The Big Break(7)

By: Cara Lockwood

He had good reason to be angry. Kai couldn’t look his once-good friend in the eye. He lived on Maui, so what was he doing here?

“Maybe I ought to go,” Kai said, standing.

“Both of you—sit. You used to be the best team in big-wave surfing, but now you’re not speaking.” Kirk looked back and forth between the two men, who weren’t saying anything. “You guys have been doing this for more than fifteen years. Come on, you and Laird Hamilton, Buzzy Kerbox, Sandra invented this sport. You guys found a way to surf waves that everyone else said were impossible to surf. Tell me why you girls are fighting so we can put this behind us.” Kirk leaned back in his chair.

Bret, who was built like a linebacker, all broad, hefty muscle across his back, stared a hole through Kai. “He knows why.”

“Bret, I said I’m sorry.” Kai moved toward his old partner, but Bret backed away, hands up.

“I don’t want your apology, man.” Bret’s eyes had gone cold and flat. “You can keep that, along with your endorsements and your clothing line. Just...stay away from Jaws. I told you once.”

“Bret, come on, man,” Kirk pleaded. “Let’s sit down and talk about this. The Big Wave Championship is coming up. You and Kai, you’re like gold.”

“Keep your gold,” Bret muttered, shaking his head. Kai wished he could say the right thing, but no matter how often he apologized, he could never make it right. He knew it and Bret did, too.

He felt a pang. He remembered, years ago, back when only a few crazy souls would even attempt a ninety-foot break, and yet there the two of them had been, taking turns towing each other into waves that should’ve killed them. They’d learned as they went, instincts and grit the only things keeping him upright and alive, out of the mouth of the beast. Together they’d been brave or crazy or both. They’d been pioneers. And now here they were, barely speaking.

“Look, Kirk, nothing personal, but I’m done talking.” In seconds, Bret had stalked out of the office. Kai watched him go, feeling as if a chapter in his life was closing, yet he wasn’t done reading it yet.

Kirk let out a long sigh. “You going to tell me what’s going on there?”

Kai shook his head. “Not my story to tell.” If Bret hadn’t told him the details, then Kai wouldn’t.

“You’ve got a new tower? Someone you can trust?”

“I’m working on it,” Kai lied. He wasn’t. Why recruit a tow partner when his knee was 50 percent at best?

“You’d better work fast.”

“I know.” Kai shrugged, thinking about his wipeout earlier in the week. He hadn’t been on his board since. In fact, the very thought of getting out there again made his stomach buzz with nerves, as if he’d drunk too much of the Kona coffee served at his sister’s café.

Kirk studied him a minute. “Knee okay?”

“Still stiff,” Kai admitted, avoiding all eye contact, as if the truth would be evident on his face. Kirk nodded, looking somber, and then leaned forward, clasping his hands together on his desk.

“Gretchen says you’re blowing off training.”

Gretchen was Kai’s personal trainer, but even he had to admit he hadn’t been very trainable lately. Gretchen had told him to cut back on the bar life, but there wasn’t anything scarier than not being able to surf again except dealing with that sober.

“You gonna be ready?”

Kai met Kirk’s gaze and for a split second considered spilling his guts and admitting everything. I’m not going to be ready. I might never be ready again.

“I’m gonna try,” Kai said. He thought it was safely the truth, but as soon as the words were out of his mouth, he wasn’t sure. Was he trying?

“The new surfboards are ready to go, but we need some promo shots,” Kirk said, leaning back in his chair. Pure Kona sunshine filtered in from the big bay window behind his desk. “Maybe you on a big practice wave? Maybe on Jaws? You know, after you find a new tow guy.”

“Yeah, sure. Sometime.” No way. Never.

“How about next week? Photographer has openings a week from Sunday.”

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