Rewind (Book 2)

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Chapter 16: Hel-lo Gorgeous

“Yeah well, at least, I don’t look like I ate my entire family you little insufferable twerp-twit!” Bells shouts at Blubber, the two of them arguing about weight issues. Blubber started it by mocking Bells on the baby weight she has yet to lose. Blubber is an idiot. Everyone knows not to get on Bell’s bad side. If you can, you avoid talking to her altogether. He deserves everything coming his way - he asked for this.

“I still feel stressed,” I emphasize the word, “BoyBand.” I glance his way, silently blaming him for this, as I point out the facts. We should have never invited Bells and Blubber to join us on our stress-free day to the carnival. This is all Benley’s fault.

“Cool it, Babe,” Max advises Bells, “you’re going to upset the kids. They can sense tension within the family.” He tells her, Melby strapped to his chest as he pushes a stroller with Blanche and Rhys in. You’d think Bells would help in some way or another. It seems Max has no choice but to be a hands-on daddy.

Fortunately, Troy takes the liberty to help him out. Rhys is now in his uncle’s arms instead (Troy just couldn’t resist). Poor Blanche, she’s the only child not being coddled.

Susie, walking beside Blubber, takes a bite from the pink candyfloss before asking Max a valid question, “Are you ever going to let me hold one of them?” She motions to his babies, feeling left out of the loop.

Max smirks at her and shakes his head, “No.” He says flatly, “I don’t trust you. You’ll only corrupt them.”

Susie rolls her eyes at her enemy, “You’re so intolerable.”

“No, he is!” Bells disagrees with Luce, pointing at Blubber in distaste. She’s obviously taken offense to all his insults. He should be the last one mocking Bells for being on the pudgy side.

“Shots fired,” Landon whistles in amusement as he eavesdrops on the arguments going round, Sarah nudging him in the side in order to get him to behave.

“Let’s go in already! I’ll burst into bits of confetti if we don’t go in now! I can’t wait any longer!” Troy shouts atop his lungs, giddily, more than excited to go on all the rides.

He’s eager alright. His eyes are wide in childlike wonder as he takes in all the colorful flashing lights, the bright evening stars, the laughter and shouts echoing from the hoards of people within side the gates of the carnival. He’s envious. He wants to be where the people are. He always wants to be the center of attention.

I’m just hoping Troy doesn’t drop Rhys in the process of him bouncing up and down in enthusiasm. If it were to happen, it could be disastrous. Max and Bells would kill him. Then again, it’s no like any of us would miss Troy Story in any case…

“Someone should turn off the gravity system on earth so that we can all just float over the gates.” Troy states in all seriousness, actually believing the idiotic words coming out of his mouth.

“Or,” Jay gestures to the gates, “we can just open them.”

Jay then takes the initiative to open the gates for all of us when the rest of us make no move to do it. It seems as if we’re all too lazy to do it ourselves. Jay, somehow, always comes through for us.

We all knew that Jay would eventually do it if we were to wait him out (except Troy, he grew tired of waiting). A gasp leaves my lips when Troy hands Rhys to Max before doing a run-up and fencing over the gates. Needless to say, he ends up with a minor injury and ends up ripping his jeans.

Our group, consisting of no gentleman within it, has Max, Grey, Xavier, Dean, Ryan, Landon, Leban, Simo, Blubber etc. all fighting to lead in first. They don’t even bother to let the females in before them - no surprise knowing this lot. Chivalry is dead these days.

“Thanks, Bro!” Max grins at Jay as he enters through the gates, not even bothering to let his girlfriend in first. Bells sends daggers with her eyes after him as a result.

“Sure,” Jay replies nonchalantly, purposely waiting behind as to allow the ladies to go in first. He moves aside and waits patiently before entering in after us.

“Thanks, Jay,” Mia smiles up at him as she passes him by.

He responds by giving her an acknowledging nod. I deliberately turn a blind eye to their little exchange. I’d rather not see it. However, Jay turns his head and notices me staring. He smiles in turn. He’s not seeing just how awkward this is for me. I have no choice but to return the smile, for his sake.

The only two guys (other than Jay) that actually wait and allow us in first, happen to be Dylan and Benley. BoyBand has always been polite (except for the time I first met him, and except with Bex). It might be the only good quality Benley has. He’s always been a gentleman, but he’s also a jerk. At least, he’s balanced out.

We split up as soon as we’re all in through the gates (agreeing to meet up later) - Grey, Leban, Jay and Mia going off in one direction; Landon, Sarah and Dean going in another. Ryan and Nancy head out on their own, the same with the wedded couple (Xav and Em). Blubber, Simo, and Susie seek out some concession stands. Max and Bells hang back to tend to their little ones, leaving me alone with BoyBand and Dyl.

I wish AJ were here right now.

As for Troy, who the hell knows where he is by now? Five seconds have passed. He could be anywhere, perhaps even drowning at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. I can only hope.

“You alright?” Dylan asks me as he steps in toe with me, seemingly concerned upon noticing my ‘off’ behavior. I underestimate him. He doesn’t get nearly enough credit. He knows more than he lets on. He isn’t just a pretty face.

“Aren’t I always?” I grin, choosing to leave it behind. I’m not going to let Jay’s new relationship get to me. I’m above this. “Nothing can bring down my mood, nothing,” I tell Dylan truthfully, feeling atop the world. No one can dampen my outlook right now, not even Jay.

“That’s the spirit!” Benley chuckles, bored as always. He’s intent on seeking out adventure. It won’t be long until he moves up to New York in order to be with AJ. I might just join them.

My eyes land on someone in the distance. I stop dead in my tracks when I spot him, coming to a complete halt. “Spoke too soon.” I murmur tensely, astounded and shocked to the core, now growing anxious upon seeing him.

Dylan spins back around when he realizes I’m no longer beside him, “What’s going on?” He asks me when I visibly freeze and stiffen in place.

Before I can reply, he does, “Look at you all drop dead and gorgeous,” he gives that devilish smirk of his before greeting me, “Long time, Aqueela.” He winks at me, deliberately trying to rile up. He’s succeeding. He’s got the upper hand here.

“What are you doing here, Zac?” I question, repulsed by his presence. I don’t hate many people, but I know for certain that I hate Zac Stokes. He made himself an enemy to me after what he did back in New York. I definitely do not consider him to be a friend, and that’s a first. I even consider Grey to be a friend.

“Classified,” he answers lazily, unfazed by my immense hatred for him. He expected it. He expected the cold shoulder from me because he knows he was in the wrong.

“How convenient,” I sigh, irritated that he dare show his face to me again.

I immediately take out my cell phone and dial his number. It can only be him - there’s no other way Zac would know where to locate me.

“What is it, Law? Make it snappy. As you know, I’m a busy man.” He greets from his side of the line, not concerned with pleasantries. I wouldn’t expect anything less from him.

“Shut up Laiken, you’re just the company’s face. Everyone knows that Mason does the real work.” I retort, wanting to get straight to the point. Someone seems to be getting a chip on the shoulder as the cash rolls in, still love him though. Then again, Laiken’s always been arrogant - all the way right through high school. I’m used to it.

“Fair enough, what do you want woman?” Laiken questions as if genuinely busy. You’d think he’d ask me how I am before giving me attitude. Still as rude as ever.

“Your man-whore friend found me…again.” I growl, annoyed that he’d fess up where I’m at these days. I specifically asked him not to inform Zac on my recent whereabouts.

“Zac there?” He queries, confused, but catching on.

“Yeah,” I reply back, now confused too. If Laiken didn’t tell him where I’m at, then how did Zac know where to find me? There’s no way that Mason would rat me out. I was certain that it had to be Laiken.

“I swear I didn’t tell him anything,” Laiken promises and I find myself believing him. The guy has no reason to lie in any way.

Then who did?

“Must be Keagan then,” I say, remembering that Keagan had met Zac once, very briefly. Of course, Zac would exploit Keagan’s ignorance on the situation and bend it all to his will. It seems he’ll forever be one step ahead of me.

“At least, tell him I say hey. It’s been a while since we’ve been to a club, downtown, together.” Laiken insists, waiting to hear me say it to Zac. He won’t hang up until I do.

I hesitate, Laiken hearing the silence whilst I contemplate following through with his petty demands. “I’m waiting,” Laiken reminds me impatiently, deliberately annoying me.

It’s then that I annoy him back and put him on hold. I take him off of hold a couple seconds later. “Tell-” I put him back on hold before he can finish. I let him off of hold once a few good seconds have passed. “Aqueela, tell Zac-” I put him back on hold. I then let him off of hold. He rambles out quickly, “Tell Zac I say -” I end up putting him straight back on hold. I let him off, continuing the pattern. He loses his patience with me, “Stop putting me on hold!” I stifle my laughter as he goes on with his demands, “Tell Zac I say hi.”

I roll my eyes and huff before turning back to Zac with a frown, “Laiken says hey,” I mutter aggressively - Zac’s mere presence bugging me. After what he did, I don’t trust him anymore.

“Much better,” Laiken retorts from his side, truly enjoying this scenario. He knows how much I hate his idiot friend and he is now using it against me. Zac Stokes is a rude, inconsiderate, selfish and pathetic excuse of a human being. I don’t get why Laiken is friends with the moron.

Zac smirks in delight at seeing me be defeated by Laiken, “Tell him I say hey back.” He grins, purposely making me the middleman. Even when Laiken isn’t physically here, the two still manage to team up against me.

I raise a brow at Zac, “For real?” I sigh when he nods. I reluctantly hand him the phone, “Why don’t you two just catch up then on your own time without involving me?” I suggest, sick of playing messenger between the two losers. Zac eagerly snatches my phone right out of my hand. I send him a dark glare, “You’d better not scroll through all my messages like last time.” I warn him with narrowed eyes.

Zac grins evilly at the thought, “Can’t make any promises there, Babe.” He sends me a flirtatious wink before chatting away with Laiken.

Benley nudges me with his elbow as he motions over to Zac (still busy talking on my phone), “Babe?” He questions, inquisitive.

I merely shake my head in turn and roll my eyes at Zac’s back, hoping Benley would catch my gist. BoyBand grins at seeing me irritated.

“He seems to be quite the character,” Benley adds thoughtfully, referring to Zac. “First person I’ve seen that can actually get under your skin. You never lose, yet this guy,” Benley points to Zac when he’s not looking, “just got here and he’s already winning.” Benley comes to a concluding question, “So I’m just standing here wondering, who is he to you?”

The question of the century…

I frown, “No one,” I answer stubbornly, refusing to budge on the subject. No way am I dwelling on Zac Stokes right now. He just puts me in a bad mood.

Dylan raises a brow, jumping on Benley’s train, “Oh?” Dylan teases, “Because Babe,” he purposely uses the sweet talk Zac had used on me, “if anything, the guy seems interested in you. Surely he can’t be no one. He must be someone special.”

I don’t like Dylan and Benley being friends. It doesn’t call for my vote. Troy and Max are stupid, so their friendship is not a threat, but Benley and Dylan are both intelligent. If they’re to team up, I won’t last very long. Then again, I can hold my own well - years of practice.

I open my mouth to protest, but it’s then Zac - overhearing us - interjects, “You bet I’m special. I’m Zac Stokes.” He smirks condescendingly, carelessly tossing my phone back to me. He’s always been reckless.

Laiken didn’t even say goodbye to me.

“It’s like you never stop smirking,” I shake my head at him in repulsion. He disgusts me.

“It’s like you never stop smiling when I’m around,” he retorts, sarcastic. He knows how I feel about him. There’s a reason I stop smiling when in his presence. Zac sees my apprehensive expression and takes delight in it. He breaks out into a grin when he finally realizes that I’m not alone, when he finally acknowledges Benley and Dylan, “How’s it guys,” he greets them, “I’m Zac-“

“Stokes,” Benley finishes for him, “Yeah we gathered that much.” Benley folds his arms across his chest, striking a threatening pose. He’s taking my lead. He can tell that I don’t like Zac and he knows there’s a reason for it. He’s backing me up, being the protective friend he is.

Zac isn’t threatened at all, “Oooh friendly,” Zac remarks, sarcastic once again. He loves his sarcastic comments. He thrives in sarcasm.

“Dylan,” Dylan reaches out a hand and shakes Zac’s, choosing to take down the polite route.

Politeness only lasts so long with Zac before he takes full advantage over it. First impressions are important to Zac. If he sees that you are a wuss, he’ll walk right over you and use you as his personal doormat. In this case, Benley opted for the better choice. Zac will know beforehand not to stuff around with Benley. It’s a good thing too, there’s only so much Benley will take before he loses it - just ask Dylan.

“Sweet,” Zac exclaims as he roughly throws his arms around both Benley and Dylan’s shoulders, “So what are we doing today boys?” He asks with a smirk before deliberately giving Dylan a painful noogie. He’s already decided that he’ll bully Dylan because Dyl’s softer than BoyBand. Zac’s immature like that.

I cannot wait for Grey to meet this jackass. Grey will sort Zac out. If Grey fails, I’ll have to go to extreme measures and reawaken Lan’s wrathful side. No one stands a chance against Mr Ruthless.

Benley groans (something about another crazy one) whilst Dylan tries to escape Zac’s grasp. I stifle my laughter behind my fist, careful not to slip up. Benley sees this and glowers at me, “Yup, he’s a real character this one.” Benley states openly as if he couldn’t care less, “Where do you find all these whack-jobs?” He questions me, he being one of those whack-jobs himself.

Zac glances my way and sends me a daring grin, “Don’t worry Sweetheart, you can tag along with us today.”

“You’re the one tagging along,” I remind him, quickly putting him back in place.

You have to nip it in the bud with Zac or he’ll go overboard. He’s got an ‘I’m supreme’ complex. His good looks can only get him so far. The dark alluring eyes, the dark hair, and the kilowatt smirk will not surpass his raw arrogance. He’s a looker and he knows it, unfortunately. He also happens to be popular with the ladies. It’s his ‘bad boy’ image that drives them into his arms. Personally, I don’t see it. He’s just a pest, a real nuisance.

“Sure sure Honey, whatever you say, Darling.” He winks, running a hand through his black hair whilst doing so. If he had to compete with Troy’s ego, I’m actually not sure who will win. Zac genuinely loves himself. Troy’s just a goof.

“Get off of me,” Benley mutters as he throws Zac’s arm off of his shoulders, Dylan still struggling to set himself free. It seems Benley won’t be warming up to Zac anytime soon, and with good reason.

I sigh and head to the nearest ride. They follow after me, Zac winking at all the girls as he passes by. He gives them the ‘call me’ gesture, purposely checking them out shamelessly. They giggle or smile in response, some even stopping to chat him up. I see the distraction as a way to avoid him, but Zac catches on quickly. He brushes off the others before jogging back to rejoin Benley, Dylan and me.

“Wait up!” Zac shouts, out of breath from sprinting.

I snap my fingers in disappointment, “Dang it!”

Benley passes me a knowing grin, “We were so close to getting rid of him.”

Before I can say anything more, Troy runs past us (with his arms flaying backward behind his body as if trying to pull off the sprint of an assassin) toward the ride we’re headed to, “Go ninja, go!” He shouts as he pushes in front of us, unwilling to stand in the long line behind us.

I’m alright with letting it pass seeing as it is Troy, but Zac (being a badass when he wants to be) taps Troy on the shoulder, “Yo pal, you can’t just push in. Get the hell out of this line, we were here first.” Zac argues, picking a fight - it’s always been in his nature.

It’s unfortunate that Zac doesn’t know Troy. If he did know Troy, he would have just left the entire ordeal alone. No one beats Troy, not even me. Zac doesn’t stand a chance. Troy will beat him down with his genuine stupidity.

Troy shrugs at Zac as if he couldn’t care less, “Debatable you deadbeat.” He comments, insulting Zac, unaware of Zac’s flaming temper. Zac prefers to talk with his fists. Troy simply turns back around after that, refusing to leave the line.

Seeing that Zac’s about to react (most likely violently), I place a hand on his arm in warning. “Don’t do it, Zac,” I advise, “trust me, that…” I gesture to the back of Troy’s stature, “is a whole lot of crazy you don’t want to get caught up in.”

Troy, overhearing me, turns around and glowers at me, “Oh hush your face, Aqueela!”

I feign a gasp and place a hand over my heart, pretending to be offended, “Woah. Harsh.” I retort sarcastically before laughing it off, “Look out, boy-scout is on the move!” I tease Troy in good nature, fond of the guy. It’s more than I can say for Zac.

Zac, astounded by the interaction, raises an eyebrow at me, “You know this guy too?” He asks, pointing to Troy.

“That’s an understatement,” Troy grins before flashing me a suggestive smile, “she was in love with me. I had to let her go though, had to let her down easy, especially now that I’m spoken for.”

Zac glances my way, seeking confirmation to Troy’s absurd statement. I shake my head when Troy momentarily looks away.

“Good thing too,” Zac smirks at Troy in victory, “she can do much better than you.”

Troy bursts out laughing, thinking it to be a joke and not actually comprehending Zac’s words. He cannot fathom Zac being dead serious. Troy salutes Zac, “Good one pal, make her feel better about herself.”

“I wasn’t joking,” Zac clarifies in a stern tone.

Troy’s face drops at Zac’s words before he quickly masks it with a frown, “Let’s uh…let’s not get carried away there.” Troy then turns to me for assistance, outmatched, “I got nothing. I don’t actually know what to do here,” Troy admits in defeat.

When it comes to Zac, it seems Troy is completely out of his depth. Perhaps the loser has a weakness after all…

“He pwned you.” I grin, stumped to see Troy speechless, but also satisfied that someone finally put him in his place (even if it is Zac).

“He caught me off guard,” Troy lies, making up excuses in order to rise to his own defense. Everyone already knows that he’s always caught off guard, it shouldn’t make a difference now.

“That’s always your get out of jail free card,” Benley pipes up, not exactly siding with anyone. He dislikes them both with equal measure. Dylan, a peacemaker, stays out of it.

Troy turns his fierce glare onto Benley next, “No one cares what you have to say. Most days, I barely remember your name.” Troy makes an attempt to insult BoyBand.

“You’ve known me for five years now, Troy.” Benley yawns, unfazed by it all. “Just goes to show how slow you are.”

I get sidetracked when I spot Jay and Mia on a roller coaster. They pass by us in a flash. Jay’s grinning, a clear indication that he’s loving the ride. Anything that gets his blood pumping is exciting for him. He lives for the thrill - the adrenaline rush. Mia is beside him and she’s holding his hand, closing her eyes and shouting out in excitement too. If I weren’t so besotted with Jay myself, I’d approve of the couple.

Landon and Sarah have their own joined hands raised to the sky. Sarah can’t stop laughing, smiling from ear to ear, as she waves her and Landon’s intertwined hands back and forth through the moving air. As for Landon, he couldn’t look any more bored if he tried. He has a bland expression on his face. I guess he prefers his races, perhaps he could do with more speed.

Emma just vomited and Xavier looks disgusted with her, yet still he relishes in mocking her. I guess someone gets motion sickness. Wouldn’t have pegged Emma as the type to have a weak stomach.

Grey doesn’t even flinch or blink, not bothered at all. He’s not even holding on, his arms are crossed over his chest, a sullen expression on his face. It’s like he’s not even on a super fast, twirly whirly roller coaster right now. He might as well just be standing about, doing nothing.

Dean, of course, is the loudest from everyone with his cheers of approval - Leban a close second in the loudness factor. They all seem to be having a blast.

It’s then I catch Max, Blanche in his arms, eyeing the rides wistfully - in longing. Poor guy…

As for Blubber, he’s been told that he’s too short to go on the rides. Simo has been told that he won’t fit the rides as a result of his large frame - hence why Susie is enjoying all the rides without them. I love that girl, she knows what life is about.

Ryan is still invested in his new phone in spite of currently being on a roller coaster. Nancy’s frown is directed at her boyfriend. It’s as if the veil has just fallen from her eyes, as if she’s finally seeing that she’d be better suited with someone else entirely. Ryan is the only nut-job that will take a phone call when on a fricken roller coaster ride.

Troy also sees the others on the roller coaster ride beside us. He leaves the line we’re currently standing in and runs to the next line, pushing in front of a little boy, along with many other people so that he can join in with Jay and the others.

“He’s line jumping again!” The little boy shouts as if having been in this predicament with Troy already. It seems Troy’s been quite busy in making a nuisance of himself.

Everyone, in the line, grumbles out in unison, “Him again?” They all seem to hate him, but it’s as if Troy couldn’t care less. When Troy wants to be included, nothing and no one will stand in his way. He doesn’t just cross lines, he pushes into the front of them.

“He’s just going to complain again when he’s on the ride,” the little boy frowns, crossing his arms over his chest as he glares up at Troy’s tall frame.

The boy turns out to be right. Troy’s just about in tears when he later steps off the roller coaster that all the others had just been on.

The boy frowns at Troy in bewilderment, “If you hate all the rides, then why do you keep going back to them with eagerness?”

Troy sniffles, shooting the boy a dark glare, “I don’t know!”

“I’m confused,” the boy states dryly, at a loss. He has no conclusion to Troy’s absurd behavior tenancies. Join the club, no one does.

“Well now so am I, so thanks a lot!” Troy snaps at him before jumping to the next line, shoving people out of his way in order to get into the front.

“What’s wrong with him?” Zac asks me, bringing me out of my stupor.

I shrug carelessly, “The world will never know.”

Zac grins in delight at seeing my sense of humor resurfacing. He sends me a flattering smile before grabbing hold of my hand and pulling me in the direction of the next ride. I sigh, too lazy to struggle against him, and decide to comply. What’s the harm in spending a day with him? It’s not like he can disappoint me more than he already has. His mere presence is a disappointment.

Zac steps back, allowing me to climb onto the ride known as the ‘UFO’ first. He joins me in the 2-seater compartment. The ride slowly starts moving. I glower at Zac, upset that I’m not getting the chance to ride this with Dyl or Ben instead.

“Lighten up Sweetheart, things are just getting interesting.” Zac smirks down at me, his brown eyes boring into mine. I wish he’d just leave. I don’t want him here. I gladly welcome more people, but with Zac, it’s a different story. It will always be a different story.

It’s only when the ride lifts and we begin spinning around at a much faster pace that I start smiling. I’m a sucker for rides. I just love them all, unlike Troy. I love the feeling that comes with the speed. It feels as if my heart gets lodged in my throat and the thrill is just something to live for. It’s reviving.

“There it is,” Zac winks down at me as if satisfied that I’m finally smiling in his presence.

I immediately clamp my mouth shut, trying to remove the smile off of my face so that I can go back to glowering at him. It’s not hard to be mad at him, especially after he betrayed my trust. I find it easy to be angry at him. He’s a self-involved, conceited jerk.

“As quick as it came,” Zac jokes as the ride comes to a complete stop, referring to the smile leaving my face. “You’re all rainbows and sunshine, Buttercup.” He teases, pushing for some kind of response.

I cross my arms over my chest and walk on ahead of him, trying to get rid of him entirely. His face drops as he tries to match my pace. We soon catch up with Dyl and Ben (the two of them really getting along nowadays).

“Ferris wheel?” I ask the guys, with the exclusion of Zac, when I see all the others lining up to go on the ride.

“Sure,” Dylan smiles down at me in fondness, “whatever you want.”

“Yeah…” Benley glances up at the Ferris wheel in the distance, a visible shiver coursing through him, “I’d rather not, count me out.” He says, unease written all over his face.

“Someone scared of heights?” I tease him, understanding his fear. There was a time when I was afraid of heights. I conquered that fear when I jumped a cliff and went sandboarding with Jay and Max.

“Shut up,” Benley sighs, averting his dark eyes to the floor. He’s not even bothering to deny it. I bet if AJ were here, she’d be able to get him on the enormous wheel of fun. She’s his weak spot.

“Touchy,” Zac comments, enjoying irritating the entire nation, as always. It’s his specialty.

I swat Zac aside, “Only I make fun of BoyBand.” I set him straight. Benley’s a good friend to me, one of the best, I won’t allow Zac to wedge himself in between our friendship. Zac loves ruining everything. He’ll chase Benley away if he keeps this up. No one has to put up with him. I glance back to Benley, “I’ll let you off the hook this one time.” I tell him, allowing him to sit this one out.

“As if I need your permission,” Benley winks as he gets ready to retire back to the benches nearby. He’s more than happy to watch. He then stops short and sniffs the air.

I raise an eyebrow at his actions.

“Something’s not right,” Ben says, Dylan too suddenly freezing in place. “She’s here,” Benley stiffens, “I can smell her.”

Catching on, I shake my head at Benley, “Would you two quit being so weird? Bex isn’t even here.”

“Benley, Dylan,” I hear a voice address us from behind.

We all turn around to face the horrendous creature of darkness, “I stand corrected.” I clarify upon seeing her.

Benley and Dylan’s eyes widen in shock. From the little I’ve heard, Benley had a crazy ass relationship with Bex the ex. This can’t be good for anyone.

Aqueela,” her eyes stray back to me in greeting.

Bex,” I acknowledge her stiffly. After what she did to both Benley and Dylan, I’ve lost all respect for her.

She raises a brow upon seeing Zac, “Person who is clearly not Jay.” She addresses Zac, purposely trying to get to me, even when I’m sure it’s apparent that I’m no longer with Jay. He’s literally here with another girl.

“Person who seems to be a bit of a b*tch.” Zac retorts rudely when he sees my scowl directed at her. He’s charming and suave with most females, but then you get the ones that piss him off. He has a badass streak to him that surfaces every now and again, especially when defensive.

Bex ignores Zac and takes to annoying me instead, “What? Jay got tired of waiting for you?”

I shrug and turn the insult on her, “What? You can walk around in broad daylight now without burning to smithereens?” I grin, unfazed, as I insult her in turn.

“Who the hell is this Jay guy?” Zac asks, suddenly getting more defensive upon hearing his name being repeated. He’s clicked that Jay is a person who means a lot to me. Jay means the most to me.

No one bothers to answer Zac.

Benley takes a fierce stand, quickly jumping to my defense, “Back the hell off Bex, you know nothing.” Benley’s the only one who knows the struggles I’ve faced.

“What are you even doing here?” Dylan proceeds to ask Bex before she can even respond to Ben, his voice displaying the tiniest bit of aggravation. I can see that he’s wrestling with his emotions. He wants to lash out, but he also doesn’t want to give her the satisfaction of allowing her to see what she did to him when she called the relationship off.

Zac yanks me aside in question, stripping me from my rights to eavesdrop on their conversation. I also want to know why Bex is back in town. I place my hands on my hips and frown up at Zac, “Why’d you go and do that?!” I hiss bitterly.

He says nothing in turn and guides me back to the Ferris wheel. I hate being controlled and Zac seems to think he can control me.

“Zac!” I whine in fury, pulling on the sleeve of his own black leather jacket in order to get him to stop pushing me in the direction of the Ferris wheel.

“I need to talk to you,” he merely replies as we get onto the ride, the compartment being closed off after us.

Before I can make a move to get, the door is closed from the outside by the attendant, locking us in together.

“Go on,” I groan as I stare out to see us rising higher and higher above the ground. There’s nothing better to do than to listen to the moron speak.

He starts off confidently, “Listen Aqueela, about what happened,” he falters, “I’m really sorry.”

Stunned, I draw my gaze back to him, “So he apologizes?”

He scoffs, “Not now please-“

“He says please?” I joke further, just to pester him. I’m not interested in hearing his excuses.

“Your dad asked me to,” he says as if that’s supposed to make me feel any better about what he did. “I couldn’t say no.”

“Yes, you could have Zac,” I argue in protest. “You make your own choices. Stop trying to justify your actions.” He falls quiet after that. I sigh thoughtfully, “You know,” I glance up to meet his piercing stare, “I actually used to like you.” I say earnestly. “I didn’t mind you. I could actually tolerate and stomach being in your presence. Now all I want to do is get away from you. You shouldn’t have followed me back here. It won’t change anything,” I conclude adamantly, fiercely.

“I’m sorry,” he repeats, “I was just following orders. I didn’t know how your father was back then. I didn’t know that you had a messed up relationship with him. I didn’t really know anything. I just did what he asked and took to his instructions. I didn’t stop to think how it would affect you.”

I look elsewhere, “You should know that my father doesn’t care about anyone but himself.” I reply, my gaze set on the exquisite view ahead. We’ve reached the top of the Ferris wheel. Even the scenery is not enough to distract me from my thoughts, from Zac Stokes, and from my father.

Zac curls his hands into fists, a hard look on his face, “I know that, now.” He confirms, his jaw tightly clenched.

“This is awkward. You guys do know that I’m in here too, right? You see me right? I’m not dead, am I?” Blubber asks us in a panic, breaking the thick tension encasing the two of us. He’d been sitting across from us the entire time we’d been speaking. We just didn’t make a fuss of him, pretending not to have noticed him.

“Oh shut up, Blubber.” I close my eyes in frustration before grinning at my little pork-chop, “No one cares.”

“Who don’t you know around here?” Zac mutters in annoyance just as the Ferris wheel comes to a random halt, all the fairy lights on it turning off, the power dead. Zac glances at me for an answer, “What’s going on?”

“I stopped it with my mind,” I answer sarcastically.

“You can do that?!” Blubber questions in distress before wearily narrowing his eyes at me, “What are you?” He questions as if genuinely afraid of me.

He is so naive.

“A question I ask myself every day,” I roll my eyes at him, choosing to taunt the big guy. Silly Blubber, stupid silly Blubs. I straighten up, getting serious, as I send Blubber a death glare, “I bet this is your fault. I blame you.” I mess around with him. I know it’s not Blubber.

“I blame him too,” Zac adds insult to injury as we come to a standstill, our compartments merely swaying slowly in the air. There seems to be a technical malfunction. At least, we stopped on top - get to watch the beautiful scenery. It’s only our ride that’s in darkness. Something must have gone wrong with the Ferris wheel, it’s the only logical explanation. Benley’s fortunate that he stayed away, he’d have died up here otherwise.

“I blame Blubber!” Voices that I recognize to be Dean and Leban chortle from beside us. Susie and Simo, also stuck on the ride, take the liberty to voice their agreements, in spite of being Blubber’s ‘apparent’ friends.

“Same here!” Landon and Xavier chip in from the other side of us. I vaguely hear Sarah and Emma telling them to stop being mean. Typical.

“I guess I’ll blame him too then,” I hear Ryan murmur much to Nancy’s disapproval. He’ll just go with the flow.

Blubber sends me a disapproving stare, unimpressed, “You always start things.”

I make shooting motions at him with my hands as if in a western movie, “Bang, bang,” I grin before blowing down on my guns (hands). “Drop dead,” I smirk.

“Finally, I’m in the clear for once.” Grey breathes out loudly, grateful that Troy is nowhere in sight. Troy’s usually the one who resorts to blaming him. Grey then joins the party, “I blame the chubby kid too. It’s mandatory.”

“But I didn’t do anything!” Blubber tries to defend himself. We all know he did it.

“Mhmm…sure Blubber, believe what you want to,” Susie remarks cheekily from a few carts nearby.

Landon, impatient, curses beneath his breath, “This thing better start moving again or I’ll jump out.”

“JT beat you to it.” Grey adds, “he climbed down to see what’s up and hopefully get us all down from here.”

“I told him not to,” I hear Mia sigh in worry, “he could fall to his death.”

Doubt it, he does parkour for a reason.

“Landon!” I hear Emma and Sarah shout out in terror, “Stop rocking the compartment back and forth!” Sarah yells the last part, severely annoyed with her boyfriend’s lack of patience. I can hear Xavier snickering in the backgrounds. He and Lan are obviously having fun tormenting the girls.

“I’m bored,” I hear Dean mumble groggily before I hear loud snoring. “Great. Leban just fell asleep on me. Disgusting. Now I have to burn this shirt, it’s been in the wild land, Africa.” Dean cracks a joke, hoping to lighten everyone’s mood. He’s usually upbeat on most days. It is on rare occasions when his pessimist side affects him.

“At least, you’re not stuck in a compartment with Blubber,” I tell Dean, “Oh and Zac! I have it the worst, so stop whining.” I complain, receiving two glares from two different people as a result.

“True,” Dean agrees, Blubber easily taking offense.

“Who the hell is Zac?” Ryan asks next, seemingly off his damn phone for once. He’s actually paying attention to his surroundings, it feels strange.

“Lawson’s new boyfriend,” Grey, of course, has to have his say in irritating me. He loves making me uncomfortable. He thrives on being a jerk, much like Zac himself.

“Simo scared!” Simo yelps out when his cart sways slightly in the wind, “Sprinkle save little Simo now!”

“Kind of busy being stuck too, Sims.” I giggle at him. One can’t help but love Simo. He’s one of a kind, very special to me. Hell, they’re all special to me.

Zac shakes his head in disbelief, perplexed. “Didn’t realize how popular you were, Sweetheart,” he states sourly, taken aback by all the people I know.

“She’s not. We all hate her,” Grey lies, choosing to speak on everyone’s behalf.

“They’re not my friends, they’re merely my fans. I actually don’t know any of these people.” I blatantly lie straight to Zac’s face.

Before any of them can deny it, the ride begins moving again.

“Finally,” I sigh in contentment as we reach the bottom. I waste no time in getting off the ride. I’ve been to close to Zac for too long. I was starting to suffocate in his cologne and hair product.

Upon stepping up, I glance up to see Jay leaning back against the attendant’s stand. He meets my gaze and pushes himself off the wall. He’d obviously been waiting for us to get down. Max, Bells and the triplets are beside him, concerned expressions etched into all of their faces.

Benley, Dylan and Bex are nowhere in sight.

“I always miss out on all the fun,” Max protests unhappily before glancing at Troy, “you couldn’t have set the cables on fire when I was on the ride?”

My eyes dart to Troy in alarm, “You messed with the electrical motor?!” I all but shout, absentmindedly taking note of his singed hair (he’s also covered in ash).

Troy shakes his head, but Jay nods his. I’m obviously taking Jay’s word over his. It’s a no-brainer.

“No, stupid,” Troy remarks proudly, “I accidentally lit the power cables, that’s all. I also caught alight. No big deal. My good buddy here,” he gestures to the Ferris wheel attendant who is scowling at him, “had to use the backup motor.”

“I will kill you!” Grey snaps venomously upon overhearing our conversation. Those four words are his catch phrase. He loves using them.

“What did I miss?” Max asks in interest.

Landon places a hand on Max’s shoulder and shakes his head at him, feigning sympathy, “What happens on the big wheel, stays on the big wheel.”

Max frowns in disappointment and crosses his arms over his chest, “Aww, man! My homeboys ditched me.” Max isn’t even that close with Landon and Xavier, they rarely talk.

“It was traumatic,” Xavier lies to Max, he and Lan messing with him. They’re making it sound more fun than it was. Max lives for these kinds of things and they know it.

“You have a serious problem, Troy,” I say aloud, voicing my opinion. I honestly believe that he’s become obsessed with fire.

“Idiot,” Zac grumbles, his arm resting lightly atop my shoulders. He casts his gaze downward to me, “I’ll be back in a bit,” he informs me as if I’m supposed to care.

I watch him leave to go and light a cigarette. He knows I prefer it he doesn’t smoke in front of me. I’d rather not suffer from his second-hand smoke. I roll my eyes. Unfortunately, he’s the real deal, a true badass. I prefer the good ones.

“What?” I ask Jay when noticing his gaze flicker from Zac to me.

Jay shrugs nonchalantly, “Just not the type of guy I pictured for you.” He concludes as if having thought on the subject for some time now.

Funny…Jay used to be just like Zac at one stage, just not to Zac’s extent.

“No?” I query, confused. I want to hear what he has to say.

“He just typically doesn’t seem to be right for you,” he drops casually. “Not him anyway.”

“You don’t even know him,” I point out, reminding him of the significant fact.

“Don’t need to know him. I can see the kind of person he is just by watching his interactions with people,” Jay replies, hostile, this time, a little more on the offense. “If he’s anything like I was,” Jay pauses as if considering it before concluding, “then he has a lot of growing up to do.”

Go figure, Jay’s spot on. I can’t even argue with him.

I grin at his perceptiveness, “How observant of you.” I backtrack and retrace my steps when I see Mia fast approaching. I turn to the others instead, “Intervention for Troy?”

They all chorus a ‘yes’ in unison.

“Make it quick,” Troy demands as if unfazed, “I got places to see and be.”

Sarah offers Mia a sheepish yet welcoming smile, “Welcome to the madhouse, Mia.”

“So I’ve seen,” Mia returns with a soft smile of her own. “Thanks,” she laughs lightly, standing close to Jay as if to be protected from the rest of us.

I narrow my eyes at Troy in concern, “You’ve got to stop setting yourself, objects and other people alight. It’s not healthy.” I sigh when he pouts at me and cave a little, “It was funny at first-“

“It was most definitely never funny,” Nancy cuts me off, sending a glare Troy’s way.

“Yeah,” Jay agrees with Nancy, publicly going against me, “you weren’t the one who had to pay all the damage costs,” he points out, bringing it to my attention as to how unfair we’ve been to him. Still, Jay isn’t one to complain…ever.

I’m not offended, I see his point. We really do exploit his fame and money. I get that he’s tired of blowing all his earnings on our countless mistakes.

I turn back to Troy, trying to erase Jay’s harshness from my mind, “The next time you set yourself alight, we are not going to put you out.” I ignore Emma’s gasp, “We will have no choice but to let you burn, and the same goes with settings others alight. We’ll let them burn.”

“We’re not going to save Troy’s victims?” Ryan questions in horror, “I’m not one for playing the superhero. I’m all for being the villain, but are you really suggesting that we leave everyone he sets on fire to die? How is that fair?”

“For once, he makes a valid argument,” Grey actually agrees with Ryan, his enemy.

“When the other person dies, Troy will learn his lesson.” I give them some insight into my plan.

“Yeah, but Xavier and I will be the ones paying for funeral costs,” Jay argues against me for the second time for absolutely no reason at all. It’s unlike him. He isn’t one to pick a fight for no reason.

“True that,” Xavier backs Jay up.

I glance at Jay in question, curious, “What is your problem?” I ask him point blank, sensing that something is up with him.

“Problem? I don’t have a problem,” Jay frowns, pretending that he in actual fact doesn’t have a problem, despite it being obvious that he actually has one.

“I tell my therapist that all the time,” Landon grins at Jay, nodding at him in understanding as if able to relate.

“Whatever,” I breathe out in frustration, “I tried.” I, for the first time, give up and retreat in search of BoyBand and Dyl. They might need saving from Bex the ex. Plus, I’m just looking for an excuse to get away from Jay.

Bells finds her way to me, “You okay?” She asks, “I know seeing him with someone else has to hurt.”

“There you are, Aqueela.” Zac sneaks up on me. Right now, I prefer him to Jay. “You vanish quickly. I was…” he stammers off upon seeing Bells for the first time, his brown eyes widening at the sight of her, “Hel-lo Gorgeous!” He smirks as he takes a step toward her, giving her his full attention. Typical Zac. I get why he and Laiken are friends, and I get why Mason hates him.

It’s a pity Max and the kids aren’t here right now…

Bells, of course, can’t resist. Compliments on her appearance are her weaknesses, especially seeing as she hasn’t received any for a long time coming (pregnancy and what not). It’s a good thing she’s been working out. She giggles and turns to me for an explanation, “You’ve never mentioned him before.”

“I haven’t?” I feign innocence, “What a damn shame.”

Zac scoffs, sending me a glare, before shaking his head. He turns back to Bells, a charming smirk adorned on his lips, “I’m Zachary Stokes.” He introduces himself flirtatiously. I know just how suave he can be. He’s like this with all girls. I hope Bells is sensible enough not to fall for his charm. I was.

I roll my eyes, “Your full name is Zac, just Zac. Quit with the Zachary crap. You can’t fool everyone all the time.” I lecture him, severely annoyed, but not at him…for once.

Zac then takes to flirting with Bells some more. Bells would never cheat on Max (I know she loves him), but she loves flattery too, and Zac loves dishing out flattering comments if it means he’ll get somewhere.

I grab my phone and dial Max, “Heya Maxi, some random dude is making moves on your girl. I’d get here quick. We’re by the concession stands.” I hang up after that only to see Bells giving me a look and Zac sending me a glare for referring to him as ‘some random dude’. “What?” I shrug, pretending to be ignorant and clueless to their meaningless stares.

“Excuse us, Zachary,” Bells smiles sweetly at Zac the monster before pulling me aside, “You couldn’t let me have this? I just wanted to hear if I’m still considered attractive. It’s been so long since I’ve been hit on!” She whisper-yells at me.

“After all this time, you still haven’t learned to whisper.” I shake my head at her in disapproval, “Shame, shame, I know your name.” I scold her.

“But I don’t,” Zac chips in as he turns to Bells for an answer, “I don’t know your name,” he clarifies, just about making Bells swoon.

“Oh Honey,” Bells laughs tauntingly, “you thought I was going to give you my name?”

That’s my girl.

I grin in satisfaction upon seeing Zac’s face drop in shock, “Nicely played, Bell.” I congratulate her and then realize my slip up and shoot her an apologetic look, “My bad, that was totally an accident.”

“Bell? What a beautiful name,” Zac smirks in delight at my stupidity, taking full advantage of it.

“Stop crying Melby, daddy just needs to quickly kick some guy’s ass, alright?” I hear Max say before mumbling more incoherent things to his children as he reaches us. He takes one look at Zac before his eyes meet mine accusingly, “Aqueela, you never said he was built like ‘the arrow’. He looks like he’s on the run from the league of assassins.” Max complains, failing to whisper. Like girlfriend, like boyfriend.

Zac chuckles, “I’m guessing you’re the boyfriend?” He guesses correctly, after hearing me phone Max earlier.

“The one and only,” Max stretches out his hand in greeting, “and I’m guessing you’re also the boyfriend?” He glances from me to Zac, eyebrows raised. Before Zac can answer, Max points at me accusingly, “You never said you were seeing someone.”

“That’s because I’m not, you dweeb,” I motion to Zac, “he’s just a friend.”

“I am?” Zac questions, seemingly elated in the fact that I think of him as a friend.

“You are,” I send him a half smile, working my way up to forgiving him. How can I expect to be in Jay’s good books again, when I myself am not willing to give others second chances?

“Zac Stokes,” Zac introduces himself to Max before gesturing to Bells, “you have a hell of a lady there,” he winks, congratulating Max on his win.

Max, in good nature, smiles at Bells lovingly before glancing back at Zac, “Yeah, I know.” Max definitely appreciates his girlfriend’s beauty. His kids are evident of it.

“You really don’t look like you just had a triplet,” Zac sends yet another compliment Bell’s way. He’s making the girl’s day and he knows it. He’ll charm the pants off any girl who is willing.

“Max,” Max greets him properly, “for maximum in awesomeness, and maximum in pretty much everything.” Max boasts, an easy going grin on his face. He might be the only one who doesn’t seem to mind Zac. Troy, Benley, Dylan and Jay already can’t stand him.

I roll my eyes at my conceited friend, “Don’t listen to him, these days he can’t even ride roller coasters.” I tell Zac, throwing Max under the bus. It’s what he gets for having a gigantic ego.

Max narrows his eyes at me, “Shut up, Aqueela.”

I stick my tongue out at him just to spite him.

“So childish,” Max laughs before asking, “What happened back there between you and Jay?”

“The Jay guy’s here?” Zac asks as if only figuring that much out now. So slow…

I shrug at Max, once again ignoring Zac, “Who knows? All I know is that he’s mad about something.” I try to ease the blow with a joke, “You know how racers roll, they all seem to have pent-up, unspoken anger issues.”

“He’s a racer? Where is this guy?” Zac questions, highly intrigued. He’s a big fan of racing, chances are, he knows all about Jay. All I have to do is mention Jay’s surname, but I’m going to keep him in suspense and say nothing at all. He can find out on his own.

“It seems as if the racing tracks are breeding grounds for monsters,” Max humors me before he decides to get serious, “but honestly, Jay is a great guy and a talented racer.” He sees my unhappy expression and makes an attempt to make me feel better, “I will never say it to his face though.”

“Why would you never say that to his face?” Bells asks on Jay’s behalf, shaking her head at Max in disappointment.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Troy buts in from nowhere, “but I’m spiking people’s drinks for a social experiment, would any of you like your drinks spiked?” He asks politely, clearly having not learned his lesson from last time. “No drugs involved this time, I promise. Just alcohol.”

Zac says what I’m thinking, “Get out of here.”

“Later then?” Troy throws over his shoulder in hope before walking away to go harass some other people.

“Social experiment?” I quirk an eyebrow at Bells.

“I’m adopted, I believe that with all my heart,” is her response to her brother’s craziness.

“I don’t know why we’re still having this conversation Bex, we ended five years ago.” Benley storms past us, Bex hot on his heels. I want AJ to come back and put Bex in her place. If AJ doesn’t do it, I will. Poor B-Dawg.

Dylan, on the other hand, seems to be preoccupied. He, Leban and Dean are fighting over a beautiful girl. All three of them are following after her, and you can tell by her smile that she’s loving all the attention. She’s immune to their flirting. It’s obvious she’s just leading them on. If anything, it seems Bex is the last concern of Dylan’s. I have a feeling that she’s back for BoyBand instead.

I grin, meeting Bell’s gaze, before chuckling, “Men.”

“Yo, Aqueela?” Landon calls from some distance away, “We have a problem. Grey said to call you. Jay’s wasted.” He jumps straight to the point, not even having the common decency to first beat around the bush.

“Jay doesn’t drink anymore, how…” I trail off as it sinks in, “Troy.” I breathe under my breath, aware of Troy’s habit of using Jay as his guinea pig slash lab rat for all his experiments. He probably spiked Jay’s soda a while ago when Jay wasn’t looking. The effects are only coming into play now.

“Dammit, again?!” Bells stomps her foot in fury. “He’s going to get it this time. Troy!” She shouts at him before fiercely making her way over to him. It’s no surprise when he starts running upon seeing her coming for him. I would not like to be him right now.

“This has happened before?” Zac questions in disbelief, struck by the facts.

“That and so much worse, you should have been here the other day - we started a riot, landed in jail, did community service, set objects on fire and then all almost got killed by a wild grandma on a forklift,” Max tells him in a solemn voice, indicating just how serious he is.

Zac lifts an eyebrow my way, wanting me to confirm it all. I nod at him, “Told ya not to follow me back home.”

I did warn him.

“I love wasted Jay, he’s a lot more friendly,” Max chirps, breaking the atmosphere as he eagerly begins dragging me in the direction of Jay.

Jay soon comes into view and Mia is nowhere to be seen. Only Grey, Xavier and Emma are with him. I have a feeling that Sarah and Mia went off to bond. They both have similar personalities, both soft in nature. I could see them getting along.

I ignore Emma, seeing as she doesn’t want me anywhere near Jay. However, if he asks for me, then I will come.

“Why is Jay always his victim?” I ask Max, Zac merely tagging along with us for the hell of it.

“That him? He looks familiar,” Zac states in contemplation.

Jay whips his head up upon hearing our voices, “Aqueela?” He stammers in hopefulness, a smile surfacing when his eyes land on me. He staggers toward me and before I can even react, he engulfs me and wraps me up in a powerful hug. I freeze beneath him, startled by his unpredictable actions.

I hate it when he’s drunk. I never know what’s coming. I walk on egg shells around him when he’s like this.

He pulls back to stare down at me in sincerity, “You’re the best person I’ve ever known.”

“Another shot to me ego,” Max sighs, feigning disappointment, as he clicks his fingers in dismay, “Thought being the best was my gig.”

Shock, I glance up at Jay in bewilderment before stuttering, “What?” I ask breathlessly, caught off guard. I wasn’t expecting him to say anything remotely close to that.

“I got it!” Zac snaps his fingers in recognition, completely ruining the moment, “He’s Jay Taylor.” Zac grins down at me in pride upon finally figuring it out, “The famous speed racer, Jay Taylor,” he points to Jay as if I’m the one who doesn’t know, “that’s him.”

I send Zac a flat glare, “Took you long enough.”

I give up with all of these people.

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