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Chapter Twenty-four

[TRAVIS]

“Cheers to my son on his eighteenth birthday!” my mother yelled from across the room as she raised her glass in a toast. The guests at the party followed her lead, falling into a chorus of congratulations and good wishes.

I raised my cup to my mother before sipping from it. We were in the parlor of our home which had hurriedly been converted to the venue of my private birthday party.

I hadn’t invited anyone from school. The party was only attended by a small group of my mum’s friends who were mostly from work. Some of them even came with their kids. Sam’s father, being the managing director at my mum’s office was there. Casey and Jasper’s parents were also colleagues of my mum so were here somewhere. They didn’t acknowledge me, so I didn’t bother acknowledging them.

I smiled, watching my mum taunt Paul playfully in front of his parents. My mother, being someone that couldn’t help making connections, just had to invite Paul’s parents over on hearing their social standing.

I told her about Paul and me about a week ago. I smiled, remembering her Paul had shaken with fear as I pulled him through the school halls by his hand on the first day of school after the break was over. People got the message. Some were rude about it, and others didn’t just care.

I took it upon myself to walk him to his classes, kiss him when I felt necessary, and protect him from the handful of bullies that he had.

I became a regular at the table he shared with Sky and Alex. Alex didn’t try to borehole through my head anymore. He seemed more cheerful — happy.

“Protect me...” I heard Paul’s familiar voice whine as I felt soft hair brush my hand. I looked down at him then around to find my mother looking around for him.

I chuckled, petting his hair in sympathy.

“It’s not funny,” he protested, closing his eyes.

“An old lady is running after you. Of course, it’s funny,” I defended as my look softened on him. He soon opened his eyes, looking around to make sure my mother was nowhere in sight before sneaking off.

I bit my lip, distressed at the break in contact. I shook my head trying to get the impure thoughts out. I really can’t believe I’m thinking along that line right now.

I tightened the grip I had on my glass, taking deep breaths as I counted backward from ten.

I gulped, trying to calm myself down. I know we’re dating right now and everything, but — I shook my head again, playing with strands of my hair as I tried to distract myself.

“I’m n-not into that...”

Paul had muttered, crawling away and burying his head in a nearby pillow. I’d muttered a brief apology before lying next to him. I’d felt terrible. I’d not only ruined to mood but upset him all at the same time. I never ever tried to do it again. We kissed and touched, but I never tried to take things that far again.

What part of being ravished till you can’t stand didn’t Paul understand?

It’s not so bad. It’s just frustrating. Who am I kidding it’s killing me. I’m dying slowly inside. I’m so sensitive and alert now that it takes a lot of willpower to stay composed around him.

I can’t live like this. I thought, shutting my eyes. It was frustrating. The whole situation was eating at me. God, I’m going to turn into a sex freak. I mean, I’ve given that vase in the dining room a suggestive look too many times this week. If the worst comes... I might just attack it.

“Travis?” I heard someone say behind me, making me jump. I turned to find Jasper holding his hands up in defense.

“Oh, sorry. I’m not feeling too good tonight,” I apologized, turning away. Jasper soon came to stand beside me, taking a drink from the table by his side.

“So...” Jasper trailed, swaying awkwardly from side to side. I frowned, giving him a side look. Is he really trying to talk to me?

“Are — are we talking?” I asked, turning to him. He shrugged, looking down at the floor.

We haven’t been on talking terms exactly lately. Sure I continued with soccer after the break, although I didn’t talk to anyone on the team apart from the occasional ‘pass’ or ‘Uhuh’. I’d succeeded in creating a situation where I got into the locker room before everyone else before practice, and after everyone else at the end of practice. I was seriously not ready for any confrontations.

“Are we?” I asked again.

“If you want us to,” Jasper muttered under his breath, still looking down at the floor.

I muttered a small ‘sure’ as I adjusted the collar of the shirt I had on. From all my former friends, Jasper was one I truly wanted to reconcile with. We’d been friends even before we somehow drifted into the same social group with the rest.

“You know I’m sorry right? I just needed time to process it all. I’m really sorry for ditching you. I just felt sort of betrayed about the whole thing and you not telling me. I told the guy at your seats in class to scram and go find another recently. I don’t know if you’ve noticed your empty seat beside me yet. Well, it’s not like I assumed you’d jump at the opportunity at having your old seat back,” he said, laughing lightly.

“I’m talking too much, aren’t I?” he asked, laughing again.

“No.” I disagreed, looking down at the floor with him. “I noticed the empty seat. I didn’t know what to make of it.”

Jasper nodded, clicking his tongue knowingly. “So, you’re dating that Paul kid?” he asked looking towards me.

I nodded, before flicking a finger on his forehead. “Don’t call him a kid, he doesn’t like that, and he might just overhear you and come to whine to me about it later.”

Jas laughed, feeling his forehead where I had flicked him. “I hope your gay thing isn’t contagious because you just touched me,” Jas laughed, dodging a light blow to the shoulder, which I’d directed at him.

I looked up to find Samantha looking our way. She hadn’t spoken to me since the incident, but I know she’s been talking to my mother since the woman felt so privileged to announce Sam’s text’s out loud whenever she received one.

“She’s looking at us,” Jas pointed out before sighing.

I called her name, making her look from me to Jas before coming over.

“I assume you’ve been punished enough,” Sam announced, stopping in front of me.

I grunted at her assumption, making her laugh. We talked for a while about everything and anything. The three of us again, like the friends we used to be.

“No shit!” Sam yelled, downing her drink.

“Yeah...” I said, looking across the room at Paul. Unlike the majority of the school, Sam didn’t know we were going out.

“So...” Sam trailed, nudging my shoulder with her elbow.

“So, what?” I asked looking down at her with an odd look.

“So how’s the chemistry?” she asked, straining her eyes to look at Paul from across the room. “I can’t lie to you that he looks like anything special though—”

I gave Sam a threatening glare, making her raise her hands up in defeat before backing away into the crowd. I talked to Jasper for a few more minutes before he drifted into the crowd as well.

I noticed the side of my face hurt slightly from the massive grin I had on. I shook my head, realizing how much I’d missed my friends. Sorting things out with Sam and Jasper really made my day.

“Thank goodness I got you on your own,” I heard someone say, coming up behind me. I turned to find Casey walking up to stand beside me, her curly dark hair looking forcefully straightened in place. She smiled awkwardly at me before looking down at her pink peep-toe heels.

“I err... this is weird,” she sighed, running her hand through her hair.

I nodded in agreement, adjusting the collar of my shirt. It was something I did when I was nervous. She laughed awkwardly, shaking her head.

“Why the hell are we being so awkward?” She asked, directing the question to no in particular. She bit her bottom lip a look of confusion in her eyes.

“I don’t know, care to explain?” I asked, making her giggle in amusement.

“I know this isn’t exactly what you tell a prodigal son on his first day back, but can I ask for a favor?” She asked, brushing strands of stray hair behind her ear.

“Um, sure...” I replied, shrugging.

“Well, I um...” she trailed, spacing out.

“Shit,” she cussed looking from me to the floor. “Sorry, I’ve not been myself lately.” She apologized, sighing. I nodded, muttering a small ‘sorry’.

“You’re dating that Paul kid, right?” She asked. I nodded, not knowing where exactly this inquisition was going.

“He talks to this girl. Tall, dark, preppie looking—”

“Cassandra?” I asked, remembering the name of one of Paul’s classmates from Government class.

“Yes!” Casey shrieked, quieting down immediately after.

“Err... sorry about that,” she apologized, straightening out her green halo dress.

“What about Cassandra?” I asked, ignoring her apology.

“Well, I was wondering if you could ask Paul to put in a good word or two for me,” she said, taking a glass of wine from the table beside her. I raised a suspicious brow at her, making her blush guiltily.

“Look, I’m exploring my new found feelings, and you are not exactly in a position to judge,” Casey said, shaking an accusing finger in from of my face. My eyes narrowed down at it, amused at the fluffy side of Casey.

“Okay, I’ll ask him,” I said, making her sigh in relief. “But what on earth is he supposed to tell her? He doesn’t know you. Well, not really,” I pointed out.

“You know me.” Casey shrugged, looking into the crowd. “Just tell him what to say, or give me his social media detail so that we’ll get to knowing each other.” She suggested, taking a sip of her wine.

“You’re desperate, aren’t you?” I asked, smiling at her. She just grinned, nudging my shoulder.

“I need as many middlemen to get across to a girl that thinks I’m shallow,” she admitted, sipping her wine again.

“What about Jonah...” I trailed, wondering if she wasn’t afraid of getting ditched by the group like me.

“Fuck him, fuck the rest of them. I’ve got you guys if he tries shit, right?” Casey asked, looking up at me.

“You, Sky, Jasper, Sam...” She trialed, sighing gently. I smiled at her, looking over sharply to where I was being called by my mum.

“I have to leave,” I told Casey. She nodded, using her hand to usher me off.

Getting to my mum, I was subjected to a bone-crushing hug and a million birthday wishes from her friends that were with her.

I smiled in relief, finally getting released from her oxygen draining hug. I watched as my mum called Paul over, explaining to my friends that we were together with the biggest grin on her face.

My heart wanted to bleed, and so did my tear glands. Not only did I get the friends that matter to me most today, but I also realized I was getting a lot closer to my mum.

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