Chapter 36: Click Clack Slide
“Thanks for pitching my man,” Jay says to Grey upon spotting him.
"Well, it’s about time that you got here,” I say to Grey when seeing him step out of RV 2 with a cylinder of spare gas for us. “Were you on a Sunday stroll or something?”
Grey ignores me and turns to Jay with a pointed stare, “Remember what I said over the phone?”
Jay nods and turns back to me in warning, “He said not to start with him tonight.”
Grey nods firmly as he goes to fill up our tank.
As soon as he’s out of earshot, Jay leans in and whispers to me, “He’s just in a bad mood because he had to come back all this way for us.”
I nod, swallowing back my laughter.
“Hey, Aqueela!” Dylan sticks his head out of one of the windows of RV 2 to send me a friendly wave of greeting.
“Hey, D, how’s it hanging?” I ask him with a smile at seeing half of him literally hanging out of the window.
“Grey said that no one is to make eye contact or communication with her,” Nancy pulls Dylan back inside, making it obvious that she’s Grey’s new slave.
“You do everything he says?” BossMan asks her before opening the door of the RV to get out and greet us. He grins and pats the top of my head before taking one look at Jay and cringing, “You look stressed, Taylor.”
Jay laughs through it and runs a hand through his hair before shrugging carelessly, “I am, but I’ll get over it.”
“Alright, it’s done,” Grey returns back to us. He raises an eyebrow at Jay, “I’m surprised you’re letting Troy drive?”
Jay blinks at him, confused, before sharing a knowing look with me. He turns back to Grey with a hint of worry swirling through his blue eyes, “Please don’t tell me he has my keys and please don’t tell me he’s in the driver’s seat.”
“Both of those things are happening,” Grey clicks and sighs when we hear RV 1 roaring to life with a loud hum. Max and the others all begin to yell and bang on the locked doors of RV 1 as it slowly begins to move.
“He’s going to drive away, isn’t he?” Grey asks aloud in despair.
“Most likely,” I nod.
“So long suckers!” Troy throws a soda bottle out of the moving vehicle’s window at us as he slowly passes us by.
If I were still on the roof of that RV, I would probably be dead now.
Jay dodges the hit just in time by holding his head with both hands and ducking. “Yup, he’s definitely driving away alright,” Jay shakes his head in defeat as he stands up straight again to look on the RV vanishing from our sight.
We vaguely hear Troy’s laughter before RV 1 picks up in speed and disappears from view.
Grey sighs in hopelessness as he marches back to his RV, “I’ll go fetch him.”
“Kick his ass while you’re at it,” Jay adds.
“You can bet on it.”
“BroJay, my eye is still really sore. The ice isn’t helping at all, I just feel really cold now,” Troy complains for the millionth time as a blue bruise forms over the soft, overly-moisturized skin of his eye.
Troy’s blue eye matches Laiken’s. Zac only has a bruised fist, no thanks to Jay.
“You had it coming,” Grey glares at him as he passes us by with several bags under his arms and around his shoulders, ”in fact, you’ve had it coming for years.”
“BroJay, I’m feeling threatened again!” Troy whines like the nuisance he is, pestering Jay the entire time.
Jay, setting up the girls’ tents, stops to scowl at Troy, “I’ve told you a thousand times, there’s nothing more I can do about your eye. You shouldn’t have ditched us. Grey’s right, you had that one coming for a long time.”
“Took you losers long enough,” Landon chuckles upon seeing that we finally made it to the campsite that apparently he and the others had arrived at hours ago. “I was beginning to think you guys weren’t going to make it.”
“Will it kill you to help next time?” I frown up at him, noticing that all of the RV 3 passengers already have their tents set up in the best spots with the most comfort.
I should have picked RV 3...
Sarah, Susie, Ben, AJ, Blubber and Simo are all currently getting warm and cozy around a massive bonfire that Landon proudly made - he rubbed it in our face like a billion times. They’re making smores and telling ghost stories, unfazed by our late presence.
“Probably,” Landon nods, his green eyes ablaze in laughter, “yes,” he confirms.
The only thing that he has confirmed is that he is a liar...
“You’re a jackass, Landon,” I set him straight, slightly annoyed.
He merely grins down at me in amusement, towering over me as he ruffles my hair teasingly, not taking me seriously at all, “You’re so cute, Lawson.”
My mouth falls agape at his nerve as I watch him saunter away, not even bothering to offer his assistance to the rest of us.
I waltz after him, “Lan!” I call to him with persistence.
He stops and glances over his shoulder with a raised eyebrow, “What’s up, little one?”
“Where are ‘The Dung Beatles’ and FeeBee?” I question, having noticed that their presences are missing.
“I was hoping no one would notice,” he sighs as he turns fully to face me, “I thought I could get away with leaving them to live in the jungle, the great outdoors, and roam the wild like they were meant to.”
I send him a flat stare, ”Kitler."
“Okay fine,” he gives way, “they scattered as soon as we got here. They splashed war paint - well mud from the river, or dung itself, I can’t be entirely sure - across their faces as if part of a tribe. Oog mentioned something along the lines about being a true warrior before they ventured into the darkness and joined the wilderness to hunt and abide in. I think they’re attempting to pull off a ‘Bear Grylls survivor’ thing.” He stops himself, pausing thoughtfully, “If I’m being completely honest, they might just die out there, but hey,” he shrugs, “that’s their problem, right?”
“I’ll never understand what Sarah sees in you,” I blink up at him in bewilderment. He’s a very heartless person. If you don’t make any kind of impression on him, most don’t, then he couldn’t care less about what happens to you. There are very few who make his good books. He’s more closed off than Jay, and that’s saying something.
He nods in agreement, a fond grin tugging at his lips as he fixates his gaze on her from a distance, only to see her laughing out loud at something AJ just said. “Me either,” he concludes as if truly in awe of her.
I smile up at him as it registers in my slow mind, “You’re so in love with her.”
He automatically tenses at my words, gulping uncomfortably, before nodding in silence, not uttering another word - almost as if he is having true difficulty in expressing how he feels in words. Instead, he reaches into his pocket and shows me the velvet box.
“I asked her dad already.”
I clamp down, swallowing back the squeal of excitement. Enthusiasm will only put him off of going through with it. Landon’s the unromantic type. If you scare him with romantic ideals, he will run away.
The trick, with him, is not to make a fuss. Don’t let him be the deer caught in your headlights because he will ram your car. In his eyes, he’d rather not consider it to be a big deal. If people make it a big deal, he’ll back out because of genuine fear. His mother left his father when he was still young - it’s why he’s always been so opposed to the idea of spending the rest of your life with just one special person.
For one thing, Sarah will definitely not see it coming. She knows how he is and gladly accepts him and his ways without any hassle. She doesn’t expect him to change and she certainly doesn’t expect a marriage proposal from him. She’s accepted all of him because she loves him.
I glance up at him, only for him to immediately look away as if embarrassed. He averts his jade-green eyes in the opposite direction of my amused gaze. It’s the first time I’ve seen him act so timid.
Stifling another smile, I offer my support and pat him on his upper arm before leaving quietly, joining up with Jay in order to give him a hand with the putting up of many tents.
“Hey you,” Jay smiles upon seeing me.
I salute him as I try to lift my heavy bag up off of the RV.
“Here,” he immediately drops everything else he’s busy with upon seeing my struggle, “I got that,” he insists, not taking ‘no’ for an answer, as he carries my bag for me before placing it down in front of my tent that he’d already taken the initiative to set up.
“Thanks,” I grin up at him in gratitude. “Now can you give me a piggyback to the fire, I’m too lazy to walk all the way there,” I take my chances in asking him, definitely not expecting him to crouch down so that I can hop onto his back.
I freeze in shock, stunned by his actions, completely caught off guard yet again by how unpredictable he can be at the most unexpected of times.
“Any day now,” he breaks me from my thoughts, waiting impatiently.
I raise an eyebrow as I gather my thoughts, managing to find my voice again, “For real?”
“You asked, didn’t you?” he returns the question.
I shrug and hesitate before deciding to just go with it - he’s clearly doing the same. I carefully climb onto his back, wrapping my legs just above his waist and hooking my arms around his neck, holding on tightly as he slowly stands up, regaining his balance.
He begins walking in the direction of the campfire, supporting my weight by holding my legs around the front. I close my eyes in content and rest my head against his back, wishing that time would just stop so that I could live in this moment forever.
“Am I heavy?” I ask him, wondering if he’s taking some strain.
“No,” he answers with a small smile.
I shift position and lean my chin on his shoulder instead, tilting my head to the side slightly in order to watch the upcoming view ahead.
“So heavy,” he teases as he deliberately slows down in his steps. “Dying,” he drawls out dramatically from his upbeat and carefree mood, “can’t breathe,” he jokes, feigning lack of breath.
A laugh trickles from my lips as I swat him upside the head ever so lightly before pressing a soft kiss to his cheek.
He doesn’t react, says nothing, and keeps on walking. I smile to myself in satisfaction, feeling bubbly and jovial whenever he’s with me.
Bored with my surroundings, I lay my head back down again and take in what I can.
We lapse back into a comfortable silence.
“Having fun up there?” he asks a minute later as he turns his head to send me a boyish grin, his blue eyes lit with impishness.
I nod into his back, enjoying the cool breeze floating through the crisp evening air.
“Not for long,” he says mischievously before he starts sprinting down the small hill toward the campfire, going all out.
Laughter spills from my lips as I close my eyes and hug him tighter, my hair whipping across my face as he picks up in speed, making it evident that he happens to be an excellent runner too.
He stops abruptly before I feel myself being lowered back down to the earth. I hear him chuckle as he spins me around to face him, “You still alive?”
I nod up at him with a blissful smile sprawled across my face.
“She literally using you as her pack mule?” Grey asks Jay, ruining the moment with his stupid face, big mouth and gigantic head.
“Always,” Jay teases, feigning a loud sigh as he winks at me playfully, “I can never just catch a break.”
“Not like you’d want to anyway,” BossMan mumbles loudly, purposely teasing Jay as all the others laugh at his expense.
“True that,” Goku nods, taking the liberty to tantalize Jay too, while Leban merely shakes his head, clearly unimpressed by it all.
Jay bites his bottom lip in contemplation before shrugging in defeat, absorbing in all of their mocking laughs with an uncaring attitude as if he really just couldn’t be bothered by their taunting anymore - like water off a duck’s back.
“On the bright side, maybe he won’t stuff up this time,” Emma teases, swapping over to Goku’s team.
Jay nods thoughtfully, taking in what each of them are saying, before he courageously gestures to them to speak up, ready to hear more, “Alright, who else?” he asks, deflecting their jokes, unfazed. “You all clearly have a lot to say, so let’s go,” he boldly encourages.
“You guys should just get a room now,” Xavier taunts jokingly, joining his wife and rising to her standards.
“I’m still standing, you’re gonna need a whole lot more ammo than that if your guys’ goal is to knock me down,” Jay challenges them, prepared to take them all head on - right here, right now.
He should shut it. I’m not prepared at all.
“Forget that,” Sarah pipes up, smiling at us as she glances from me to Jay, “you guys should just run away together already.”
Landon chuckles and high-fives his girlfriend.
They’re the ones to talk...
I squirm and fidget uncomfortably under all their piercing gazes. Friends always make everything awkward. Damn you friends!
“Perhaps they’ll both actually do something about it this time ’round,” Nancy speaks up, wanting join in on the banter, unaware of our circumstances.
I know how Jay feels, he’s been pretty clear about it on numerous of occasions, but I also know that he’s leaving soon - knowledge that Nancy and most of the others are lacking in.
“Woah,” Ryan stops her by placing his hand up, ”too far, Nance.” He shakes his head at her in warning, “Leave the bantering to the boys,” he orders, refusing to make room for any antagonizing from her. “Everyone knows not to rub salt in a festering wound.”
“I always go too far,” she sighs apologetically, wallowing in self-pity. She pouts miserably to herself at being unable to be ‘one of the boys’ in the way Emma and Sarah are with their constant teasing and joking.
Grey, sensing Nancy’s initial discomfort, changes the subject as he glares at Ryan, making him the scapegoat, “Thanks for helping set up the tents back there,” he retorts sarcastically, annoyed.
Ryan flashes him a grin, showing him a thumbs up, refusing to take Grey seriously, “No problem, pal, any day.”
“You didn’t help?” Nancy frowns unhappily as she turns to Ryan with a disapproving stare. “You promised you’d get more involved and be more helpful on this trip,” she reminds him as if they discussed it before.
“I was too preoccupied with hanging with all my best friends,” Ryan complains as he motions over to all of us, deliberately leaving Grey out.
“You express and emphasize you hatred for us on a daily basis, Ryan,” Sarah points out flatly, narrowing her eyes at him, not a fan of her ex.
“So Grey can, and I can’t?” he questions, thinking on his toes.
“Exactly, yes,” Sarah nods. “Grey is Grey. He’s the exception.”
Jay shakes his head at their arguing before turning to meet my gaze. He arches a brow at me in curiosity before grinning in content, unfazed by their previous comments. He shifts closer to me until his thigh touches mine, until I feel snug by him and the warm fire.
He could’ve easily thrown Xavier, Emma, Greg, Grey and Landon all under a bus if he really wanted to, but he chose to spare them the humiliation. It’s admirable, considering we just undergone a full dose of their insults, slash jokes.
“Can we get back to the ghost stories now?” Susie asks with longing, using her puppy eyes on all of us. She’s a master manipulator.
“Do you not have any friends your age?” Max asks Susie with a shake of his head as if repulsed by her presence.
Susie folds her arms across her chest and glares at him willfully, “I’m on a higher intellectual and emotional level than most of the people here,” she says, her eyes flickering to Blubber, Simo, Troy and a few others.
“You’re a rude little girl,” Max scoffs much to Bell’s embarrassment. He’ll never get over his feud with Susie, ever.
“Why picking on my baby sister?” Laiken asks Max. “Is this still about all that stuff Mason and I did to you in high school-”
“Leave me out of it,” Mason interrupts, trying to keep the peace. He’s a changed man.
Laiken continues nonetheless, “’Cause we’re sorry about that,” he informs Max, hoping to put the past to bed once and for all.
“As if you’re ‘sorry’ means anything,” Zac, shirtless and not even cold in the slightest, scowls at Laiken before mumbling more words beneath his breath, harbouring a grudge.
Mason has been forced to sit in between the two of them in case they start fighting again. Mia, on the other hand, is sitting across from them both. She’s keeping her distance ever since the incident.
“I don’t care how much of a jerk you were in high school,” Max tells Laiken as if over it entirely, “at least at the end of the day, you still had a soul intact,” he glares at the youngest one from our group other than the triplet. “That’s more than I can say for Susie over here.”
“Dude,” Goku shakes his head at Max in disgust, not understanding his history with Susie, as he reprimands him and sets him straight, “no.”
“You don’t know her, she’s pure evil!” Max tries to express why he hates her, but can’t seem to come up with a valid defense for himself.
“Don’t talk about my sister like that,” Laiken lectures Max, growing more and more ticked off by the second.
“Shut up, Laik, I can handle Max on my own! He’s stupid and I can easily overpower him and get the upper hand with no effort whatsoever,” Susie snaps at her brother, wanting to fight her own battles alone.
"So...” Jay clears his throat as he leans back on his elbows, staring up at the dark sky as he tries to dissolve the incoming argument, “lovely weather we’re having, huh guys?”
“Give it a break, buddy,” Leban grins at Jay knowingly, “this is going down whether you’re onboard or not.”
“I figured it was worth a try,” Jay shrugs, acknowledging that there’s nothing he can do to stop this from playing out.
He’s leaving soon. He wanted this camping trip as a way to say goodbye to everyone. He’s been looking forward to it the most and now these silly munchkins are all just ruining it completely by fighting with one another.
Laiken debates it out with his sister, “I don’t care, Luce. It’s my job, as your older brother, to protect you from childish people like Max-”
“Hey!” Susie raises her voice at him, “Only I insult Max!”
Laiken glances to Max for confirmation, or for an explanation at least.
“Yeah bro,” Max nods at Laiken, elaborating his deal with Susie, “don’t interfere. We got our own thing going on here. It goes both ways. Anyone else insults Susie and I pummel them to a pulp.”
Laiken frowns as he stares from Max to Susie, puzzled, before raising a curious eyebrow, “I really don’t get your guys friendship.”
“We’re not friends!” they reply back in unison.
“How dare you assume that?!” Susie hisses at her brother, hating the idea of ever being friends with Max Mills.
“I’ll never be friends with this puny ‘she-devil’,” Max chips in, agreeing with her for the fist time ever.
“Stop insulting my sister,” Laiken repeats, close to losing it with Max, but doing his best to keep his patience.
“Come to think of it,” Bells glances over at Laiken accusingly before standing up for her husband, “you’re not entirely innocent. You can’t be hypocritical just ’cause Max picks on your sister. You picked on so many people in high school, and that’s excluding Aqueela and Max.”
“And he was Melinda’s b*tch,” Mason adds with a chuckle. He immediately stops when Laiken shoots him a look, feigning to zip his mouth closed.
“And now it’s Leban,” I just have to say, knowing beforehand that I’d get under his skin. I ignore him when he flips me off. Instead, I pay attention to Jay as he shakes his head at me knowingly, a small grin playing at his lips. He knows me all too well...
“I don’t like Melinda,” Emma speaks her mind, Xavier suddenly getting super uncomfortable as if wishing with all his might that she won’t bring it up again.
No one liked Melinda...
“You’re the one to talk, Miss Queen Bee,” Laiken replies back to Bells as he thinks it over. “You were never friends with anyone if they weren’t classified as a ‘popular’. Social status was everything to you.”
“That’s not true,” Bells motions over to me in a matter-of-fact way, “I was seen with her all the time.”
"Hey!” I huff, taking offense as I puff out my cheeks angrily and scrunch up my nose furiously, staring at the both of them with a deadly look.
“Look at that,” Grey mocks, “Lawson is failing in her attempt to kill someone with her halfhearted glares again.”
I turn my glare onto him next, hoping for his head to suddenly burst into flames. Unfortunately, I’m too tired to summon enough power to do it.
“That’s different,” Laiken argues, “Aqueela doesn’t count-”
“Sitting right here,” I mutter loudly.
Laiken sends me a sheepish grin before he continues on ranting with Bells, “She wasn’t a complete loser. If anything, she isolated herself by being abnormal. In my books, creating riots and stirring trouble classifies you as a rebel.”
"Again, sitting right here,” I growl, ill at ease.
“Shush,” Laiken commands before he wavers back into discussing it out with Bells, “I even associated myself with Aqueela at times so-”
“Don’t shush me, Laiken! Ever!” I raise my tone at him, irritated. “I will hurt you,” I threaten him, unintentionally proving his point - I may possibly have a rebellious side to me.
“Only ’cause you liked her,” Bells points out, throwing him to the wolves.
"What?!” Jay and Mason splutter, taken by surprise by the revelation.
“When was this?” Jay asks, Mason wondering the same thing.
When Bells sees Laiken’s shock, she nods, rubbing it in his face, “Yeah, I knew. It was so obvious.”
“I’m not surprised. I should have called that one,” Zac scowls at Laiken as if seeing his true colors for the first time. “It seems he has a hobby in taking what’s not his.”
“But Mason’s crush on Aqueela wasn’t?” Laiken asks Bells, ignoring Zac for the meantime, Mia looking very guilty under Zac’s intimidating gaze.
“Shut up,” Bells frowns at the reminder.
His betrayal stills hurts her to this day. Mason really crushed her back then because at that stage she was sure he was the one. Turns out, the loser (Max) beat the jocks to the punch and won Queen Bee (Bells) over instead. It’s funny how life works out in the end...
“Bella is right,” Mia voices her opinion as she turns to Laiken with a stern look, “you always brushed me off in high school. You never noticed me even though you sat next to me in senior year. When I tried talking to you, you deliberately ignored me.”
“To be honest, I don’t even remember you,” Laiken apologizes, being up front about it. “Not like Jay noticed you either,” he brings Jay into it in the hopes of getting back into Mia’s good books by making Jay look bad.
“He knew my name at least,” Mia stands up for Jay. “He spoke to me occasionally when he wasn’t distracted. He was nice, unlike you.”
“Don’t know what high school you went to because Jay Taylor was a jerk,” Laiken protests, his ignorance on the matter showing through. “Everyone cleared the way for him when they saw him coming.”
This coming from the one who used to roam the school hallways like they were his...
“You assumed he was a jerk,” I immediately get defensive, sticking up for Jay when he doesn’t bother to say anything himself. “You didn’t know him,” I tell Laiken bluntly, “because if you did, you would’ve known that although he was closed off, he was a very selfless person who put others before himself despite his own struggles. He was not a jerk at all. He was the exact opposite.”
“Declare your love for him some other time, Law, we’re kind of in the middle of something here,” Laiken waves me off, not listening to the facts.
Dean tries to clear way for peace through humor, “What in tarnation is a goin’ on here in these here parts of town?”
“No!” I stand up, rising to my feet, ignoring Dean. “You shut your mouth for once, Laiken. I’m sick and tired of judgemental people like you. Don’t bring Jay into it when you didn’t even know the first thing about him back then!”
He raises his hands up apologetically as if ready to wave the white flag, “Okay, jeez, sit back down. Didn’t know you’d get so touched. I’m sorry.”
“This is ridiculous,” Jay sighs, rubbing at his temples. “High school happened five years ago. We’ve all changed since then. It’s all in the past,” he glances over at all of us. “Leave the past in the past where it belongs. I’d rather focus on the future. The past can’t be changed, but it’s our decisions that we make now that impact and influence our futures. Let bygones be bygones. Get over it. I hated high school, and right now, I feel like I’m going through it all over again.”
“Woah,” Benley scoffs in disbelief, “I’m so thankful I wasn’t in your guys’ high school.”
“It’s where I learned to survive,” Max boasts, popping his collar in pride as if high school really was that dreadful, which for some of us it was.
“Don’t act all tough and macho, we all heard about your panic attack on the way here,” Susie grins deviously, selling Max out, as she snaps her fingers in a z-like formation, accompanied by much attitude.
I don’t miss Jay wink at Susie, making it clear who let the cat out of the bag.
“Can we please hear the ‘click clack slide story’ now?” Blubber asks before Max can even react, strategically changing the subject as his impatience gets the best of him.
Landon grins and leans forward eagerly, holding the flashlight just below his chin as he starts with enthusiasm, putting on his most serious voice, “Okay, so there was this woman...”
“I’m not scared,” I whisper to myself, “I’m not scared.”
“You sound pretty frightened to me,” Jay whispers in my ear, teasing me upon hearing me talk softly and reassuringly to myself.
I practically jump out of my seat, forgetting that I’m not alone when hearing his unexpected voice, catching me way off guard.
He grins in delight, pulling back to look at me squirm in terror, “Someone’s jumpy tonight,” he states calmly, cool and collected as always.
“I just want to know why you kissed me back if you disliked me in high school so much?” Laiken asks Mia, still on about that, unfazed by the horror story Landon just told us in explicit detail - gory detail. Landon is the best ghost storyteller ever.
“To get back at you so that in the end I can choose Zac over you!” Mia hisses back at him, unimpressed, yet still clearly harbouring some affection for Laiken in spite of having some type of relationship with Zac.
“Would you stop glaring at me?” Laiken asks Zac with a sigh.
Zac, jaw tense, stays silent as he stares from Mia to Laiken, wondering where he fits into the picture now that he’s been shoved aside.
“You three need to sort out your issues,” Greg tells them with a reprimanding scowl.
It’s as if they know not t argue because they get up and retreat to the woods to talk it out.
“What if ‘Click Clack Slide’ gets them?” I ask, biting my nails as my gaze trails after them disappearing into the darkness. I visibly shudder at the thought.
Jay chuckles and wraps a carefree arm around my shoulders lightly, drawing me into his side in an act to comfort me, “Let’s just hope they run fast.”
I stare up at Jay flatly, “Not funny, Jay."
You know it’s sad when even Susie and Blubber aren’t afraid...
“It not even scary, Sprinkle stupid, ‘Click Clack Slide’ can come, Simo will be hero and make her roll in grave,” Simo, eavesdropping on my private conversation with Jay, makes a remark of mockery.
My eyes widen as I gasp and point to something Simo behind, “Oh no! There she is! There’s ‘Click Clack Slide’ lady!”
Simo yelps and immediately ducks for cover behind us. He cowers behind Jay, using him as a shield as he shakes and whimpers. I stifle a laugh when the earth quakes beneath my feet. Simo is something else...
“She’s joking my man,” Jay lets Simo in on the truth.
“Sprinkle a lying liar!” Simo throws an accusing finger in my face.
I burst out laughing at Simo reaction, “Serves you right.”
“Alright,” Bell yawns and stands, “that was great fun, but I’m beat. I’m going to my tent to sleep.”
"Our tent,” Max corrects with emphasis, making his point crystal clear.
Bells rolls her eyes as she callously waves him off over her shoulder, uncaring, before lazily strolling to bed, “Whatever.”
Max and Benley sneak after her and I just know that they’re planning on scaring her. It’s a moment later when I hear her terrified shout before hearing Benley and Max’s terrified shouts as she gets even with creative methods.
Jezel stares across at Troy as if trying to send him a message with her eyes. She makes up some excuse on the spot before getting up. She, oblivious to us all watching her, enters Troy’s tent instead as if waiting on him.
Not long after, Troy gets up and makes some lame excuse to before heading to his tent.
Xaver sees and shakes his head, a wide and knowing grin on his face. Emma went to sleep long gone due to evening sickness - she hasn’t been feeling well ever since she’s been pregnant.
I carefully rub my eyes, feeling grouchy and exhausted too.
“You want me to walk you to your tent?” Jay asks upon noticing my fatigue. “I don’t mind,” he informs me, aware that I’m on edge and currently very jittery.
“I’m good,” I reply back in gratitude, turning his offer down. I know he wants to chat with Grey and Landon for a little bit longer.
“Alright,” he tilts his head up to face me as I get up to my feet, “just come wake me up if you need me for anything. I’ll be there.”
I nod at him with a faint smile, “Thanks.”
“Wait for me!” AJ springs up from her seat, now in search of Benley, as she rushes after me, not wanting to walk alone in the dark.
We walk side by side for a while. She pulls her cardigan tighter around her body as a cool gust of wind whips passed us. “Woah, it’s freezing,” she says quietly, making it evident that she’s just as anxious as me.
“I know,” I agree as an eery silence overtakes us once again.
I slowly trudge my way back up the hill to where Jay pitched my tent, AJ hot on my heels as she tries to keep up with my quickened pace.
I don’t know why, but I just know that if I get to my tent, I’ll be safe.
“Did you hear that?” AJ snaps her attention to the woods where we heard the noise, making it apparent that I didn’t imagine it. I’m not delusional. My mind is not playing tricks on me. AJ loops her arm through mine as we stop to see if we’ll hear it again. “Aqueela,” she whispers my name, “I’m scared.”
I glance back to see the bonfire and the others some distance away now. We’re entirely alone, surrounded by the shadows and silhouettes of the tall, thick trees.
I survey the area, taking in my surroundings before I leave AJ’s arm for a brief moment to pick up a branch that had broken free from one of the trees. “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” I shout as I swing the branch around wearily, declaring my dominance and challenging the evil b*tch wherever she may be.
The ‘click clack slide’ sounds begin to speed up as if nearing us...
“Stop it,” AJ warns me, cautious of my absurd actions.
“I’ll take you down, ‘Clickety Clack’! Come at me! Hi-yah!” I perform my own unique karate style as I kick and swat through the air, just about losing my balance and almost kicking AJ in the face. She ducks just in time.
“What are you doing?!” AJ whisper-shouts at me. “You’ll make her mad! Stop it!” She scolds me, taking the branch and throwing it aside. “You’re out of your mind. You really are.”
That’s the way I like it...
“Now how are we supposed to defend ourselves?” I whine as a shiver races up my spine when I hear the sound yet again. “I was hoping she’d submit to me if I asserted myself,” I let her in on what was my plan before she ruined it.
She changes tactics as goosebumps of fear prick at my skin, “We surrender, take our lives, but make my death painless!”
I narrow my eyes at her, startled by the stupid plea of mercy. She’s going to get us killed at the rate we’re going.
That’s when we hear laughter before Max and Benley emerge from the woods.
I shake my head at them at their nerve, Max merely laughing louder. He failed with Bells, so he decided to make us his new victims.
AJ immediately goes to whack BoyBand repeatedly at seeing that he was involved as well, purposely messing up his prized possessions- his hair, “Why am I marrying you again?” she asks with a giggle, still irritated.
He pins her hands in the air with his own before leaning into kiss her with a soft smile on his face, “Because your life is incomplete without me.”
I tune them out and scowl at Max, “You’re a horrible person and you should be ashamed of yourself.”
“You were going to beat us to death with a sharp branch, I really wouldn’t talk if I were you,” Max winks at me playfully.
I open my mouth to say something before a dart goes coursing through the air before hitting Max in the back. His eyes widen in pain before he suddenly collapses to the floor, face first, just as a silent scream leaves my lips.
I see Benley’s face and soon realize that this is no joke.
“Oh no, it’s happening,” he says on wobbly legs before he faints in fear, falling the floor beside Max like a coward, AJ hovering above him in worry.
I turn around to run when turning into a solid chest instead. I blow out a breath of relief when meeting his concerned gaze.
“I heard the commotion,” Jay says as he glances down at Max and Benley unconscious on the floor, “what’s going on?” He arches an eyebrow, “Did you kill them?”
“I should have,” I murmur before a tribe of warriors run out the woods, giving a war shout like Native Americans.
“It’s just Oog,” Jay mutters, annoyed. He sprinted all the way here for nothing. It’s good to know that Grey and Landon would leave us to die. Jay’s the only one who cared. Then again, they probably thought it was me getting up to my shenanigans again.
Oog and his gang, dressed up in leaves as clothes, do a tribal dance around the unconscious forms as if preparing for some ancient ritual.
I watch on in horror as they pick up Max and Benley by their arms and legs before impetuously carrying them off into the woods...something about being stuck on the ‘Island of Lost’ and needing to make a sacrifice to the nonexistent volcano for the ‘Dharma Initiative’.
“I guess I’ll have to follow them,” AJ groans before going after Benley in order to rescue him from the ‘volcano’ that ‘The Dung Beatles’ and preparing to throw him in.
“So Oog’s darting people now?” Jay questions with raised eyebrows, inquisitive. “I’ll check if I can see where they’re headed before we lose them,” he climbs up a tree with ease, reaching up to a branch and pulling himself up with little to no effort. Once he gets high enough, he sets his sights on where they could be taking Ben and Max.
“Do you think they’ll eat them?” I ask from the bottom of the tree, calling up to him, unsure of the answer myself.
Oog tends to go too far, he got that from me, not Jay.
“I can see their base from here. They’re also in a tree,” Jay swallows, refusing to answer my questions as he urgently seeks out our Maxi-pad and BoyBand as if time is limited. “Yeah,” he pauses, “they’re throwing stones at AJ. They won’t let her up the tree.”
“I want to see! I want to see! I want to see! I wanna! I wanna! Please! Please!” I bob up and down on my heels, hopping up and down in order to check out their new temporary yet very literal tree house - they have an obsession with dwelling in trees.
“C’mere,” Jay jumps down from a high branch to a lower one before stretching out his hand to help me up.
“Alright, Tarzan,” I don’t hesitate to take his hand as he lifts me up. I scramble further up to where he is before he points out to them and their miniature terrorist camp.
We sit and watch them tie Benley and Max up before dealing with AJ.
“We should probably step in,” Jay suggests quietly as he takes a seat on the branch.
“Later,” I say, sitting down beside him, enjoying his company as I dangle my legs back and forth through the air.
“I wonder if Zac and them are fine,” Jay says randomly, making conversation.
“Mia is different now. I can’t believe you went out with her,” I voice my opinion, still befuddled about that.
Jay rises to defend himself, “I wasn’t going out with her. I’d been on a few dates with her, but I never asked her out. In any case, she would have eventually realized, all on her own, that I’m not the guy she wants to be with and that she can do better than me.”
“What do you mean?” I quiz, confused.
“Aqueela,” he elaborates, opening up, “I’m just the distraction before the real thing. I’m only-”
On impulse, I pick up my hand and slap him through the face, “Stop it, Jay!”
He stares at me with a shocked expression before moving his jaw from side to side, shaking the smack out, indifferent towards what just took place.
I wince, now feeling guilty for doing the extreme.
He arches an eyebrow at me, a nonchalant expression on his face, as he responds to my actions, “Okay,” he clears his throat, keeping his cool, his gaze fixated on me, not bothering for an explanation, “so that happened.”
“I’m sorry,” I apologize as I reach out to touch his jaw to clarify why I did what I did, regretful, “I just hate it when you down yourself like that.”
He stares down at me for a split second before he starts to say something in turn, “You’re so-”
“Don’t move!” I hiss, cutting him off, as I freeze in place.
He smiles down at me as if he doesn’t mind being interrupted, “What?”
“Uh-oh,” I gulp nervously, my eyes straying back to ‘them’, “we’ve just been spotted. Oog’s staring right at us. He’s made us out. It’s like his sixth sense just kicked in.” I lower my tone of voice and whisper to Jay, “What should we do?”
Jay tears his eyes away from me and, for some reason, glances in the opposite direction of Oog. I follow his gaze, sniffing the air, only to see smoke rising not too far away from where we are. The forest in itself is ablaze in flames.
“I hate to alarm everyone...” he falters, building up anticipation, “but I may or may not have set the woods on fire!” I hear Troy shout from below us before everyone scatter like ants for safety from the incoming danger our inevitable doom.
“The volcano is ready for the sacrifices! He is calling us in!” we hear ‘The Dung Beatles’ chant, misinterpreting Troy’s manmade fire as a volcano eruption.
I really hope they don’t go as far as throwing Max and Ben into the fire...
“Forest fire! Wildfire on the loose, everyone! I accidentally sparked a fire and lit the woods up! Get out of here, I set the whole world on fire. You’re all running out of time! Escape! Flee!” Troy rants, remorseful of what he unintentionally or intentionally did.
No one listens.
“Run! Run at your own pace at your own risk!” Landon yells, having clicked, and immediately all obey him. He does the exact opposite of everyone else and ends up running toward the fire as if ready to march through the hot flames that will be licking at his skin.
Blubber and Simo stupidly run into each other whilst Nancy forces Ryan to move seeing as he wants to first finish his game before saving himself. Zac and Laiken are fighting again, unaware of the fire, whilst Mia calls Mason for help.
“I thought he was with Jezel,” Jay states, unfazed by the panic.
“Maybe he’s quick,” I shrug, just as lost as him.
Jay sits a second longer before he sighs and gets up, reluctantly swinging down the branches and lowering himself back down to the floor, “I’ll go help Landon put it out before someone really does die.”
“It’s a wonder no one has died yet,” I agree with a simple nod of my head.
“Come on, I’ll help you get down,” Jay beckons me to take the leap.
“And I suppose I should probably go bargain for Max and Benley.” I come up with a solution to the problem, “Maybe I can trade Oog for them? Say Blubber and Troy?” I joke, messing around, used to these kinds of whack scenarios.
Jay opens his arms wide, growing impatient with my ramblings.
“You’re gonna catch me?” I ask with a glimmer of dauntlessness flickering through my eyes.
He shrugs, “All I can do is try, but I’m bound to let you fall.”
“Are you going to catch me?” I repeat firmly.
“Of course I am,” he catches the gist and answers truthfully.
I take the leap, misjudging the distance, and end up hitting a few twigs on the way down. Fortunately, there’s no splat sound effect - he catches me, that is until he gets momentarily distracted by the others and accidentally drops me...
He did tell me so.