“Water break,” Dax says.
I glance around, realising I don’t have a bottle down here. “Be back,” I tell him, and haul myself upstairs. I’m filling up a reusable bottle in the kitchen when I hear footsteps. I glance over my shoulder, and see it’s only Dax.
“You want some, too?” I ask, screwing the cap onto mine.
“Nah, I’m good,” he says, flopping down on a sofa.
I stay where I am and spray a cool stream straight into my mouth. After a good long drink, Dax hasn’t budged. “You done? Or you ready to go back down? I’ll hold the mitts this time,” I say.
“How old are you?”
He smiles and motions me to come over and a grab a seat. “I want to know more about you. How old are you?”
“Nineteen,” I say, plopping down on a beanbag. “You?”
“Twenty-one, twenty-two next month.”
I shrug. I mean, alright, I had been curious, but that doesn’t mean I understand why we’re having this chit chat right now.
“So what’s been bugging you?” he says.
I scrunch up my face. “What do you mean?”
“You tell me. You’ve been acting weird all week.”
I drink more water, trying not to frown. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Life is just going like it always is.”
“No,” he says, leaning forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Please don’t lie to me. I thought we were friends.”
“OK,” I say slowly. “I’m mean, sure, I’ve always got stuff on my mind. Been a weird couple of years for me, but that’s becoming normal, y’know?”
He shakes his head and stands up. “Right, OK, I get it. Sorry to bother you,” and he starts walking towards the other end where the stairs and two bedrooms are located.
“Hey,” I call out. “Don’t be like that.”
He turns. “Be like what? Like somebody who cares about you? Look, I know you’ve been through some tough times and you don’t like talking about it all. But I thought at least … y’know, it’s fine. Like I said, my bad.”
“No, no, no,” I say, shaking my head. Something about all this is telling me I’d better not let him walk away or I’ll mess us up. I don’t know what ‘us’ is, but I know enough to know that I don’t want to break it. “Sit down,” I tell him, and point back to the sofa.
And his face cracks into a tight grin and he strolls back over and sits himself on the sofa.
“Hey,” he says.
“Hey,” I say. Then I tilt my hips, so I can reach my back pocket and fish out the news clipping. I hand it over to him.
“What’s this?” he says, as he slowly unfolds it.
“It’s a surfing competition, happening this weekend.”
He looks up at me in surprise. “You surf?”
“No,” I tell him. “But my little sister does, and I’m wondering if I should go. You know, in case she’s made it.”
He nods, as if he understands, even though there is no way he could. I may have blabbed that night of the attack, but not enough for him to really get it. So I brace myself for a bunch of questions, but all he says is, “Supposed to be a nice weekend. I wouldn’t mind a trip to the beach.”
Tell us: How would you describe Dax’s character from your impression so far?