Rewind (Book 2)

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Chapter 13: Are You Getting Angry?

“What’s the matter?” Benley asks, concerned. He might poke fun at times, but at heart, he cares. He has a soft touch to him. He’s a sensitive soul, when he wants to be in any case. It’s this side to him that won AJ over. She told me herself. After pursuing her for months, she finally gave in when she saw the gentler side to him.

“What makes you think there’s a matter?” I question teasingly with a smile, touched that he’s so compassionate during the worst of times. One can always count on Benley.

He sends me a flat stare, “Knock it off,” he pauses, “I saw you talking to Jay.” He says knowingly, already having determined the outcome of it.

I shrug helplessly, “Talks with Jay never go well. As you know, he’s not exactly big on talking.”

“True that.” Benley nods in agreement, “I’m sure he’ll come around.”

And if he doesn’t?

“I hope so,” I say, trying to say optimistic.

Benley, lost in thought, suddenly raises an eyebrow before prodding for more information, “Hey,” he hesitates for a second, “can I ask you something?”

He just did.

“No,” I answer with ease, “You can’t.” I joke, smirking at him when he rolls his eyes at me for being incredibly difficult.

He ignores me and asks anyway, “Why didn’t you,” he falters but recovers quickly, “why didn’t you come back sooner?” He clarifies, searching for the real reason behind all of it.

I bite my bottom lip, contemplating on telling him the truth. If there’s anyone I can trust completely, it’s Benley. He’ll understand and hopefully won’t overreact with the news, although, I’d really prefer not to discuss any of it. I sigh, averting my eyes from his, “I didn’t come back sooner because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to all of you.” I tell him only so much, hoping he’d fit the pieces of the puzzle together.

Benley inclines his head to the side, a puzzled expression crossing his features, “I don’t under-“

Before I can explain, we’re interrupted:

“Um, Aqueela…” Sarah trails off and motions to the sight before me.

My eyes widen when I take in the chaotic scene, the shouts of everyone around me now failing to be blocked out. I suck in a deep breath and shake my head. “Grams, what the hell are you doing?!” I gasp in horror at seeing her on the forklift, “I look away for a second and this happens. Unbelievable!” I complain as I sprint toward her in the hopes of stopping her.

I stop short when I see Gram’s Dragon Ball Z bed sheets quickly being consumed by a ball of fire. Of course, as expected, Troy is involved.

No wonder Grams is so enraged…

My gaze is on the two morons responsible. I follow Ryan and Troy, who happen to be sprinting out the smoking house, to see what’s happened. They are both flapping Gram’s fiery bed sheets around in panic as if to put it out. “Flip!” Ryan shouts out in terror, before releasing a string of curse words as he glances Troy’s way in accusation, “I said to mess up something of hers as she messed up my cell phone, I never meant for you to go all out and set something alight and almost kill us all! Who sets something alight inside a wooden house?!”

Troy does! He always goes to the extreme. He’s either all or nothing, he can never just be.

“Forget that, who sets alight my Gram’s Dragon Ball Z bed sheets?!” I shout angrily, “No wonder she’s trying to kill everyone!”

My Grams loves those sheets, she loves anything that is Dragon Ball Z related. Ryan, in his act of revenge, has no idea what he’s done. He’s just unleashed a monster on the world. He was stupid to let Troy in on his plan. He’ll regret doing this.

“Yo?” Landon whistles calmly, “Is someone going to put the fire out or…?”

Landon should put it out seeing as he’s some expert at putting out fires. He should just be a fireman. He’d be saving a lot of lives, especially with Troy around.

We all shoot murderous looks at Landon as a result of his words.

He places his hands up in surrender, “Hey,” he defends himself, “I’m just asking.” He says cockily.

I glance around in search of Jay or Grey, but they’re both on the other side of the garden. They’re blissfully unaware that we’re all going to die. Hell, I’m not even paying attention to Gram’s threats right now because I’m too focused on the fiery flames eating away at her bed sheets.

“Shut up and put out the damn fire someone!” Bells shouts out aloud to no one in particular, praying that somebody would actually listen to her and do it. Unfortunately for her, this isn’t high school anymore. She has no power.

“Don’t look at me,” Landon grins in amusement as if not fazed at all, “I did it last time. I’ll only put it out if you all agree that I no longer need anger management classes.”

If I didn’t know any better, I’d day that Lan wants Troy and Ryan to die.

“Not happening!” Sarah, Emma, Dean and Xavier retort simultaneously.

He’s willing to let Troy and Ryan die, yet he thinks he no longer needs anger management classes. I liked ‘Ruthless Racer’, but I much prefer this version of Landon. Anger management classes are a must for him. Without it, he’s like a wildfire - uncontrollable.

The wind picks up and the fire spreads, just singeing against Ryan’s sleeve. He yelps and tosses the fireball to Troy, who catches it all too happily. Troy then releases his own pained cry as he stupidly takes hold of both sides of the bed sheet, “It’s hot! Hot! I’m burning! It’s burning! My face is on fire! My face is dam well on fire! My makeup is melting! Bells, you said this makeup was fireproof! My flesh, it burns! My face is slipping off! I repeat, my face is on fricken fire!”

The fire’s getting out of hand, I’ll admit, but Troy is over exaggerating once again. If anything, he’s just feeling the heat. Bells slaps her forehead and shakes her head at her brother, willing for someone to step in and save the idiot. I know for a fact that she never said the makeup was fireproof.

“No, it’s not. Your face is fine, well as fine as it can be.” Max points out from afar, being sure to stay clear of the fire. In other words, he’s using my gramps as a shield. My gramps isn’t even aware that Max is getting ready to sacrifice him if necessary. Smart move Max. I should have thought of that.

Jay must hear Troy’s over-dramatic shouts of agony because it’s not long before he looks up and notices the smoke and flames surrounding us and encasing our side of the garden. He reacts quickly and comes running, an alarmed expression on his face. Grey follows after him at a more leisure pace.

“What the hell happened?” Grey asks the question that I know is currently running through Jay’s mind. It’s written all over his face.

“Troy happened,” Jay answers knowingly, having already figured it out for himself. He knows us all too well.

“Oh thank goodness, BroJay’s come to save me!” Troy shouts out in relief as he absentmindedly, yet intentionally, tosses the fireball of hot flames Jay’s way as if expecting Jay to handle it with little effort. I know Troy loves Jay, but damn, Jay’s not indestructible. He’s not a superhero. He can die. He is able to burn too.

Jay’s v-neck quickly becomes engrossed in flames. Fortunately, he’s always been one to think on his toes and anticipate solutions when put in pressing circumstances - part of being a science dork. He quickly takes off his shirt and throws it aside in the tiny patch of sand before hurriedly slipping it back on.

Troy snatches back the bed sheets from Jay. Troy, wanting to save the day, darts straight to the jello tub. Jay dashes after him in a rush. He calls out to Troy in warning, knowing better than to dunk the bed sheets in a plastic pool filled to the rim with jello, “Troy don’t-“

He’s cut off by the sound of Troy dunking the flaming bed sheets into the pool of jello. It only leads to a stronger flame, the entire plastic pool melting as a result of Troy’s impulsive actions. It’s like a giant oil spill, red jello spilling out everywhere. We all try to dodge the hot liquid, careful where we step. Meanwhile, Gramps is only concerned about the demise of his jello pool, even when he’s standing barefoot in burning hot liquid. I think he lost all feeling in his feet a long time ago - it’s the only explanation for this.

Jay sighs and finishes his sentence on a dull note, “dunk it in the jello because it contains gelatin. The pool and the jello will melt together and cause an overflow of a sticky tar-like substance.”

“Could have told me that before Jay.” Troy scowls at him as if it’s all Jay’s fault.

Perhaps Jay will be his new person to blame from now on…

“I blame Grey.” Troy frowns, glaring at Grey as if it’s truly all Grey’s fault.

Maybe not then.

Grey merely glares back at him, annoyed, as always.

“Troy?” Jay sighs in irritation.

“What?!” Troy snaps at him, impatient, “This better be important.” He says, rude and ungrateful as ever.

“Your shirt’s on fire,” Jay states, not bothering to cover up his aggravation with Troy’s stupidity. He casually gestures to Troy’s shirt as if he couldn’t actually care less anymore.

Of course, Troy throws his shirt at Jay, now suddenly expecting Jay to help him after first giving Jay grief. It’s amazing how fast he is in changing his feet (if only Gramps could be more like him). He now wants back in Jay’s good books. As a result, Jay ends up back in flames. The guy’s on fire.

“This is just getting ridiculous now,” Grey yawns, unmoved by any of it. He knows Jay can take it.

“Don’t die on me ‘CoolGuyJay’!” Blubber pleads, yet makes no attempt to help his idol.

“Stop setting my damn shirt alight!”Jay reprimands Troy. He then acts on fast reflexes and quick thinking. He grabs the bed sheets and Troy’s shirt, heading straight for the neighbor’s swimming pool and diving in head first in order to put it out, once and for all.

We all fall silent when Jay resurfaces with the ash ridden bed sheets in hand, the fire now out. Landon rubs at his chin thoughtfully as he asks the dreaded question we’re all thinking, “Now why didn’t any of us think of that from the start?”

It seems none of us are able to keep a level head when placed under pressure/stressful matters. We couldn’t think straight. I mean, c’mon, that’s why Jay’s here. Being quick to think is his thing, not ours. We all practically rely on him to save the day. We’ve grown accustomed to him coming through for us every single time we’re in dire need of help.

“Good question,” Dean agrees, at a loss to an answer himself.

Ryan’s still going on about his slightly singed wrist, Nancy immediately tending to him. In my opinion, he deserves it. He should know better than to involve Troy. Even Troy himself knows that he’s a danger to mankind.

Speaking of which, Troy is still staring at the pool in fascination - in childlike wonder - before making yet another one of his famous statements, “Huh, who would have thought,” he grins as if finally having grasped the concept, “water kills fire.”

It’s then Landon comes out with a fire extinguisher. He goes wild in power and sprays us all down with the white foam, froth-like substance.

“A bit late there, Lan.” Emma rolls her eyes at her brother.

“Ask yourself if that was really necessary.” Sarah glowers up at her boyfriend, wiping the white foam off of her face.

Landon shrugs, “I couldn’t resist.”

Apparently Max and Bells couldn’t resist either, hence why they’re now both making snow angels in the white foam. I’d join, but my mind is elsewhere.

Jay hops out the pool, only to reveal his burnt shirt. I can’t help but gawk at his shirt clinging to his torso, outlining his defined muscles. He follows my gaze and glances down, only to see that his shirt is no longer wearable. He curses in anger and takes it off once again, “I actually liked that shirt.” He grunts, beyond pissed. It’s always him. He lost his car to fire, his tree house to fire and now his shirt. What next?

He runs a hand through his wet hair, managing to mess it up, unintentionally styling it. I hold back a smile when his electric blue eyes land on me in question. I quickly tear my eyes away from his washboard abs and look elsewhere. I can’t afford to be caught staring again, even if he does have slight singe marks across his bare chest. He’ll live.

Nancy grabs onto Ryan and Troy before taking them inside. She forces them to comply as she smears burn ointment (she has a first-aid kit in Ryan’s car) all over their singes. Jay refuses to cooperate, as stubborn as ever. Nevertheless, Nancy is persistent.

“Fine,” Jay mutters to her in distaste, “but I’m doing it myself.” He insists defiantly.

We all go back outside after that, more than ready to go home - even I’m calling it a day.

“Would you stop glaring at me?” Ryan scowls at me, breaking me from my thoughts. I didn’t even realize I was glaring at him, just goes to show how infuriated I am with him.

I cross my arms over my chest and shake my head at him, “This is all your fault.” I glower up at him menacingly before sending Troy a sharp stare too, “And it’s your fault as well, but I feel as if you’re too stupid to be held responsible for all of this.”

“Why thank you.” Troy grins happily, unconcerned with the fact that I just implied that he’s an absolute moron.

“Someone’s buying me a new pool and like a million packets of jello.” Gramps whines, still going on about the death of his dumb pool of jello.

“It was an accident.” Ryan rises up to defend himself against my ruthless attacks. It’s all his fault that Jay ended up hurt. It’s nothing serious, but still. I hate it when Jay is forced to get involved, only to suffer as a result. It’s not fair, and he never even gets thanks in return for all he does. Ryan’s a pest.

“An accident my ass!” Grams shouts from somewhere nearby.

“Crap, I forgot about her.” I admit, fearful. The last time I saw her, she was busy getting into a forklift that she got from who knows where.

We all follow her voice, only to see Grams busy fork-lifting Ryan’s car.

“Where the hell did she even get a forklift from?” Landon questions, still as calm as ever, “Did she steal it from the ground workers down there?” He asks, pointing to the seemingly afraid workers in the distance. “Gotta love this old lady.” He grins, enjoying this as if blind to the dangers we’re currently facing.

“Are you insane, Grams?!” I shout as I try to coax her out of it, “I’ll buy you new DBZ sheets.” I lie, hoping she’ll buy it. No way am I buying her more, but I need to persuade her into believing otherwise.

“They were limited edition!” Grams protests, not willing to reason. She’s adamant in destroying Ryan’s life.

“My car! Sh*t, my freaken car! She can’t be for real! She’s actually doing it! She’s flippen crazy! She’s out of her damn mind! My freaken car! Give my car back you psychotic, demented witch!” Ryan shouts in panic, his hands going up to his hair as he watches her lift his car into the air, dangling it before him menacingly. “I said I was sorry!” He calls out to her in pure desperation, changing course. “I’m really sorry!”

“Too late to apologize you hoodlum!” Grams shouts back before smashing his car into the ground repeatedly.

Ryan drops to his knees in despair, shell-shocked.

Meanwhile, Xavier, Jay, Leban, Grey, Benley, and Dean work on getting my grams out of the forklift. She might just kill one of us if they’re not careful.

Landon refuses to help the guys, taking my gram’s side. He adores her and I’ll never understand why. He seems to think her actions are justified. It’s a pity, Landon’s the strongest, the guys could do with the extra help.

“You gonna need more than that boys,” Gramps tells them, aware that six guys will not be enough to stop Grams or hold her down. The woman is a fighting machine. I don’t know how Gramps survived living with her for this long.

Troy and Max aren’t really keen on dying, so they hang back like the pansies they are. To be quite frank, I don’t blame them.

“Back off or I’ll forklift you all to Mars!” Gram shouts at them like the deranged old woman she is. Grey just dodges her attack in time. She almost knocked him out cold. She then tries to reverse over Dean before going forward to try and drive over Benley. She’s lost it for real this time! She’s going to kill one of them if not stopped.

Eventually, Jay manages to put his parkour training (he’s apparently back into it) to use. He jumps onto the forklift and manages to skillfully maintain his balance, all the while she drives around in circles like a madman. He slams open the door and begins dragging her out. She allows him to, for the most part, a true Jay fan. It’s when the others join in to help Jay lift her off the forklift that she goes absolutely berserk and begins screeching her lungs out. She goes on a full rampage and tries to fight all of them off, succeeding.

“For crying out loud, how strong is this woman?!” Xavier complains, his nose bleeding profusely. Emma gapes at the sight. “I see where Aqueela gets it now,” Xavier concludes as he grabs hold of one of Gram’s legs in order to try and pin her down flat on her back.

Leban tries to persuade her, “We can do this the easy way, Mrs. Lawson, or the hard-“

She kicks him in the face, knocking him unconscious and thereby rendering him speechless, before sinking her frail teeth into Dean’s arm. Her dentures get stuck in Dean’s arm and Dean completely freaks out, disgusted, as he tries to rip the dentures off of his arm.

I stifle my laughter behind my fist. It’s a good thing we have a nurse here. However, Nancy seems preoccupied with comforting Ryan (he’s mourning the remains of his car). It’s his own fault for being vindictive. It could’ve just ended with his phone, it didn’t have to end with his car.

“Apparently she’s going down kicking and screaming.” Benley sighs as if he’d been hoping she’d choose the easy route.

“Go Grandma, go! Hand their asses to them! K.O. them like you did Leban. Dropkick their asses or roundhouse kick their faces in! In fact, just rip their faces off, Gran Gran!” Landon spurs her on with raised fists as he bobs back and forth, Sarah hitting upside the head as a result of his prompting. He’s only encouraging her violence.

Troy’s partly to blame too, and yet he’s not even offering any assistance, not that he’d be much help. He’d only get in the way. Where there’s an opportunity for fire, there’s a Troy. He’s a pyromaniac. He can’t help himself. He’s currently sun tanning with foil and a facial scrub, taking advantage of his free time.

“Two down, four to go! Bring it!” Grams (now in lively spirits, no thanks to Landon) shouts out in victory. She’s referring to Leban and Dean falling out of the fight. Still, Grams continues to struggle against Jay, Grey, Xavier and Benley. The four of them each grabs an arm and leg before finally hoisting her down the forklift.

Grams comes to realize that she’s losing and shouts out in defeat, “You can all go to hell, every single one of you!” She spits in fury as they lower her down and set her back on solid ground.

We all still under Gram’s penetrating gaze, fearful of who she might take vengeance on next.

Landon, the only single person alive who adores my grams, throws his head back and randomly bursts out into uncontrollable laughter. It’s supposed to be a serious moment. The rest of us are silent and petrified, yet here he stands cackling his head off as if finding Gram’s words to be downright hilarious. We’re all concerned and he couldn’t care less that his life is at stake. We all shoot him puzzled stares, but he doesn’t seem to receive them.

Landon laughing still as to be the most frightening thing one can ever see. It just doesn’t suit him. It’s like Grey smiling - gross combination.

“Classic.” Landon sighs in contentment after he finally finishes up his laughing fit. He wipes away a stray tear, “Good one, Lil.” He grins in awe of her, already on a nickname basis with my grams. Grams doesn’t let anyone call her Lil. The fact in itself is scary. Her and Landon being pals is a recipe for disaster. It seems that he’s missing the fact that she’s beyond ticked off. He’s overlooking it because he idolizes my grams - of all the people in the world, why her?!

Sarah subtly nudges him in the side, “Not a laughing matter, Lan.” She whispers in his ear when Grams sends him a deadpanned stare. It seems Landon has made her very long ‘to kill’ list. I figure that if she actually admired him, Landon wouldn’t idolize her anymore. He’s weird like that. People have to hate him in order for him to like them. Hating him earns his respect. Landon is a complex specimen, props to Sarah for dealing with him. I just don’t understand him and his ballistic ways.

Grams is not happy. Someone needs to out Ryan and Troy now, they’re the ones who should be punished for all of this. I’ll gladly throw both of them under the bus if it means I get to see another day, another rising sun.

“Shut your vortex of overlapping fangs you old deceitful hag!” Gramps shouts at Grams, surprisingly coming to our defense, “Those bed sheets were rubbish in any case. Perhaps now we can invest in some ‘Ninja Turtle’ decor instead.”

Grams shakes her head at him in disgust, “What have I done with my life? I’ve wasted my life, completely wasted it.” She scowls at Gramps as if to send him a message: marrying him was a mistake. She takes her anger out on us, “Screw you all!” Grams shouts, it only escalating from there on, “Out of here! All of you!” She ushers us out, first shoving Bells out of her way (Bells always manages to get the worst of it). Grams has it in for Bells. “The best part of them coming is leaving.” Grams concludes, making it evident that she’s not exactly the best host.

Fortunately, I know Grams will get over it. I’d tell her to take it out on Ryan, but I don’t want a body on my hands right now - too busy, perhaps another day.

Again, amidst the deafening silence, Landon cracks up laughing again. He’s not taking this seriously at all. He has no idea what Grams is capable of. We all roll our eyes at him and sigh in reprimand, “Landon.” We all warn, afraid of Gram’s next actions (she literally just fork-lifted Ryan’s car). I don’t get why Landon finds this so irresistibly hilarious. I’m flippen scared right now!

“Sorry guys, it’s just so funny,” he says in between laughs before staring at all of us in bewilderment as if we’re the crazy ones, “I don’t know how you guys are containing yourselves right now.”

This guy…

“Should have burnt the whole house down, Troy.” Ryan snarls, now having it in for my grams.

Further arguing continues from there on out until Ryan steps up and finally apologizes for his crimes. This leads to Troy denying that he played any part in it, which leads to some more arguing until Grams finally snaps and begins strangling the both of them. It takes Xavier, Grey, and Dean - all three of them - to get Grams to stop.

It’s then the cops show up to see how we’re managing with our community service, their routine checkup on us. They seem to have impeccable timing, sarcasm intended. It’s how we all end up being handcuffed to one another.

Unfortunately for Grey, he ends up being handcuffed to Troy. “No!” Grey tries to ward off the officers, fighting with all his might as he struggles to break free, “I’d rather die! Don’t do this to me! I don’t deserve this!” He shouts out in rage, losing it for the first time since…for the first time, “Rather chain me to Aqueela if you have to, I don’t freaking care! Just not him! Anyone but him!” Grey protests, trying to get away from Troy as if he’s some plague. I’ve never seen Grey lose control like this. He must really hate Troy.

“I don’t belong in shackles!” Troy argues with the cops, unfazed that he’s handcuffed to Grey whilst Grey’s still urgently trying to break the handcuffs, “I will not be caged like some animal again!”

“Then stop acting like animals,” the chief officer sighs, annoyed with our behavior. He then happens to glance my way as if silently accusing me of all of this.

I wink at him, trying to make light of the moment, “Hey pal, don’t look at me, I plead insanity.”

“I’m telling you now, Sir, she can’t be helped. It’s impossible.” I tell the anger management counselor, motioning to my Grams who happens to be biting on the inside of her cheek, her hands curled into her fists as her eyes dart back and forth from Ryan to me in fury. She’s out of control.

Grams blames me, yet I had nothing to do with this. I’m not the one who forced her into anger management classes - the cops did, after hearing the entire story. They’ve also placed Ryan in as well as punishment for his behavior. Jay’s merely here to stand witness and give the full account to the counselor (apparently they don’t trust me enough). Landon, on the other hand, is here because he’s scheduled in for his next anger management session.

“Everyone can be helped, the first step is admitting to yourself that you have a problem, a step Landon Kitler has still not reached, in spite of being here for eight years already.” The counselor says, shooting Landon a look as if tired of counseling him.

“I don’t have a problem, you all have problems!” Landon growls stubbornly, crossing his arms over his chest in a defiant manner. He’s behaving like a little kid that’s been put in timeout, in other words, like Blubber.

“See what I mean.” The counselor sighs, shaking his head at Landon in disappointment and exasperation.

“I have a problem,” Ryan admits it to himself before taking a chance, “can I leave now?”

Ryan, unlike Grams and Landon, would rather just comply in order to get out of this. He’s not as stubborn and hardheaded as the rest of us.

The counselor diverts his attention back to the cases at hand, Grams and Ryan, “Since when is it okay to set fire to personal possessions of others?” He tears his eyes off Ryan and turns back to Grams, “And it’s obviously a huge fat no-no to forklift someone’s car and then proceed by smashing it into the ground four times.”

“He was asking for it!” Grams hisses sourly. She’s just fortunate that Jay and Xavier are covering the costs to the damage done to Ryan’s car. They’d both also covered the costs of the damage done to Frank’s food court. We all owe those two big time.

“He was.” Landon agrees, but falls silent when the counselor gives him a sharp stare. It seems the counselor is the only one who knows exactly how to deal with Landon.

“In my defense, I didn’t set her bed sheets on fire, Troy did.” Ryan tries to justify the actions he took. Everyone knows that he was the mastermind behind it. Troy’s supposed to be here too, but he’s decided (on his own terms) that he’s too busy for this. The only thing he’s busy doing is lounging around, irritating his sister and Max, whilst having Ramos give him a facial.

“We’ve already established that Troy’s an idiot countless of times, let’s move on,” Jay suggests, still infuriated with Troy for setting him alight…twice.

“Like you did Aqueela.” Landon grins teasingly at us as if waiting for Jay or me to laugh along with him.

I slap my forehead at Landon’s unintentional insensitivity towards others. He just made things like a bazillion times more awkward, especially between Jay and me.

Jay sends Landon a flat glare, unimpressed, “Shut the hell up man.”

“Loosen up.It’s a joke, bro, a joke.” Landon says, his own twisted way of apologizing.

“Not a funny one,” Jay mutters with a scowl, refusing to look at me.

“Let’s talk about your childhood.” The counselor suggests to my grams, taking her on before Ryan. He senses that it’s Grams with the real temperamental issues. “Do you sleep well at night?”

“I used to before I met Howard.” Grams answers rudely, cooperating for the meantime.

“Is Howard not your husband?” The counselor asks, confused. He has no idea what their relationship is like.

“He seems to think he is. It was really just a once off thing.” Grams rolls her eyes, acting as if she isn’t really married to him. “I often put him in his place quickly. I only married the goon to spite my parents.”

“Marriage isn’t a once off thing. Does he know that you don’t see him as your husband?” The counselor questions, taking on a gentler approach in comparison to the blunt approach he took on Landon.

“He knows he’s a failure, I make sure of that.” Grams retorts, making me wonder how a relationship deteriorates to such a point where she actually regrets marriage in itself.

“Why do you always feel the need to be in control of him? There must be a reason. Why are you so angry all the time?” The counselor fires more questions her way.

“I’m not angry,” Grams huffs angrily, completely contradicting herself, “I keep telling people I’m not angry. They never believe me and so I hit them.” She says adamantly, not at all seeing it. In her eyes, she’s perfect. “I’ll have you know that I’m quite a pleasure to be around. I’m as joyful and placid as they come. I’m a delight. I’m positively delightful.”

“No doubt,” Landon laughs aloud at her words, unbelieving of her denial. He’s in denial about his anger issues too. They’re one in the same.

“So you didn’t flip Ryan’s car in a blind rage?” The counselor challenges her, putting her on the spot - not that she cares anyway.

“No, not at all,” Grams insists, lying through her false teeth (Dean managed to get them off his arm), “I was completely calm when I smashed, bashed and opened a can of whoop lash on his car.” She turns to give me a warning glare before saying, “Ask anybody here.” She advises, wanting me to take her side on this matter.

For heaven’s sake, she almost killed Jay and the others. In spite of what she wants me to do, I shake my head, along with Jay and Ryan. “She went nuts.” Ryan scowls, beyond infuriated. Angry is an understatement. She trashed his car, completely wrecked it.

Landon does the opposite of us and instead nods his head in agreement with Grams, “Calm as a cucumber.” Landon will always side with my grams. It was a mistake introducing him to her.

“It’s important to talk things through. Bottling emotions is like asking for a tidal wave.” The counselor sighs as if frustrated. He’s getting nowhere with Grams and he knows it. “If only people would just have the courage to talk about things…” He trails off as if in deep contemplation, as if trying to figure out a way to get through to Grams. If only he add DBZ figurines…

The counselor’s words strike me hard. The words hit home. After processing it, I lift my face to find Jay staring at me, the counselor’s words having affected him too. When Jay fails to look elsewhere, I raise an eyebrow at him, daring him to continue. A half smile floods his features as he sends me a wink, a wink that sends my heart into overdrive. It’s not a flirtatious wink, it’s a ‘hey, I’m sorry for being a jerk earlier’ wink. It’s his way of silently expressing himself, of being genuine and sincere. It’s not exactly an apology, but it’s good enough for me. It’s a start. A new start is all I want.

“I’ll ask you again, why are you so angry?” The counselor repeats, hoping he’d get a proper explanation this time.

Grams notices the counselor’s aggravation and grins in glee. She’s picked up on his weakness and now she’s going to rip him to shreds, “Why are you so angry?” She mimics him, having noticed his own anger scraping the surface.

The counselor continues, brushing Gram’s evil ploys aside, “Are you angry right now?” He asks her, in spite of her refusal to open up.

“Are you angry right now?” Grams retorts, copying him word for word. She’s pushing his buttons and she knows it.

He ignores her and carries on with the therapy, “Are you getting angry?” The counselor asks Grams, trying his absolute best to break her in order to work with her.

“Are you getting angry?” Gram smiles evilly, refusing to answer the questions properly.

“Yes!” The counselor confesses in utter irritation before subconsciously slamming his fist down onto his table, “Yes I am.”

Grams sees her gap and takes it, “If I may suggest,” she deliberately pauses to build up further fury within him, “you should really see someone about that. They have people. You should perhaps get help for your,” she takes the liberty to whisper it dramatically, yet not so quietly, “anger issues.”

The counselor frowns and turns to me as if to refrain from losing his temper any more than he already has, “She belongs in an asylum.” He states dryly. It wouldn’t be the first time she’s hearing it. “I suggest she be placed in one before getting anger management classes, that or release her back into the wild. You were right, it’s impossible, she can’t be helped.”

“Told ya,” I exclaim in happiness. I’d rather my grams stay the same. She wouldn’t be Grams if she weren’t so feisty.

“You can go too Princess, this is pointless.” The counselor tells Ryan, eager to see us all leave. Ryan glares at the counselor but leaves nonetheless. Unfortunately, Landon has to hang back for his own session, which is due to commence any second now. Poor guy.

I almost take the wrong route on the way to the exit. I’ve never been good at directions. Thankfully, Jay gently places his hand on the small of my back, leading me out before I get lost.

Grateful and appreciative for his guidance, I glance back over my shoulder and throw him a carefree smile. He responds, surprisingly enough, with words, “I didn’t mean to be so harsh earlier, I’ve just got a lot going on right now.” He whispers from behind, sending me a fleeting glance before we join the others.

I can’t help but frown, feeling out of the loop. If only I knew what’s happened in his life, then only can I help him. It’s obvious he’s stressed.

I step aside, Benley taking note and joining me, “And?” He asks, referring to my grams. “What’s the verdict?”

“Apparently she belongs in a mental institution or on a game farm. She’s unteachable.” I ramble quickly, updating him, before choosing to talk to someone about it. I don’t want to end up a tidal wave. I don’t necessarily have to tell Jay, but I should tell someone, “When I first went to New York,” I hesitate, Benley’s eyes widening as he realizes that an explanation is coming his way, “I landed up in an accident.”

“What?” Benley all but breathes, now on edge. He’s wanted to know for a long time, but hasn’t pushed for a legitimate answer.

“My father said some things and I got angry. I decided to rush back home, but I wasn’t concentrating on my driving. I was just so…angry. Somewhere along the line, I lost focus and got into an accident. I ended up hitting my head. At least Mason was there. I was released from the hospital in good time. Stupidly, I never checked in with the doctors again after that.” I say quickly, wanting to get the explanation over with, “It was only when I started getting headaches, blurry vision, and dizziness that I went to see a doctor. By then, I was told it was too late. I had already formed a blood clot-“

“Aqueela, be real with me here, are you dying on me?” Benley asks, panic evident on his expression and concern floating through his brown eyes. I can’t help but laugh, which only worries him further. “You only came back to say goodbye?” He questions, jumping to his own assumptions and inaccurate conclusions.

I shake my head, a small smile playing at my lips, “No BoyBand. Brace yourself, I still plan on irritating you for a long time coming.”

He blows out a breath of relief, “Thank goodness.” He then glowers at me, “Don’t do that! You scared me.” He admits, peeved.

“Then don’t interrupt.” I grin up at him playfully, before elaborating, “The blood clot lead to focal cerebral ischemia. I was administered medication for it. I was told not to leave town until they knew for certain that I’d be okay. In any case, I didn’t want to come back here if it meant the possibility of saying goodbye forever. The meds worked for a while, but then I had a seizure. The medication was failing and the blood clots were still there, they weren’t dissolving. I was told that I would have to undergo an operation and that the chances of survival were slim. Of course, without the operation, my chances were even slimmer. I withdrew, deleted your numbers and changed my own number. I couldn’t face any of you, especially not him, knowing that it could be my last time seeing all of you. I prevented the operation for as long as possible, but eventually I had to go through with it. Thankfully, I’m a survivor. The operation was successful.”

“I would expect no less from you,” Benley smirks, seemingly speechless by all the new information he’s taking in to process.

“After that, two years had already passed. I turned my back on you guys. I figured there was just no point in coming back. I didn’t think for a second that you’d all forgive me for abandoning all of you. I couldn’t find it within myself to face Jay after I promised I’d be a constant in his life and not do the one thing he had asked me not to do to him: leave. Two years turned to three, three to four, and so on. Before I knew it, five years had passed.”

Feeling guilty, I glance downward, “Jay knew, before I did, that I wasn’t coming back. When I left, he said he wouldn’t wait for me. It stung, especially because I really was planning on coming back after a month.” I frown as a morbid thought occurs to me, “Benley,” I pause, sucking in a deep breath, “I told him I loved him and he never said anything back. I was hurt. I didn’t want to see him after that, but then Mason told me some stuff on the plane that made it obvious that Jay had always cared. Still, whenever I thought about returning back here, I’d opt away from the decision. My past here was not a bright one. It just seemed as if everything was pushing me away. The timing was just never right.”

“I’m sorry,” Benley apologizes, earnest in his words. He feels my remorse for my mistakes with me.

I shrug at him, knowing fully well that nothing that has been done can’t be undone, “For a while, in New York, I was happy - but then I came across something that made me reconsider my decisions.” I sigh, remembering back to the leather jacket and the photos I’d completely forgotten about in the five years I’d been gone, and glance back up to meet his piercing gaze, “I made a mistake Mr. Lagger Dragger, I made a huge mistake.” I confess.

As much as I would like to justify not returning sooner, I can’t. I’m out of excuses.

He takes a step forward and hugs me tightly, “Oh Aqueela, you stupid idiot you.” He mocks in good nature, “No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. Trust me, I’m sure Jay’s made his fair share of them too. We all still love you.”

“You’d better.” I chuckle, pulling away from him. “I didn’t come back for nothing.”

Benley’s smile fades. He’s overcome by a serious expression, “You should tell him.” He adds thoughtfully, his gaze wavering to Jay who happens to be talking to Emma, Xavier, and Grey. I shake my head, dismissing the thought. “If not now, then soon. You owe him that much.”

I roll my eyes at him, moping about, “Fine.” I reluctantly agree, “On one condition, you get over your stupid fear of commitment and propose to AJ already.” I use his own words against him, “You owe her that much.”

“Fine,” he mumbles, crossing his arms over his chest, glaring at me like the two-year-old he is. “Soon.” He gives me his word, a silent promise between us.

I turn back to rejoin with the others, but he stops me, “Hey you,” he waits for me to face him again, “as much as it pains me to say this, I’m elated that you’re still alive.”

“Same here.” I nod with a faint smile, “Same here.” I whisper in conviction before joining the rest of the losers I’ve come to ‘troydore’.

Upon reaching the idiots, Max is the first to use me as his support structure. He absentmindedly leans an arm on my shoulder as he continues arguing with Susie about something I couldn’t care less about right now.

The heat and all the arguing of today manage to drain my energy. I sigh and avert my eyes from all the others. Feeling like I’m being watched, I glance up to find him staring attentively in my direction. He knows what’s up.

I momentarily freeze, but fortunately, I’m quick to recover. Sending him an unwavering smile, I meet his gaze and offer him a small, sheepish wave of greeting. He doesn’t respond - silence on his part. I frown in disappointment, before an idea springs to mind. I break our locked gaze to motion over to my gramps - who has been pestering Jay all day - before sending Jay a wink as if to let him know that he has my sympathy through and through.

His lips twitch upward in response as if to smile, yet he resists, continuing to hold back on me. He has too much restraint for my liking. I cross my arms over my chest and pout, dramatically striking a pose in the process. I’ll do anything to get some kind of positive reaction out of him. His blue eyes twinkle with amusement, yet still, that frown of indifference refuses to budge. He’s stubborn, and if anyone knows that, it’s me.

Realizing that it’s just about impossible to make peace, I give up. I’m about to turn my back on him, but stop short when I see him slowly lifting his hand up. I break into a soft smile when he keeps his nonchalant demeanor, yet reluctantly makes the effort to return my wave - a step in the right direction. I’m that much closer to being forgiven.

At seeing me smile, he himself cracks an easy-going grin and drops his hand. He humors me further, taking the initiative to salute me like he used to do in high school when he thought he was the coolest hotshot ever. Stuck in the moment, I have to laugh at that, acknowledging how much he’s matured since then. He’s not that boyish, self-proclaimed badass anymore. He’s just average, yet somewhat extraordinary, Jay Taylor now.

But of course, like all moments in time, Max - being Max - crushes it when glancing forth from Jay to me in complete bewilderment at seeing us staring at each other for such a long period of time, “What the hell are you two doing?” He asks bluntly, clueless, drawing everyone’s attention to us in spite of him being genuinely perplexed. “Am I missing something?”

Just like that, moment ruined.

Annoyed, I hit Max upside the head before stalking off. I hear him call after me, puzzled, “What the heck was that for?!”

“So many things, Max, so many things!” I call back, hearing a chuckle that can only resonate from Jay himself.

“Could you stop being so vague?” Max asks me, still at a loss.

I grin cheekily at him, “Only if you can stop being so stupid.” I sigh in content, “So no, I guess that means I can’t stop being vague.”

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