Rewind (Book 2)

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Chapter 31: We'll See

Before any of us can react to the absurd sight of Jam dressed as the bride, ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ by ‘The Vamps’ begins to blare loudly through the speakers, filling the entire room with overdramatic music. The atmosphere changes completely.

We all fall speechless. As if on cue, Troy suddenly gets up and marches his way to the front with his fire sticks in hand as if it’s the most natural thing to do, all the while Jam still standing in front of Max expectantly as if pulling this off.

I’m going to kill him! I’m going to kill both of them!

I wish Troy’s parents would stop him, but it seems they’ve given up on him too. Just like me, they’re anticipating the worst.

Max searches for me in the crowd. When he spots me, he lifts his hands as if asking where Bells is. I shrug, just as lost as him. I haven’t the faintest clue.

“I hate weddings,” Grey mutters under his breath, just loud enough for me to hear. This time, I see his point.

Fortunately, the music is suddenly cut. I let out a breath of relief too soon because the room fills with dreadful, earsplitting music instead. Troy frowns at Oog just as ‘The Dung Beatles’ steal his thunder and take their place up front, standing in front of the real band as they begin to play their music and make the audience’s ears bleed.

“Elope?” Benley turns to AJ questioningly.

She nods profusely, “No doubt.”

Even Jam, wedding dress and all, is performing and dancing crazily alongside his band mates. This was their plan the entire time! They were going to play one way or another, whether it be on our terms or not. Oog is an evil genius, and quite frankly, I’m convinced that he’s smarter than all of us put together.

“So typical of Max,” Mrs. Bell’s Mom comments with a shake of her head, “he’s already replaced Bells, his bride, with some ugly lady from a rock band. Saw it coming.”

I find Max’s eyes and cringe at how humiliating this must be for him. He’s standing up there, clueless, wondering what the heck is going on.

“Go find Bells,” Jay whispers from beside me when noticing Max’s discomfort, “I’ll try to kill some time while we wait.”

I nod at him and get up swiftly before a thought occurs to me, “I need Jam. He has her dress.”

“I know,” he replies back, clearly annoyed. He’s feeling for Max right now and so am I - the ‘second-hand embarrassment’ is real.

I watch as Jay walks to the front before pulling out all the cables, the music being cut and the room filling with silence once again. He says nothing, seeing no need to explain himself, and merely grabs Jam (who’d just been about to do ‘the worm’ across the floor and ultimately damage Bell’s dress) by the arm before pulling him along, forcefully dragging him out the door as we both seek out Bells together.

“We’re going on an adventure!” I hum and skip along after Jay and Jam as we enter the room where Bell’s had last been seen.

Ramos is tied up with thick rope, a sock in his mouth, as he wiggles about as if to break free, desperately trying to call for help. He stuck up in the vents and somehow managed to crawl to the edge of it. Jay wastes no time in hauling him down and placing him back down onto the floor.

“Who did this to you?” I ask him with a purposeful gasp, deliberately being over the top as if in a horror movie.

I had been so worried about everything running smoothly, that I didn’t bother to check up on Bells again. She should have been my main priority.

“Mogehdjad,” is his muffled reply.

“You know that you can just spit out the sock, right?” Jay tells Ramos impatiently, wanting to find Bells as fast as possible. The sooner we locate her, the sooner Max’s humiliation ends.

Ramos, as if only considering the possibility now, gags and spits the sock out of his mouth before bursting into answer whilst pointing at Jam in panic, “They came out of nowhere and attacked us. We were caught of zie guard and could not defend or save zourselves-”

“I don’t have time for this,” Jay rudely cuts him off as he begins to search the room for Bells. When he comes up empty-handed he turns back to Ramos for an explanation of some sort, “Where is she? Where is Bells now?”

“She had zie meltdown because she wasn’t feeling well, took off zie dress and went to za bathroom. I have not seen her since. That is when Oog and his villains dropped in and tied me up before stealing za dress and fleeing into the darkness,” Ramos explains, taking rapid breaths as if he’s just undergone serious trauma.

I knew that Bells had to have been out the room when they came. They wouldn’t be alive if she were still in the room. They wouldn’t have stood a chance, not when she’s in the mood that I last saw her in. She’s currently a death machine.

“It’s daytime, Ramos,” I grin and point out the facts, “there is no darkness.”

“Shut zie hell up, Split Ends,” Ramos scowls at me fiercely, “I have been through enough as is.”

“Watch it,” Jay warns him before he gets down to his haunches to help free Ramos. He begins to work on the knots in the rope so that he can untie Ramos. I stand by and watch in fascination, wishing that Ramos could stay tied up forever.If only...

Jay lifts his head to meet my gaze. “Go and find her,” he encourages me before telling Jam to hurry up and get out of the dress. We don’t need Bells noticing that it went missing, or better yet, that Jam stole it.

“Got ya,” I agree and head straight for the bathrooms, only to find them empty. I frown to myself and head for the garden outside instead. I stop short when I see her sitting alone, staring up at the sky in hopelessness. I hesitantly join her and take a seat beside her, “Where you been?” I ask her softly, hoping she won’t bite my head for prying.

She turns to face me looking bewildered and overwhelmed, “Aqueela,” she tells me, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“Hate to break it to you, but no one does,” I joke, hoping to bring a smile to her face. No one should be sad on their wedding day.

“I was supposed to be a model. I was supposed to be famous. I was supposed to travel the world.” She hesitates, “I was supposed to marry Mason.” She concludes with a sigh, “That was always the plan. It was always my plan.” She shifts her focus back to the sky, her doubts evident for me to see as she opens up completely, “How did I stray so far off of my path?”

She’s run down every road and she’s lost her way back home. She’s still reachable, in spite of the fact that she’s now questioning what she’s done with her life. She can still be convinced that her life is going exactly the way it was always intended to go.

“You were on the wrong path to begin with,” I correct her. “It doesn’t matter about ‘what was’, it’s all about ‘what is’.” I state the obvious, “You have Max now and he loves you more than Mason ever did. You have three beautiful kids who adore you. I know you’re doubting, but since when could worrying add a single day to your life?” I ask her calmly, hoping she’d listen to reason.

If only she were easy as Max. I could just put her in socks and she wouldn’t suffer from cold feet anymore.

“So you don’t think I’m a failure? You don’t think I’m making a mistake?” she asks me with hopeful eyes, wishing for the best.

“I think you’d only be making a mistake if you stayed out here a second longer and if you made Max wait a second longer,” I tell her earnestly, genuine in my words.

A heartfelt smile crosses her lips as she hugs me quickly before getting up and running back to the room to get dressed.

I too get up and slowly follow after her, only for Jay to meet up with me halfway. He stops me before I can go further, “Jam’s out the room. ‘The Dung Beatles’ have dispersed and Troy’s promised me he won’t ruin his little sister’s wedding. Ramos won’t say anything either. Bella will never know what happened.”

I blow out a breath of thankfulness and nod in relief.

“You always come through,” I breathe out softly, truly grateful.

“Yeah?” He shrugs, uncaring, as he heads back to the church, “I wish I did sooner.”

*~*~*~**~*~*~*

The real band begins to play the typical wedding music.

The bridesmaids and groomsmen - including AJ, Benley and a few others - walk down the aisle first. Troy and I walk down next with the triplets in our arms, Rhys holding the tied rings on a small red pillow.

Troy puts out his leg deliberately and I almost end up tripping down the aisle. I scowl up at him as he grins mischievously and looks the other way as if innocent. He got Rhys - I don’t know what his problem is, probably because I have banned him from all fire rituals. He doesn’t think, I could have dropped Melby and Blanche!

I don’t miss Landon’s uncontrollable laugh flowing from somewhere in the background. It’s as if he cannot contain himself. It’s times like these when I miss the ‘Ruthless Racer’ in him. Where did that guy go?

I see Max grin in satisfaction when spotting his babies and noticing how appropriately dressed they are. He shamelessly flashes Sarah a thumbs up, proud of her and the good job she’s done with his kiddies. She returns the smile, happy for him and the start of his own little family.

Melby’s eyes light up when she sees Max. She begins talking gibberish to herself as she keeps her gaze set intently on her father as if wanting to be in his arms instead of mine. Max winks at her and she giggles aloud. I can definitely see who her favorite parent is. The crowd ‘aww’ at the interaction between father and daughter, admiring the relationship.

Susie enters after Troy and me, skipping down the aisle with a big smile whilst sprinkling flowers here and there. I don’t miss Blubber’s scowl of envy as if he secretly wishes to be skipping beside her and sprinkling flowers too. It’s his apparent dream - to be a flower girl. I have no words for those two. They’re odd.

Lastly, Bells enters the church - and this time, I’m certain that she’s the real deal. She’s on her father’s arm as he kindly walks her to the front, ready to give his little girl away.

With her long, white dress flowing behind her, looking like an angel in all her glory, she slowly walks down the aisle with a graceful stride in each step. With her long brunette locks hanging down her back perfectly and a bouquet of white roses in her hands, she typically outdoes any other bride, appearance wise. She’s glowing!

Max, himself, seems to lose his breath for a second or so and I can’t help but smirk at him knowingly. Bells has literally knocked him breathless.

I glance around, only to see Mason working on his laptop. I know he is keeping himself preoccupied, whether it is rude or not, as he cannot handle this wedding right now. Ryan, as always, is on his iPad, much to Nancy’s irritation. I watch as the two look up. Ryan sees Mason’s laptop and exchanges a knowing grin with him, able to relate. Mason sees Ryan’s iPad and returns the gesture, giving an acknowledging nod, before the two of them go back to their tech that will one day rise up and kill all of us.

Bell’s father leaves her side once they’ve reached the end of aisle, once they’ve reached Max in the front of the church. Her father takes a seat beside her mother to watch the marriage ceremony. Bells, on the other hand, meets Max’s gaze and they both share in the faintest of smiles as if incredibly happy yet incredibly nervous at the same time.

I love these two way too much for my own good, and for their own good.

I hear Zac scoff before seeing him roll his eyes. Typical. Dylan’s the opposite, he’s sporting a giant grin as if overjoyed for Max and Bells, as if wishing the same for himself one day.

Bex’s eyes keep flickering to Benley as he tries to ignore her by looking ahead with clutched fists, but she’s boring holes into the side of his face. AJ is clearly uncomfortable with the extra pair of eyes settled on them. Dean, obliviously stupid, fails to notice that his date has eyes for another guy.

Grey isn’t paying attention to anything. He just looks bored, clearly longing to be home. Landon is staring aimlessly ahead as if lost. Sarah is grinning giddily and Laiken is passed out against Mason, obviously hung over after all the shots.

Jay is on the sidelines, watching, as always.

As the minister is reading, Bell’s mom - as if in panic - suddenly stands up and yells out, “I object!”

We weren’t even at the objection part yet...

Everyone and everything goes silent with her words lingering across the air, the tension thick and suffocating.

Max gulps, almost as if being smothered, just as Bell’s eyes visibly widen in shock.

I see where Troy gets it from now.

"Mom!” Bells whines before turning back to the minister, “She’s just joking. Continue.”

“No, I’m not, and do not,” Mrs. J insists stubbornly and narrow-mindedly.

Uh-oh!

My first natural response is to look to Jay, seeking out his help yet again. He sees me and shrugs hopelessly, signifying that this one is out of his control. It’s out of his depth.

“Jennie,” Bell’s father mutters irritably, ”sitdown,” he commands, embarrassed by all the attention on him and his wife. When she doesn’t move, he yanks on her wrist and pulls her back down and somehow manages to keep her seated for the time being. He apologises on her behalf, making up an excuse to justify her craziness, “My wife hasn’t taken her meds today.”

I’m feeling this wedding, but I’m just not loving it.

“Proceed,” Bells pleads with the minister, sending a glare over her shoulder at her mother before smiling to keep the peace with Max’s family.

The wedding, fortunately, continues and the vows are said and the rings exchanged before it comes down to the final scene, to that final moment where things become set in stone.

“You may now kiss your bride,” is the last thing said before Max swoops in and hurriedly kisses Bells on the lips before Mrs. J can interrupt again, or before this wedding can be postponed or canceled. It’s as if he’s still waiting for the worst to come.

“Alright, that’s enough of that,” Troy pulls Max back, the overprotective, egocentric side to him coming to play.

Bells rolls her eyes at her brother just as I embrace her and Max excitedly, being the first to congratulate them. She smiles against my shoulder before she loops her arm through Max’s and forces him to walk down the aisle with her for the first time as wife and husband.Although, they still have to go and sign the marriage certificate as well as take pictures with all the family.

I hand over the little ones to Bell’s mom and dad and then clap my hands in excitement, unbelieving that this day is actually happening. I turn to Troy to see him wiping his eyes and grin knowingly. He, just like today’s Jay, wears his heart on his sleeve.

I hug Troy and laugh, “Oh chill out, your little sister just got married, big deal,” I joke playfully. “Now go and take photos with your sister before she decides to not have you feature in them at all.”

“Are you implying that she’s intimidated by my looks? I am the better-looking sibling after all. If I’m in the picture, no one will see her,” he jumps to his own conclusions.

Troy’s dad suddenly whacks him right over the head upon hearing his son’s words, “You want to pull stunts at your own sister’s wedding, huh boy?” he asks in reference to the earlier fire stick thing.

Troy winces and steps back from his father, “Aww c’mon, Dad, I was just-”

“I don’t want to hear it,” his father cuts him off. Bells is more like him and Troy is more like Mrs. J. “Get your act together kid,” he reprimands Troy before gesturing over to Jezel, “yourwifehere,” he emphasizes scoldingly, “said...”

Troy zones out, as do I, and turns to me in panic before whispering loudly, “Do you think heknows?”

“Well obviously,” I gesture over to Jezel who has seemed to have been busying herself with sucking up to Troy’s parents.

We zone back into what Troy’s dad is saying, “...she told me that you prepared your own funeral and almost suffocated to death. Is that the way I raised you?” Mr. Bensten asks his son solemnly.

“Yes, Sir!” Troy answers bluntly without first thinking. He’s intimidated by his dad. Mr. Bensten is great, but he hasn’t really been involved with his children’s lives. He travels for work and is usually absent most of the time. However, he’s hellbent on raising them right.

“I can’t believe you got married to her without telling anyone!” Mrs. J raises her voice at Troy in disappointment.

“I can’t believe you told them,” Troy scowls at Jezel, his wife. “You b*tching, snitching witch. You’re such a tattletale. I can’t believe you went to my parents.”

Jezel pulls a taunting face behind Troy’s parent’s backs, sticking her tongue out at him and ultimately falling to his level of maturity - none. She pouts and nods innocently whenever Mrs. J comforts her, but grins deviously and cunningly at Troy whenever his parents aren’t looking her way.

“You broke this poor girl’s heart,” Mrs. J shakes her head at her son as she motions to Jezel, “she told us everything and she’s devastated.”

Jezel nods in agreement.

“We raised you to be better than this,” Mr. Bensten adds in.

I laugh aloud and pat Mr. Bensten’s shoulder, appreciating the hilarious joke, “Good one, Sir.” I didn’t realize that he had a sense of humor.

He shoots me a fierce look in turn. I pout and slowly retract my hand from his shoulder when I realize that he’s being completely serious here.

“You haven’t even been around to raise me,” Troy frowns bitterly, dejected. He waves the matter off, ”She,” he points to Jezel, “doesn’t even matter anyway. We’re getting divorced or we’re getting an annulment - I don’t even know or care.”

“A divorce,” Jezel folds her arms across her chest and sneers up at her husband.

“Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” Troy blocks his ears as he whines at the top of his voice, reverting back to when he was a child throwing tantrums, “I’m not listening to you! You can’t make me!”

“You’re your mother’s child alright,” Mr. Bensten shakes his head at Troy, but stops when his wife shoots him a venomous scowl.

“Blah blah blah blah blah blah!” Jezel covers her ears too and resorts to his behavior, closing her eyes as well as she tries to defeat Troy in this pathetic war. Unfortunately, he’s influenced her in his childish ways.

“Great, now you made Blanche cry!” Troy hisses at her in irritation.

“Shealwayscries!” Jezel yells back at him angrily.

“You two will not get divorced. I don’t believe in divorce,” Mr. Bensten puts them both in their place, much to Jezel’s surprise. He turns to Troy, with a look on his face that will sink ten thousand ships, “Why can’t you be like your brother-in-law? Max treats your sister like a queen. You should do the same for your wife.”

“Daddy,” Bells calls to us over her shoulder in worry, “what is going? We need to take pictures as a family so please try and hurry up.”

Bells has always been Mr Bensten’s absolute favorite because Troy is a complete and utter disappointment to him.

“We apparently have one extra in the family now,” Mr. Bensten glares at Troy as he gestures over to Jezel. He sees Bell’s face and quirks an eyebrow.

“I swear, Daddy, I didn’t know,” she lies, having clicked that her parents now know.

“You’re stupid,” Troy insults Jezel.

“You’re ugly,” Jezel continues back.

Troy gasps and whips his head backward, very offended.

“You two are going to marriage counseling,” Mrs. J concludes, finalizing the matter before agreeing with her husband on the situation, much to the horror of both Troy and Jezel. “Time to take responsibility for your actions,” she insists.

That last sentence strikes a nerve within me. I can’t comprehend the meaning of it. The sentence is foreign and boggles my mind. I cannot fathom doing it myself.

“On that note, I’m leaving,” I whisper to myself and head straight for Benley. “Yo BoyBand, you are to stay away from Bex and alcohol today, alright? Got it? Comprende?”

He shakes his head, refusing to agree to my will, as he makes an attempt to head for the alcohol table, “I’m going to need alcohol if Bex is here...and lots of it.”

I get in his way, making an obstacle of myself so that he can’t go and pour himself like a kazillion billion shots.

AJ stares up at him in sympathy before she grimaces and turns to me to vent, “I strongly dislike Bex, almost hate her.”

I nod and glance back at Benley in warning, “You arebannedfrom the alcohol section, banned I tell you.”

Benley mimics me mockingly before speaking up, “You’re so uptight.”

My jaw drops at his words as I immediately take offense, “How dare you?!”

"Oh, I dare,” Benley challenges me boldly.

"Ooooh,” I seethe, “you make me so mad, BoyBand!”

AJ giggles at our exchange before pulling Benley away seeing as she can see that I’m very close to hitting her stupid ‘boy toy’ in the face, oh, and the fact that Bex is rapidly approaching them, making a straight bee line for Benley himself.

Dean follows after his date but stops when spotting me, “Oh look, you’re here too.”

“Yeah,” I nod, “and believe it or not, but I was actually invited,” I say sarcastically, teasing him. Of course I’d be here - Bells is my sister and Max is me.

“Jokes on you, there were no invites,” Dean tells me as if confident of the non-existent fact.

Yeah...he was definitely one of those who invited himself...

He smirks proudly, “Did you see the hot chick I made my date on last notice? She came in with me.”

Bex the Ex strikes again!

I laugh knowingly and tap his arm as I try to pass him by, “Yeah pal...good luck with that one.”

He grabs my wrist and stops me a second time, “What do you mean?”

“I don’t think I should take the spontaneity out of it,” I grin, actually feeling sorry for this pathetic excuse of a human being. “You should find out on your own.”

He shrugs carelessly and changes the topic, “You’re looking more attractive than usual today.”

I twirl my finger around and motion to the venue, “Wedding.”

"Still,” he flashes me a seductive smile, “I can fantasize.”

“Have I ever told you that I’m into girls?” I ask him, plotting my next move.

He presses his lips into a line as he thinks it over. He shakes his head, “I don’t think so, no.” I send him a flat stare for not catching on immediately. “Oh,” he states, still not getting it. It eventually dawns on him, ”Oh...oh, oh, oh!”

I nod, “Mhm. Yeah. Yeah.”

“That makes sense,” he says to himself. “It all adds up, everything is coming together now.”

My bubble is burst.

“Wait, what?” I ask, befuddled, blinking up at him, lost.

What the hell does he mean by that?!

“You never take much interest in me or take notice of any guy really,” he answers in a matter-of-fact way. “You’d make a good lesbian.”

I place my hands on my hips and scowl up at him in exasperation, “Go back to Miami and get lost.”

“You’re extra close with Bells too. It explains a lot. Just tell me one thing, does Maxknow?” he asks me. I send him a blank stare and so he explains himself, “Does the poor guy know that he just married a lesbian?”

I am going to hit him...

“Aqueela Lawson, my soul mate,” I hear a familiar voice from behind me.

I close my eyes and sigh, “No, no no,pleaseno, I’m begging you no.” Once I’ve gathered enough courage, I spin around to face him - Bell’s freaky cousin who has always been obsessed with me since the first time we met in the second grade. I plaster a fake smile before greeting him, “Nice to see you again, Cortez,” I lie, having dreaded this very moment.

“Isn’t it?” He agrees, full of himself. It’s no wonder Troy and him cannot stand each other - their personalities clash. “It’s been too long, Sunshine.”

Dean chuckles as if he knows something Cortez doesn’t. He shakes his head at Cortez knowingly, “Good luck buddy,” he grins before walking away, convinced that I’m now into girls, the gullible idiot.

Cortez, puzzled by Dean’s words, brushes it off quickly and recovers swiftly, “So I’m in town for the next month, want to do something sometime next week?”

“I can’t,” I pretend to be disappointed and lie to his face, “I’m sick for the whole of that week.”

“Week after then?” he asks in a prideful manner.

“Broke my leg then, doc says I have to stay in bed for that week,” I lie.

“Week after after?” he continues, refusing to give up.

“Dying from a fatal disease,” I make up another random excuse on the spot. “It’s ‘Cortez disease’, highly contagious and extremely dangerous. It doesn’t go away easily and is very persistent.”

He grins in amusement and continues to bug me, “Week after after after?”

“I’m dead. I died,” I say in exasperation, wishing that he’d just leave me alone.

“Give me a call when you’re resurrected,” he teases, purposely irritating me and yet still not ready to stop stalking me just yet. He finds satisfaction in my anger.

I make my escape whilst I still can, passing Laiken, Mason and Melinda as they catch up on high school days when they were all labeled as the popular kids. The only problem is that Laiken can barely stand up straight on his own two feet. He’s half asleep.

Zac and Mia join the group much to Mason’s dismay. Laiken’s eyes keep straying to Mia, but Zac somehow misses it because of his trust in his good friend. He thinks Laiken is loyal...yeah he has another thing coming. Laiken always wants what his friends have and Zac always wants what he can’t have. They’re a match made in heaven, the worst perfect friends.

“You’d better look after my daughter, and I don’t want to hear that she’s pregnant again, at least not for another ten years,” I hear Mrs. J giving Max the expected lecture. Max merely nods, but when he spots me he mouths ‘save me’.

‘Cortez’ I mouth back, unable to rescue him from Bell’s intimidating family. I have to avoid certain members of her family myself.

He nods in understanding, well aware of how annoying Cortez is.

I spot Bells talking to Jay, a gigantic smile on her face as she lives in her moment. Jay, upon noticing me, waves me over as if in dire need of saving too. He isn’t Bell’s biggest fan. Still to this day, she has yet to catch the hint.

“Thank you for talking me into this,” Bells embraces me tightly. “This is probably the best decision I’ve ever made and the happiest I’ve ever been.”

“You talked her into getting married?” BossMan asks, making his appearance known as he comes to stand beside Jay.

“No,” Bells laughs in glee, “she just talked me back into it.”

BossMan considers her words in confusion, “She wha-”

I punch BossMan on the arm, cutting him off entirely, “You’re next, Greg,” I joke.

“I wish,” he laughs before rubbing at his arm, “but unfortunately your friend Benley caught the flowers, well...fought for them. I’m pretty sure he was in a catfight with one of the bridesmaids. Then again, he seems a little tipsy.”

Stupid BoyBand! He always heeds my warnings!

Greg lets out a low whistle as he glances at me in disbelief and rubs his arm a second time, “Damn, for such a little thing, you sure can pack a punch.”

“Told you,” Jay defends himself.

“I get it now,” Greg agrees with Jay.

“I’m so glad my wedding turned out perfect.” Bells voices her thoughts, “Everything went smoothly. The only problem was when my mother objected. Honestly, I was expecting so much worse. I was expecting havoc and disaster.”

Jay and I share a look but decide not to tell Bells a single word of what actually went down.

“Yeah...” I pause, “thank goodness everything went so smoothly.”

“Listen, Bella,” Jay intervenes, “the wedding has been great and all, thanks for the invite, but I think I’m going to take off now.”

“No, you can’t leave yet. I haven’t even danced with my dad yet,” Bells pouts pleading, trying to get him to see to reason.

He nods, “I know, but-”

“No ‘buts’ Jay Taylor,” she pipes up over him, “you’re staying whether you like it or not.”

He grins slightly, clearly at unease, “I appreciate that you want me to stay, BellaMills,” he emphasizes her last name knowing that it will please her, “but really, I got to take off in a little bit or so-”

“Why?” I find myself asking on impulse. “Why, why, why?”

“I just...” he averts his eyes, “I got to-”

“Dance with me?” I finish for him.

He stops dead in his tracks, lifting his face to mine as his eyes gloss over with confusion. “What?” he blinks, perplexed and caught off guard by my offer. My words resonate with him as he slowly processes it, visibly tensing up, “You know I don’t dance, Aqueela.”

I tug on his arm, “Oh please. Come on,” I beg, wanting him to stay. “The last time you danced with me was when I threw that huge party at your house when we were in competition as to who can annoy who the most.”

“Yeah, and I specifically told you that it’s a one-time thing,” he reminds me, aware that I will always annoy him more than he will ever annoy me. I will always win that competition. He said so himself once.

“So let’s change things up and make it a two-time thing,” I suggest with a peppy smile, enthusiastic to have him stay a little while longer.

Bells backs me up and nods profusely at him, “You have to dance with Aqueela. It wouldn’t be a wedding if you didn’t dance with her.”

“Why?” he raises an eyebrow, now amused to see what Bells comes up with this time.

“Because...well because...just because...because...” she splatters on before recovering, “just dance with her or I end you! No one leaves my wedding early!”

Jay nods as he decides to humor her for a second or two, “Mhm, yeah, I hear what you’re saying,” he salutes her and spins around to go, unfazed by Bell’s threat, “but you’re crazy and I’m leaving now,” he concludes feistily.

“Pass up a dance with Aqueela,” Greg states aloud, knowing fully well that Jay will hear him, “not your smartest move.” He contemplates it, “I gotta say, not your dumbest move either.”

Jay freezes, stilling to hear the rest.

Greg grins at capturing Jay’s attention before an idea springs to mind, “It’s definitely not the worst you’ve done, but I bet you couldn’t do any better either,” he manipulates Jay, knowing Jay best and knowing exactly what makes Jay tick.

Jay turns back around and narrows his eyes at Greg, “Is that a challenge I hear?”

Greg shrugs, stringing Jay along for the ride, “I don’t know, Taylor, is it?”

Everyone who knows Jay, knows that he can’t resist or back down from any challenge. He took up the challenge of knowing my name when we first met, in spite of the fact that he’d known my name the entire time.

Greg continues, “I mean, you should go. It’s not like you won’t see any of these people again. It’s not like you’re leaving forever or for the next decade or so. It’s not like-”

“You had to go there,” Jay cuts him off just as Greg had wanted. Jay crosses his arms over his chest and turns back to Bells, easily persuaded without even knowing it, as tells her the expected outcome in determination, “I’m staying.”

“Really?” Bells asks with hopeful eyes.

Jay nods adamantly, “I’m gonna be here all night long. Not leaving until the sun rises.”

Alright, he’s taking this one very seriously.

Greg chuckles and winks at me as if having planned this out.

“Great?” Bells questions more than states, puzzled by his sudden change of mind, as she makes her way the dancing area. She and her dad have to partake in the ‘bride and father dance’ soon.

Greg laughs as he walks on by, whispering so that only I hear him, “So predictable.”

I nod in agreement, knowing that he’s meaning Jay.

“You’re so stubborn,” I point out to Jay.

“No, I’m not,” he argues stubbornly, proving my point.

I smile at the contradiction, but my smile is wiped right off of my face when I see Benley by the alcohol section, furiously drinking. I lose it when I see that Laiken is just behind him.

My goodness!I never knew girls could drive so many guys into drinking. Benley’s a literal alcoholic in denial because of Bex.

“I said you were banned!” I shout from across the room before making my way to him, forcing my way through all the family members in order to get to him.

Benley hears me and glances up to see me coming. He gets such a fright when I reach him that he stumbles back and ends up accidentally spilling his drink all over Bell’s grandmother when losing his balance.

“Oh, I am so terribly sorry Ma’am,” Benley cringes and then apologizes profusely before, panicky, patting down the area where he just spilled on her.

She gasps and smacks his hands away from her chest, truly in shock, “Away from me, pervert!”

“Oh come on Ma’am,” Benley chuckles, slightly tipsy, “you don’t think I’d actually make a move on you. You’d be all over me if I did. I got game., I’m that slick. I’m a stud,” he boosts his own ego, failing to mention AJ.

“At least Max is better than this lunatic,” Mrs. J tells her mother before ushering off to who knows where. “He’s probably one of the uninvited guests,” I hear her murmur loudly to herself.

Benley’s useful after all, he makes Max look good.

“Honestly, I could have you in a second flat if I wanted you,” Benley adds, unwise and foolish in his words.

I stifle my laughter when the grandmother picks up her drink and throws it directly into Benley’s face before waltzing off after Bell’s mom.

“Aww man, I didn’t even get a turn, I didn’t even get me some loving. I also wanted my face dipped in alcohol,” Laiken slurs in envy and jealousy. It’s a mystery how he’s still alive and walking after all the drinks he’s consumed.Unbelievable!

“Wonder what that was about,” Benley frowns and uses the back of his hand to wipe the drink off of his face, unaware of what just happened because he’s not in the right frame of mind.

“Did you really just hit on Bell’s grandmother?” Jay asks with a shake of his head, clearly in disapproval of drunk BoyBand.

Hell, wasted BoyBand is the most fun. He turns everything into a party. Bex did something right for once. AJ, however, will not be too pleased when she sees what has become of her future husband.

“She was coming onto me first,” Benley shrugs carelessly before stumbling elsewhere. He probably won’t remember any of this by morning.

“Yeah...” Jay shakes his head again, repulsed, “that’s it.”

“Hitting on old ladies huh?” Zac asks, having heard the conversation/scolding we’d just had with Ben. “Never tried that one before.”

“I should hope not,” Mia smiles up at him in adoration, the two of them on good terms again. She then pulls a face and takes a step back as she looks over to Laiken in distaste, “Were you just sniffing my hair?”

Laiken merely taps his chin in thought as if about to give her an answer but ends up not giving her one at all. He obviously zoned out and hit a blank due to all the drinks.

Zac snaps his fingers in front of Laiken’s face before grinning in realization, “Wasted,” he confirms, knowing Laiken well. The day he calls quits with Mia will be the day Laiken decides he’s over Mia too.

Laiken finally answers her with an incredibly slow shake of his head, “I was sniffing theairand your stupid, luscioushairgot all up in my air.”

I drop out when Laiken gets a death stare from Mia. She’ll start interrogating him soon if he stares lovingly at her like that any longer. If he’s not careful, he’ll get a restraining order filed against him.

“So you never want kids?” Nancy asks Ryan yet again as she reaches for a drink.

“Never,” Ryan confirms in ease, not bothered by her disheartened expression because he’s not paying attention to her at all.

"Never?” she questions repeatedly.

“Never ever, don’t want a pack of little, pudgy Beagles ruling my roof,” he answers, tuning her right out as he takes a phone call - most likely one of his gaming sponsors.

And ‘the world’s worst boyfriend award’ goes to Ryan Brewer!

Bells hits a spoon against her wine glass until we all gather around to hear her father say his speech. He opens up with an icebreaker, “I always thought my youngest would marry first, but sometimes your kids will surprise you...” he pauses to stare at Troy and Jezel before continuing, “I’m so proud of my baby girl for choosing such a commendable young man as her partner for the ages,” he grins at Max, “but above all, I’m just glad I was invited to the wedding.”

Troy, actually catching, frowns before crossing his arms and mimicking his father. Cortez smirks at him tauntingly and knowingly. Troy hits him upside the head before they start their usual dose of intense bickering:

“Don’t touch my hair!”

“It looks like crap anyway!”

I tune them out and roll my eyes. They’re just not worth it.

Bells smiles at her dad and mouths a ‘thank you’ to him. She’s glad he approves of Max, especially since her mother cannot stand him - she’d be great friends with Susie. Max is taking it hard because even his own parents are making things difficult. They’re divorced and cannot stand to be in the same room as each other. They’re oil and water. They can’t stomach each other’s existences and I know it upsets Max greatly, but there’s not much he can do about it.

I grin when Max and Bells cut the wedding cake together before feeding each other slices. Bells playfully rubs some of the icing across Max’s face so he stuffs a piece in her mouth. I roll my eyes and chuckle at the sight.

I slowly make my way to the dance floor when Bells rallies all her troops up for the dance. I stop to watch Bells dancing gracefully with her dad, the first dance of the evening. I ‘aww’ at the sight when her dad gestures to Max to cut in and take over. Jay stands aside and watches too, all the while saying nothing.

When the song ends, the dance floor quickly fills with other couples, including Xavier and Emma.

I laugh to myself when I see Sarah trying to get Landon onto the dance floor. He refuses to relent and so stands his ground.

“Please, Lan,” Sarah begs him, “look even Xavier and your sister are dancing.”

“Well, I’m not Xavier,” he takes the liberty to remind her, “and you should be glad because I’d be broke on all that hair product he uses. I can’t afford all that hair gel, I’m not some walking, talking Ken Doll who has just swum a mile in the ocean,” he says in reference to Xavier’s hair always looking wet and shiny from all the hair products.

Sarah grins in spite of herself and giggles at her boyfriend’s outrage, “Landon, you sure are something else. I’ll be able to put my finger on it one day, but for now, you’re just an enigma waiting to be discovered.”

“Sar,” Landon smirks, “don’t talk dirty to me when we’re at someone else’s wedding, wouldn’t want to steal their thunder.”

She hits him on the arm in turn, unimpressed by his suggestive side, a side that I never even knew he had. I never realized he was capable of being a flirt. Yuck, the thought is just strange. He’ll always be ‘that temperamental guy’ to me.

I turn to Jay expectantly and he follows my gaze to the dancing couples. He shakes his head at me and raises his hand as he leans back against the wall with indifference, “Nuh-uh, I’m good. I’m good here, I’m good here right where I stand.”

“Fine,” I sulk, annoyed that he won’t dance with me. Then again, I know public displays of anything isn’t his style. It’s not the way to go when dealing with him.

Before I know it, I’m being swayed onto the dancefloor. I look up to meet Max’s gaze. I grin at having my other half right in front of me, “Hello you, do you know you’re a father and a husband now? You beat me to all of it,” I kid.

“What happened to our pact?” he jokes as he takes lead.

“What pact?” I question, at a loss, as I dance with him.

“The one where you’re my backup if I’m not married by the time I turn thirty,” he tells me in a serious manner.

“I don’t remember agreeing to that,” I say, still lost.

“Yeah well that’s ’cause I never asked you,” Max reveals, “it was just going to happen.”

“Charming,” I say sarcastically.

“Listen, I know that ‘Max and Aqueela times’ have been on the DL, but I want you to know that I really appreciate you getting this wedding back on the road. I know it couldn’t have been easy, especially with the friends we’ve chosen,” he explains himself and the reason as to why he stole me away from Jay’s side and took to the dance floor with me.

I flash him a thumbs up and take all the credit, “Anytime, Maxipad.”

“No, but seriously,” Max clarifies, “thanks for always being there. You’re that best friend that I always wanted, so when you did finally come along, I made sure to keep you close. Sure, you’re not all there, but I’m grateful that we are where we are today. Bells and I couldn’t have come this far without you. You’re a legend.”

I smile sincerely, “Thanks, Max,” I place a hand over my heart, “but I already knew that,” I joke, knowing that he admires humor almost as much as I do. It’s the best quality to have. If life isn’t funny at times, then life isn’t worth it at all.

“I love how humble and modest you always are,” Max teases in good nature.

“If I’m taking credit, I should honestly say that your entire wedding would have flopped had Jay not come through,” I confess, feeling guilty for not acknowledging what he did to make sure the wedding happened the way Max and Bells envisioned it to be. “If you should be thanking anyone, it really should be him.”

“Yeah...I already did,” Max admits, “I kind of knew he had something to do with it. I just wanted to see for how long you’d go with your story,” he grins down at me innocently, one step ahead seeing as he knows my character all too well.

“Jerk,” I pinch his arm playfully.

“Speaking of which, did you hear that some jerk harassed bell’s grandmother? The guy apparently tried to grope her after deliberately spilling his drink all over her. I feel sorry for that poor sap, but I owe him because Bell’s mother finally approves of me,” Max tells me, unaware that Benley is the ‘poor sap’ mentioned in the story.

“That’s great,” I applaud him, “and her dad absolutely adores you, for some reason.”

“For some reason?” Max raises his eyebrows, pretending to be offended.

“You’re not exactly all there,” I use his own words against him.

“I guess I’m just lovable, insanity and all,” he persists arrogantly.

If only Bell’s family agreed with that bold statement...

“Who is looking after the triplet while you guys are on your honeymoon?” I ask him, curious.

“My parents on some days and Bell’s parents on other days, definitely not you or Troy,” Max informs me bluntly.

“Jeez, I have feelings too you know,” I reflect over his harshness, not taking it to heart and simply messing with him.

“Could’ve fooled me,” he jokes, further insulting me.

“I’ve had just enough about you,” I push him back in the direction of Bells and look to Jay pleadingly instead. I’m in need of a new dance partner.

He shakes his head at me, dead set in his ways.

Once I see that his mind has been made, I turn to leave the dancefloor so that Cortez doesn’t get the chance to ask me - however before I can go, I’m pulled flush against someone. I don’t get time to register what’s happening because I’m suddenly being spun in circles and twirled around the dancefloor with skill and precision. I’m dropped, but caught at the last second, my heart beating fast at being taken by surprise.

Astounded, I glance up to see that itishim.

“I thought you said that you didn’t dance,” I say breathlessly from my stupor, stunned that he just took the initiative to do that.

He pulls me back up and grins down at me cockily, “I guess I prefer ‘second-time things’ to ‘one-time things’,” he answers me casually.

“Got some moves there, huh Jaykie?” I laugh, happy that he’d at least made the effort, even if it only lasted a split second.

“Remember them ’cause you’re never going to see them again,” he says defiantly, certain about it.

I grin as he releases his hold on me, “We’ll see.”

He stares down at me, “It’s like you hear only what you want to hear.”

He turns to go, but I have to stop him.

“Where are you going?” I ask on impulse, inquisitive to know where he’s vanishing off to this time. “I thought you’re staying all night long,” I remind him jokingly, mocking him and his earlier words.

“I danced with you, didn’t I?” he returns the question. “I’ve conquered the challenge. I can do what I want now and I’m choosing to leave. You know that I play by my own rule book, Lawson. I shouldn’t have to remind you.”

I playfully roll my eyes at his ‘put on’ arrogance, “At least tell me where you’re headed this time, Taylor.”

“The place where everything just melts away,” he answers with a smirk, being vague on purpose.

Must be an oven...

“Yeah, ’cause that explains everything,” I remark back in sarcasm. “Just tell me.”

He begins walking backward whilst still talking face-to-face to me, “Here’s a suggestion,” he takes out his car keys from his front pocket and twirls them around his index finger as he motions me forward after him, “why don’t you follow me and find out.”

*~**~*

Hey guys :)

1. What did you think happened to Bells before you read on?

2. Did Ramos deserve to be tied up?

3. Does Grey have a valid reason to hate weddings?

4. Will Jezel and Troy be able to work through their issues?

5. Does Bell’s mom have a good reason to hate Max?

6. Would you say Benley is an alcoholic?

7. Is Laiken really in love?

8. Were you expecting Jay to dance?

9. Where’s Jay headed to this time?

10. In Aqueela’s judgment, should she go with Jay or stay until the end?

Thanks for everything! :)))))

~CJ

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