"Man, it's gonna be weird having you gone," Twister said as he grabbed Sam's hand and pulled him in for a hug.
"Yeah, looks like we're gonna have to find a new Squid again," Otto said, punching Sam's arm and giving a teasing grin to Twister.
"Come on now guys, don't get all mushy," Sam laughed. "I'll bet you won't even notice I'm gone."
"You're lucky you're going to college so close or we would not let you get away with bailing on us all summer," Reggie smiled as she leaned in for a hug. "You're gonna have an amazing time with your dad, Sammy."
As she pulled away, the car horn beeped and Sam's mom rolled down the window. "Sam!" she called in a chipper, but anxious voice. "Come on! We don't want your father to get there before us!"
"She's really worried she might run into him," Sam muttered to his friends. "I'd better get going. Later guys."
The gang went in for a woogidy before Sam turned towards the car.
He waved out the window as his mom started driving away. The rest of the group stood in the cul-de-sac watching the car leave.
"This is so weird. It hasn't been just the three of us in forever," Reggie said in disbelief as they started walking down the street.
"Since he moved here," Otto added.
"I'm not really the Squid again, right?" Twister asked with a hint of worry in his voice.
It was a week into summer and although they missed having Sam around, not much had changed. They still surfed and skated most days. Having him gone made it harder to practice for hockey but there were no games for their age group in the summer anyway.
After a morning of surfing, the three walked into the Shack, putting their boards against the wall and taking a seat. "Man, am I hungry!" Otto said before shouting, "hey Tito!" towards the kitchen.
Instead, his dad opened the door.
"Finally! What's with the service here?" Otto joked.
Raymundo was clearly not in a joking mood.
"I just got off the phone with your school," Raymundo started. "And guess what? You failed your class!"
"Busted," Twister whispered sympathetically.
"Otto! I've told you again and again to do your homework, study for your tests! Every time you blow it off! Well, now you're gonna have to suffer the consequences!"
"Fine, so how long am I grounded? Two weeks?" Otto groaned.
His tone didn't help alleviate his dad's frustration. "Not only are you grounded for the rest of the month, you're going to summer school!"
"What?" Otto shouted, outraged.
"That's the only way you're going to pass this class!"
"Just explain to my teacher that Brit Lit is over my head. Tell her I'm dyslexic or something!" Otto pleaded. "Come on! Summer school? You can't make me go to summer school! I'll miss my surf tournament!"
"You got yourself into this, Otto. I'm not gonna clean up your mess this time," Raymundo said as he turned and walked back through the door.
"Ugh! This blows!" Otto said putting his head down on the counter.
Reggie and Twister exchanged looks.
"Maybe it won't be that bad," Twister said, trying to put a positive spin on it. "Maybe you could get a tutor. I know if Reggie wouldn't have tutored me, I would've never passed the class."
"Ugh! Shut up already! How did you even pass the class anyway?" Otto shouted angrily. "You should be in summer school! Not me! You're the stupid one!"
"Hey!" Reggie shouted at Otto. "Back off! Twister worked his ass off this year! He studied almost every day and actually did all the assignments! You blew off all the work and half the classes so you could go surf! It's your own damn fault you failed, so don't try to turn this on him!"
Reggie stormed off. Twister knew she was really angry. She only ever cussed when she was pissed off. He felt very uncomfortable sitting there with Otto.
"Um, I'm gonna go check on her," he said, getting up without looking back at him.
He scanned the street and then walked down to the beach, where he saw her sitting by the water. He took a seat next to her and looked out at all the people filling the ocean.
"I hate shoebies," she said, angrily.
"Reg," Twister trailed off as he didn't know what else to say.
"He shouldn't have talked to you like that," she said bitterly as she continued to stare out at the sea.
"It's fine, I'm used to it," Twister shrugged.
"That's what pisses me off most! He always treats you like trash! He always blames you for everything or tries to put you down so he doesn't have to feel bad about his own stupid actions!"
"I know I'm no good at school, everyone knows that," he attempted to joke but changed tones when Reggie gave him a look. "It's not like I expect to be a straight-A student or anything. I wanna be a film-maker. I just want to make it through high school and maybe get into college. I appreciate you defending me and all but it's not like what he said was really wrong."
"Yes it was! Completely wrong! Why don't you see that?"
"Reg—" Twister tried to interrupt but Reggie didn't let him.
"Don't! I don't want to hear it! You struggle in school, but that doesn't mean you're not smart. You work so hard and I'm really proud of everything you've done but it makes me so frustrated when you can't even see your potential! Just because you have to work harder doesn't mean you aren't capable! People have been telling you your bad at school your whole life and you just believe them! That drives me crazy that you just believe them! And you believe Otto with every negative thing he says to you even though he only says it to boost his own stupid ego!"
There was a long pause. After a minute, Twister broke the silence. "Thanks, Reggie," he said softly with a half-smile. "I don't know how you always believe in me, even when I don't believe in myself. But thanks."
"I just want you to see yourself for how you really are. I want you to see what I see," she looked down but her eyes glanced up at him.
Twister smiled. "Well, it looks like it's gonna be just you and me for a while with the others gone, so maybe you'll rub off on me."
"Maybe I will," she smiled back at him.