December and Katya took their time returning to their friends. The distance to the toilet was no joke – it was up on the tracks of the little sloppy hill and near a recreational park. Who decided to build one on a hill? More importantly, who decided not to build one at the beach? It didn't help that most restaurants turned away people who wanted to use their restrooms because apparently it was 'peak' hours.
"Maybe we should go to another beach next time." December started, relieved that she wasn't wearing slippers with all the sand slipping between her nails and toes. In an afterthought, though, she decided to really get one because she didn't want her shoes to get dirty.
Katya hummed, looking around mindlessly. Like December, she couldn't believe no one had the idea to make things convenient and just build one on the beach, but then she said, "If this situation is the same on other beaches, then I honestly don't see any point in going."
December shook her head, seeing her logic but also thinking that would be just one in a million's opinion. "True…but, who doesn't love going to the beach? I doubt this inconvenience would even stop them." And then, in a mischievous manner, she glanced at her sideways, saying, "Should we have a protest? I think we could do it."
Katya felt laughter bubbling out of her. It was a ridiculous idea, but still fun to entertain. "And watch by the sidelines while everyone else mourn the freedom to spend their day with other strangers. That's definitely interesting."
"When you say it like that, it just sounds ominous." December looked at her in wariness, inching away from her in mock seriousness.
Katya laughed then, and it sounded like a carefully orchestrated piece that seemed to suit her just beautifully. December had never heard a beautiful laugh as hers.
The raven-haired beauty flipped her hair from her shoulder, exposing a graceful arch of porcelain neck. When she saw December staring at her, she gave a funny look.
December, still star-struck shook her head, and said, "You're really stunning."
Katya's brows furrowed slightly, thinking that December was trying to fish a compliment herself. But that expression looked so earnest, she was displaying her thoughts for everyone to read. Katya couldn't sense any guile in her. She was just….so open.
How could she be so expressive and unguarded? Unafraid to let others read her? That they would use it against her?
In that moment, Katya thought she knew why Pierre liked December.
They were both transparent in their emotions, even though they strive so hard to deny that.
A gentle smile touched her lips and Katya said, "Thanks. You're not so bad yourself."
December didn't expect that at all and she didn't know how to react. Hearing this wasn't something new, having heard it from her friends many times, regardless whether they were joking or not.
But this, coming from Katya…she didn't know why, maybe because they were still getting to know each other, and the fact that this Katya was so different than the girl she first met…it felt as though the words weighed a really genuine meaning.
So, she only smiled shyly at her.
They went on to talk about other things, but somehow December couldn't quite ignore the niggling thought in her mind. Earlier, Katya had asked her about Pierre and whether there was something between them. She had no idea why Katya would bring that up in the first place. She didn't think there was anything between them, but now…what if there was something there that she hadn't been aware of before, until now?
Sometimes there was this indescribable feeling when she heard his name, like one would be so lucky to have him near them. She recognize the feeling to be similar as watching a blooming flower for the first time in years. That was how she felt about Zach, after all.
But what if it didn't mean anything at all? Zachary and Pierre are two different people who both have their own charms. Maybe she was just confusing one with the two because of the similarity of feelings, when it was not a big deal.
Because December knew who was the one in her heart; Zach.
December blinked and blurted out the words that nagged at her. She needed to get it out of her chest.
"There's really nothing going on between me and your cousin, you know." She started, nodding slowly as though she had confirmed it. "I don't know what makes you think there's something between us, but well, I like him as a friend, and I'm sure he does too."
Katya looked at her, startled at the sudden confession about something that had been the topic an hour ago. She did have some thoughts about their conversation, but it was long since at the back of her mind. December had already said it before. Had she been thinking about this again the entire time?
"I didn't say anything." Katya sounded mildly amused.
She blinked and then cast a sheepish grin. "O-oh, yeah, I just...wanted you to know that." She chuckled before looking ahead.
Katya nodded, smiling oddly which escaped the other girl's notice. "Don't worry about it. It's all good."
When they met with their friends, and finding both Raven and Serena, but not Brooke there, their questions were answered without them uttering it.
"Brooke said she's gone to get some cool drinks at one of the shops there." Raven jerked a thumb in the direction behind her. December glanced up and saw a line of shops still being crowded by people constantly walking in and out. She could be in any one of them.
"You two have been away for quite a while." Serena noted.
December nodded. "Yeah, we were just walking and getting some desserts but then…"
Raven's expression fell and she winced. "You found the toilet?"
"Yeah, you guys weren't joking." She then looked at the blanket, noticing a new addition of snacks and Brooke's phone. She must have forgotten about it.
There was another thing that December noticed: her increasingly sand-covered shoes.
She made a tiny noise of a high pitched scream, low in her throat before looking distressed. "Damn it. I really should have gotten some slippers. What time are we going to leave?"
Katya looked at the sky. It was about to be well into the evening soon; the colours were more prominent now. Above them, a flock of birds flew together in the same direction, probably calling to their kind that it was time to go home.
Serena checked her watch. "I'm not sure. Maybe when it gets a little dark?"
After looking around, she added, "That's about three hours from now. Okay, I'm gonna get one for myself."
Katya told December, "Hmm. We'll be here." before rummaging her bag for phone. Someone was calling her.
December walked the streets, looking for a place that sells flip flops but there were only an assortment of everything else except what she wanted. When she did find one (a little farther away from her friends), she heaved a sigh of relief.
December didn't get to wander through the shops and see what they've got to offer earlier, and now that she was already there, she decided there was no harm in a little window shopping. She held her shoes in a paper bag, liking how her toes feel in her new sandals and walked at a leisurely pace. As she passed by the vendors, she noted that almost all of the stores have some cute items which would definitely make her friends appreciate them.
Already knowing what souvenirs to get for them, she had yet to find one for Zach. Just when her feet started to ache and she was beginning to think that she might not find one today, a small shop caught her attention. It was simple, but had that one thing that others lacked and the item that made her grinned satisfyingly.
It's perfect, she thought before adding, I hope he'll like it, though.
On her way back, she couldn't help but to glance at the tower, thinking that Zach must have finished his shift considering that soon it would be nightfall.
Unless he works the night shift too…
She shook her head. She trust that he wouldn't abandon his word.
No sooner than she thought of it, her phone pinged with a notification. Fishing it out, a slow but elated grin stretched her cheeks when she saw that Zach had sent it.
I'm almost done with my shift. Come to McCroy's Surf Shack in 10. It's a huge, yellow store and it's hard to miss. I'll see you there : )
She looked around, and immediately spotted a store the size of a warehouse in yellow. She didn't know if there was a name for it, but there was a life sized surfing board illuminated in neon lights above. Zach was right, it was very hard to miss. Their rendezvous were not far from where she was, although with the people flitting in and out of the crowd, it was a little difficult to move around.
As she moved through the sea of people, a huge flat screen mounted in the middle of the boardwalk caught her attention. More specifically, the content in it which showed a live feed of a news from hours ago.
A female newsreader was reporting on a street which looked quite familiar to December, when the next faces that appeared confirmed it. The boy whom she was interviewing had his hand bandaged and his forehead patched. She definitely recognized this one as the leader of the trio.
"…it was crazy! We were just walking down the street minding our business, 'cause, you know…we don't give a [bleep] when this [bleep] came out of nowhere –"
The next guy grabbed the microphone and yelled into it, his cheeks swollen, and looking like a puffer fish.
She thought puffer fish was kinda cute, even though it's a little creepy looking, but she would most definitely not use that term for them, considering what they did to her and Serena earlier.
" – Yeah, he came out of nowhere! Straight up punching and blackmailing us for messing with the wrong person. I didn't even know him. But just as he came, he disappeared." He was pissed off, trying to express that with his fist, and the camera person had to back away for a moment, fear of getting his equipment broken. In the back, the first interviewee repeated his friend's last sentence with hyped frustration.
The female newsreader tried to regain control and passed the mic to them again, saying, "And is it true there's another friend with you who was at the scene?"
The both of them scowled at her. The latter said, "Yeah, but he bailed on us! Left us to fend for ourselves, that [bl –]"
"Okay," rushed the newsreader, clearly knowing this was one of those news where her team would have to put lots of censorship on what these youngsters are saying. "How would you describe the man who assaulted you?"
"I don't know, it happened so fast." The second one said in puzzlement, but the first one was a little bit helpful.
"He, uh…he wore a mask, but he looked rich. Like one of those frat [bleep] from college. He had a razor with him too even though he didn't use it on us. I got scared shitless, though." He nodded rigorously, stricken. And then, as though he realized he needed to show that he was still masculine and not defenseless, he stepped closer to the camera, the lighting illuminating the purple bruises on his face.
With an angry look, he sneered, "Hey, you piece of [bleep]! Next time, show yourself! I dare you to meet me and my friends at the basketball court behind –"
The next scenes were just the newsreader trying to calm them down and stop the main guy cussing into a camera from breaking the equipment. She saw the newsreader signalling her partner to cut it from rolling and then came a series of advertisement.
December was stunned. And then she shook her head, not wanting to feel sorry for them. They were horrible guys and looking at their bruises… whatever they did, they must have pissed the unknown perpetrator off.
Still, a razor? She thought that was terrifying.
December shook the shudders off of her and continued her way towards the neon building.
Katya took her call under a palm tree, listening while the caller asked about her well-being and such. She watched the gentle waves make its way to the shore. The wind picked up around her and she closed her eyes briefly, enjoying the feel of it.
Then, she said, "I know you didn't just call to ask how I'm doing, Parker." With a sigh, she added, "I don't know why you couldn't just call him yourself. I gave you his number days ago."
She could almost see smirk on his face when he said, "I could, but I don't want to. Not yet, anyway." In an afterthought, he added, "Has he calmed down since that last time?"
Katya blinked. Was Parker so worried about Pierre that he thought he was giving his brother more space? That's… thoughtful of him, and it wasn't something she sees every day from the man himself. Something had changed, a good one, especially now that Pierre was back in their lives.
She took off her sandals and felt the fine sand on her foot. So soft… I want to go back to those days at the beach with them…
"He's doing much better, actually. I think they've had their conversation because Max seemed a little bit more relaxed around him. Not a whole lot but it's an improvement." She said, while glancing at where the rest of December's friends….her acquaintances sat. Brooke and December still hadn't come back, so it was just Serena and Raven laughing; seems as though the former was teasing the latter about something because Raven was blushing.
She noted Parker's sound of approval, and then he said, "A huge improvement. What do you think? Is he ready to meet again?"
Katya knew what he was really asking, and she paused in thought. After their last encounter, he had agreed to have another dinner with them. She wasn't sure whether he was really ready or not, but he was going to meet with them again and she counted that as a blessing.
Finally, she said, "I think he just wants to get to the bottom of this."
Parker stayed quiet for a moment, and then said, "Good enough. It all comes down to him, after all."
Katya spoke with Parker for a while before they ended their call. She looked at them again. Katya wasn't in the mood to return yet and so she stayed at her spot.
She couldn't help but think about what December told her on their way back and a smirk made its way to her lips. To think that she didn't even have to prod the matter again for her to confirm what she knew.
What was that phrase again? Less is more? Well, December had proven that to be true today.
In her eagerness to really deny anything between her and her cousin again, she was actually revealing a lot to Katya. December had to have some feelings for her cousin, there was no doubt about it. It only make sense that someone who was trying to deny something had to be thinking about it first, don't they?
If only Pierre is on the same beach as us…
She smiled smugly to herself, thinking she was doing her cousin a huge favour and called him but he didn't pick it up. Shaking her head, she dialled Max, relieved that he answered.
"Katya. Vse normal'no?" Max asked lightly, but there was slight concern in his voice too.
She noted the sounds in the background, beach waves and people laughing. "Da. Na kakom ty plyazhe?"
Max sounded uncertain before he made a sound of recognition. "Ya dumayu, chto P'yer skazal, chto eto…Lustre Cove?"
Lustre Cove? Katya blinked in surprise, and switched to English. "We're on the same beach then, Max." Then, she added casually, "What are you doing here?"
"Volunteering. Pierre asked for my help but," He then chuckled as if remembering a funny memory. "He didn't know that he was going to clean up the garbage on the beach, Katya. You should see the look on his face."
Katya's lips twitched. The image of stoic Pierre picking up litter at the beach was one she regretted missing out on. But then another thought occurred. With a raised brow, she spoke into the phone, "Should you be laughing when you were also there….and well, you did help him clear those away, right?"
Max ceased his laughter and sobered up but his words lacked the heat when he said, "Tch. Molchi."
"Anyway, I couldn't get a hold of him. Do you know where he is?"
"Nyet. I am not with him right now."
"What?" She frowned, feeling her protective side surfacing. She always had this sense of responsibility to watch his back, but now that they were in a foreign land, that responsibility intensified. It didn't matter that they were the same age – he was the youngest cousin between the three of them anyway and she knew Max. The guy could be kind of clueless at directions sometimes. "Where are you at now? Who are you with –"
Max made a noise of irritation. "Rasslab'sya, Katya. I already got it from him, and not you too. I will be alright and he told me that we'll be leaving together so enough worrying about me."
She bit her lip before pursing it in vexation. She was just being caring. "Fine. Let me know what time you'll be going back so I can join you too."
They hung up and Katya exhaled a sigh. It felt as though she had been at the beach for the entire day – Pierre went M.I.A and Max didn't even want to talk to her for longer. She wondered what he was doing but a part of her was relieved that he was settling into this place just fine.
A girlish squeal and laughter snapped her attention towards her new friends where Serena and Raven were splashing water at each other. It was weird but an unbidden smile stretched her lips, mirroring the excitement they felt. The longing in her heart for the past when her cousins visited her and then went to the beach was still there, faint but pulsing, and though it had been years ago, in her mind the memory was still clear. When Raven caught her gaze and waved to join them, she smiled and gestured to the phone she was holding.
She still had to get in touch with Pierre. After weighing her options, she decided to just text him. It's up to him, as long as I did my part, a petty part of her whispered if this time, Pierre still didn't get back to her.
But luck cared about Katya, and she got a response from him in less than a minute. Their series of texts went like this:
Pierre: 'What's wrong?'
She rolled her eyes. Do they have to open up with similar sentences? They're such….twins. It was a lame thought, she knew.
Katya: 'I called you earlier. Did you get the call?'
Pierre: 'Shit. Sorry, I didn't hear it. Are you alright though?'
Katya forgave him, because it happens. Sure, it was irritating, but these things happened.
Katya: 'Yes, don't worry. I'm at Lustre Cove, by the way.'
Pierre: '? How come you didn't tell me you're here too? Where exactly are you at?'
Katya: 'I'm under a palm tree. But whatever. I just wanted to tell you that the student body president, Zach, is here.'
Pierre: 'Yes, I know. I met him earlier.'
Katya smirked again. But I bet he didn't know this one next.
Katya: 'And so is December.'
She waited for another text, but disbelief was written all over her face when he called her.
"Why are you telling me this?" He said, skepticism and dare she say it, hope, was in his voice.
She tutted and deadpanned, "And to think the only way I could get you to call me back was mentioning her name. Wow. I must say, I never expected this from you."
He chuckled lightly, a little uneasily too, but then said, "I'm just surprised, that's all. It seems like a planned coincidence that we're all here at the same place today. Bit of an odd thing, don't you think?" He mused aloud.
It was an attempt of a diversion, but she couldn't help to agree with him as well, thinking that there was something in the way the world works which sometimes feel like it was too good to be true. Again, she knew these things happened, if not rarely. It was a small world.
She hummed and said, "Mm. Last I saw her, she's heading towards the boardwalk. You might bump into her."
Pierre remained quiet for a few seconds, pondering on something, before he said, "Katya, why are you telling me this?"
She refrained from rolling her eyes at his question. "Because I want to?"
"If there's one thing that still stuck with you after all these years is your intolerance in meddling with other people's business. So, what changed?" He asked lightly, and she could imagine the curious stance he adopted since she saw him again at school.
Katya felt like pursing her lips again. It was so vexing because he still knows her after all this years. It wasn't fair – she barely knew her cousin and they were starting all over again now – but apparently she hadn't changed much compared to him. Compared to them.
Why? It was simple. Because they were family, they were one again, and because…family help each other even in the little ways, regardless whether or not they thought they didn't need it. After all, she had never been able to ignore any issues left unchecked if she could help it.
Katya wanted to say that, but instead, because this was also true, what she said was, "Because someone needed to give that little push since you're too hesitant to do something."
Pierre laughed. "Classic Katya, huh?"
She chuckled along. "My job's done, so it's now up to you."
He thanked her and they hung up, and Katya felt herself feeling lighter than before. Was it important that she had to meddle in his business? Well, she thought it was – because who knows? She might have done him a great service for his future. She was just glad he didn't think of her as a nuisance, though.
And then another thought occurred, which made her want to laugh out loud. Why did she find a lot of similarities between them?
That foolish chap, he didn't even bother trying to deny his attraction to her this time, she shook her head with a wide smile.
Katya then sighed to herself. Cursed her and her inability to stop meddling in other people's business.
Even though she has a boyfriend…well, it's not like I'm trying to break them up or anything, she justified to herself.
Feeling so exhausted, she looked up and saw the two girls still going at it – getting themselves drenched with the salt water.
She felt the pull.
To move forward. To release herself from the ghosts of the past.
After all, all she had now was this moment. She was okay, and they were all going to be alright too –her, Pierre, Max, and Parker. It was yet another odd thing, even though they were on the same beach, each of them were doing their own thing. She knew nothing would separate them again.
There was no point in longing for the past when she could enjoy herself better with new acquaintances in the present.
Walking towards Serena and Raven, she came up from behind and splashed the waters at them, making them shrieked in surprise and she, laughing uncontrollably.
They declared a water war on her.ns22.214.171.124da2