "She's wriggly today," he says with a smile, blowing a raspberry on her cheek that makes her giggle.
"Ah! Ah!" she yells, shoving Edward away and climbing into my lap.
I reposition her pink and green hat over her head, trying my best to protect her baby-soft skin from the hot Spanish sun. Placated, she sits with her chubby legs out in front of her, cradled against my chest as she shovels fistfuls of lukewarm chips into her mouth.
"Ah!" she screeches, as Edward dives in to swipe one from the cup in her lap.
He leans over to kiss her cheek, which she ignores in favour of shoving more fried potato into her mouth.
"Do I get one?" I ask, tapping my cheek.
Edward scoots back a little in the sand and throws his arm over my shoulder, tucking me into his side. With one eye on the waves, and on the rangy-looking Masen boy plummeting down their face, he presses a kiss to my temple. "Always."
Cold water surfing in Canada, swimming with sea turtles in Tahiti, surfing remote beaches in Namibia and Mozambique – we've done it all, and more. But there's only so much you can do before the call of home begins to set in.
Bronte is almost two, and at the age where she needs stability and to be surrounded by family. We want her to grow up in Australia, to have the chance at the same childhood Edward and I had. I want her to ride her bike in the street, go swimming in the river at my parents' farm, skin her knees on the bitumen playing netball, and get her first nose full of salt water at Saturday morning Nippers.
It's now over three years since we've been home, and my longing for it is at an all-time high. I want to see the clear open skies and smell the rain on the horizon. I'm dying for the scent of scrubby bush land and dusty roads and for the feel of the burning southern sun against my skin. I miss Vegemite, I miss the taste of my mum's roast lamb, I miss lamingtons, and fuck me if I don't miss Aussie beer.
I want to go home.
So we'll go. We'll sell what little we have and return to Clearwater to start all over again. Some might call it settling down – we just call it a new start. Edward will surf when and where he can, but since Bronte has come along his priorities are different. He's still in love with the ocean, with the competition, but the fire he had for it wanes, the urge to be the best is no longer what drives him. In the end, his love affair with that big blue bitch will never stop; she'll never truly let him go. But at this late stage I've come to accept it, even to embrace her – the third wheel in our relationship.
Esme keeps batting on about a wedding, but to be honest, I'm not sure if it's our thing. Even before Bronte came along, I knew that what Edward and I had was a forever kind of thing. We didn't need a piece of paper to tell us that. He's my sun, the bright spot in the centre of my universe, and it's his warmth and light that feed me, like my very own energy source.
Only for him would I get up at four in the morning, just so we can walk four kilometers down a dusty trail to some secluded beach. Only for him do I spend hours poring over hand-drawn topographical maps, talking about ground swells and wind direction, only to get to the beach and find it flat as a tack.
And only for me would he pack up his surfboard and spend months trekking through Eastern Europe and the Middle East where just the thought of surfing is laughable. Only for me would he traipse through markets in the sweltering heat of Morocco to find a new cord for my laptop after I left it at an airport. Only for me would he fly across the world just to spend one night together.
Together we've crossed the globe, followed the sun, chased our dreams, and found new ones in the process. And now, with a new journey just about to begin, a new day about to break, I can't wait to see where it will take us.
Nippers - a nickname often given to surf kids, or in this case, the name given to children aged 5-13 years who are part of a surf life saving club. Children are taught to swim in the ocean, body board, spot a rip and other basic sea skills.
Batting on - It means that Esme won't stop talking about it. Going on and on and on...
First: The Thanks
- Thank you Tiff, who so graciously followed me from Playing It Straight and put up with my comma overuse and constant misuse of; semi colons. If you're reading; thank you.
- To Ink, who let me babble to her, who pre-read the early chapters, and who let me kill her with Salty feels. I miss you, girl. Like whoa.
- To Shell, who was there from the beginning with her encouragement and support. Who flailed and squeed as I outlined this hot scruffy surfer guy. Thank you times a squillion-billion.
- To Wednesday In LA for calmly talking me off the ledge when I was about ready to call it a day. Thank you for being kind and sweet and above all honest - it's hard to find. Thank you.
- Thank you also to MagTwi78, abadkitty, WiltshireGlo, FrozenSoldier, Chet Faker, Asta, Josh Pyke, sunshine, Vegemite, cheese and bacon Shapes and the surf coast of Australia.
- Thank you to anyone who's ever read a single flipping word of this story. To anyone who's left me a review, even if it's just a smiley face. To anyone who's rec'd or pimped it anywhere. Thank. You.
Second: The Pimping
If you liked the Aussie flavour in FtS, you should check out both MagTwi78 and Thimbles, who have/are writing some really really great Aussie-fic. They're waving the Aussie flag and doing down under proud with some freaking amazing stories. Do yourself a favour and read them.
Third: The Next Bit
I will be posting something new early next year. It's way out of my comfort zone, and totally different to FtS, but if you'll have me that's where you'll find me next. I'm planning to have most of it written, so hopefully no long waits this time around.