Vin doesn’t say anything else due to a text message from Topher. He shakes his head and clenches his phone like he’s crushing an aluminum can.
“Dude, what’s wrong?” A.J. asks from my other side.
Vin holds up the text. It’s a photo of Topher, Miles, and Kale in the competitors’ tent. Topher waves the shaka while choking Miles with an arm-hold around his best friend’s neck. Kale is on Miles’s other side, tongue out like a crazy rock star.
“This is what I deal with,” Vin says. “Topher was supposed to give Miles a pep talk, help him find a zen place, or whatever the hell it is that surfers do. Not this shit.”
He glances back at the tent where Colby speaks with Shaka Magazine. “I need to stick close to him to make sure he doesn’t say something stupid. I’ll catch you after this is over,” he says.
With that, Vin heads back over to his star surfer. Reed replaces him on the tailgate and talks about how glad he is that it’s summertime because college classes are killing him. A.J. says he secretly hopes Colby wins this competition just because he’ll get a slice of the prize money and won’t have to look for a job just yet.
And that’s when I hear it. Screaming. Crazy, fanatical screaming. Enchanted Emily rolls her eyes and mutters the word ‘fangirls.’ Reed nods and A.J. laughs, but I don’t buy it. I push off of the tailgate and glance around. Fangirl screams are the kinds you’d hear at a Spaceships Around Saturn concert. This is more of the kind of scream you’d hear if someone in Spaceships Around Saturn was murdered.
A rush of media cameras sprint toward the Drenaline Surf tent. Camera flashes spark like lightning around them while microphones dance over the reporters’ heads, hoping to catch a few words. And then there are more screams.
Reed and A.J. jump to their feet, joining me on the sand. Whatever media frenzy this is has nothing to do with surfer fangirls. A middle-aged lady cries out, and then there are shouts that “it’s really him.” More cries. Then sobbing. And her face comes into view. She’s ghostly pale, like she’s just seen the walking dead. A man close to her age helps her stay balanced.
“Wow,” Reed says. “Who knew Colby appealed to an older audience. She’s probably his oldest fan.”
My throat catches when I try to speak. I’ve seen her before – in the corporate yearbook. Page twenty-seven. Burks.
“She’s not a fan,” I say. “She’s his mom.”