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Rewind

By CJ Adler All Rights Reserved ©

Humor

Chapter 5: Up To No Good

“I have to say, I’m feeling a little antsy about this.” I admit to Troy as we wait outside his and Bell’s place.

When they returned from Rome, their modelling careers having fallen through, they moved out of their parent’s place and bought a house of their own together. Apparently, when they’re all (Max, Troy and Bells) not on campus, they come to this house to unwind. However, it’s Troy and Bells who bought the place. Max just uses it for his own benefits.

“You should.” Troy coughs, not so discreetly either.

“What?” I sputter, unsure if I heard him right.

“Nothing!” Troy says hurriedly as he pushes me inside the house before I can even think of backing out. “Forget I said anything, Squirt.”

“You just said that you said nothing.” I remind him with a look of suspicion crossing my features.

“What are you? A damn detective?” Troy grumbles out as we wait for Max to approach us.

“Good news and bad news,” Max says as he makes his way from the kitchen toward us, “Bells is home.”

“Please tell me that that’s not the good news.” I murmur, concerned for my life. I can only imagine what the bad news must be.

Max chuckles at my expense, “Unfortunately, the bad news is that she isn’t expecting you.”

My eyes widen at this new information, “Max!” I swat him on his chest in anger, “You said that you’d have her prepared for this.” Bells is ridiculously dangerous when she enters into things without first being informed about it. Catching her off guard is asking to die.

Max shrugs, “I tried. She’s been a little more uptight than usual lately.” He explains lightly and briefly, choosing to be vague about the situation.

I shake my head at him, feigning disappointment, “You stupid meatball.” I glare at him before turning to Troy, “What’s your excuse ‘pony boy’?”

“Now I may be a man of very little integrity, but I am no cowboy.” I roll my eyes at Troy’s statement. He has no idea what ‘pony boy’ means. “What’s with all the insults anyway, ‘Miss High and Mighty’?” Troy frowns down at me, “You’re being mean you big brown-noser.”

I’ve never claimed to be a nice person.

“Hey!” I interject, “I’m no brown-noser. Your sister is the obsequious one.” I argue, sure that Troy does not know the definition of a ‘brown-noser’. “I lead rebellion projects. I was a true rebel.” I state in pride as I rise to my own defense.

No way am I going down in the history books as a goody two-shoes. If that were to happen, it would have to be under extreme discretion. I mean, come on, I was the biggest offense in high school to ever happen. I was the master transgressor that oversaw all trouble making assignments.

“Max!” I hear the scary yet familiar high-pitched tone come from the kitchen, the aroma of something delicious wafting through the air. It’s obvious Bells has been keeping herself occupied through baking. “I hear voices!” She calls, “Who are you talking to?!” Bells questions, sounding more than irritated.

Great, she’s in a bad mood as is. This cannot possibly get anymore difficult. She’s going to rip me apart - tear me to shreds. I’m a walking dead person.

All I asked was that they tell her in advance that I’m back in town. I gave one simple task and these two muzzletops before me couldn’t even manage that.

Max panics and so Troy fills in for him, “It’s just me - Troy - your baby brother!” Troy calls back to his sister, for once thinking on his toes as he anticipates her response.

“For the billionth time, you’re older than me Troy!” Bells shouts back, not sounding skeptical anymore. She could walk in here at any give second and I’d be buried six feet under, my remains untraceable. Fortunately, she’s accepted that it’s just Troy. Thank goodness! That was way too close for comfort.

“Yeah, but I don’t look it!” Troy hollers back, a smirk imprinted on his face as he annoys his younger sister as per usual. He’s really not helping my case. Bells is just going to take out all her frustrations on me when she sees me. I’m the one who will suffer at her wrath, not him.

It seems Troy really is worried about ageing - first the hair spat at the wedding and now referring to himself as the younger sibling.

“Get over here Troy!” Bells calls, probably ready to whack him over the head for his little comment. He indirectly insulted her.

“Are you going to hit me again, like last time?” Troy asks her wearily, now cautious (that quickly fades), “And stop shouting, you sound like a queen banshee!”

Now really taking in Max and Troy’s appearance, I notice the dark circles lining their eyes. In actual fact, they both look beyond exhausted. Bells sure seems to be keeping the both of them on their toes as of lately.

“Troy!” Bells shouts louder, purposely this time, “Come say that to my face you human pile of mash potatoes! You fungus crossbreed!” Bells challenges him. Any person who is sane will not step foot into that kitchen. Kitchens have weapons and Bells loves weapons. Even Jay was terrified of Bells.

When Troy doesn’t answer, Bells takes to her next victim, “Max!”

Max, as if used to running errands for her, sighs and rubs his forehead before yelling back, “What is it now?!” He hisses tiredly, “Stop nagging me woman!”

I place my hand over my mouth, holding in a gasp. Oh he has done it now! Bells grows eerily quiet and I can’t help but wonder what’s going through her demented, deranged head. Out of fury, I start slapping Max against his chest with futile hits, “You can’t handle going down by yourself so you have to drag us all down with you?!” I exclaim angrily in a hushed whisper as I continue to swat limply at him.

“I could kill my boyfriend with kindness, but shoving him in traffic kills time.” I hear Bells say softly from somewhere in her lair - the kitchen.

I gape in fear, turning to Troy for safety, reassurance and confirmation, “We’re going to die, aren’t we?” I ask him in a tone void of hope.

Troy nods in certainty (he sucks at comforting), “Indeed we are. It seems we have come to the end of our roads.” Troy says calmly whilst I’m busy flipping out, biting on my nails in terror as I wait for the inevitable to come - death.

And here I thought facing Grey would be petrifying.

“If someone makes you angry, count to ten, take a deep breath…and then kill them immediately anyway.” I hear Bell’s second threat. It might just be in my head, but I swear she’s busy sharpening knives in there. Max merely rolls his eyes as if not concerned in the slightest. Someone has manned up over the years…

“Hold me!” Troy yelps, losing his cool as he grabs hold of me. I clutch onto him back, the both of us shivering and trembling in pure fear. “Squirt…” Troy starts, “If I don’t make it…” He takes a breather as he locks gazes with me, “I just want you to know…” He pauses dramatically, waiting for me to first say something before he finishes.

“Yes?” I reluctantly reply, glancing up at him in curiosity. We might just have our first heart to heart after all.

“That you’re probably already dead because I was willing to sacrifice you first.” Troy concludes feverishly.

I scowl at him as a result, my face dropping at his bluntness, ” Not if I sacrifice you first!” I growl, now peeved with him. I will take him down any day, any time.

Max rolls his eyes at us before he grabs hold of both our ears, forcing us to follow him into the beast’s cave. Meanwhile, Troy and I keep shouting ‘no’ over and over again at the top of our lungs in the hopes of Max releasing us. If we’re not careful, Bells will hear us first.

“I never thought it would be you who’d sell me out to the devil, Max.” I complain, struggling against him as I try to escape, “Why would you do this to me? Why? I get why you’d do it to Troy, but why me?! You’re suppose to be my other half!” I whine along with Troy, both of our voices falling on deaf ears. Max couldn’t care less about our dilemma.

It’s when we actually reach the kitchen that both Troy and I fall silent in our wake.

Bells has her back to us and I can tell by the motion that she’s stirring something. In that current moment, I envision her to be a witch stirring a pot of some weird concoction she’d come up with. She might just skin me alive and then throw me in the pot too. I’m going to be cooked alive! I can’t go down like this! I’ve never been an overachiever, but this is just…

I try make a run for it, only for Max to haul me back. He’s a lot tougher than he makes himself out to be. “So um Babe,” Max starts off in unease, his eyes trained upon his girlfriend’s form, “I kind of have a surprise for you.”

Little did I know that I’d be the one in for a surprise…

“Not interested!” Bells snaps violently, not bothering to even meet his gaze. No wonder Max and Troy are so tired. I actually feel for them…for once.

Max elbows me in the ribs as if it is my cue to say something. I suck in a deep breath before coming out with it, “Surprise.” I say meekly, my tone of voice just above a whisper. My life is still hanging in the balance.

As soon as the word escapes my lips, Bells freezes before visibly tensing up. She drops the spoon she’d been using to mix the batter, her back still to us. Stillness takes over the atmosphere, the mood having changed entirely. Goosebumps of fear tickle my arms when I hear her voice directed at me, “Aqueels?” She whispers softly, instantly picking up on who I am. Dammit! I was hoping she’d forget I even existed.

Not knowing what to say, I merely repeat my first words to her - a little more lively this time, “Surprise!” I cheer fearfully, ending on dull note.

“Well,” Troy breaks the deafening silence, “It wasn’t nice knowing you Aqueela.”

So much for a support system through friendship…

Bells finally turns around to face me. I let out a yelp of surprise upon seeing her, and it’s not because of the butter knife she has in her hands. It’s more because of her protruding tummy that seems to catch me way off guard. When Bells raises an eyebrow at me, I’m quick to recover from my initial shock. I don’t know whether to be happy or to be terrified. No wonder she didn’t show up to the wedding and now wonder she’s so moody. No wonder Troy and Max look like zombies - sleepwalkers.

“Woah.” I state, trying my best not to stare at her stomach, “So how far along are you in your…” I trail off when Bells immediately whips her head to face me, offering me a calculating stare as she waits for me to finish what I’d just been about to say.

Before I can say more, Troy grunts beneath his breath and shakes his head to himself, purposely coughing as if to capture my attention - as if to warn me.

“How far am I in what?” Bells asks, her tone icy as she pushes for an answer.

I open my mouth to speak, but behind Bells is Max waving his fingertips across his neck as if to indicate to me to stop talking. His expression signifies his distress. If Troy and Max - of all people - are telling me to stop, then I really should just stop.

My eyes land on the baking utensils and the iced cupcakes, “In your baking.” I conclude with quick thinking, “How far along are you in your baking?” I clarify, fixing up my slip up before Bells can attack me.

Bell’s expression transforms from an icy glare to a lighthearted smile, “Just have one last batch to go.” She informs me, her old sickly sweet smile back on her face. It seems she hasn’t changed much - personality-wise in any case.

Nervous and unsure how to proceed without saying anything about her pregnancy, I anxiously slip up yet again, “So you have the last bun in the oven then?”

Uh crap! This is pressure. I have to stall…think, think think!

“What?” Bells frowns, her expression suddenly turning dark.

“I mean, the last batch. You have the last batch in the oven.” I correct myself before I get b*tch slapped. This is some heavy stuff weighing on my shoulders. “I’m going to go talk to some other people, alright?” I drop casually as if it’s not suppose to be offensive, especially seeing as there’s no one else to speak to, other than Troy and Max - it’s an insult in itself.

“You seem a little on edge.” Bells notes as she observes me, her suspicions rising high in the air now.

I might be a little on edge foe shizzle - that could very well be because she’s holding a knife in her hands…

“She’s not feeling well. In fact, she needs to go lie down, right now.” Max speaks for me in haste as he begins pushing me out the kitchen door, sensing that I’m about to mess up and soon.

I immediately play into it, over exaggerating my ‘illness’ by accident, “Yeah, I suddenly feel so lightheaded.” I hold onto Max for support, pretending to have lost my footing as I raise a dramatic hand to my forehead, “Oh the pain and horror! Ouch! It hurts so bad!” I exclaim in fake terror, “I don’t feel too good. I’m numb all over. I think I have swelling on the brain. My legs are about to give in. Everything is going blurry. I think I have a temperature. I’m going to puke. You’re all fuzzy. I’m seeing spots-“

“Sounds serious.” Max interrupts abruptly, “You carry on baking Babes, I’ll see to her.” Max tells Bells, completely cutting me off from speaking any further as he begins dragging me hurriedly out the kitchen. As soon as we’re out of hearing shot, Max hits me upside the head, forcing me to stand upright again, “Overkill much?” He scolds me, “You jumbled like a kabillion symptoms and we can see none of it on the surface. If you continued speaking, she would have seen right through you. I mean, are you possessed or sick?” He mocks scornfully.

He’s the one who made me orchestrate all the symptoms to begin with.

“Well it’s not like I can see through her either! She has a tiny human being growing inside of her!” I complain, reminding him of how shocked I still am, “Thanks for letting me know you sly rodent!” I hiss, taking a shot to lecture him, “You’re the subversive one here. Don’t go pinning the blame on me. How was I suppose to react when I saw her gigantic belly?”

“Improvise, nah duh.” Max answers before explaining himself, “As you can tell, she’s very, very, very pregnant. She won’t admit it though. She just thinks she’s gaining weight and putting on a few through all her baking. She even blames morning sickness on eating too much sugar. She refuses to see what is right in front of her.”

Of course Bells, of all people, would be in denial about her own pregnancy. She’s clearly not ready to be a mother yet.

“No kidding.” I scoff, “It looks as if she’s about to burst babies out any second now.” I add my input, voicing my own opinion on the situation. “What happened to cover your tool, you fool?” It’s my turn to hit him upside the head for not being more careful with her, “If you think Bells is spunky, you’re supposed to cover your monkey.” Thinking over it, I find myself asking more questions, “And how is Troy okay with this? And did Grey and Benley know?” I interrogate him, wanting some answers.

“Grey and Benley do know.” Max replies. Bastards knew the entire time and said nothing to me! ” Troy tried to light me on fire when he first found out.” Max answers, wincing as he thinks back to the incident, “But he’s cool with it now.” Troy has a weird obsession with fire. “Every time I try sit Bells down and speak to her about it, she gets super defensive and scary. It’s frightening. She keeps saying that it’s ’cause she’s baking too much. She’s using it as an excuse, a way out of it. She doesn’t want to face the truth.”

“So you don’t even know if you’re going to have a boy or girl?” I ask him, feeling sympathy for him in the moment. Poor guy is going to be a father in say a month or two and he doesn’t even know if he’s having a daughter or son. His girlfriend isn’t even on the same page as him, not to mention that he can’t even prepare for the baby. It must be incredibly stressful on him. He’s carrying the weight of a kid by himself - figuratively speaking anyway. Bells is the one who is literally carrying the weight of a kid.

Max shakes his head at me, “No idea. I can’t even buy clothes and stuff for the child ’cause your best friend is being extremely difficult and hard on me. Subconsciously, she knows she’s pregnant and now she’s venting through her anger taken out on me. Her mood swings are killing me. It takes two to make a baby. It’s not like I made it on my own. I wish she’d see that and at least have some sense of accountability. I can’t be a parent on my own.”

I offer him a look filled with pity, “Don’t worry,” I comfort him, lending him some support, “I know Bells and I know that she will eventually come around and learn to accept it. Just give her time. She’ll be ready by the time she goes into labor.” I reassure him as best I can. Bells is being selfish by not admitting to being pregnant. She has everyone walking on eggshells, especially Max.

“When Grey mentioned her having a baby, she was just about ready to tear him a new one. It was the first time I saw a hint of fear cross through his eyes.” Max adds as an afterthought.

She scared Grey? There’s no way am I breaking it to her then. I’m not as courageous nor insane as Grey. When Bells is in a mood, she literally only sees red. She gets into a rage and will definitely pose as a threat to your life.

“So I should start calling you ‘Maxdaddy’ now?” I joke, making a poor attempt to lift his spirits. “Get it, Macdaddy, Maxdaddy?” I tease in the hopes of seeing him crack a smile.

Max grins, “I’ll never get how your brain works. Your mind is like a fortress. You’re not just one endless enigma, but also, you’re like a phantom.” His smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes. He’s not currently happy with where he’s at right now.

“You know it.” I grin boastfully, flaunting out in pride as I strike a playful pose. “If you don’t know the gender of your child, it means Bells has a literal human question mark inside of her.” I say thoughtfully, after first pondering over the entire issue at hand. “Seriously Maxdaddy, you should have wrapped the wanger before you went to bang her.” I laugh at my own joke, kidding around as I think of some more to use on him. “No glove, no love.”

I know, I’m a terrible friend. I just can’t help myself.

Max gives me a flat look in turn, “You done?”

“Oooooh just one more - pack it in plastic, it will be fantastic.” Max glares at me as I laugh aloud to myself, wiping away a stray tear. This is classic, “Seriously, just one more, I swear. Leash your pet before launching your jet.” A faint smile unintentionally curves Max’s lips upon him hearing the last one. I knew he couldn’t resist a good joke. “I remember when you thought I was pregnant. You were so excited to be an uncle. Surely you’re excited to be a father?” I get serious as I try to get a read on how Max is feeling about all of this.

“It would be more exciting if Bells had my back. Right now, I feel alone in this. If she were with me, things would be different. She’s adamant that she’s not…” Max trails off in a wistful sigh, not bothering to explain.

I hate seeing him so down in the dumps like this, “Awww Max, don’t be sad.” I pout, before impulsively throwing my arms around him. I draw him in for a comforting, supportive hug. “Things always work out. You’ll see.” I assure him confidently, “I will even talk to her myself if you want?” I offer up a suggestion, “I could maybe convince her.” I advise a dangerous solution to his problem that may include my life ending. Still, I’d do it for Max.

Max chuckles as he returns the hug eagerly. It’s as if he really needs it in the moment, “Nah, that’s okay.” He says, just as I release a breath of relief. Phew! I was getting hyped up there. “Won’t subject you to ‘Mission Impossible’. I’d rather not have you die just yet. She needs to realize it on her own terms.”

“Well if it counts for anything,” I step back to stare at him, “I’m here for you.” I say, earnest in my words. “Also, congratulations Mister. You’re going to be a daddy.” I pat his back, a grin on my face. Max is the best and he deserves the best.

A ghost of a smile traces his lips, “Thanks Aqueela, you’re the first to say that.” He slowly admits the facts, “I’m really glad you’re back. Things were just not the same without you wreaking havoc on everyone.”

Content, I place a hand over my chest, feigning deep emotion, “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.” I tease.

He ends up laughing, “Knock the ‘Aqueela antics’ off.” Max would be an amazing dad. Despite Bells not wanting a child, she’d be a damn great mother too. Max is fun and Bells is responsible. It’s the perfect parent combo.

It’s then Bells enters the room. I quickly jump back into character, pulling off the sick charade Max had me start, “Max, I’m dying!” I exclaim dramatically, trying to sell it. Bells needs to buy it or I’m dead. I hold a hand to my forehead before pretending to faint, collapsing down onto the tiled floor before Max can catch me.

I’m just glad Bell is not holding a knife anymore.

“Get up.” Bells rolls her eyes at me, “I know you’re not sick.” She says as she removes her baking apron from around her waist, an indication that she’s done. “I know what this is about.” She says, updating us as she opts for a different route.

“You always oversell.” Max reprimands me on my acting technique. I had to strategize and it’s not like he was much help.

I jump up from the ground immediately, looking unto Bells, “You do?” I query.

“Yes,” she nods, confirming that she knows she’s pregnant, “you’re acting sick because you think I’m mad at you for leaving and you don’t know how I will react.”

“Yes, that’s exactly it…” I stop talking when I register her words, “Wait what?” I ask, now at a loss. She’s still not going to admit to being preggers?

“Let me clarify, I’m not mad at you Aqueela.” Bells takes the initiative to elaborate briefly, “Sweetpea, I’m just disappointed.”

Troy nods as he ‘tsks’ me, “Just disappointed Sweetpea.” He copies his sister, nodding along to everything she is saying in fear of getting on her bad side. A pregnant woman is a dangerous woman to mess with - even Troy is smart enough to know that.

Bells offers me a genuine smile as she hugs me lightly, “I’m not going to pester you with questions. I don’t need to know. Your life is your business. All I can say is that I’m happy you found your way back home to us. You obviously had matters to deal with and now that you’re back, I’m hoping you’ve dealt with them.” I nod at her, shocked by how understanding she’s being. Then again, she does know what I’ve been through. “Don’t look so stunned. I’ve had five years to digest your absence.” She winks at me as if having truly matured.

I sigh, meeting her gaze in guilt, “I owe you an apology.” I dropped off the planet and didn’t even bother to stay in touch with the one person I’d always considered as family. Bells, at one point, was like a sister to me. She had my back in everything, and apparently, she still does.

“I accept.” Troy answers on Bell’s behalf as if I’d just apologized to him and not his sister. “This is such a relief, I always thought you left because of me.” He flatters himself way too much. The world does not revolve around his massive head. Me leaving had absolutely nothing to do with him. It had everything to do with me. I had to deal with my past before I could make a life for myself. He continues on as he digests it all, “But now I see that I’m still a perfect person and that it’s everyone else around me with the issues.” Troy concludes with a cocky grin. He’s so shortsighted of the truth, it’s not even funny.

Bells, like the rest of us, ignores her brother, “I’m so happy you’re back, I could cry.” Before I can do or say anything, she drops her head on my shoulder, the tears just falling. Oh golly, she really is emotional. Her hormones are probably skyrocketing right about now.

I pat her back awkwardly, “There, there.” I pull a ‘Sheldon’ on her. I’ve never been good at comforting the touchy-feely type. This is putting me in an uncomfortable position.

“I’ve just missed you so much.” She sobs for no reason, sniffing.

“I’m back now and believe me when I say that I don’t plan on ever leaving again. Burnsville is home.” I tell Bells as I discreetly move out from her ‘vice-like’ grasp on me.

Bells nods as Max consoles her. She’ll recover soon enough, I hope.

After Bell’s long crying session, we sit down and fall into a discussion about what they’re all doing now. Apparently, Troy is on campus 24/7. He doesn’t even attend university or live on campus, but he’s always there – it’s like his safe haven. Troy just wants to fit in and rekindle his missed opportunity on the varsity life.

Whilst they’re all talking, I play with an eraser that I found on the dining room table. It was lying among books and what not. I’m assuming it belongs to Max or Bells. One of them has to have been studying. I know for a fact that it’s not Troy’s.

Troy, as if to capture my attention, makes quite the remark, “Small things amuse small minds, Squirt.” He insults me as he motions over to the eraser in my hand.

That was so uncalled for!

I frown at him for the insult before dishing my own comeback his way, “That’s why scientists experiment with atoms, right?” I retort back wittily.

“That’s not applicable.” Troy mutters, Max and Bells burst out laughing at his expense. He caught himself out there.

I shrug at Troy nonchalantly, “If you want to run with the big dogs, stop taking walks on leashes with the puppies.” I wink at him when he glares at me in turn. “Don’t start something you can’t finish Troy Story.” I turn to Bells next, “So Benley tells me that you’re majoring in fashion design?” I query, wanting to know more. “How’s that working out for you?” I quiz, interested.

Bells smiles widely, “Great!” She squeals in enthusiasm, “My sorority sisters are always giving me new ideas and fashion tidbits. I use some of them as models for fittings etcetera.” She elaborates in passion.

I nod in enthusiasm (happy for her), “Awesome.” I’m glad she has found some supportive people in her life whilst I’ve been missing in action. “So the modelling?” I question, “That fell through? Benley said that it didn’t quite work out for you siblings.” I glance to Troy and then to Bells as if to get my point across.

“Yeah, well other than when Troy set our instructor’s hair alight…” Bells shoots a morbid stare in her brother’s direction, “it was alright. I enjoyed it and might reconsider going back at a later stage. Right now, I majoring in fashion design. I want something behind my name before I take another leap at modelling. I miss Rome, but when in Rome, I missed Max so much more.” Bells confesses as her gaze strays back to her boyfriend. Max smiles slightly upon hearing her words as he places his hand on her knee.

It’s a relief that Bells and Troy returned from Rome. It’s also a relief that Bells and Max made up and got back together again. I can’t picture the two of them with with different people. They were made for each other.

“I’ve been helping her with her fashion designs!” Troy pipes up eagerly before nudging Bells in the ribs with his elbow, “Tell her sister.” He presses, Bells wincing a little at his statement as if she’d been hoping he wouldn’t say anything.

“He sure has.” Bells replies weakly on Troy’s behalf as if it is a touchy subject for her.

“Go on! Show her!” Troy exclaims excitedly. Before Bells can respond, he’s already pulling out a scrapbook of his and her designs. He practically forces the book into my hands as he flips through the pages for me. I can instantly tell which designs are Bells and which are Troy’s just by skimming through the book. Bell’s designs are fantastic and one can see her talent, whilst Troy’s are…a work in progress. “Mine are a little better than Bells,” Troy grins boastfully at his sister, “but she’ll catch up eventually.”

Troy’s designs are bizarre and all round bogus. Bells designs are modern and chic. I can picture myself wearing some of her outfits she’s put together. As for Troy’s, I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a leopard print crop top along with a striped hippie skirt.

I meet Bell’s gaze and I can tell she wants me to give the undeserved praise to her brother. At least she still has a soft side. I nod at Troy, “Nice.” I lie through my teeth, “So skilled.” It’s a lot more difficult than I thought it would be.

“I know.” Troy says in pride, “You should see my cosmetic work. I am truly gifted in everything I do.” Max snorts at Troy’s bold yet profound statement.

Bells shakes her head at me as if to signify that I most definitely do not want to see Troy’s cosmetic displays of work. He’s probably painted all his victims faces for his practicals. Benley did say that he’s turned a three month course into a four year course. The pictures running through my head right now are not exactly aesthetically appealing. I can only imagine…the horror.

Needing to drop the subject, I glance over to Max instead, “What about you Mills? Fraternity?”

Max grins to himself as the spotlight is finally moved over his way, “Yeah I-“

Bells chips in, proving that her usual habit of taking over is still well intact, “You guys want cupcakes?” She asks, oblivious to her rudeness. When none of us answer, Bells tries to bribe us, “They have glitter.” She squeaks excitedly. We all just stare at her, hoping she’d get the gist to not just interrupt people mid-sentence. One of my pet peeves is when Bells cuts in randomly. She claps her hands together awkwardly, “Okay then…” She trails off stubbornly, “I’ll just go get them anyway.” She leaves the room to enter the kitchen. Once she gets an idea in her head, she has to stick by it and go through with it.

I gesture to Max, “Proceed.” I encourage.

“I joined a fraternity.” Max answers, “It was great for a while. Then Troy joined.” I laugh as Troy’s face falls upon hearing the insult. “He ended up putting our frat house on probation, plus he’s not even in college - he shouldn’t have been in a frat house to begin with. We kicked him out. Now it’s great again.” Max grins, flashing all his pearly whites when he sees Troy’s unhappy frown.

Personally, I think we’re all past frat and sorority time. We’re twenty-three now - well except for Troy, he’s twenty-five (not exactly any better, but it’s Troy).

“That’s why I started my own.” Troy backs himself up against Max’s attacks. “I left Max’s frat house because Max’s gay frat brothers were just jealous of me-“

“No.” Max protests, “Not really.” He argues, insistent.

Troy pesters on, shutting Max out the conversation completely, “Now, I’m not one to point fingers-“

“Yes you are.” It’s my turn to cut him off.

He ignores me and continues on with his lousy excuse of an explanation, “But it was really all Max’s fault.”

Troy is a walking contradiction!

My fault?” Max exclaims in exasperation, his jaw just about hitting the floor, “I defended you and you turned against me! You tried to get them to kick me out instead of you, you savage infidel!” Max shakes his head at Troy in disgust, “And you didn’t leave, you were kicked out for almost blowing up the frat house when you lit all the fireworks inside the house.” He adds an afterthought, “Besides, no one joined your frat house started by you as the self-proclaimed leader. You had to shut it down because you had no history, no fans and it was illegal seeing as you weren’t even living on campus or going to varsity.” Max reminds Troy with malicious intent, his lips curving into a smirk as they begin to bicker.

Troy scoffs, “First of all, there is no evidence of the firework incident-“

“You literally almost blew the ceiling off at that party.” Max glowers at Troy for denying the facts. It seems I’ve missed out.

“And secondly, who cares if my frat club didn’t work out. I closed mine down and found my own frat house to join - a fraternity that happens to be the very rivals of Max’s frat house.” Troy smiles proudly as if him being kicked out is all Max’s fault. It’s as if he truly believes that. I wonder where Bell’s sorority sisters fit into this entire equation.

I roll my eyes at the two, “Enough with your lame frat crap.” I feign a yawn before asking Max what it is he is actually studying. He gives me the answer and I find myself in shock, repulsed by his answer. I shake my head at him in disgust, “If you want to throw your life away, then that’s your prerogative.”

Bells, with her impeccable timing, walks back in just as I say that. She sets the cupcakes down on the table before glancing from Max to me wearily, “Woah. Cool it you two. What’s going on?” She inquires with mild interest.

Max shakes his head, “I literally just told her that I’m studying actuarial science.” Max answers his girlfriend with ease. I know he’s excellent in mathematics, but why?! Does he not have a soul? Maths feeds and leeches all life from you. Why commit you life to such evil? Hell has nothing on mathematics. Maths comes out on top in absolutely everything. It drains life force from people, hence why Max is looking so withered. At first I thought it was Bells, now I know for a fact that it is his studies.

Aqueela,” Bells complains, “you should really be more supportive of him. He’s doing what he loves.” She lectures, reprimanding me on being insensitive toward his feelings. Yeah because it is me pretending not to be pregnant…

I start a slow clap for Max just to put emphasis on for Bells, “You go Max. Chase the devil down.” I congratulate him dryly. It’s a good thing he’s not sensitive. He can take a joke or an insult with a straight face, without flinching. He has a great sense of humor.

“Say it like you mean it.” Max smirks, mischief lighting his eyes as he tries to prolong this.

“That will be too difficult to do, seeing as I don’t mean it, at all.” I reply bluntly, Max pouting as a result. I brush Max and Bells of as I turn my attention to Troy who’s already feasting down on all the cupcakes. He has icing and glitter all over his face. “So tell me Troy, when are you planning to settle down and score yourself a girlfriend?” I change the subject, no longer able to bear the heavy topic of mathematics.

“Oh Aqueela, Aqueela, Aqueela, Squirty Squirt Squirt…” Troy laughs humorlessly as he shakes his head at me in fondness, “People like you and me be can’t be tamed. We aren’t meant to be tied down.” I don’t know how I got thrown into the same category as him all of a sudden… He lifts his hand to the sky as if wanting me to envision the scene with him, “Think of us as free range chickens-“

“I’d rather not.” I sigh, the picture of us as chickens now floating through my mind.

“We’re chickens that just can’t be caught. We’re rockets launching into space - can’t be tied down. We’re the moons revolving around the earth itself.” The earth only has one moon… “We’re the very stars flickering across the night sky - wild and free.” We’re getting a little off topic now… “In actual fact, I am so bright I make the stars look dull.” Apparently I’ve just been taken out the equation altogether now… “I give people a reason to get up in the morning. People have me pegged down as a legend.” More like an arrogant son of a… “I’m like the sun with it’s bright, intense, hot rays.” How has he jumped this far from one single question asked? “No, I am like the universe itself. Hell, I am the universe.” When will this end?! “So to conclude, no girl will ever be good enough for me because I am naturally better than every single person on this planet.”

“Really?” I raise an unbelieving eyebrow at him, “That was your point all along? Why couldn’t you have just cut to the chase from the start. Why the long back story?”

Troy shrugs carelessly, “I got carried away.” He answers though a mouthful of cupcake. He’s really scarfing down that plate of cupcakes. “Sorry,” he apologizes when he sees me staring, “I’m hungry. Bells has been eating me out the house lately. On top of it all, her weird cravings are inedible.” Max nods in confirmation, backing Troy up this time.

Bells is having pregnancy cravings. I hide a smile and duck my head before any of them see it. It feels real good to be back. I’ve missed these losers more than I’ve realized.

“I have a secret stash now.” Troy lifts the pillow from the couch to reveal a pile of discarded junk food.

“Why didn’t you let me in on this man?” Max whines at seeing all the food. He’s practically drooling. These poor grown boys are being starved. Bells is really putting them through hell. Torture would be better. She’s giving them a run for their money. It’s only a matter of days before they leave this world. It’s now survival of the fittest in this household. My bets are on Max dying first. It’s inconsequential.

Bells gasps in astonishment, “You have a secret junk food stash?!”

The idiot just gave away the location of his secret stash, not to mention the fact that he gave away that there’s a secret stash to begin with.

Troy cradles the food to his chest and hisses at them like a venomous viper, “My precious!”

Yup, he’s ‘Smeagol the Second’.

Max and Bells back off when Troy eyes them as if ready to pounce, Max placing his hands up in surrender, “Yo bro, let’s not get into this again.”

“Why is there a hammer among the food?” I question Troy upon seeing the tool between all his chocolate bars.

Troy lifts up the hammer and flings it aside, seemingly clueless, “Huh, wonder how that got in there.” He then grows quiet before glancing Max’s way, “I’ll crush your fingers.” He whispers, protecting his stash - hence the hammer.

I roll my eyes at him, unfazed by his weirdness. “You Troy, seriously need a girlfriend.” I advise. Maybe a girl could fix him. Who am I kidding? He’s broken beyond repair. His ego has grown immensely and there’s nothing and no one that can bring him back down to earth.

“Are you offering?” Troy winks my way suggestively, trying to put the moves on me.

“Gross,” is my only reply.

“Nah, I can’t deprive the rest of the world of my greatness. I’m all about free loving.” Troy informs me with a serious expression on his face.

He’s not joking.

“What?!” I gape, “Troy, that’s disgusting.” When I see his confused expression, it clicks, “Do you even know what free love is?”

Troy snorts at me in mockery, “Of course I do you superficial girl scout you.” He confirms, “It’s when you are friends with everyone because you can’t pick just one person - hence the term free love.” More like ‘special friends’. I run a frustrated hand through my hair as I glance over at Max and Bells for help. Troy sees the action, “What?” He asks innocently, clueless.

“I’m not telling him.” Bells blatantly refuses in spite of it being her brother.

“You’re on your own with this one.” Max adds, he and Bells leaving it in my hands as always.

They’re both useless.

I go with it as I turn back to Troy, “Oh nothing,” I grin up at him, patting him on his shoulder, “nothing at all Troy.” I’m not going to be the one to diverge the details either. They can deal with him.

“Whoo!” Troy fist bumps the air, “Free love for everyone!”

Max pulls a face before shaking his head repeatedly. “So messed up.” He retorts squeamishly.

Bells glowers at me in disapproval for not telling her brother the truth, “Benley’s right, you are always up to no good.” She jokes.

“I wouldn’t be Aqueela Lawson if I weren’t.”

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