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Authors: Lisa Glass

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Air

BOOK: Air
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Air

BOOKS BY LISA GLASS

Blue

Air

New York • London

Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Glass

Cover photographs © Shutterstock.

First published in the United States by Quercus in 2016

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by reviewers, who may quote brief passages in a review. Scanning, uploading, and electronic distribution of this book or the facilitation of the same without the permission of the publisher is prohibited.

Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.

Any member of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use or anthology should send inquiries to
[email protected]
.

e-ISBN 978-1-68144-511-3

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Glass, Lisa, author.

Title: Air / Lisa Glass.

Description: First edition. | New York : Quercus, 2016. | ©2015

Identifiers: LCCN 2016010649 | ISBN 9781681445120 (hardcover)

Subjects: LCSH: Surfers–Fiction. | Surfing–Fiction. | Man-woman relationships–Fiction. | BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION / Love & Romance. | JUVENILE FICTION / Sports & Recreation / Water Sports. | JUVENILE FICTION / General. | GSAFD: Love stories.

Classification: LCC PR6107.L348 A75 2016 | DDC 823/.92–dc23 LC record available at
http://lccn.loc.gov/2016010649

Distributed in the United States and Canada by

Hachette Book Group

1290 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10104

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, institutions, places, and events are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons—living or dead—events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

www.quercus.com

For Amelie, Alyssa, Laura and Eve

“There's music in the deep:

It is not in the surf's rough roar”

John G. C. Brainard, 1795–1828

everglades

Five in the morning and I was driving faster than was legal down the empty road that sliced through the Everglades. For once the chatter in my head was quiet. No more worry, no more stress. All I had to concentrate on was the road ahead.

I didn't think of my mum, Zeke or even the cute boy sitting next to me. Seb moved his hand to my thigh, ready to take the wheel if I veered off course, but I had it under control. I soared with the feeling of freedom; endless possibilities stretching out around me. I was free of the arguments, the jealousy, the pressure. I didn't need a boyfriend to make me happy. I could do anything, go anywhere, be anyone.

I'd hidden behind walls of doubt and fear my whole life, but at last I knew the only thing that had ever held me back was me. The old me.

In that moment, I thought I was invincible.

four days earlier

miami

monday, april 20

chapter one

Sprawled on the silvery sand with my face turned to the sun, I reached over and the back of my hand found the stubble of his cheek. Asleep at one fifty-three on a Monday afternoon. The sun beat down; the sea was shining like a gemstone and we were in Miami.

“Zeke,” I said, just loud enough that I would have caught his attention if he was already stirring.

No response.

I turned on to my side to make sure he was still breathing, my mind falling back into the cold water of the Cribbar, where I almost lost him.

Struggling in the swirl of sucking currents, scanning the whitewash until, finally, his surfboard had floated to the surface, tombstoning, its urethane leash snagged on submerged rocks. Hand over hand, I followed that leash down into the darkness, and my fist closed around his hair.

Now, on South Beach, his breathing was shallow and peaceful, seemingly untroubled by the fretful dreams that plagued my nights. Fast asleep, his face looked younger, and beyond the square jaw and stubble I caught a glimpse of the young boy he must've been just a few years before I met him; the Zeke I knew was deep-voiced and fearless.

Not just a surfer; an adrenalin junkie who'd chase any high. He wanted to explore every path, see all the different clouds and pretty sunsets, and try everything he thought looked fun, no matter the risks.

I teased him about having a severe case of FOMO, but it wasn't fear of missing out; he collected experiences and treasured them. With Christmas Day sun burning our backs, we'd paddled over a coral reef in Bali, swarmed by a thousand yellow fish, and he'd told me he'd keep that moment in his pocket the rest of his life and take it out whenever he needed to smile. I loved that he could do that.

Two o'clock and on he slept.

Behind us, the Miami skyline rose up jagged and stark; in front, an enormous cruise liner sailed by. Miami, it seemed to me, was built on water. Interconnected islands linked by roads carrying the vehicles of the rich and powerful. Shops were boutiques, cars were supercars and luxury seemed to come as standard.

For a second I let myself compare it to Newquay, and thought of my predawn treks to surf a bump of swell at Fistral Beach, walking barefoot over sand dunes that were silent except for the snores of freecampers and the scuffle of foxes.

I ate the rest of my Reese's Pieces, drank my Dr. Pepper and looked at him again. Giving in, I touched his hair, which had
fanned out on his towel, and I wondered what the week would bring. Whatever the answer, I wasn't afraid. Traveling for so many months, so far from home, I'd got used to uncertainty. Before, I'd wanted to know where I was going, who would be there and what time I could leave. After six months on the road, as long as I had snacks and access to a working loo I was happy. In some ways, it occurred to me, I'd turned into Zeke.

My phone began to buzz. Zeke stirred a little and turned on to one side.

“You sounded rather American just then,” she said, when I answered with a whispered, “Hello.”

“I said one word.” I got up and moved down the beach so Zeke wouldn't be disturbed.

“You'll be calling me ‘Mom' next, I suppose, and turning on a ‘faucet.' How are you? How's Miami?”

“All right. Busy.”

“I don't like the thought of those six-lane expressways. It's not natural. Good lord, I can only imagine the road rage. And, of course, one-third of motorists in Florida carry guns in their cars. A third! You could pick up gunshot residue just walking down the street, and don't get me started on the serial killers.”

I looked around the beach and saw young families, pensioners and gym bunnies. Out on the water, people were paragliding, kite-surfing and playing around on jet skis. Hardly a crime scene.

“There's some Feelgood Festival going on here,” I said. “We've come a week early, to take a few days to chill out and get baked.”

“You'd better not be getting baked, Iris Fox.”

“Not in the marijuana sense. Catching rays.”

“Iris, the ozone layer resembles Swiss cheese you are using suntan lotion?”

Suntan lotion. My mum still called it that, despite me correcting her, the same way she called hot chocolate “drinking chocolate.” She was set in 1978 and always would be, no matter how far into the future the rest of the world moved.

“Yes, I'm using sunscreen,” I said, walking down the beach and trying not to gawk at a ridiculously ripped bloke jogging down the steps from the lifeguard booth.

“Excited for your birthday? Only three more sleeps!”

“I can't believe I'm gonna be seventeen,” I said. “Feels so old.”

My mum scoffed at this. “What about this launch party? Will there be press? Can I see it on YouTube?”

Florida was splashing on to the scene. It was going to be a stop on the following year's World Surf League championship tour, and the official announcement, with all the details, would be wrapped in a huge celebratory media launch. A Miami socialite had organized this party at a flashy hotel and apparently a few slebs who surfed were coming: Cameron Diaz, Chris Hemsworth, that Sam guy from
True Blood
. There were also going to be some supermodels and NBA stars I'd never heard of, plus the mayor, the governor, and tons of other Miami power players. Oh, and a bunch of scruffy surfers, including me and Zeke.

Florida had been home to some of history's greatest surfers, including the legendary Kelly Slater, who grew up on Cocoa Beach, so it seemed only right for it to be represented on the
world surfing stage. I was looking forward to seeing how it all went down.

“Yeah, I reckon. And don't forget the contest on Saturday will be going out live over the webcast, so you can watch that too.”

Mum didn't say anything, probably not wanting to commit to doing something she hated, so I said, “Hey, you should see our hotel here, Mum. It has linen art.”


Linen
art?”

“Where they twist your towels into swans or bears or whatever. Ours were alligators.”

“Good grief. You wouldn't want that near your undercarriage, would you?”

I was still grinning at “undercarriage” when she went on with, “Aunt Zoe said you did smashing in California. She watched every one of your heats. What was this camera she was telling me about a hundred frames a second?”

“A
thousand
. Phantom cam.”

A zip wire had been strung across the line-up at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz and the Phantom camera chased each surfer down the wave, catching every moment of the ride, to be replayed in slow motion for the people watching over the Internet.

“Did you see any of my heats, Mum?”

“I had a Mont Blanc of marking, more's the pity, but Aunt Zoe told me all about it.”

I don't even know why I was disappointed. My mum hardly ever watched me surf. She said it was because she didn't know what she was looking at, couldn't appreciate all the maneuvers,
but I knew that was rubbish. She couldn't bear to see me try so hard, only to lose.

“Third place is fantastic. Well done, darling.”

“Thanks, but, you know, it was out of only ten girls . . .”

“Fantastic end of story. When did you say the contest was?”

“Saturday at New Smyrna Beach.”

“Is that in Miami?”

“No, it's a few hours away. We're going to get the coach there.”

“Well, I promise I'll watch some of that one.”

“Thanks, Mum,” I said, almost certain that she wouldn't. “I'm a bit nervous about it. There are only two other contests after this, and if I'm not top of the board, I probably have zero chance of sponsorship.”

“Is that even possible? From fourth?”

“Yeah, everyone's expecting a lead-change, because me Beth, Leilani and Jilene are super-close in points. Any of us could take the title.” Which was as stressful as it was exciting, because it meant that the pressure was always on. Everything was up for grabs, and one bad day could mean the difference between taking the trophy at the end of the tour, and having a real shot at a life as a professional surfer, and getting nowhere.

When Zeke had encouraged me to run for the Face of Billabong UK, he'd told me it was going to be a huge deal. Billabong was looking for ten girls internationally, one from each participating country, and the winner would receive a check for five grand, magazine coverage and entry to a series of new girls' contests that would run parallel to the Qualifying Series. The idea was to use the same locations and dates as the main events,
to guarantee an audience. They were apparently spending a lot of money, seriously investing in the future of women's surfing. But it felt like everyone, including Billabong, had been disappointed in the lack of interest from the surf community. Sometimes it felt as if our contests were an afterthought, something that had to be shoved in, but never when the best waves were breaking. A pity contest. I didn't know how much of that my mum had picked up on already, but I didn't want to be the one to spell it out to her.

“How do you know I'm in fourth?”

“Oh, I saw it on your athlete page on Facebook. I do like that picture of you and Zeke on the Hawaiian mountaintop with your arms in the shape of a heart. Very sweet.”

Facebook? Apparently my mum
had
changed in my absence.

“What happened to social media being
the downfall of civilization as we know it
?”

“Naturally I only joined for the hotties.”

I laughed. My mum hadn't had a boyfriend in the ten years since my dad left. Even if she was actually checking out blokes, I doubted she was talking to them.

“Why haven't you accepted my friendship thingy?” she asked. “Kelly accepted within twenty-five minutes of me sending the invitation.”

My best mate was friends with her own mum. And her grandparents. She didn't care what they found out about her. The way Kelly saw it, there was no point trying to hide anything, because it all came out in the end. She was weird like that.

“I'll check for it later.”

The phone went silent and I thought we'd been cut off.

“Mum?”

“I'm here. Oh, before I forget: I need you to be available for Skype on Thursday at 1 p.m. your time. They'll all be here, including His Highness.”

“Dad's coming over? Like, actually into the house?”

My absentee father, not quite a deadbeat but nearly, was the comedy nemesis of my mother. They walked in circles around each other, eyes blazing, waiting for the other to make the first move.

“I can hardly leave him outside like a garden gnome,” she said, adding under her breath, “much as he deserves it.”

I stopped to adjust my new bikini bottoms, retying the knot at my hip and trying not to flash the young woman with a baby strapped to her chest. “Good morning,” I said, doffing my baseball cap at her.

“Why the big thing though? It's not like I'm gonna be eighteen.”

“Your aunt and I have been planning this party for months. We're not canceling, just because the guest of honor is too busy to attend.”

“I'd have come home if I could've,” I said, feeling guilty, “but I have the contest, and Anders said we have to go to this media launch party, no excuses. And then Zeke booked us a fancy hotel to make a birthday present of it.”

Zeke had seemed so happy to surprise me with the hotel reservation. We'd stayed in a lot of grim hostels on our travels, and slept on the battered couches of friends and strangers. It wasn't that we couldn't afford to stay somewhere nicer; at
some of the more remote beaches there weren't any better options, and we made do, just like all the other surfers who traveled with us. In Spain we'd slept in sleeping bags under the stars.

“I know. We miss you, that's all.” She paused and added, “I wish you'd come and visit, if only for a week.”

I'd heard this a few times over the past months, mostly before contests with heavy waves that broke over coral reefs the sort of breaks that could break me. I knew she missed me, and worried about me, but I was locked into a strict contest-and-training schedule, and when I wasn't training or competing I had publicity and advertising commitments.

“What are you doing today, Mum?”

“Pub quiz at the Red Lion. One hundred pounds in the kitty, and there's a meat raffle. Iris?”

“Yes?”

“You are safe there, aren't you?”

“Mum. Be real. I'm knocking around the Art Deco district and South Beach. Caffeine overdose and an empty bank account are the main dangers here.”

She stage-coughed, delicately, which was some kind of code that I still hadn't totally figured out, although I had a feeling it was related to her finely tuned bullshitometer. “Be careful.”

“I will.”

At the water's edge I waded into the shallows, shuffling my feet to ward off any stingrays lying in wait. The wind was warm and I took off my cap and felt my hair swish out behind me.

“It's not like I'm here alone. I'm here with Zeke.”

“You are indeed. The only word I'll say on the subject is ‘butterflies.'”

We'd first had the butterflies conversation a week before I left Newquay. She was worried I couldn't count on Zeke, thought his free-spiritedness made him unreliable.

“He's looking out for me. Actually, we're looking out for each other. Stop worrying. He's not a bloody butterfly.”

I kicked at the water and sent an arc of spray through the air, marveling for a moment at micro-rainbows.

“Are you surfing today?”

“Maybe, but there's only a couple of feet of swell.”

“Do keep a weather eye open for bull sharks. They have more testosterone than a charging bull elephant.”

“Mum! Stop worrying!”

“I'm just saying. Anything with that level of testosterone needs to keep away from my daughter.”

BOOK: Air
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