Here’s a flashback that my editor and I removed from Into the Blue. It was written while the title was still “Out of the Blue”, Sunny was called Urchin and Hannah was called Noah. Long ago. Here’s Tai meeting Ollie, and, if we’re real about it here’s Tai first falling in love.
Tai bends into the wave. It’s a monster, bigger than any he’s taken before. He’s flying, then falling, then somehow flying again until he reaches the shore. The wave collapses and he’s tipped awkwardly into the swash and sand. He rolls in with it a bit, stands, shakes himself off. There’s sand in his hair and his ears and his board shorts. He glances at the sky. Plenty of time before dinner. He shoves his surfboard up under one arm and runs through the shallows to head back out. Drops of water fly up beneath his feet and pelt the backs of his calves.
Tai swings about toward the voice. “Yeah?” he says. The kid’s about his age. He’s blonde and rangy and even though Tai knows pretty much everyone, he’s a stranger.
“You snaked me out there,” the kid says over the sound of the surf.
“I was on that wave. You shoved in on the wrong side of me.”
Tai stands his ground. He’s thirteen and out here he knows himself. More than that he knows this break. He’s been surfing it since he was six years old. “I’ve never snaked anyone, dude.”
“Well, there’s a first time for everything. This time you did.” The kid shrugs. “Dude.”
Tai blinks at him.
“Don’t worry about it,” the kid says. “Just don’t do it again.”
Before Tai can think of any kind of decent response the kid shakes his hair out and lopes off into the surf, his legs easily carrying him over the small waves. Tai watches. He shifts his board so it sits more comfortably under his arm and tries not to resent the kid’s long limbs and self-assurance.
For the next hour Tai pretends not to watch the kid surf. He’s good – as good as Tai, and maybe better. Even among all the older surfers it’s impossible not to admire his form.
“You can really ride,” Tai says one time when they meet, both paddling back into the surf zone.
“You too,” says the kid and Tai beams at the compliment.
“You a tourist?” Tai asks.
The kid frowns quickly. “Do I look like a tourist to you?”
Tai considers the kid’s pale skin, white-blonde curls and long-sleeved rash guard. He lies. “No.”
“Too right. We just moved here from Honolulu. I’m Ollie.”
“Tai,” says Tai. They both grin, still paddling hard with the water between them. And just like that they’re friends.
Turns out they’re both going to be freshmen at Lielehua High come September. For the rest of the summer they meet every day. Sometimes Ollie’s kid brother Jaime comes. Sometimes Tai’s friend Sunny, too. But Jaime’s not that into surfing and Sunny has to help her mom at the library or with the baby twins so mostly it’s just the two of them. When the surf’s flat they hang on the beach or at Tai’s place. Sometimes they sit in silence. Ollie’s not the type of kid to fill every gap in a conversation and Tai’s just happy to hang out. Still there’s plenty to talk about too – mostly breaks, or surfboards, or the benefits of onshore winds or the perfect wave height ratio.
Tai’s already got friends, heaps of them, and a family that feels like it spreads over the whole of the Pacific. But Ollie’s different. To Tai’s thirteen year old eyes, Ollie’s like a mermaid or something. He’s a bit alien. Like a wild dolphin or a blazing comet skimming across the surface of the ocean, quick and bright, and yet still stopping to lie on his back with Tai and chat while they look at the sky.
They’ve known one another a week, then a month, then two months, then two years and Tai still wants to hear every single thing Ollie ever says see every single thing Ollie ever does.