“Probably later, but I think I’ll just kick back for a while. Do you mind if I stay here with you guys?”
“Sure. But it looks like your boyfriend’s about to take a spin,” Chelsea said in her usual unimpressed voice.
Violet saw what her friend was talking about. Jay was buckling up one of the life jackets and getting ready to take out the Wave Runner that had just returned. She saw a group of girls from another local high school follow him like lost puppies down to the dock. She’d seen them before, at parties she’d been to, and she wasn’t surprised that they were at the lake today. Everyone seemed to be there.
One of the girls must have gotten up the nerve to ask Jay for a ride, because she too was picking up a life jacket and slipping it over her barely-there bikini. She bounced up and down excitedly as she waited for him to straddle the seat, and then she climbed on behind him, grinning widely and grabbing him tightly around the waist. Violet vaguely recognized the girl, whose name she thought was Savannah. She looked like she’d just won a beauty pageant as she waved at her friends who were still standing on the dock.
Violet tried to ignore the sudden stab of jealousy she felt as she watched the girl wrapping her arms around Jay. She turned away so she didn’t have to see the two of them together. “Whatever…he’s not my boyfriend.”
Chelsea just ignored Violet’s comment as she eased herself back down and slipped her sunglasses over her eyes. “If you say so.”
Violet tried to follow Chelsea’s lead, as she stretched out on the towel that was more than big enough for the both of them. She closed her eyes and listened to the sounds around her until she could no longer fight the exhaustion that was clinging to her after a long night of chasing sleep. Soon she began to drift away, and the sounds around her shaped her dreams. She dreamed of music and friends, and of sun and smoke. She dreamed of her best friend’s smile, and of waves and beaches.
She was dragged from the haze of sleep by something tickling her arm. She thought that an ant must have crawled onto her, and she tried to shake it off without opening her eyes to look. But when she laid her arm back down across her stomach, she felt it slowly moving from her wrist to her elbow and back again.
She squinted, with one eye still closed, and lifted her head halfheartedly to see what it was. Someone was dragging a piece of grass back and forth along the sensitive hairs of her forearm. She followed the trail from the grass to the hand to the face and saw Jay grinning down at her.
“Hey there,” he said, tossing away the grass. “I thought you’d never wake up.”
Violet sat up all the way. “How long was I sleeping?”
Jay shook his head. “Not long, less than an hour probably. I wanted to see if you want to go out on one of the Wave Runners with me.”
“What about your girlfriends?” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Violet was embarrassed for sounding so petty. She tried to make it seem like she was only kidding as she added, “I thought maybe Savannah’s friends were all waiting for their turn down on the dock.”
He just laughed. “No, Savannah was the only one. She wanted me to show her how to drive one.” Violet was glad that he hadn’t seemed to notice the irritation in her voice before.
“So, did you?”
He shrugged. “I tried to, but I don’t think she was really paying attention. I think she just wanted someone to give her a ride.”
Not someone, Violet thought to herself. You. She wanted you to give her a ride. Sometimes she wondered if he was really that dense, or if he just wasn’t interested in returning the girls’ attention. But when she saw the clueless look on his face, she realized that it had to be the former. He was such a guy.
She looked around her then and realized that she’d been abandoned by her friends while she’d been sleeping. “Where’d Chelsea go?” she asked.
“I saw her taking off on one of the Wave Runners with Jules. So, you wanna go with me?”
Violet was reluctant to take off her shorts in front of everyone and expose her knees like a clumsy little girl, but she did want to go out on the Wave Runner with him. She weighed the option of staying where she was, covered up from her hips to her knees in the baggy gym shorts, or cutting a vicious path through the water sitting atop the powerful watercraft in search of a wave to jump.
Her daredevil side won out. “I’ll go, but I get to drive,” she insisted with a grin.
Jay didn’t argue. He never did; he was too easygoing to care whether he was the driver or the passenger.
On the dock, Violet self-consciously dropped the shorts, baring her knees and the swimsuit beneath. She looked around to see if anyone was staring, but no one seemed to notice. She plucked up a life vest and buckled herself into it before straddling the Wave Runner’s seat. Jay followed right behind and casually gripped her hips as she started the engine and attached the coiled key fob to her life jacket, a safety measure that would cut the engine if the driver was thrown from the vehicle.
She leaned forward and began easing the watercraft through the cove, watching cautiously for other vehicles or for people who might have wandered too far from the water’s edge. But once she reached the end of the cove and passed the buoys that signaled the end of the five-mile-an-hour speed limit, she grabbed the handle that controlled the gas and she pulled it, gunning the Wave Runner into high speed. She leaned farther forward and let the wind cool her face. For the first time in weeks, since well before school had started, she was no longer aware of Jay’s proximity to her. He became any other passenger on the back of the vehicle as she got lost in the punching accelerations over the short, choppy waves.