She’s so good. My little sister, looking tiny out there on the water. Music is blaring, and sirens are going off. I’m not entirely sure what’s happening, to be honest. But I can pick her out of the line-up, every time. It’s like my blood knows.
There she goes, catching another wave. She pops onto her feet as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, and that board zip-zips along the water, this way and that. She’s like a dancer, owning those waves.
Float like a butterfly – that’s my sister, one-hundred percent.
“You OK?” Dax says softly, into my ear.
I nod, but I’m choking up. I reach out and grab his hand and squeeze it tight. He squeezes right back. I stand there for another few minutes, watching her paddle back out to where the surfers are lined up like baby ducks, before it hits me that I’m standing there holding Dax’s hand. Dax! And he isn’t pulling away. In fact, his thumb is stroking my hand, slow and steady. Soothing.
Now I don’t know what to do. Keep standing here? Or pull away?
Another siren blares, and the surfers start paddling in.
“Come on,” I say, letting go, not really thinking about what I’m doing. What I’m going to say. In fact, maybe I won’t say anything. Just get a little closer, get a better look.
Don’t screw it up, Justine.
The announcer starts saying something. It’s hard to hear over the crowd. But as I weave through the people, I catch a glimpse of her jumping up and down and some guy – is that Max? Childhood buddy, Max? – is lifting her up and twirling her around. And then she’s hitting him on the shoulder and pointing. The guy – yup, that’s Max – looks straight at me, and lowers my sister down.
And I lose her. The shifting crowd has swallowed her up. “Do you see them?” I call out to Dax.
“I don’t know,” he says. “There are wetsuits everywhere; everybody looks alike.”
I snort. Hardly! Not many brown faces in wet suits and even fewer of them are girls. But in this sea of faces, it’s hard to see anybody but the tallest. I push past a few more bodies, when I spy Max’s head. I raise my arm–
“Justine!” A wet weight envelopes me. “Oh my God, it is you! Ma’s going to be so happy. We’ve been so worried. You should see Gabs; he just started to walk. Oh my God,” she gasps and squeezes me tighter. “I’ve missed you.”
I miss you, too, I think. But all my stupid mouth blurts is, “Ma named him what?”
Tazmin has phoned Ma before I can stop her. As she babbles away, I glance over at Dax. He’s standing there chatting to Max like they’ve been best buds forever. Dax and Max, what a pair, sheesh.
“Here,” Tazmin says, and before I can push the phone away I hear a small voice say, “Gah.”
“That’s right,” I hear Ma say. “You gonna talk to your mama. Say, ‘Mama.’”
“Ma-ma-ma,” says the little voice.
Tears start gushing down my face like I’m a broken tap. “Hey baby,” I sniff. “How you doing?”
“Ma-ma-ma,” he babbles, making me cry even harder.
I feel Tazmin slipping one of her wet arms around my waist. Another, heavier arm, comes over my shoulders. And I can hear Ma on the phone, “We’re gonna figure this out, Justine. I’m so sorry for what I did, but we’re going to figure it out.”
And that little voice just keeps saying, “Ma-ma-ma.”
Tell us: Do you think Justine should forgive her Ma for throwing her out?