Rewind (Book 2)

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Chapter 6: Sink the Whale

“I’ve never seen you, of all people, like this. You look downright miserable.” Benley states as he casually takes a seat across from me. “I don’t like it.” He decides immediately, used to seeing me jovial and upbeat. I know I’m made of stone and all, but I can’t always be happy. People tend to forget that I’m human too. I know I act like an extraterrestrial, but I’m allowed to have an off-day. “What’s the matter with you? Why do you seem so down?” He finally asks me, his eyes intently scanning my expression for an answer, “If anything, I thought you’d be happy.” He whispers softly as it slowly dawns on him.

I just shake my head in response, not bothering with words.

“Who’s happy now?” AJ asks absentmindedly as she enters the room, intruding in on the conversation taking place between us. When neither of us say anything and Benley pulls a face at her, she quietens down before it clicks, “Oh.” She says knowingly, “The Jay guy I’ve heard so much about coming back tomorrow huh? Totally forgot.” AJ rambles on sheepishly, feeling embarrassed that she’d interrupted a meaningful exchange.

AJ.” Benley says through gritted teeth, gesturing for her to stop talking. He intervenes before it gets any messier. She’s an unintentional rambler.

“Sorry.” She murmurs innocently as she places her hands up in a surrender, an apologetic expression on her face. I smile at her lightly and motion to the seat beside me. She raises an eyebrow at me, unsure. I nod at her to give her the heads up. She’s more than welcome to listen in on what I’m about to say. She’s Benley’s girlfriend after all.

I consider all my friends as family, that includes Benley. AJ happens to be dating Benley and any friend of BoyBand’s is a friend of mine. That makes AJ family in my eyes. She’s part of us now and the only way she’s going to feel that connection we all have as friends (the exception being Grey), is if we include her in on things.

AJ plops down beside me all too eagerly, offering me a peppy grin in turn, “Thanks.” She says to me quietly, patiently waiting for me to voice my thoughts and give life to my unspoken words.

My eyes find Benley’s dark gaze once again, “I’m dreading his return. Obviously I want to see him and I want him to come back and stay here for good - but at the same time…” I trail off as I contemplate how to word it, “I’m scared.” I confess, admitting it aloud. “He’s going to hate me and I don’t know if I have the strength to face him when I’m going to see nothing but hatred in his eyes, eyes that once looked at me in an entirely different way. It’s gonna be tough.”

Benley, more on the reserved side with this kind of stuff, turns to his girlfriend for help, “Yeah, this mushy talk is not my forte.” He admits as he preps AJ to take over, practically leaving it in her hands to deal with.

AJ, on the other hand, seems entranced as she listens to me - almost as if she actually wants to listen. I bet she’s an expert with advice. Benley’s just listening because he knows I will kick his ass if he’s not a supportive guy friend. Although, I have to say, it’s kind of nice having a girl friend (other than Bells) for once. I could do with more female friends.

AJ, completely taken up with the subject, leans toward me in enthusiasm as she starts, “Firstly, we need to establish the most important thing…” She pauses dramatically for effect, Benley groaning in impatience at her antics, “do you still love him?” AJ asks me point blank, searching my face for the truth.

I don’t hesitate to answer, “I never stopped.”

A broad smile engulfs AJ’s lips as she nods at me repeatedly as if speechless from her buzzing excitement. She practically forgets what she was just about to say.

“Yup,” Benley stands up and dusts himself off, “this just got too gooey for me. I’m a dude, girl stuff is too…girly for me.” He states casually, a fleck of playfulness floating through his eyes as he winks at me. He always tries to act above everyone else, but he’s a gentle sap at heart.

“Don’t let him fool you, he’s a big romantic.” AJ grins at me - bashful - as she shoots her boyfriend a smirk, purposely letting it slip and revealing his secret.

I laugh at the new information, “Definitely see it.” I tease, flashing Benley a taunting grin as I relish in mocking him with the help of his legendary girlfriend.

Benley frowns, his face falling as he glares from AJ to me, back to AJ, “I don’t like this budding friendship.” He points between us, “You two are despicable together.” He says knowingly as if he’d expected this from the start.

I high five AJ as a result, “We can take over the world someday.” I insist jokingly.

“Maybe tomorrow. I’m free.” AJ plays along, choosing to humor me, “Can cross it off my bucket list.” She adds, throwing her fist in the air rather defiantly, “That’s right Mojo Jojo, we’ll do what you could never accomplish. I’ll crush all three of those flimsy ‘Powerpuff Girls’ in the palm of my hand.”

I burst out laughing whilst Benley rolls his eyes at her as if used to her behavior by now, “If anyone is going to take over, it will most likely be you two.” Benley agrees with a small smile, shaking his head at us, feigning irritation. He’s secretly loving this! If that were to happen, the first person I’d behead or send to the dungeon would be Grey Ferrot. Nah, I wouldn’t have the heart to do it. He loves me too much in any case.

“But to get back on track,” AJ starts to focus and concentrate again, “if you love him Aqueela, you need to win him back.” She says simply, yet adamantly as if determined to make things happen.

I don’t know if I can win Jay back. I’ve done it once before, but pulling it off a second time seems close to impossible. The first time was hard enough. Jay’s not the most easy-going person. He has his walls set so high in place, the Great Wall of China seems easier to climb over at this point in time.

“Why AJ, why would you bring me back to this place of hell?” I ask as I scan my surroundings. I graduated from this place just five years ago. I never planned on coming back here, although it would be nice to see Principal P Long again.

“To take your mind off things - besides, I have a presentation due.” AJ briefly explains, “Did you really think I came all this way for Benley?” She asks, a teasing glint to her blue eyes before she sends a wink Benley’s way.

Benley scoffs at her words, “I spit on what you say. You definitely came back for me.” He argues, irritable as always. Grumpy Ben, wouldn’t want him any other way.

“Whatever allows you sleep at night, Babe.” AJ grins at him before moving her eyes back to me, “I’m doing an anti-drug campaign. It’s what I do.” She beams as she takes out a long list that resembles an unraveling scroll of paper. I gape at her. There’s no way she’s going to get teenagers to listen for that long. If it were me, I’d be the kid throwing paper balls and jets directly at her. She’s notices my apprehensive stare and shrugs, “It’s my first time doing this.” She admits sheepishly, a little on edge.

“You’ll be fine.” I assure her, partly lying. I leave her to practice her talk as I turn to Benley instead, “We’ve got to put a stop to this.” I say hastily, knowing that those teens will rip AJ apart. If anything, she will be promoting drugs by the end of it all.

Benley raises a brow at me, perplexed, “I thought you just said-“

“Nevermind about what I said!” I hiss at him, grabbing his arm as I begin dragging him after me. I already begin conducting a plan in my extravagant mind. I have to save AJ from the wrath of teenagers - the world’s most dangerous predators.

“You have a bad habit of dragging me around, you know.” Benley remarks, pointing out the facts as he refers back to when I’d dragged him to the mall - we both landed up in mall prison. It’s scary to think that that was five years ago. History truly does repeat itself.

“You have a bad habit of always pointing it out, now shut up LeyLey!” I snap at him as my mind strays back to the matter at hand, “Worst case scenario, those kids nuke your girlfriend.”

Benley rolls his eyes at me, “Let’s not blow this out of proportion.” Blowing things out of proportion is part of the Aqueela Dynasty. It’s my regime. “You’re always so scared of disappointing anyone…” Benley starts off dramatically, “that you end up disappointing everyone.” He grins down at me as if what he just said is not at all offensive.

I’m about swat him, when a familiar voice interrupts me. I drop my hand to my side weakly as I spin around in place to see who it is.

“Aqueela Lawson?” I angle myself, only to see Principal P long himself. He seems to have aged a bit in the five years that I’ve been off the radar. He smiles when he sees that it is indeed me, “Never thought I’d see you back on school premises.”

“Not by choice.” I joke as I offer him a smile of my own in turn. I put this man through hell and back when I used to attend his school. Do I regret it? Hell no! If I wasn’t such a rebel, I would have never come to know him so well in all my trips to his office.

“It’s good to see you.” He replies back sincerely, “The school has been…different without you.” He seizes the opportunity to seek out the right words, “In other words, tamer and much much calmer.” He kids around, having obviously missed me (he can deny it all he likes, I was always his favorite), “So what are you up to these days? Still with Taylor?” He asks, trying to make conversation. It’s weird because he’s actually treating me like an adult now.

My heart falls at his words.

“Not exactly.” I answer truthfully. Benley places a comforting hand on my shoulder, offering me a pitiful stare. I shoot him a grateful smile before explaining myself to Peter, “Things didn’t exactly work out.” I say thoughtfully, before changing the subject rapidly, “But to answer your question, I’ve been all over the place.” Mentally, anyway.

“I see.” He answers back dully as if disappointed. He’s not the only one.

I then do the introductions, motioning over to Benley as I introduce Long to him, “The girl that is doing your presentation today is none other than the girlfriend of this hobbit here.” I tell Peter Long, “AJ’s future husband is this Muppet-puppet you see before your eyes. Feel free to address him as BoyBand, BenBen, Mr Lagger, LeyLey, B-Dawg and what not - whatever floats your boat really.”

“I tend to go by Benley. It’s a preference.” Benley clarifies as he takes the initiative to shake Mr P Long’s hand, shooting me a look when Peter’s not looking for mentioning all his many nicknames.

Peter chuckles, nodding in familiarity, “I think I remember you from Aqueela’s little orchestrated entourage. You were the kid on the drums, weren’t you?” He queries, taking me by complete surprise. I wasn’t aware that he knew about that.

Good times…

Benley sighs, hiding his face in embarrassment at the topic being brought to his attention, “Let’s never speak of that again.” He shivers in distaste, “Bad memories.” He confirms, “I still have nightmares about that.”

As if suddenly clicking, I turn to Peter in astonishment, “How did you know about that?” I question him, now suspicious and alert. I don’t ever recall us getting into trouble for that stunt pulled. There were no whistle-blowers either, surprisingly enough. It was probably because Bells was involved. The school idolized her. She owned the school in her prime time. Someday, she’s going to be Max’s trophy wife, and he’ll rub it everyone’s face seeing as he wasn’t exactly popular in high school. Who would’ve thought?

“I knew about all the controversies, uprisings and monstrous atrocities you stirred. I sometimes turned a blind eye because I didn’t want to be forced to expel you for your reckless behavior. You were a real nuisance and if the board found out…” Principal P trails off, not seeing it as necessary to finish his sentence. “In school, you didn’t work hard. You had zero initiative, you were not a team player and you would never ever go the extra mile - yet still, you were a good kid. I didn’t want to have to let you go, but I didn’t want to advocate or condone any of your traits either. It’s why I went out of my way to keep you out of trouble. It was like fighting a uphill battle whilst an avalanche was taking place.” He jokes, coming to a conclusion as he let’s me in on all he’s been keeping. “You’ve given me a lot of gray hairs.”

I never realized the effort he went through to keep me in school, to keep me grounded. He had always been looking out for me. “Thanks.” I reply, genuine, now feeling guilty for the chaos that rained down because of me during my school days. “I appreciate it, really.” I tell him before adding, “And I’m sorry for everything.” I apologize sincerely. It took me long enough to apologize, but better late than never. “Do you think those animals,” I refer to the teenagers (nature’s cruelest creation and most ruthless weapon known to mankind), “are going to accept AJ’s talk?”

Principal P shrugs, “I’m not sure. The school’s a lot more calmer since you fled, but there are the typical one or two troublemakers - one of them being Blubber Wilson. That child gets on my nerves everyday.”

I hold back a laugh as I stammer over my words, “I’m sorry, who now?”

Benley rams his fist into his mouth to prevent himself from laughing. There’s only one person who we’ve met with that name, and if I do the calculations, he should be in high school by now. He should be eighteen, the same age that I was when I left.

“Blubber Wilson.” Principal P repeats, confirming it, “He’s our quarterback, but a little different to how Mason Montry acted and played on the field.” Principal P informs me, still managing to remember all his past students. He has always had a heart for kids, in spite of them driving him crazy.

After that, P Long is called away by his secretary. He bids us both a quick goodbye, promising to chat more later - as in after the event.

Mason was and is still buff. Does this mean that Blubber has yet to lose all his baby fat? Maybe he’s still just a little bit chubby. It wouldn’t surprise me. I’ve seen the way that child eats. Then again, I can’t be sure. People change.

Benley, finding it to be hilarious, tries to swallow his laughter. He fails miserably and bursts out laughing at Blubber’s expense. It’s as if he cannot fathom nor comprehend the fact that Blubber plays football now. “So Blubber learned from the best,” Benley motions to me, “and is now a rebel too.” He teases tauntingly, a good sense of humor on him.

Over the years, I’ve come to learn that Benley is of no help when it comes to situations like these. All he does is laugh and blame everything on me, with good reason seeing as it usually is all my fault - but still!

“I don’t like to define it.” I say, defending myself and his ‘rebel’ accusations. I refuse to label myself as a rebel. I shall defy all rules (in a non-rebellious way) and name myself as the undefined. “I can be ‘in your face’ a little, but I’m still a cutie pie.” I say determinedly.

“I’m going to have to ask you to reconsider.” Benley disagrees with me, amused by my reaction. He’s having a blast with this.

“Well I’m going to have to ask you to stop asking me to reconsider!” I hiss at him, raising my tone ever so slightly. Realizing that I’m only wasting time, I quickly turn to my strategic side, “Now BoyBand, we both know how merciless Blubber can be. We need to find the ‘cabbage patch kid’ and put an end to him - I mean, his ploys, put an end to his evil ploys.” I correct my slip up before Benley calls me out on it.

I won’t let AJ be shred apart up there in front of the entire school. It’s just not happening, not on my watch. It’s then that I take out my cell and dial his number in act of desperation. “It’s only been a week and a bit, what is it?” Keagan answers me from his side of the line, “Not that it’s not great to hear from you.” He quickly adds. Nice save.

Dang it!

“Oops!” I murmur, “Wrong number.” I apologize to him.

He senses something’s up, “Wait, Aqueela-“

“Later Keagan!” I hang up on him eagerly and quickly dial the right number this time. I greet him first when he picks up, “I require your services immediately.”

“I’ve told you and your whorehouse before, I’m not interested!” Troy shouts upon hearing my greeting, obviously not recognizing it to be me, in spite of my caller ID.

“It’s me, Aqueela, you doofus dork!” I growl at him, quickly updating him before he decides to hang up. I need his assistance. He is perfect for the job. His lack of brains is coming in handy for once.

“Oh.” He states dully, “A call from the whorehouse is more welcomed.” I roll my eyes at his insult, “This better be good, Squirt.” Troy answers, having picked up after the first ring. Someone has nothing better to do with his life, apparently anyway.

“Meet me at the school and bring walkie-talkies. We have a mission. Oh and you can bring Max too. He can tag along.” I inform him, making sure to leave Bells out of it. She’s in no condition for this. Plus, she’s a killjoy. The stakes are high and I don’t want to be the cause of someone being injured by one of her lethal mood swing attacks.

“You got it!” Troy replies back enthusiastically at having something to do.

I hang up on him after that, only to see Benley frowning at me, “What?” I ask, blinking up at him innocently.

“You’re a crazy person, you know that right?” He asks me, shaking his head as he reluctantly follows after me. I vaguely hear him muttering beneath his breath, “Aqueela Lawson and her stupid shenanigans.”

It’s fine, I already know that I’m not normal or ‘all up there’ in the head. I don’t really care. I embrace being me.

“I brought the walkie-talkies just like you asked.” Troy gushes in excitement as he hands me one.

“I really don’t want to participate in this.” Benley grumbles in complaint. He so wants to do this. He just says the opposite in order to express himself and voice his opinion. “Why can’t we ever do anything normal?”

We all ignore him whilst I explain the plan to Max and Troy.

“So let me get this straight, you want us to find Blubber in the crowds of precocious little b*tches and cocky football players?” Max queries as if to make sure. I nod to confirm it. I don’t remember stuttering? He’s wasting valuable time. “Frightening, but at the same time exciting. Rejuvenating if you will.” Him reliving his childhood is an unrelated matter right now.

This is catch-22. No negotiating, we need to spread out!

“Okay yeah whatever Max, shut it, no one cares.” I order before giving them all the details, “I’ve devised a plan. We need to extract Blubber - the perp - from the situation. First, we’ll infiltrate in troops and secure the perimeter. To remove him from the scene, use any means necessary-“

“Do not do that.” Benley interjects, knowing that Max and Troy will both literally do that. Benley glances my way, “We can’t just assume that Blubber’s a perpetrator.”

I ignore Benley’s useless protest and continue, “Use excessive force if you have to-“

Benley cuts in once again as he glances at Max and Troy, “Do not listen to a word she’s saying, seriously guys.”

“Excessive force? Schweet.” Troy grins, making it clear that he’s not listening to Benley at all.

Max salutes me, “Affirmative Legend Lawson.”

“I feel like a baby would be more responsive.” Benley groans, annoyed that he’s not being heard.

I jump straight into it, “Now let’s bounce and ‘shimmy’ our way in there. I’ve already run a background check on Blubber as is. Enough wasting time. Just so you all know, I will operate under the alias ‘Dope Shadow’. I will not answer any of you unless addressed as so.” I inform them beforehand, ready to put the plan into motion. I’m tired of stalling and I’m growing more impatient by the second. AJ is about to give her presentation. I can vouch that Blubber is about to destroy her out there like the little disgrace of a human being he is. He shows no mercy. “Now let’s clear out STAT!”

“Wait!” Troy shouts, effectively stopping all of us, “Is no one going to address the little elephant in the room?” Troy asks, “I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about.” We all begin to shake our heads, but Troy is quick to speak over us, “I’m clearly the best dressed here.” He points out rather arrogantly, referring to his unnecessary binoculars and what not.

His statement leads to a vicious, yet highly anticipated banter breaking out between the three idiots.

“Stuff you guys! I always appear to be the coolest. I have natural swag, my street cred rides on my look alone.” Benley insists, showing off his black shades as he now places them on. I slap my forehead at his stupidity. I can’t believe he’s playing into this.

Max shakes his head in disagreement. Meanwhile, Troy protests on, “You’re probably the grossest human being I’ve ever seen.” Troy, being Troy, argues with Benley. Troy’s persistent to win the self-proclaimed title of best dressed for the mission.

Max gestures to his tog bag, “I can fit a body in this if needed. It has ample space.” I don’t even want to know what’s really inside there. This is what my mission has transpired to. Unfrickenbelievable.

And I’m the supposed one that goes overboard on everything. Males and their damn egos…

“Give up,” Troy states with confidence as he struts a pose, “you’re both just playing for seconds.”

Sighing to myself, I do what I know will put and end to this dumb feud so that we can finally stop Blubber from sabotaging AJ’s campaign, “Troy!” I yell, barely capturing his attention, “Don’t come over here.” I command knowingly.

“Screw you!” He shouts back, his attention now solely on me, “I’m coming over there!” He answers back in the way I predicted him to. He will always do the opposite of what you ask. He can’t stand being told what to do. He sprints over toward me, leaving the other two to battle it out on their own. The battle dies out quickly without the instigator, Troy, just as I expected.

“And there’s our teams.” I say, leaving Troy and me on one team and the other two losers on a team.

“You tricked me!” Troy gasps as it dawns on him. Look him long enough.

“No.” I disagree, “I just played with your head.” I explained to him, “Thus forcing you to do my bidding and obey my every will.”

“Oh.” Troy breathes out in relief, not putting two and two together.

“Same thing.” Benley rolls his eyes, hoping Troy would catch on.

“Blubber’s code name will be ‘the whale’. Speaking of which, ‘the whale’ is still at large - pun intended.” I say, making reference to his previous weight. I’m under pressure. It was the first name I could think of. “Now spread out!” I order bossily, “And find that whale! Troy and I will flank left, you guys flank right.”

Meeting officially adjourned.

“‘Cool Kids’ to ‘Alternative Outcasts’, I repeat, ‘Cool Kids’ to ‘Alternative Outcasts’, can you hear me?” I ask into the walkie-talkie dramatically.

“Why are we called the ‘Outcasts’?” Max questions broodily, answering me from their (his and Benley’s) shared walkie-talkie. “And we just split up.” I know, but I just really had the urge to use the walkie-talkie. “What could you possibly want?” Max quizzes, alert as ever.

I cough, purposely wasting time as I try to think of something that can be justified, “That’s classified.” I answer, thinking quickly on my toes.

“Good call, good call.” Troy nods at me in approval for my cover up.

“Try to get a visual sighting of ‘the whale’, but for goodness sake, don’t take too long and set off whale watching. Pull out all the stops and go for it. We need to find this rugrat. Try to deduce where the little spitball can be.” I tell the other, more suckier team, giving them their orders. “If you happen to find him, be sure to get in position.”

“You do know that we don’t know for sure if Blubber will even do anything to AJ, right?” Benley speaks this time, not Max. What we do know is that he will hit on her given the chance - that’s bad enough as is. Blubber must be taken out, no matter the cost. “Are you sure you’re not just getting weird about all of this in order to distract yourself from Jay’s return tomorrow?” He adds in his input, hitting the nail right on the head. Stupid perceptive Benley!

“My boy BroJay is coming home?!” Troy belts out in pure bliss at hearing the news.

I ignore Benley, choosing not to comment on his words - so instead, I give out more commands, “Recon your area. If ‘the whale’ is not in sight, then we will reroute. We’ll rendezvous at the meeting point later. If you succeed - doubtful - then the ‘Cool Kids’ might recruit one of you for the A-Team, our team.”

“We’re not in the military Aqueela.” Benley reminds me, sensing why I’m doing this. “Don’t take shortcuts Aqueela.” He takes the liberty to assure me, “I’m sure Jay won’t completely hate you, if it makes you feel any better.”

It doesn’t!

“Put Max back on!” I demand, slowly but surely growing irritated with BoyBand. With little protest, he does. Max puts me at ease. Calming down, I regather my thoughts, “Okay, everyone just pretend that Benley was never born, which means he never said any of that.”

“Harsh!” I hear Benley shout out as he struggles with Max for ownership of the walkie-talkie.

“Now find ‘the whale’ you negligent apes!” I breathe out fire, “Over and out.” I end the captivating conversation between us all.

Benley, unfortunately, is right. I don’t want to dwell on the thought of Jay hating me. Things between us were left open-ended. Our entire relationship must have felt like an entire sham to him. It must have been tremendously demeaning for him. Maybe I’m being narrow minded, but I can’t see any other way for him to react. I was a world, ‘class A’ jerk to him. At a closer inspection, how I ended things with him was far from ideal. I wish I could rewind time and just at least have had the decency to end things with him properly.

Troy and I hurriedly push through the mass of students in search of Blubber. AJ has already taken a stand on the stage ahead. She’s about to start her presentation. If we don’t hurry up, she’s going to pay the price. I’m the master, I decide when to go faster!

“Hello students of Burnsville!” AJ greets them enthusiastically as she begins her talk, not quite receiving the same enthusiasm back. The crowds are so silent, in boredom, that crickets can be heard chirping. She drops her head in disappointment. I feel for her in the moment. If anyone gets how teens operate, it’s me. I was one of the ruthless ones too. She won’t last much longer. The lack of response and feedback must be demotivating.

It’s then I see a football player. Assuming that Blubber has lost most of his weight, I take that it is him. I tap him on the shoulder. The kid turns around to face me. He’s definitely not Blubber, that’s for sure. “Sorry, wrong rugrat.” I apologize to him as Troy and I keep on searching.

“Hey dudette, you seen a kid name Blubber?” Troy asks one of the cheerleaders (how typical of him) for information on the culprit.

The girl frowns upon hearing his name, “That cradle-snatcher after Lucy Edwards?” She asks, unimpressed with Blubber it seems. I guess he’s still not very popular with the ladies. No surprise there.

I perk up at hearing Susie, Laiken’s baby sister, mentioned. I always did think the two would make an adorable couple.

Troy nods at the cheerleader, sending her a flirtatious wink like the cougar he is. She rolls her eyes at him before pointing ahead, “He’s right over there.” She tells us, completely brushing Troy off.

“Oh my…” I trail off as I set my eyes on him. If anything, Blubber’s only picked up more weight since I last saw him. Forget losing puppy fat, he’s basically all fat now. I see what Principal P was talking about. He’s built nothing like Mason, yet he’s somehow a good quarterback. This is rare - an obese quarterback. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Troy shrugs in amusement, “So predictable. Saw it coming. That pudgy little ‘power ranger’ was never going to get off his ass and do any sport.”

Yeah Troy, that’s why he’s quarterback now… I swear, he never pays attention!

As AJ continues on with her campaign, I whip out my walkie-talkie once again, “We’ve located ‘the whale’. I repeat, the ‘Cool Kids’ have located ‘the whale’. Meet at the central point. ‘The whale’ is at large and is still rather large in case you were wondering.”

“We weren’t.” Benley snaps at me just as I hear Max disagreeing with him in the background. Of course Max would be wondering. We practically share the same brain. Benley goes on, “You don’t have to always repeat everything, and where the hell is the central meeting point?” Benley asks in a rage - but before he can get an answer, I turn my device off to block out his incessant and unnecessary questions. He should just know the answers, so unprofessional.

It’s ironic that I’ve gone from destroying the school to saving it.

My eyes dart over to Troy when he shouts out in alarm, “He’s making a move! ‘The whale’ is about to attack!” It’s then that I see Blubber reaching into his pocket to most likely retrieve a weapon of some sort to throw at AJ. Fortunately, Troy acts speedily and takes a run up before tackling Blubber flat to the ground. Blubber doesn’t even get the chance to make his move. Job well done to Troy!

“We have harpooned ‘the whale’!” I call into the walkie-talkie. I really enjoy walkie-talkies, hence why I refuse to let Troy have a turn. I purposely repeat it just to get under Benley’s skin, “I repeat, we have harpooned the giant whale!”

Blubber is a criminal mastermind!

Everyone, in a nearby radius, turn to see what all the commotion is about. AJ even stops her speech for a brief second as she takes in the scene before her. She brushes it off and keeps on going, quickly recovering form her moment of uncertainty. Meanwhile, I can practically see Principal P shaking his head at me from the back of the stage. He knows that I’m involved, he just knows.

“Ouch!” Blubber yelps in pain under all Troy’s weight, “What the hell are you doing?!” He shouts and then drops his voice an octave lower when he registers Troy’s face, “Troy?” He questions in a huff as if stunned to see someone of his past. I guess he never kept in touch with anyone but Susie. But why? Why did people stop bothering just because I left?

“What up li’l man?” Troy greets Blubber before growing serious again, “Holster your weapon.” Troy orders as he gets up off the fat teen.

Blubber rolls his eyes and takes out a packet of crisps from his pocket, “You mean this weapon?” He asks dryly, “What did you think I was going to do? Take out a RPG from my pants?” He asks sarcastically, still as cheeky as ever.

Troy laughs as if finding his words to be funny. He misinterprets and ends up giving Blubber a sympathetic pat on the shoulder, “Don’t flatter yourself dude.”

Getting the gist of his dirty joke, I merely shaky my head in repulsion.

“Goddess Aqueela?” Blubber asks as he scans my features briefly, “It’s like you just get more hotter over time!” He exclaims, proving that he is still very much a disgusting little pervert. “Times have treated you well.” He winks at me, unoffended that I never came back as promised. I suppose everyone is over it…well not exactly everyone…

“Oh Blubber,” I shake my head at him, truly pitying him, “I wish I could say the same.” I joke and he instantly cracks a smile before embracing me tightly.

I chuckle and hug him back, “Missed ya you little rascal you.”

AJ hastily concludes her presentation after that, “To highlight, drugs are bad!” She makes another attempt to fit in and relate, “Yo kids, drugs are a big no. Stay in school, don’t be dropouts - so now unto you all, I say peace out!” She throws the mic aside after that in an act to be cool, but then she quickly realizes her mistake and apologizes, promising to pay expenses. She sheepishly places the mic back before she sprints off stage.

The school remains quiet, all seemingly moved by her presentation - that or they’re unfazed. I’m going to go with the former and believe that she touched someone today. The optimistic outlook is the better one.

I start clapping, Troy and Blubber following until…it’s just us three clapping. I really thought that was going to go an entirely different way and that the entire school would follow suit and clap. I guess reality just b*tch slapped me through the face again.

“Well done,” the clapping of hands is heard from behind, and of course it is Benley right on time to rub this in my face like he always does when something goes horribly wrong, “You manged to ‘Aqueela it’ yet again.”

“Are you sure?” AJ asks me for the billionth time, concerned. “We really don’t mind you staying with us for a little longer.” She adds in an effort to change my mind.

“Nah,” I shake my head at her in thanks, “it’s time I move out. I said it was temporary and I meant it this time. I’ll use my savings and stay at a hotel until I can figure something out.” I explain to them, no longer wanting to be anyone’s burden. I have matured since then. I can fend for myself now. I can meet my own needs. I’m not helpless. I’m independent now.

“Or you could jump from house to house.” Benley jokes, offering up a illogical yet entertaining suggestion, “You have enough friends to do it.”

“I’ll consider it when I get desperate.” I laugh. The offer is tempting, but I don’t want to leech of people anymore. I’m over that stage now.

“Suit yourself.” AJ pouts, expressing her disdain with my decision to leave.

I smile at them in gratitude before waving goodbye as I catch a taxi and head to the hotel that Uncle Jeffrey has arranged for me to stay in for the time being.

I settle in nicely, the only problem being that it is lonely.

“Miss, a Troy Bensten would like to speak to you?” The man working the hotel’s front desk informs me on my way to my booked room.

“I don’t know any Troy.” I tell him, not prepared to speak to Troy right now. No energy for him. I’ve seen enough of him for today.

“He’s very insistent that he knows you.” The manager tells me, hesitant to let Troy go.

“Doesn’t ring any bells.” I answer as he eventually hangs up on Troy, complying to my will.

It’s a few minutes later when he calls to me again, “A Bella Bensten now on the phone?”

“Put her through.” I say, eagerly grabbing the phone and accepting the call, only to find that it’s a very pissed off Troy that used Bell’s phone in order to reach me.

“You’re so mean.” Troy states bluntly, “Just wanted to see how you’re settling in.” I mentally aww at his thoughtfulness. Even he, of all people, is learning to grow up.

“It’s only been a few hours since I last saw you.” I remind him, “I literally just got cozy now.”

“What BroBoyBand said earlier today really got to me.” Troy changes the subject, deciding that he’s done with all the small talk, “I just wanted to check in to see how you’re doing, that being the real reason why I called.”

“I’m okay.” I answer truthfully, getting his reference to Jay coming back, “No need to worry.”

“Even if he does hate you,” Troy whispers gently in assurance, “we’ll all still have your back, because that’s what true friends do.”

An appreciative smiles slowly overcomes my features, “Thanks.” I whisper back, elated that Troy still has a nice side to him intact.

The moment doesn’t last long - he’s quick to ruin it, “Oh and by the way, stealing is a crime. I’d like my walkie-talkies back pronto or I’m going to have you arrested!”

So much for being a true friend…

I could care less about being arrested. Prison seems less intimidating and less intense than facing him - a wrathful, vengeful and perhaps even vindictive Jay Taylor - as he returns back home tomorrow.

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