Rewind (Book 2)

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Chapter 18: Spellbound

I humor the moron, “Oh?” I string him along to see where he takes this, “How?”

“One date,” Zac grins down at me flirtatiously, “is all I need.”

I pretend to think about, purposely getting his hopes up, before pushing him away from me, “I don’t think so.” I step out of his reach. “Please don’t make me laugh at you,” I say in all serious, “Please don’t make me laugh in your face.”

His expression drops. He’d been expecting me to accept the invite. He’s not used to rejection, much like Bells. He recovers from his shocked stupor, “C’mon Gorgeous, let loose for once. I don’t bite, I promise.” He adds, “Then again, I’m not known to keep my promises.” He winks proudly, his rep of being a liar evident in his lifestyle.

He really thinks I’m going to agree to a date, with him, of all people.

Oh, I know,” I tell him, reminding him of all the promises he made to me and then broke.

He ignores my remark, not wanting to hatch anything. “I can show you the wild side to life,” he smirks fervently, not so cleverly changing the subject, “you’ll love it,” he assures me confidently.

“I’m not looking for anything right now,” I tell him truthfully as I make my way back to the lounge, knowing that he’d follow me out. I just need him to leave my bedroom. He’s stupid enough to follow me.

“Neither am I. It doesn’t have to be serious. It can just be fun.” He waggles his eyebrows suggestively as he continues to try and convince me otherwise.

“I don’t do flings,” I admit, “I’ve only known serious.”

The way I see it, casual flings are pointless. It’s a waste of time.

“Then let me teach you to not be serious with me,” he winks my way, his smirk growing bigger at the thought of it.

“You won’t be able to handle me, Zac.” I grin tauntingly, teasing him seeing as I’m a teaser at heart. “I’m a whole lot of crazy you don’t want to get caught up in. I’m not your style.”

“Trust me, I do and you are,” Zac pesters on impatiently, waiting for me to cave to his will. “I think I’ll manage.”

I pull a mocking face and shake my head, choosing to rile him up for once, “I doubt it.”

He finally catches on and cocks his head to the side, the playful glimmer in his dark eyes vanishing beyond a wall of solemnness, “Aqueela,” he says flatly, unimpressed by my stubbornness. “Why you gotta be like this?”

I shrug carelessly, “Because I’m Aqueela Lawson, that’s why.”

Zac, much to my astoundment, actually gives up, “Fine, suit yourself,” he ends casually as he jumps sideways onto the lounge couch. “You’re missing out,” he says, making out as if he couldn’t care less. It’s obvious he’s slightly offended.

I grin and toss him a spare blanket and pillow, “Night.”

I turn to leave the room but his voice stops me, “Hey Lawson?”

Yes, Zac?” I groan in exasperation, tired. There’s nothing more, right now, that I want than to sleep.

“You’ll come around,” he assures me in conviction as if determined.

I’m able stifle a laugh, “Right,” I conclude before switching off the lights and retiring to bed.

A tumultuous knocking on my bedroom door awakens me. I try to ignore it, aware of who it is, and place my pillow over my ears to block out the racket. Zac must catch on because he only pounds louder on my door in turn.

“Yo Aqueela?! What’s for breakfast?” Zac asks at the top of his lungs, willing me to wake up and pull myself out of bed already.

“Dinner!” I shout back sarcastically, irritated. I can never rest when he’s out and about. He’s that kind of person that leaves you with no energy. His presence is a burden. He’s overwhelming.

“My favorite,” I hear him reply and I can picture him saying it with a victorious smirk imprinted on his face seeing as I eventually responded to him.

Unfortunately, Zac’s an apparent early riser. Damn, I hate morning people. They ruin everything. I’m just glad I thought to lock the door last night or he’d be in here waking me up.

Continuing to ignore him, I shift in position and throw the blanket and pillow off of my face as I try to return back to the land of slumber.

“Aqueela! Aqueela! Aqueela!” He shouts my name in between knocking on my door repetitively. “Aquee-“

“What, Zac?! What the hell do you want?!” I lose my patience, now fed up as I cut his annoying streak off.

“Make me breakfast,” he orders, not bothering with a simple ‘please’.

“What am I? Your girlfriend?” I hiss at him from my side of the door as I finally sit up. “Check for a ‘do it yourself’ instruction manual.”

“I did, they ran out,” Zac remarks wittily, refusing to let me sleep.

Realizing that he won’t stop, I drag myself out of bed and slam the door wide open, just about taking his head off in the process. If only…

I rub my eyes tiredly, “What do you really want?” I ask him groggily, severely irritated. I don’t like being on this end of things. I’m definitely not used to this.

“Woah, you look like ‘Jabba the Hut’ in the mornings,” he states calmly, earning a death glare from me. That’s the worst insult I’ve ever received in my entire life.

“Are you calling me ugly and chubby?” I yawn, unfazed by his rudeness. “I’m hungry, get out of my damn away,” I mutter as I shove him out of my path in search of food. “I don’t know how you have this much energy when it’s so early in the morning,” I comment, still in the process of waking up.

“It’s eleven already,” Zac grins down at me in amusement, having also just woken up but looking a lot better than me.

“Exactly,” I exclaim in emphasis.

Zac shakes his head at me in laughter before clearing his throat, “I forgot that I’m supposed to tell you something, can’t quite put my finger on it though,” he feigns deep thought.

“What you can put on,” I motion to him, “is a shirt.”

He clicks his fingers, “Oh yeah, your boyfriend’s at the door…or at least he was.”

“Huh?” I ask, his words not yet settling with me. It’s too early to comprehend anything. Laiken and Mason would let me sleep in when I was in New York. The last time I was up early was when I was still living with Jay. Even Keagan let me work later hours because of my poor performance during the morning.

Zac sees my confusion and chuckles, explaining himself, “Jay Taylor, your racing boy that you seem to be so infatuated with, is at the door. Hopefully, he’s left by now.”

I raise an eyebrow at him, skeptical, “You’re joking?”

“But am I really, Aqueela?” He antagonizes me, “Am I ?”

Zac,” I narrow my eyes at him in warning, wanting the truth out of him.

“He got here like twenty minutes ago,” he finally comes clean. He stalled on purpose, probably to get rid of Jay.

“You could have started with that!” I raise my voice in anger as I shove him out of my way for a second time and sprint toward the main door of my hotel room.

Fortunately, when I open the door, he’s still there, patiently waiting against the wall. His gaze is cast downward on the floor and he’s mumbling beneath his breath. One look at him and I can tell that he’s thinking way too hard about something.

Seeing Zac open the door has obviously messed with his mind. Zac’s probably gloating on the inside, knowing fully well what Jay would assume upon seeing him open the door to my hotel room late morning, shirtless.

I clear my throat to capture Jay’s attention. His head snaps up as if he hadn’t expected me to come at all, his intense blue gaze now meeting mine in confusion.

“Hey,” I smile up at him warmly in greeting, my mood quickly changing upon seeing his face, “how are you feeling?” I ask, referring to the ‘Troy incident’. He must have had a rough night - probably a massive hangover. I’m sure Grey has updated him on everything since then.

Jay scratches the back of his neck awkwardly as if uncomfortable with the topic, “Yeah…” he subconsciously trails off, “that’s actually why I’m here.” He explains himself in sheepishness, “I can only remember vague scenes of what happened last night, but I do remember saying some really stupid stuff to you. I wasn’t thinking, I just said whatever came to mind in the moment. In spite of Troy spiking my drink…again…it was unfair of me to say all of that to you. I feel like an idiot. I’m sorry. I’m not trying to hold you back or anything. I’m really sorry for being so stupid and inconsiderate.”

I giggle as the night’s memory resurfaces fresh in my mind, “Don’t worry about it,” I excuse him, “if anything, you were my entertainment for the night. It was bad, but not that bad. Thinking back, it’s actually kind of funny. You’re a goofy drunk.”

He shakes his head in disagreement for forgiving him so easily, “There’s a lot you don’t know about me. I’ve done a lot of stupid sh*t before, but last night topped it all.”

He doesn’t have to explain. I know what he means. He feels guilty because he recently just told me he wanted space, and then last night he practically implied the exact opposite. He knows that with last night’s confessions he has unintentionally made it more difficult for me to move on - he has opened up a closed door. At least, he’s aware of his faults and he’s apologizing for them. He’s remorseful.

“I was so wasted last night. I never meant to say any of that. I didn’t mean to make any of this harder for you. I was drunk. I was…” he falters in humiliation, embarassed of his actions and regretful of them, “I’m just sorry.”

“Jay,” I sigh wistfully, “why do you always have to be the good guy?” I ask him point blank, curious. I can’t think of a better time to ask him. Now’s the only time he’ll ever answer honestly. “You’re too nice sometimes. I didn’t think there was such a thing until you.” He’s far too lenient on people. If I was him, I would’ve lost it years ago.

“I’m hardly ever nice,” he jokes with a playful smile.

I nod in agreement, “True,” I tease, allowing him his modesty.

Of course he has his off days, but he usually always make the effort to be the better guy in every scenario. He treats people with respect and that’s all what anyone can really ask for.

He then answers me for real, “I try to do better for people like you because anyone that has put up with me and all my countless issues is one hundred percent worth it. You deserve to be treated at the utmost best. You’ve seen me at my worst; you deserve my best.”

His worse self was enough for me. I’ll take any Jay any day.

I can’t help but break into a smile upon hearing how considerate he is, “One of these days you’re going to snap,” I warn him. “You can’t please people all the time. Sometimes, you just have to let go and do what’s best for you.”

“That’s what I’m doing. I seem to be failing though. It’s harder to succeed at it than one would think,” he grins in all friendliness. “Maybe I’m just difficult to please,” he suggests on a more serious note.

“I hear that,” I reply, able to relate to him.

“Listen,” he momentarily tenses when bringing up the new subject, “Zac seems like a sketchy guy. I knew he was here the second I spotted a motorbike parked in the handicapped space.”

Zac really shouldn’t have opened the door. I can only imagine what is currently running through Jay’s head. He’s probably jumping to his own conclusions as to why Zac spent the night here and is now strolling around the hotel room shirtless.

I can’t help but laugh seeing as Zac has done that since I first met him, “Typical Zac. The idiot always parks in handicapped spaces.” I then realize my slip up and explain, “He stayed the night because he had nowhere else to go,” I tell him truthfully before he jumps to his own assumptions as to what went down here last night.

Jay makes no comment, almost as if indifferent toward my relationship with Zac, “I don’t often say it, but I can tell when seeing it, he’s a dodge character. I just get a bad feeling about him. I don’t trust him. He’s unsavoury. Just…” he hesitates as if initially uncertain, “just be careful with him,” he warns, offering his own share of advice. “I don’t want to have to worry, and obviously, I don’t want anything happening to you. I know it’s not my place, but don’t get involved with the wrong crowds of people. I’ve been there. I’ve made the mistake and I’ve learned from it. Rather surround yourself with people who will influence you in a good way. It’s those people who are your real friends. Just be cautious.”

“You stressing about me?” I tease, taking his words to heart. I listen to the people who matter.

“Always,” he patronizes me, a good-natured chuckle resonating from him. “I better head back out,” he says quietly, his own way of getting out of the predicament. “Again, I’m sorry for being a jerk,” he utters a final apology in an attempt to win me over.

“No worries,” I wave goodbye.

He turns back, shooting me one last glance over his shoulder, a kilowatt smirk on his face as if he just can’t resist, “By the way, nice PJ’s, Klutz.”

Yeah, I probably should have changed before answering both doors…

“Huh, nice guy?” Zac sneaks up on me from behind, making it apparent that he’d been eavesdropping the entire time, and quite frankly, I’m not the least bit surprised. I wouldn’t expect any less from him.

“The nicest,” I correct as I stare after him.

Zac, blinded to how I’m affected by all of this drama, drops in casually, “Good thing that nice guys always finish last.”

“Are you okay?” Bells asks me, concerned, sensing where my mind is at.

I shrug, “I’m fine.” Bells narrows her eyes at me, knowing better. “I’m not okay,” I admit aloud for the first time since…I don’t even know. “I’m not okay at all. I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread. I keep failing in everything I do and I don’t know how to compensate for it anymore.” I reluctantly confess, coming clean.

“Go out with me, that would solve everything,” Zac smirks inconsiderately from his lazy spot on Bell’s and Max’s bed. He thinks he owns everything.

“Okay,” Bells places her hands on her hips, “why is he here again?” She asks. “I thought this was a girl’s morning only.”

“Me too,” Max complains, not realizing his mistake. We all laugh at his expense when it fails to sink in.

“Apparently he now follows me everywhere I go,” I remark, referring to Zac, ignoring his existence for the meantime.

“I’m not complaining,” Bells jokes, referring to his worthwhile appearance to stare upon. She was literally just complaining about it.

“Well I am!” Troy hisses (slouching back in his sister’s fancy, pink chair) as he snaps his fingers at Bells in demand. “Focus please,” Troy complains in a huff, his eyes closed in comfort as Bells gets back to styling his hair on demand. Apparently he and Max took up the invite (even though they weren’t invited) on the girl’s morning in. Zac took it up too, but at least Zac isn’t having facials, nor is he having his hair braided or his nails painted.

“Sometimes I think I should never have come back,” I reveal the morbid thoughts that have taken over my mind in spite of Troy, Max and Zac being present, “I don’t belong here.”

Girl, I feel like that all the time,” Troy adds thoughtfully (from within his facial mask) as if part of this discussion. Zac eyes him weirdly, not used to Troy’s behavior, but says nothing on the matter. He’s learning fast. It’s better to let things slide when it comes to Troy Bensten. He’s one of a kind, and I say that thankfully.

Bells, still brushing her brother’s hair through, eyes me warily, “I really wish you would have come to me about all of this sooner.”

I raise a cautious eyebrow, sensing that something is up, “Why?”

“Because I maybe, kind of, sorta invited everyone over for a little gigantic get-together,” she admits sheepishly. My eyes widen at this information. Before I can even protest, she pitches on, “I didn’t know beforehand that you wouldn’t be up for company. I mean, I knew there was something up with you. I could see that something was bugging you, but I didn’t want to press for answers. I was trying to give you space. I knew that if you wanted to talk, you’d come to me on your own. Impeccable timing huh?” She jokes, hoping to soften the blow.

“Is everyone coming?” I ask, trying to get a read on if Jay’s coming or not. If anything, I shouldn’t be spending time with him. As soon as I put distance between us, things start falling into place. It’s not good for me. If I’m going to get over him, then I shouldn’t be seeing him as often.

“Everyone worthwhile,” Troy states, opening one eye to wink at me. I catch on quickly. He’s meaning Jezel, hence why he’s getting his face and hair done, etcetera. And here I thought it’s the girls that put all the effort into looking appealing. Troy puts that stereotype to shame. It’s in shambles now, just like Max’s future in actuarial science.

“If you guys are giving deep massages, I’m in,” Zac grins flirtatiously and winks at Bells. He’s always been the one to flatter people of the opposite gender, even if he doesn’t stand a chance, even if the girl has kids with someone else.

“Stand in line, buddy,” Max teases in good strife as he leaves the room to take off his apricot facial scrub. Bells has already told Max about a billion times that she’s not doing any massages, but Max is persistent in getting his own way.

“I’m surrounded by girls,” Zac sighs, subtly insulting Troy and Max without either of them realizing it.

“I need a deep facial massage to go with my deep facial cleansing,” Troy whines, voicing in yet another complaint of his. He’s never satisfied.

“Well tough, Troy, no one cares,” I grin in amusement, already feeling better. This is what friends are for - to mock one another. I glance to Bells, “What’s the occasion in any case?” I question. It’s not often she has a full house.

“Oh, nothing really…” she trails off with a large grin on her face before her own suspense gets to her and she ends up letting the cat out of the bag (the poor cat was suffocating), “I’m going to propose.”

My mouth falls agape at her words and I find myself speechless in the moment, grateful that Max is still out of hearing shot or I might just explode.

“Cool,” Troy says as if it’s no big deal, “to who?”

I slap my forehead at his stupidity. I can’t even with him anymore.

“To Zac,” Bells points to a seemingly shocked Zac.

“I don’t approve,” Troy tsks her, sending her a disappointed stare as if truly believing her.

“I’m flattered,” Zac smirks when catching on, sending Bells a wink, “but I’m going to have to leave you at the alter and pass up your proposal.”

Bells ignores Zac and shakes her head at her brother, “I’m proposing to Max, the father of my kids, you complete imbecile!”

“Still don’t approve,” Troy grins brightly, “he can do better,” he concludes, earning a swat on his head by none other than his baby sister.

I think it’s better she proposes before the wild couple elope or something. You never know with these two. Plus, Max clearly hasn’t made any plans of his own to propose anytime soon. I would know if he had because he would’ve asked me for my blessing and I would’ve stubbornly refused him.

“Interesting group of people you have here,” Zac mutters so that only I hear him. I’ll take it for the compliment it is.

“Am I early?” Jay questions, surprising us all with his presence, his gaze briefly straying to me for a split moment.

We all turn around to see that he’d been standing in the room for a while now.

“How do you always do that, dude?” Troy asks him, bewildered and dumbfounded by Jay’s mysterious arrival. “BroJay, you’re always sneaking up on people. Sometimes, I think you’re just a ghost or a figment of all our imaginations. You don’t really exist, do you?”

Jay doesn’t even seem the least bit surprised to see Troy joining in on all the girly routines. He knows us all too well.

“You’re fine,” Bells smiles at Jay in warmness, “the others will be arriving any time now too.” Bells then notices the lacking of another presence before voicing my own mindful question aloud, “Where’s Mia?”

Jay shrugs impassively, “I don’t really know. Haven’t spoken to her today.” He sees Bell’s expression and shrugs for a second time, “What?” He asks, clueless.

“I invited your girlfriend too,” Bells reminds him seeing as she wanted everyone to be here for the proposal.

“I have a girlfriend?” Jay questions in all seriousness. “Since when? Seems like other people know more about my life than I do these days,” he states calmly, unmoved.

I crack a small smile upon hearing that.

“Are you not going out with Mia?” Bells asks in wonder, puzzled. It’s a good thing she’s asking him all the questions, means I don’t have to.

Jay sighs and shakes his head, “No. People just jump to conclusions. I’ve only been out on like four dates with her. It’s nothing serious. I haven’t asked her out. If there’s actually something there, I’m playing safe and taking it extra slow.”

Zac deliberately yawns, “Boring,” he pipes up, half glaring at Jay for no particular reason. “I prefer the rush of moving too quickly, so much more thrilling.” Zac throws an arm over my shoulder. I waste no time in shoving him off of me before Jay gets any ideas - hell, before Zac gets any ideas.

Jay, impassive as ever, acknowledges Zac’s presence for the first time since arriving, “Wasn’t talking to you.”

Zac shrugs and lights up a cigarette, a clear indication that he’s frustrated. He knows better than to mess with a famous racer. If he were to pick a fight with Jay, he’d land up on the news. Frankly, Zac needs to stay clear of all media for a long time coming. He doesn’t have the best reputation and I pity him for that. It’s not entirely his fault.

Bells pushes Zac out of the room, “If you’re going light one up, do it outside. I have babies to care for, you moron.”

She’s stressed, hence her mean streak today.

“Finally, someone managed to get rid of him,” Troy remarks snobbishly with his eyes still shut closed.

“Still here,” Zac scoffs before leaving the room to go and smoke.

“Whoops,” Troy laughs, unfazed, before asking, “he’s gone now, right?”

We all ignore him.

“So you’re getting engaged?” Jay asks Bells, having overheard the conversation.

“That’s if he says yes,” Bells answers him with a confident smile. We all know Max will say yes. He’s loved Bells for a very long time. However, I can’t help but wonder why he has yet to propose to her himself. There has to be a plausible reason for it. It sets the tiniest bit of doubt in my mind.

“He will,” Jay reinforces what we’re all currently thinking, the exception being Troy.

When Troy asks Bells to touch up his nails, Jay silently makes a U-turn as if to head straight back out the room. It’s getting too weird for him. He can’t handle Troy’s oddness and his over-the-top feminine side. Troy’s definitely metro-sexual and it makes Jay feel out of place and uncomfortable. He’s uncertain as how to approach Troy. Unfortunately for him, he ends up bumping into Max on the way out, Max having just scrubbed off his facial mask. Bells is really doing a great job in ‘girlifying’ the guys in her life.

“Hey, dude, what’s up?” Max greets Jay with his ‘on top of the world’ attitude. Max figures him out quickly upon seeing his mortified expression, “Yeah, Troy’s participating in this,” he laughs mockingly as if innocent, explaining it to Jay as if he has not been part of it all morning too. “Troy’s such a little girl,” Max jokes in Troy’s expense, Troy not giving the slightest damn in the world. Max is putting up a macho act because he’s embarrassed at being caught red-handed by Jay.

Jay, trying to hold back a grin, glances down at Max’s feet. “Your toenails are pink my man,” Jay points out, failing to stifle a chuckle.

“Oh, so you’ve never painted your toenails? Get over yourself, Jay. I’m still a man, a man that is controlled by his girlfriend, that’s all.” Max cracks under the pressure, contradicting himself, in spite of Jay just messing with him. “I was forced into it,” Max tries to justify it.

“Woah, relax. I’m only joking,” Jay shoots him a genuine grin, Max instantly relaxing upon realizing that Jay’s not the judgmental or mocking type. Unfortunately for Max, I am:

I cough before mumbling under my breath, “No forcing was necessary.” I back-stab Max, giving him away.

Jay’s grin only widens upon hearing me. He smirks and raises his hand to me for a high-five, barely containing a laugh. I return his grin and high-five him, much to Max’s dismay. Jay and I both earn a glare after that. I can’t help it, it’s Jay. Plus, I’m fricken excited for Bells and Max to finally prepare to tie the knot. When I’m elated, my mean side comes out to play.

“I never liked it when you two picked on me,” Max scowls at us, reminding both Jay and me of those unforgettable days. “You guys were an unstoppable force,” Max adds, subtly sending me a wink. I shake my head at Max and he merely grins in response, Jay falling silent at the reminder.

“What do we have to do again?” Ryan asks for the third time in a row. Bells gave us all a rundown before she whisked unsuspecting Max away to venture out on some long, cheesy romantic journey.

Ryan !” We all groan in exasperation.

“Yes friends?” He responds in sarcasm, offended that we won’t explain it for a fourth time. It’s his fault for being so preoccupied with his phone. It’s like talking to a wall. He hears nothing. I’m surprised, half the time, that he even knows where he is, location wise.

I zone out when they all begin to argue and bicker, wondering how Bell’s plan is working out so far. She’s tied a red velvet ribbon from her upstairs leading all the way downstairs to the back garden where we’re all currently waiting impatiently. Attached to the red ribbon are several pictures of them (Max and Bells) that represent all the special moments they’ve had together as a couple. It’s classified as milestones in their relationship.

Bells will later lead Max to us through following the ribbon’s trail. We will then all do our part whilst standing in a line, our respected places. Once we’re finished, we’ll step aside and open Max’s sights to the ‘will you marry me?’ question raked through the colorful autumn leaves. It’s well thought out and romantic as hell. Max sure isn’t going to feel like much of a man when his girl tops him in this too.

“Positions people!” Sarah shuts us all up as Max and Bells finally stroll down to where we are, Ryan continuously sighing in impatience. He just about bites Nancy’s hand off when she makes a move to remove his cellphone from him.

“Stuck with the bottom feeders, the very chum of the ocean,” Zac grumbles distastefully, annoyed by everyone in general. He tried to leave, but Bells wouldn’t let him.

“Shut up,” I bump him with my elbow in his side in the hopes of the others not hearing him.

He smirks down at me and winks suggestively, “Stop being so mean to me or I might just fall in love with you.”

I ignore him and glance back to the couple to see them nearing us. I’m sure Max has figured out what’s going on, but it will still come as a surprise. We’re pulling ‘The Office’ off, my idea of course. Max loves that series.

Upon seeing Max, I do my part and fall on one knee dramatically, taking up the reins and proceeding by lead. He stops short and raises both his eyebrows in question. I glance up at him with a smile adorned on my lips and ask him the crucial question, “Will you marry me?”

Max, having caught on, grins and shakes his head at me, now thoroughly enjoying the rejection process, “Sorry Aqueels, but no. My ship has sailed.” He turns back to wink at Bells before his eyes stray back to me, “Maybe in another life.”

“Snap!” I feign offense and stay on one knee as planned by Bells.

As Max passes the rest of them, they all start dropping to one knee as well, all of them proposing to him. It gets redundant, but Max seems to be enjoying it. He laughs and refuses all of them, rather bluntly and menacingly. He’s now having fun with this, especially when he tells Troy that he’s not good looking enough or when he tells Benley that he’s too happy all the time.

I swallow a laugh when Landon, Grey and Zac are forced to join in and do the same, sharing in the mutual shame. They know that if they don’t propose, Bells will tear them apart and rip them a new one.

Max jokes with Zac much to Zac’s repulse, “If I was gay, then definitely.”

Jay doesn’t even hesitate to get on one knee, well aware of the consequences in going against Bells. She’s the only living heartbeat that petrifies him.

The girls, as well as Xavier, Dean and the rest of us, have no problem in going through with it. I’d be worried if Max answered yes to one of us.

Ryan, on the other hand, is the only that hasn’t dropped to one knee. Not only is he clueless, but he’s also busy taking a phone call now of all times. Fortunately, Max doesn’t make a scene out of it and merely passes him by.

Bells coughs and we take it as our cue to separate and move apart from each other, allowing Max to see the question in leaves ahead of him. Unfortunately, just as he looks, a strong gush of wind blows, mangling the leaves so that the message is unreadable. I swallow a laugh, fearful of what Bells will do if she sees that I’m finding this entire ordeal entertaining.

Bell’s eyes widen in shock upon seeing it, and we can all tell that in any given second, she will go ballistic. There’s a leery silence floating in the air (except for Ryan’s voice as he continues speaking on his phone). We’re all too scared to make a sound. Bells can be a raging lunatic at times. It’s very frightening, an experience no one should be put through, not even my worst enemy - not even Grey.

Landon, of course, bursts out laughing, thinking it to be damn right hilarious. Sarah has to nudge him to get him to shut up.

Max soothes everyone’s anxiety when he addresses Bells, “Don’t worry, I saw it.”

When Max doesn’t answer immediately, we all grow nervous for Bells one again. Max’s hesitance is enough to put us all on edge, Bells noticeably stiffening and visibly tensing up in worry.

“He’d better say yes or I swear I’ll kill everyone in sight,” Grey mutters angrily.

Max eventually turns back to Bells with a playful glimmer to his eyes, “I’m not sure-“

She hits him against his chest and he breaks out laughing before nodding at her in reassurance, “I’d be an idiot not to marry you,” Max concludes before placing chaste and swift kiss on her lips. “You know I love you,” he whispers gently, Bells nodding and saying it back in turn.

“Thank goodness,” I blow out a breath of relief, peeved that Max would build up suspense for no reason at all. The moron likes to keep everyone at bay. He’s on the brink of insanity, Troy having gone over the brink a long time ago. I break the deafening silence with my cheering, “Awwwww, adorable! Yeah!” I clap my hands in excitement, everyone joining me as we all start to snap pics of the engaged couple in order to relive and remember this moment one day in the coming future.

“The union of two ugly hearts is just so magical,” Troy says in a hoarse voice, practically weeping. Jezel is now comforting him as she pats him on the back repeatedly, him sobbing into her shoulder.

I run up to Bells and Max, pulling them both in for a group hug, “I love you guys!” I react on impulse, on my emotions consisting of pure enthusiasm and happiness for them.

They hug me back briefly before Max places his hand on my forehead and playfully pushes me away, “You’re ruining our moment,” he teases before he goes in to kiss Bells again.

I laugh in jest, “It’s about damn time!”

It’s only later when Max reveals that he had been trying to come up with a creative way to propose to Bells for months, but felt that none of his ideas were good enough for her. He would have asked me, but seeing as I led him astray the first time (when he asked Bells to be his girlfriend during my entourage), he decided against it.

I hand Blanche to Max and Melby to Bells so that they can be part of the celebration too. I obviously hog ‘Aqueela the Great the Second’ to myself, in spite of Troy’s b*tchy whining. Fortunately, Jezel is enough to distract him for the meantime.

“So mommy finally popped the question to daddy, huh Jellybean? Daddy was taking his sweet time and mommy got impatient,” I glance down at Rhys and playfully wink at him before tickling his tummy. He ends up laughing at me before gurgling some nonsense. “That’s right little buddy, you’d better not take as long as daddy when you find the right person. Trust me, you’ll know when it’s the one.” I tell him as he reaches up to grab my finger. I smile down at him in love, allowing him to play with my fingers seeing as it fascinates him.

I glance up to see Jay watching me attentively from close by, spellbound. He doesn’t look away upon being caught - instead, he sends me a half smile that has my heart doing flips and somersaults. My heart does parkour now, that’s what it has come down to. He has that faraway look in his eyes again. It makes me want to know what he’s thinking about.

I manage to tear my eyes off of him when I hear arguing:

“I have to get to work,” I hear Ryan tell Nancy in spite of her begging him to stay and take the day off for her, “I’m running late.”

“Ryan wait!” Nancy calls after him in desperation, “I need to tell you something.”

“What is it now?” Ryan asks, impatient. He, himself, is desperate to leave this get-together. He’ll come to love all of us eventually, or maybe he won’t. “Make it quick,” he commands fiercely, in a hurry.

“I love you,” she says softly, yet still loud enough for him and me to hear her.

He doesn’t even flinch or bat an eyelid. He cocks his head to the side as he inspects her in irritation before scoffing, “Great, now I’m going to be late for work.” Ryan leaves after that, not sparing his girlfriend a second glance. He’s completely unfazed by her revelation.

I’d find it funny if this was a movie, but it’s not. Instead, my heart goes out to Nancy. Poor girl. I’ve been where she’s been. I know how it feels to say it and have nothing said back. Ryan’s still a jerk, probably the meanest person I know (after my father and Zac, that is). He even puts Grey and Landon to shame.

Grey catches Nancy by the arm, wanting to help, “Nance, it’s-“

“Don’t even, Grey,” she shrugs his hold off of her. “It’s not like you were any different,” she hisses as she storms past me, sending me a dangerous glower for no apparent reason. I get blamed for everything nowadays, even when I’m not even remotely involved.

Grey follows after her in determination, but momentarily stops when he spots me with Rhys, “Don’t get too attached, Lawson.”

Of course, he has to have his say with me at all times, even when his friendship (or whatever it is) with Nancy is at stake.

“Right back at ya!” I grin and wink at him, gesturing after Nancy. He knows I’m referring to his personal attachment to her.

Funny,” he scowls at me before going after her, my own gaze drifting back to the newly engaged lovebirds ahead of me. I subconsciously smile at the sight of them. Max and Bells sure are something special.

“This might just be one of the happiest moments of my life,” I speak down to Rhys as I stare out at his parents who both happen to be engrossed in their own individual conversations. I point to his mom and dad, holding him up and facing him in their direction so that he can see them too, “Don’t ever tell them this, but I really really really love those two with all my heart.” I shift and cradle him in my arms once he has set his sight on them, “But ssh,” I place a finger to my lips much to the baby’s amusement, “they may never know just how much or they will use it against me.”

Rhys makes some indecipherable noise as if agreeing before he smiles up at me in affection with his big blue eyes. He’s now familiar with me. Suffice to say, I visit him frequently and offer to babysit a lot (Max isn’t always too thrilled about it- he insists that I’ll take Rhys and deems me as untrustworthy). “You’re a smart kid to agree with your Aunty Aqueela,” I state proudly, placing him up in a sitting position as I continue to hold him close to me. I love this child so much.

“You sure about that?”

I glance sideways to see Jay standing beside me, and all on his own accord too. “Never been more sure of anything in my life,” I joke, testing the waters to see where he’s at right now.

“You’re amazing with him,” Jay doesn’t bother with small talk and dives straight in, head first, as he sends me an intentional compliment.

“We have a special bond,” I inform Jay just as Rhys contradicts me and yanks on my long strands of hair in that very moment. “Ouch, ouch, ouch!” I whine as I try to undo the baby’s powerful hold on my loose tendrils of blonde hair. He gets his physical strength from his mother, that’s for sure.

I knew I should have tied my hair up today…talk about embarrassing.

“Here, I got him,” Jay laughs as he leans into me and gently unclasps Rhys’ pudgy hand from my hair. He takes Rhys from me, allowing me time to recover and just breathe for a second. It hurt like hell, yet he’s still my favorite baby to ever exist and it will stay that way. “If you fly too close to the sun you’ll get burned, Champ,” Jay teases, referring to me being the sun. He gently and carefully tosses Rhys up into the air before catching him. Rhys seems to love it and laughs aloud from his little tum tum. “You want to go again, Champ?” Jay asks him before repeating his actions a few more times, each time Rhys laughing more. What can I say? Rhys is a friendly baby, that, or Jay just has mad skills with babies.

Watching Jay interact with a baby is not solving my ‘letting him go’ issue at hand. He’s so good with children and that’s a very attractive quality to have. Damn him!

“Would you look at that?” It’s my turn to tease him. “You’re pretty damn amazing with him too,” I admit in all sincerity, wanting Jay to see that he’d be a great dad one day. He’s so insecure about a lot of things, being a parent is one of them.

“Really?” He questions in disbelief, an uncertain half-smile drawn upon his lips as his blue eyes twinkle up in hope upon hearing me say it.

I nod, his lips parting in a real smile this time. He glances from Rhys to me, preparing to make a statement…he never gets the chance in doing so.

Max, once again, interrupts the moment, “Yo losers, pool party in five, c’mon! Don’t be late you lousy good-for-nothing rejects,” he jokes, still going on about how he denied all of our proposals even though it was all part of the plan.

Jay glances down at the baby blinking up at him in innocence. He falls silent, under my expectant gaze, as if deciding against his better judgement to not say anything. Max gave him the time gap to doubt himself, hence him changing his mind.

I glare daggers after Max, now feeling vengeful. It’s always him who cuts my time with Jay in half. It’s official, I’m going to plot Max’s death.

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