In the Wait: Matt

In Swimming Sideways, Matt is Abby’s feisty brother, a twin to Nate. A part of the soccer team with Seth, he’s the first one to find out the news about Seth’s accident. He also goes to the hospital with Abby and their dad. I’ve often wondered about Matt and how Abby’s story impacts him. We get to see small glimpses of it in Swimming Sideways, but I’ve always thought there is a lot more story to be explored. So here goes . . .

A series of vignettes to go with Swimming Sideways, The Ugly Truth and the upcoming The Bones of Who We Are. Matt is one of Abby’s twin brothers. He is featured in Abby story  Swimming Sideways

A series of vignettes to go with Swimming Sideways, The Ugly Truth and the upcoming The Bones of Who We Are. Matt is one of Abby’s twin brothers. He is featured in Abby story Swimming Sideways

Matt’s Choice

(This story contains spoilers to Swimming Sideways)

Abby, my older sister, jumps up from her chair in the waiting room and draws my attention with her as she rushes across the space. I follow her with my gaze and watch her throw herself in the arms of Gabe Daniels who has walked in. It feels wrong to see him here, somehow what I think I know not connecting with the actuality of the moment, as if the power has been disconnected and the computer’s waiting to reboot. What I’m picturing are video images of a fight between him and Seth playing over again in my mind. The fight all over IG and Twitter along with other crappy, ugly things said about it - about Gabe. Hashtag: CrucifyDaniels.  I don’t know the history between him and Seth, but it seems strange that he'd be here if there’s bad blood between them. 

There’s obviously more to this moʻolelo than I know.

When I got the text from Williams this morning about Seth, the first person I thought of was Abby. She and Seth are close, have always been in my memory, though I’m not sure how close beyond the summer trips to Oregon when we were little and their reconnection since we moved. When we were little, Seth and Abby would play Spy Games with Nate - my twin - and me; we were always the bad guys. Nate and I rarely knew what was going on other than it was a version of hide and seek in the backyard behind Nana’s house. They always found us and took us to jail where we had to stay until they told us to pretend to escape. When we moved to Oregon from Hawaii a few months ago, Abby and Seth reconnected and started hanging out once again like no time had passed. Maybe it was more than friends for a minute, but it always seemed like Abby was carrying a weight that kept her distant from everyone, including us. 

Now, she has her arms wrapped around Gabe - and he around her - in the middle of a full waiting room where everyone can see. I slump a bit lower in my seat, glance away from their embrace and look at my teammates.  I know it shouldn’t bother me, but it does especially when one of my soccer teammates, Williams whispers to Carter, “What the fuck is he doing here?”

Carter - team captain with Seth - is watching them. His green eyes are sharp like the peaks of the Koʻolaus and his jaw pulses, clearly upset by the display; but I don’t understand the context. I’m not sure what Abby and Gabe have to do with him. What I do know is that Carter and Seth are best bros.

Was the fight about Abby?

My gaze slides back to her. They’re stuck together like opihi on a rock.

“I don’t like what I’m seeing,” I hear Carter say. “Makes me sick.” He stands up and leaves the area where we’ve been sitting. I watch him weave his way across the room to sit against a far wall. The rest of the team follows.

And I’m stuck. Team? Family? It feels like an impossible choice. But here’s the truth of me: I always feel caught in the middle. If it isn’t between Abby and Nate, or my mom and my dad, it’s between choosing my family or the team - a different kind of family. It’s about fitting in here in Oregon or remembering what I’m missing from my homeland of Hawaii. It’s like a constant tug-o-war over who I am when I’m not even sure yet.

It makes me feel like I’ve got a bitter taste on my tongue.

Sometimes it feels like Abby doesn’t think about anyone but herself, like she doesn’t consider how I feel or how Nate feels about how her actions affect us. If the roles were reversed, however, she’d call me out. I know I shouldn’t care what other people think, but this is my team and she is my family. Anger surges inside me because I’m unsure what am I supposed to do about my sister dating the Freak everyone hates? But the thing is, I don’t hate him. Gabe’s actually pretty cool. He and Abby have become friends. He’s nice, actually, and athletic as fuck, which for me is like the Bible of Existence. 

I know my dad would say we always choose ohana - family over everything - but there’s a lie in there. He hasn’t always. He only just found his conscience to come back to us. So I’m calling bullshit on that, but I also know there’s a vein of truth in it too. Abby would choose me and Nate even if she’s made personal mistakes and even if she doesn’t always think of us. I might give her a hard time, but I love her. I know she’s got my back. 

I’m a simple guy, unlike my twin, Nate, who feels way too much. Maybe we are the yin and yang of a whole being. I see the end, I walk there in a straight line; easy. Nate, though, sees all the possibilities and takes us around bends and over hills. He tires me out; but he’s my other half. In all honesty, my short-sightedness usually makes me kind of a dick, but it works because Nate checks me.  Like when that whole video came out and I unleashed on Abby, our older sister. Nate stood with me, but he was like, “Brah, she’s our sister. We should figure out who that guy was and have his ass taken out. We can call our boys back home.”

“Ask Abby,” I’d snapped at him.

“She’s not going to say. She’s embarrassed.”

“She should be.”

“Why? For being drunk as fuck and then getting taken advantage of? You telling me if a girl was drunk like that you’d help her strip tease for an audience? That you’d film it?”

He was right. I might be a dick, but I wouldn’t do something like that. Ever.  

Nate and I chose to stand by our sister, but I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy at first. The girl I was checking out dropped me. Going to practice and hearing all the bullshit about my sister got me into it a few times with teammates, and Brock was the worst. I’d had to actually throw blows with him. Gave him a black eye and told him to shut the fuck up or it would be worse. Everyone took a step back after that and my life on the team got better. Maybe got some weird kind of cred from it? Seems stupid, but I’m a simple guy.

I pull out my phone to text Nate. He’s already sent a message.

Nate: Any word? He okay?

Me: None yet. Sounds bad. I need help.

Nate: What with?

Me: My team is icing Abby and Gabe. I feel stuck.

Nate: Stuck? Why?

Me: Having to choose.

Nate: You already know the answer bruh.

He’s right. I do. I glance over at the team clumped up in a corner now and slump lower into my chair, arms crossed over my chest to follow my mantra: What would Nathan Do?

When Abby leads Gabe and the woman I assume is his mom over, I take his extended hand and offer him a dude hug. “Hey,” I tell him and move a few seats down into the space my team just vacated so Gabe can sit next to Abby. I glance at her. She smiles at me and mouths, Thank you. I’ve made my choice. Family over everything. 

Hawaiian words:

moʻolelo (moh -oh - leh - loe): a story

Koʻolaus (Koh - oh - la - ow): Mountain range on the North side of Oahu

opihi (oh - pee- hee): A small sea urchin that clings to the rocks. Hawaiians collect it to eat. It is a delicacy.

ohana (oh- haw- naw): Family

Abby’s story

Abby’s story

In the Wait: Carter

In The Ugly Truth, Carter is one of Seth’s best friends. Soccer teammates, Carter shows up a few times in Seth’s story as a part of his journey. One of Carter’s most important scenes is in the cafeteria when Seth takes his big risk. But he’s an underdeveloped character. This made me wonder how he would feel learning that his best friend and teammate had been in a life threatening car accident. How would he respond? Here is Carter’s In the Wait vignette. Like Sara, I wonder what kind of social repercussions will occur because of his actions…

A series of vignettes to go with characters in Swimming Sideways and The Ugly Truth

A series of vignettes to go with characters in Swimming Sideways and The Ugly Truth


Williams’s text has thrown me off, in a big way. I’d planned to get to school early and work out. It’s what I do, after all, because I’ve got goals. My phone went off a few minutes before my alarm and when I opened my messenger app to read it, I figured it was a prank.

Williams: Seth’s been in an accident

Me: FO, you prick

Williams: Srsly bro

I’d sat up in my bed, brought my knees up and rested my elbows on them, phone in my hands.

Me: For real?

Williams: Yea dude. My dad picked him up early this morning. Alive. Said it’s bad

Me: WTF!?!?

Williams: I’m shook

Me: hospital?

Williams: Yeah. Headed there soon. Texting team

Me: C U there

I scoot to the edge of my bed still looking at my phone to try and find information and rereading the texts. Then I sit on the edge in shock, figuring something’s off. I scroll through IG. Several videos of Seth and Gabe’s fight the day before are there. Twitter. Someone’s posted: 

Peters in critical. WTF? #Freakchallenge messed him up. #crucifydaniels

The idea of Seth in the hospital isn’t adding up in my head. I get up, drawing on some joggers, a t-shirt and my team jacket. 

After brushing my teeth, I go downstairs.

“Morning, Carter,” my mom says from the kitchen bar. “You just missed, Dad.”

I back up and glance through the doorway. She’s holding a cup of coffee. 

“Something wrong?” She asks as her brows shift over her eyes.

“I just got a text from Williams. He says Seth is in the hospital.” Saying it out loud doesn’t make it any more real, less perhaps. I picture Seth - team captain, scoring leader, jokester - full of life. He’s my best friend. There has to be a mistake.

“What?” My mom sets down the coffee mug. “Is it serious?”

“I don’t know,” I tell her and step fully into the doorway instead of leaning around the jam. “He said his Dad took Seth in and it’s bad. I’m going to the hospital now.”

“I needed you to take Michelle this morning-” Mom starts referencing my little sister and then shakes her head. “No. That’s okay. I got it. Want me to meet you there?”

I tap the door jam with my fist. “No. That’s okay. I’ll text you.”

“I’ll call the school and let them know.”

I pause not having thought about that. I nod. “Yeah. Okay.” I turn and grab my keys from the dish in the hallway. 

“Text me,” Mom calls after me. “As soon as you hear something.”

When I get to the hospital and find out where to go, I’m numb, like I’m not in my own skin but just watching my body walk through the spaces. The hospital is teeming with people, but they’re all faceless entities. When I step into the waiting room, I see a lot of people. Matt Kaiāulu - freshman on the varsity team - gets up from a center group of chairs and walks toward me.

“Hey,” he says and holds out his hand.

I take it and we offer one another a one armed hug while our hands are still connected. 

“This is messed up,” he says as he draws away. He has an accent in his voice which I think has something to do with being raised in Hawaii, but it isn’t because he speaks Hawaiian. 

“Heard anything?” I ask him.

“Not yet.”

“Williams just said it was ‘bad.’”

“Yeah. That’s what I heard too.”

I glance past him and see his sister, Abby. She’s curled up into herself and holding onto their dad. I recall the fight yesterday, the instagram stories - Gabe and Seth trading blows - Abby on the periphery of it.

“There’s room,” Matt tells me, and I follow him into the chair grouping. He introduces me to his dad. 

We talk about soccer which seems a strange thing to grab onto, but is like grabbing hold of the earth when gravity just failed. It’s like I’ve touched a live wire and everything around me, movement, sounds, visuals, are bursting like cartoons. I don’t feel like I’m here.

I glance at Abby when I pass her on my way to a seat. She doesn’t offer me any words but raises her dark eyebrows over her brown eyes in acknowledgement. We haven’t talked much before, so I don’t interpret her interaction as rudeness. I’m reminded again how pretty she is - her soft brown skin, cute freckles across her nose and those brown eyes - and understand why Seth has it bad for her.

I remember when we all first saw her, the way we laughed and teased one another, because she was new and mysterious. Seth trying to be nonchalant but looked like an opened-mouth fool. The memory makes me smile. Then I think about her walking through the hallways with the Freak lately, sitting with him in the cafeteria. I frown. My boy’s been hurt, and because of that, my loyalties lie with him.

Matt and I sit and talk and as we do more people arrive.

Sara - who looks like her world has been crushed - gives Abby the evil eye when she walks in. I look at Abby again, who isn’t even paying attention to Sara, but I know they’ve got bad blood. Abby went after Sara after the video was shared. I didn’t get it from Sara, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it started with her.

Coach arrives, teammates and we clump up in the center grouping of chairs. Waiting.

“He said that the front of Seth’s truck is crushed,” Williams says. “Head on collision with another car. They had to get a second ambulance for that driver. Seth wasn’t responsive.”

I swallow down the nausea climbing the walls of my stomach into my throat hearing the details. It’s easier not to know. “He was alive though?”

“Yeah.” Williams nods.

“Any news, yet?” Someone asks.

Someone else says, “no.”

Silence descends, and I figure we’re all contemplating the big What If. I know I am. What if Seth doesn’t survive?

Someone changes the subject to school - wrestling and basketball tryouts coming up. Safe.

I see Abby jump from her seat out of the corner of my eye and look up. Gabe Daniels has walked into the room. My stomach dips toward rage. I don’t know why, really. Daniels has never done anything to me (we were once friends), but I’m thinking about that fight yesterday. I’m thinking about the way he’s got his arms around Abby and his head buried against her neck. I’m thinking about my boy, Seth, who’s fighting for his life, and it isn’t fair. How does this guy get to be walking around and acting like he fucking cares. It makes me want to puke.

I stand and my teammates' faces swing toward me which I suppose is how things will go for a while. Seth is captain, and with him down, someone has to take the lead. “I don’t like what I’m seeing,” I say. “It makes me sick.” I move across the room. The team follows. 

The Ugly Truth: Read Aloud

First, April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month as well as Alcohol Awareness and Prevention Month. Both of these issues are heavy weights the protagonist of The Ugly Truth, Seth, carries through his narrative and contribute to his struggles.

That said, The Ugly Truth is the second book in a series of three inter-connected books of the Cantos Chronicles that follows Seth on his journey. The first book is Abby’s tale in Swimming Sideways (Seth and Gabe are important parts of her narrative). The third and final book in this series will be published later this year and will explore Gabe’s adventure. Ultimately, all three of these books ask us to understand that what we see isn’t always the whole picture of a person’s truth.

One of the difficulties of writing The Ugly Truth was the darker content which explained Seth’s perspective, a glimpse of what we were able to see in Abby’s story (Seth wrote a letter to readers which also provides a glimpse into this character. You can read that here). The following is an excerpt taken from two chapters which explore Seth’s relationship with his parents and the emotions which fuel his actions. Some things to keep in mind:

1) The narrative of Seth’s story isn’t told linearly. Instead, it jumps between the present and the past. This excerpt starts in the past and will return to the present.

2) In the present, Seth’s consciousness and soul is outside of his body observing the world happen around him and powerless to do anything to impact it.

The Ugly Truth Read Aloud

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