Rewind (Book 2)

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Chapter 7: Jinxed It

The Bensten siblings decided to invite everyone (I made them invite everyone we know who happen to still be in town) over to their house whilst we all wait in suspense for Jay’s flight to come in. They’re all somewhere around the house, keeping themselves entertained. You can hear the commotion they’re all making. It’s been quite a reunion for me. Seeing old faces brings a smile to my face. I’ve missed every single one of these lunatics.

They all seem keen to have Jay back. He’s being welcomed home with open arms. We’ve all missed him a great deal. However, apparently Jay has no idea that we’re all waiting for him. He has no clue that there’s a reunion party waiting for him. If he thinks for one second that he’s just going to go home and rest, he’s incredibly wrong.

Bells and I are currently sitting beside each other at her kitchen table. I promised Max I’d try talk to her about her pregnancy, but I got sidetracked and eventually jumped to a whole other topic entirely - Max himself, “I just feel like he’s throwing his life away.” I tell Bells, informing her on how I feel about his situation.

Bells nods as if understanding, “I know what you mean, but he loves actuarial science. Let him be.” Bells defends her boyfriend, still refusing to own up to her pregnancy. She’s adamant that she’s just picked up weight all of a sudden.

“But if he does this, his life might as well be purposeless.” I argue, wanting her to see it from my perspective. “He’s going to dream of numbers until it consumes his tiny little brain. Do you really want to see him go through such torture?” I query, losing sight of trying to get her to confess to her pregnancy. I know I’m suppose to make her admit to being pregnant, especially when it seems she is close to giving birth any minute now, but Max’s lousy life is just so much more interesting.

“If Max wants to throw his life away, then that’s his choice.” Bells insists, choosing to ignore such trivial matters. She supports Max in his idiotic decisions.

“You ladies do realize that I’m sitting right here?” Max interrupts our deep heart to heart rudely, him seated just across from us. He’s always been an eavesdropper. I suppose he just cannot help himself. So nosy! Although, we are discussing his personal life so I guess that gives him some kind of right to listen in. Also, he was sitting here when I brought up the subject.

Bells shushes him, “Not now Max. We’re busy.”

I point an accusing finger at Max, “You’re rude.”

Max pulls a face at us as if he cannot believe our audacity, “I’m the apparent rude one, yet it’s you two discussing me like I’m not sitting right here.”

“Mind your own business Max.” Troy shakes his head at Max in disapproval, him sitting just beside Max at the table too. Troy turns back to us, shaking his head whilst doing so, “Some people, just no manners whatsoever.” He mutters, rolling his eyes at Max in irritation.

Max scoffs, feigning irritation, “I hate you people.” He grumbles out in despair.

We all ignore Max. Troy’s gaze meets mine after that, “Sorry for that absurd interruption, by all means Aqueela, continue on dissing Max’s pathetic life.” He says nonchalantly as if what he just said is not offensive at all. With both his elbows on the table, he places his chin atop his hands with a giddy smile on his face. He motions to me, twirling his index finger, to continue on speaking. He seems very as inquisitive to hear the rest of my insults. If only Max could be more appreciative…

I had no idea that Troy had been listening intently to our discussion on Max all along. Heck, I didn’t even know Troy was at the table. It’s just so rewarding to meddle in someone else’s life. Troy gets that, Bell’s too.

Thank you.” I exclaim in exasperation, pretending to go along with Troy’s casual yet oblivious rudeness.

Max frowns at me, “You’re a class act, you know that?” He asks, indirectly insulting me.

I smile, unfazed, as I place a hand up to my heart, “Thank you.” I reply back sincerely, touched.

After that, we move onto a different topic, well Troy does. “I tell you, child labor laws are ruining this country.” Troy remarks, ignorant and clueless as always. “The rats, those little savages, are hunting kids for sport nowadays. I blame the economy.”

I raise an eyebrow at Troy, at a loss for words. We were just been speaking about politics when he decided he had to have his input - hence the random rubbish he’s now saying in order to try fit in. He enjoys pretending to know what is going on, despite the fact that it’s obvious he doesn’t have a clue as to what it is we are discussing.

“What?” Troy shrugs when he catches me staring, “Everyone always blames the economy.”

“Don’t bother Troy.” I stifle a laugh, finding him to be amusing. A life without Troy would be so dull. You can’t help but love the moron.

Girl, I tried.” He glares at me in a ‘diva-like’ way, folding his arms across his chest as he flips his hair out of his face, attitude evident in his expression.

“Yeah, and boy, you failed.” I tease, pressing his buttons as I return the attitude I first received from him.

Before Troy can protest, Bells cuts in, “Anyone want some cupcakes?” She asks, seizing the opportunity to put an immediate halt to that bizarre exchange of words I just had with her stupid brother. It’s like she’s addicted or obsessed with baking as of lately. I’m certain that she’s using it as an escape from the truth of her rapidly growing belly. I’d say she’s reached the ninth month mark. Any day now…

I shake my head. Her expression drops in disappointment as a result. “Sorry.” I apologize, “Just not feeling up to it.” I tell her, my appetite lacking as nerves set in. I’m already feeling queasy as is. It’s only a matter of time before Jay returns. Bells pouts, as if willing me to eat with her. I sigh, “I forget that you’re not used to rejection. You’re too pretty.” I joke, “But seriously, no.” She has a nasty habit of being too demanding. I’m not Max who jumps when she says jump, nor do I ask how high. Still, she’s family.

“Max, won’t you please jump up and quickly get some plates out for me?” Bells asks her boyfriend ever so sweetly, choosing to let me starve. Now that’s a good friend. It’s better to face Jay on an empty stomach and she knows it.

“Sure Baby, how high do you want me to jump?” Max smirks, hitting on her. Typical of him. I roll my eyes. They are so predictable.

“Now that I think about it,” Troy chips in, “you, Bells my dear baby sister, can skip a few meals.” He states nonchalantly. Bell’s eyes widen upon hearing her brother’s insult. I gape at him and motion to him to zip it. He’s treading on dangerous grounds here. “You could go without one or two meals.” He adds, choosing to ignore Bell gnawing on her bottom lip, choosing to ignore her hands curling into fists, choosing to ignore her jaw clenching in quiet, reeling yet dignified anger. She’s slowly losing it. She’ll kill him until he’s dead. “Or three or seven.” Bells eye begins to twitch in fury as she tries to restrain herself from lashing out at him. Fat chance! This is happening now. No stopping it. “Nine or eleven.” Bells gasps at the last one, Troy snickering at his own words. He’s so insensitive at times, all times.

Max shakes his head at Troy in warning. His warning ends up falling on deaf ears as Troy only goes on and on and on. I slap my forehead in aggravation at his stupidity. “Well done Troy, keep going.” I say sarcastically, clapping my hands in anger. I’m still waiting for Bells to erupt. Troy is not going to survive this unscathed. He’ll definitely walk out of this with a scratch or two.

Troy takes what I say in all seriousness (not realizing that I was being sarcastic), nodding at me as he continues on, “Bell, you’ve gotten ridiculously fat.” Bells says nothing, turning her back on him as she tries to ignore him, all color quickly draining from her face as she turns pale in fury. “You’re so fat! You are gigantic!” Troy winks at me as if I’m part of this. I shake my head at him, mouthing to him to stop. He doesn’t. “When did you stop working out? You have gained much weight everywhere. You have-“

“I’m pregnant you fool!” Bells explodes, her tone so high-pitched that I’m sure the windows are about to shatter. Her blaring is so intense and loud that it can block out the sound of an ambulance siren.

Max, in alarm and shock, trips. He had not been expecting that. All the plates he’d reached for come crumbling down around him, the tiles now splattered with glass and with bits of Max (kidding). Everyone else falls silent, even the noise coming from the rest of them - in the other rooms - suddenly dies. They’d all obviously heard the commotion from the other side of the spacious house. They’d all heard what Bells just fessed up to. What an awkward way to announce it. Just like that, the moment is clubbed to death before my very eyes.

“You know what…” I start slowly, easing the tension away, “I think I will have a cupcake after all.” Bells turns in place to shoot me a death glare. “Or not.” I say weakly when I see that she’s not budging. I add, “Not is fine.” It’s better I shut up. I refuse to be dragged through the mud because of Troy and his lack of common sense.

Benley’s the first to arrive on scene, “What happened?!” He asks frantically, in a panic, as he comes running. I don’t blame him. It sounded as if Bells was being axed to death or something - just more scarier.

No one answers him, all of us still too afraid to speak or breathe in front of Bells. She might have an aftershock if pushed. We all have to be careful if we value our lives. It’s obvious Troy is ready to die. I’ll gladly let him. Better he than me.

Benley’s dark eyes meet mine as he gives me a look, immediately assuming that this is all my fault. For some reason, I’m always expected to be involved first. I glower at him, “No part in this.” I quickly murmur to him beneath my breath, jumping to my own defense. I don’t want to risk Bell’s hearing me. She might just decide to take it out on me instead.

Right.” Benley drawls out, unconvinced or swayed. He’s still adamant that I’m responsible for this sibling feud.

“Aha!” Troy springs up from his seat as he throws his finger in Bell’s face accusingly, “I got you to finally admit it!” He boats proudly, unintentionally rubbing salt in the wound. He’s such a man-child. He’s incapable of of being considerate.

Bells slaps his hand away, “Was that your goal all along?!” She hisses at him, fury radiating off her like ferocious waves on a stormy sea.

Rule No.1: Never piss off a pregnant lady.

“No.” Troy confesses flatly, “I didn’t actually have one. I was just doing my brotherly duty by letting you know that you’ve gotten fat.”

“Never a dull moment when you’re in the room.” Benley grins at me, his dark eyes revealing his amusement with the entire situation. He always enjoys watching other people’s downfalls. It’s entertaining for him. He also enjoys blaming me for everything. AJ is quick to elbow him in the side to get him to shut up. He instantly obeys, silencing himself. He’s lucky I didn’t have to do it for him.Things could have taken a violent turn for the worst…

“Wait, hold up!” Blubber intervenes. He blinks slowly as if suddenly, only now, registering a very important fact, “She’s pregnant?!” Blubber asks in stupor, puzzled by the news, lost to the obvious revelation before his very eyes. Maybe he needs a pair of glasses…. I guess one of us should have said spoiler alert for the slow child. He needs all the help he can possibly get.

Susie, my deal little Susie, rolls her eyes at him, “What did you think, doofus?” She quizzes him, motioning to Bell’s stomach in the process. I have really missed mini-me. When I greeted her, I let her know that her brother says hey. I passed his message down for him. Susie is twelve now, but she’s really grown to be beautiful. She’s going to knock the boys dead when she is older. She’s following in her brother’s footsteps. They have good genes.

“I thought she just let herself go.” Blubber defends himself like the obsolete, obtuse beefy chunk monster he is. I call it how I see it.

Max scrunches his face up in disgust as he finally snaps out of his shock to see Susie occupying the kitchen, “Eew! When did ‘My Little Pony’ get here?” He asks, referring to the adorable little pre-teen standing beside Blubs.

“Same time as ‘My Little Brony’ did.” Susie smirks in delight when Max’s face drops in disappointment at being owned. He can’t win with this kid. Gah, I love it!

“Are the idiots providing entertainment through their ineptitude again?” Grey asks from his relaxed state as he steps into the room, surveying his surroundings (Bells now choking her brother with her bare claws) as he puts two and two together. “Seems they are.” He concludes confidently, his head held high. Someone’s in a chipper mood today. Someone is excited to have his best bud back in his life.

On the bright side to all of this, at least Bells is no longer in denial anymore. She’s finally confessed to herself. Now she just needs to accept it. What can I say? I’m an optimist.

“Don’t be mean Grey.” Nancy nudges Grey in his ribs, sending him a silent yet lethal stare. She’s obviously sensed that Bells is on the prowl to kill. Us girls get each other. Bells is the exception. I don’t understand how her brain works. Bells is a mystery, a terrifying mystery.

Yeah Grey.” Ryan Brewer, Nancy’s new arrogant boyfriend, remarks spitefully. Grey ignores him, refusing to let his temper and aggressive side get the best of him. So far, I’m not a fan.

Dylan and Simo make a feeble attempt to tug Bells off Troy. They’re going to need more manpower - it’s Bells we’re talking about. Emma and Sarah begin helping Max clean up the mess of scattered plates. Meanwhile, Landon and Xavier couldn’t care less about any of this. Those two are still playing some high speed, car game on the Xbox in the living room. I can hear them bickering all the way from here. They’re the only ones who haven’t evacuated the room to come see what’s going on in the kitchen. Some things never change…

I stand aside as I take in the chaotic sight before me. Nothing has changed. I run a hand through my hair, frustrated. This day is not going in the way I had planned. It can’t get any worse. Wait…I think I just jinxed it.

“So…” Dean Wyatt, a good friend of Landon’s, smirks down at me flirtatiously as he comes to stand beside me, “You single?”

I take it back. It just got worse.

“Get out of my seat Simo!” Blubber shouts atop his lungs, “You’re stretching it!” Blubber still has some unresolved feelings with his step father and bets friend - Simo.

“Simo sorry to son.” Simo apologizes, but still refuses to get up and move in spite of knowing exactly what Blubber wants. Simo knows much more than he ever lets on. I don’t get what Blubber’s problem is. All the damn chairs are the same.

“I keep telling you, I’m not your son!” Blubber snaps venomously, Susie quickly stepping in to console him. Poor Laiken. He’s going to have his hands full with Susie’s latest love interest - literally and figuratively.

It’s then Landon finally comes strolling into the kitchen ever so casually. He doesn’t even bother to take in the unfolding scene of chaos around him. Instead, he steps over Troy’s limp, unconscious body to grab himself one of Bell’s neon pink cupcakes.

What normal person doesn’t ask why there’s an unconscious person spread out across the floor?

We all stop what we’re doing to stare at him in shock. He’s just munching away on a cupcake like nothing at all has happened. Perhaps he’s used to these kinds of situations by now. He notices us staring. He lifts his head to glance at all of us. He then proceeds by pointing to the oven, “Fire.” He mumbles through his mouthful, calmly rubbing the icing off of his mouth with the back of his hand as if what he just said is not of importance in the slightest.

“What?” We all sputter out simultaneously, confused by his nonchalance - well that is everyone except Blubber. Blubber’s attention is elsewhere…

“Not going to lie, I could do with a cupcake right now.” Blubber retorts, unfazed, hoping that Lan would catch the hint. Susie rolls her eyes at him in disbelief whilst the rest of us are still gaping at Landon in shock. He’s got to be the epitome of the word ‘laid-back’.

Speaking of which, Landon slowly swallows his mouthful and then first tosses a cupcake Blubber’s way before clarifying himself, “There’s a fire.” He repeats passively, clearing his throat, as he gestures to the oven up in dangerous, fiery flames. He doesn’t even flinch or react toward the scene. He’s as cool as a cucumber. He’s composed. The rest of us, not so much…

We all fall into panic mode the second we see it. Bells, in her pregnancy, forgot about the last batch of cupcakes in the oven. It doesn’t help that Troy distracted her.

The Bensten siblings and fires…

From there on out, everyone begins to yell, argue and shout at each other. I stand back carelessly, choosing to watch this play out. “Don’t just stand there!” Sarah, of all people, shouts at her boyfriend, “Put it out!” She yells at Landon, worried.

Landon, expressionless, shrugs and grabs the fire extinguisher. He carefully puts out all the flames in his own time. It’s as if he could not be bothered if his skin suddenly started melting off. This guy…

Dean, unmoved by any of it, turns back to me with a suggestive grin, “I heard from Landon and Grey that you have nowhere to stay. You could always come back to my place.” He openly hits on me as he gets up all in my face. He’s definitely going to fit right in with this crowd. He just needs to learn the ropes. I run this crowd.

What is it with racers? None of them react to anything.

Dean’s fine, but simple.

“I’ll pass. It’s way too soon to meet your parents.” I smirk mockingly (implying that he still lives with mom and dad) and place my hand on his forehead to shove him away, “I’m just going to go stand somewhere else.” I tell him rudely before moving far away from him, saddling myself up in between the two people feared most in this room - Grey and Landon. They should keep Dean at bay, for now anyway. Oh that’s right, they’re his friends…dammit!

“Go stand somewhere else.” Grey demands as if actually expecting me to listen to him. I don’t take orders from him. I guess he needs to be reminded of that.

“Um…no.” I reply back boldly, grinning up at him in glee. That should be enough to drive him crazy…for now anyway.

“Can you guys keep it down?!” We all hear Xavier shout from the lounge, “Trying to play a game here!” He still hasn’t moved an inch away from that Xbox. For someone who claims to not race anymore, it sure sounds like he misses it. He and his newly wed wife, Emma, got back from their honeymoon yesterday and were reluctant to join us. I grovelled to Emma and pleaded, hence why they’re here now. They were manipulated!

“Emma’s bleeding! Emma’s bleeding!” Max cries out in panic, “You guys know I don’t do well with blood!” He shouts as begins stumbling about in terror, slowly losing his footing. Instead of one of us offering him help or something to lean on, we all just watch in silence and wait for the inevitable to happen. Max eventually loses his balance, his vision blurred and his skin a ghostly white. It’s no surprise when he faints and collapses beside Troy’s unconscious form. The only ones trying to help them recover is Nancy and Dylan. Nancy is a nurse and Dylan’s just helpful. If Jay were here, he’d be helping too. He was always the first on the scene to help. He once said he wanted to be a doctor.

“He’s such a little girl.” Susie snickers at Max’s misfortune, taking delight in it.

Emma cut herself whilst cleaning up the broken plates. Sarah is now trying to offer up her assistance, in search of a bandage or plaster for Emma’s finger. Landon, being the over protective brother he is, makes more of a fuss over a small cut than a damn fire. Xavier must have heard Max’s shouts about Emma, because it’s only then he rushes in to tend to his wife.

Bells glances at Landon (the brother) and Xavier (the lover) helping Emma, “Aww.” Bells coos and fawns over them, “You guys treat her so well.” She points out, having calmed down slightly, “Max and Troy, take notes.” She demands, momentarily forgetting that they’re both currently out for the count. If they were awake, no doubt that they’d both suddenly flip out a notebook from out of nowhere with a pen in hand. It’s just how they roll.

Nancy moves over to help Emma when Benley takes her place in reviving stupid Max. Nancy turns to Ryan in desperation, “Babe, could you please pass that cloth over there?” She asks him ever so politely. She’s nice a lot of the time, but has her aggro moments.

Ryan, who’d been on his phone texting for most of the visit, lifts his eyes from his screen to see the cloth right beside him. “No can do Dollface, I’m busy. Tied up right now.” He answers her, dead serious, as he continues on texting as if he’s better than all of us. It’s his first time meeting us (with the exception of Grey) and he hasn’t even bothered to socialize with any of us. He thinks he’s superior to us. I can’t believe that sweet Sarah ever dated such a prick. Landon is one hundred times better. Even Nancy can do better.

Ryan.” Nancy complains as she makes a move to get up and reach for it herself.

“I got it.” Grey jumps in, handing her the cloth she’d just asked for. I can see that he’s hanging on by just a thread. He’s so ready to punch Ryan right in the face. I’m so ready to see him do it.

“Thanks.” Nancy smiles up at him appreciatively as she uses the cloth to stop Emma’s bleeding. “You’re going to need stitches Em.” Nancy informs her, her bedside manners slightly lacking.

“Is she going to live? Is she going to pull through?” Xavier asks out in concern. “What’s the verdict Doc? Tell me she’ll make it Doc!” He implores fearfully.

“I’m just a nurse.” Nancy corrects him, keeping a level head unlike some people.

“Don’t lie to us. Tell us the truth. We can handle it.” Xavier says adamantly before he hesitates, “No rather don’t say anything!” He quickly adds, “I’m not sure if I will be able to handle it.” He contradicts himself.

Nancy chuckles and nods to Emma when responding to him, “She’ll be fine. We just have to get her to a doctor.”

Ryan, Nancy, Landon, Xavier and Sarah end up taking Emma to the doctor. Turns out, Emma has a lot of fans. I feel like I lost all of mine the second I left. I didn’t have much to begin with, to be fair.

“Are you okay?” Susie’s delicate voice breaks me out of my reverie.

I smile down at her, “Yeah.” I lie. I’m basically on the edge of my seat in anticipation for Jay to get back. I don’t know how things will go between us. I have a feeling he’s not going to be too forgiving, within good reason.

“You’re a difficult person to hate.” Susie informs me, sensing that I’m distraught over Jay’s return to Minnesota.

I grin at that, “Thanks Kiddo.” I pat her head playfully. I love this girl.

“I find it easy.” Grey smirks, disagreeing with Susie. He just loves to stir the pot. I’ll throw him into it. Idiot didn’t even tell me that Bells is expecting.

Troy and Max suddenly jolt up into a sitting position, awakening, both simultaneously asking, “What did I miss?”

These two share the same mind, I swear it.

“Where did everybody go?” Troy questions in confusion. “Am I dead right now?” He asks as he glances at me specifically, “I’m seeing all the faces that I’ve always been sure I’d see in hell.”

I roll my eyes at him. He’s so dramatic. I’m glad he knows that he’s going to hell.

Grey’s words get to me for once. Sighing, I leave the room. My footsteps are quickly matched, an indication that someone is following me. I ignore it and pick up in speed as I race for the front door. Before I get there, a calloused hand grasps my wrist, pulling me to a halt. “Hey, hey, hey…” Grey, of all people, says softly, “You know that I was just kidding, right?” He glances down at me in concern, not used to seeing me down in the dumps. “Don’t leave.” He coaxes gently as if actually worried.

To say that I’m taken back by his kind tone, would literally be the understatement of the century. I don’t think he’s ever been this nice to me before. Ever! He wasn’t just kidding though. Grey isn’t exactly my biggest fan. I can live with that. However, nothing is going to stop Jay from hating me too. That, I can’t live with.

“I never told you this before,” Grey starts reluctantly and rather hesitantly, “but I’m slightly relieved that you came back. Everything went to hell when you left. It all just fell apart. You haven’t even been here for a month, yet you’re already making a positive difference again. I don’t know how you always do it, but you just do. You bring people together. I don’t quite understand you and it aggravates me. You just have such a heart for people, but at the same time…I just can’t seem to figure you out. I can’t wrap my mind around you. You’re so different, in a good and bad way. Mostly bad.” Grey confesses, sheepish.

I purposely ‘aww’ at him and open my arms wide for a hug, merely teasing him. He shakes his head, easily dismissing me altogether. I grin and drop my hands, knowing full well how intolerant of me he is. I make a move to turn around, but I’m suddenly yanked back into his chest. He takes me by complete surprise. It takes me a couple seconds before I process the fact in itself - Grey’s hugging me, purely by his own accord. I knew he secretly missed the hell out of me!

Of course, I take this once in a lifetime opportunity and hug him back, full force and all. The action somehow ends up cheering me up. He manages to lift my spirits, for once. He hates showing it, but Grey is actually a nice person.

“It’s happening, again!” I raise my tone in enthusiasm, ecstatic that this time it was all initiated by him alone.

It’s as if he snaps out of it upon hearing my words. He immediately pushes me away afterwards, “I regret that.” He tells me point blank, “Never speak of this again.” He commands before walking away, back into the crowded kitchen.

I smile after him. I will most definitely speak of this again. Everyone will hear of this. That was my first real heart to heart moment with Grey. He’s never initiated anything between us. That hug of his was done all on his own. Despite our conflict, he’s a good friend - the best anyone can have, I’d say. He’s loyal to all his friends and he always helps solve everyone’s problems, never once sharing his own. He’d go to the grave for those lucky enough to be his friends. It irks me to admit it, but Grey is amazing. Nancy is missing out. That loser, Ryan, needs to go.

I rejoin the others in the kitchen. Grey’s heart (I didn’t know he had one) has made me reconsider. I won’t be leaving or running like a coward. I will be waiting right here when Jay gets back. I’ll face him head on and apologize.

“Have I told you how hot you are?” Dean asks me as soon as I step back into the kitchen. He sure doesn’t waste any time.

“About a billion times since you arrived.” I retort, annoyed.

“Let’s make it a billion and one.” He smirks and gets ready to say it again, “You’re so-“

“Let’s not.” I cut him off. This guy can’t catch a hint. If he only knew that I’m hung up on someone else entirely. “You’re making me mad.” I tell him, straight forward as ever. It’s the only way to operate with him. He doesn’t make sense of subtle.

“You don’t get mad.” Dean insists, feigning as if he knows me well, “You’re like ‘Strawberry Shortcake’ or the ‘Gummi Bears’. I can’t see you getting irritated or losing your temper. It’s just impossible to envision. Your alluring hazel eyes say differently.” He winks at me, flirtatious as ever.

“Dude, she may look like a loving teddy bear with her big round innocent eyes, but piss her off and you’re dead. Looks are deceiving. Don’t be fooled. She’s feisty.” Benley informs Dean as I nod along to everything Benley says. BenBen knows me all too well. Hopefully that will be enough to scare Dean away for good. I’m a handful to deal with and even I know it.

I don’t know who I find more irritating, Ryan or Dean…it’s Blubber hands down.

“And she’s mine.” Blubber, being the hormonal teenager he is, pipes up arrogantly. If he wants a version of me, Susie is available.

“I’m going to my room!” Bells shouts, having just argued with Troy yet again. She storms out the kitchen, managing to capture all of our attention with her ‘over-the-top’ attitude.

“Wrong way Babe.” Max corrects her, knowing that her memory is off because of her pregnancy. She is one difficult patient. The doctors are going to struggle with her.

Bells huffs and turns back around before marching to her room, embarrassed that she’d forgotten where it was. Max follows after her in concern, leaving Troy, Blubber, Susie, Grey, Dean, Dylan, Simo, Benley, AJ and me behind.

Grey takes in all of us before sighing aloud, “Surrounded by idiots.” He mutters, clearly unhappy that he was left behind by his good friends - Landon and Emma.

In the meantime, Dylan takes up the initiative to speak to me and somehow we end up laughing about that first date I had with him all those years ago. Troy, Max, Bells and Jay had helped me prepare for it. Bells had went over the top and strapped me down to a chair. Then Mason pitched at the restaurant and a fight broke out. Dylan and I never went out again after that disastrous date - thank goodness for that.

It’s when I ask Dylan about Bex that Benley only decides to join in on the conversation, “Bex is the worst. Simple. She’s just the worst person to ever exist.” Benley insists, actually acknowledging Dylan’s presence for once.

Dylan laughs and nods in agreement. Bex had dumped the both of them. Before, they hated each other; now it seems they are actually getting along through common ground. They can relate to each other.

Benley doesn’t stop there, he goes on to voice his bitter resentment for her, “She has no weaknesses because she is a machine, a robot programmed to bring destruction to all mankind. She can’t be killed. Looking into her eyes is like staring into the eyes of Satan. She’s a fire breathing dragon and I hate her. She’s the worst! When she laughs, an angel dies.”

It’s obvious Benley has focused intense hatred for her in order to get over her. She really broke his heart. He has still never told me what happened between them. At least he has AJ to fill the blank now.

“That’s a bit dramatic, Ben.” AJ laughs, taking his hand into hers lovingly. It’s a good thing she’s so easy-going or he’d be in trouble by now.

Grey taps on his cellphone screen, motioning to the time, “Let’s get going.” He directs his words at me, gesturing for me to follow after him. “JT is about to land soon.” He informs me as he grabs his car keys and heads for the front door.

I freeze up, surprised that Grey is actually allowing me to go with him to the airport to pick Jay up. I was thinking that I’d have to beg and plead with him first. Landon and Emma were suppose to join as well, but I guess they’re kind of preoccupied right now. We can’t afford to wait for them. Jay is expecting Grey to pick him up. He’s impatient and he won’t appreciate waiting on us.

“You’re letting me come with?” I ask wearily, perplexed by his sudden thoughtfulness.

Grey says nothing and keeps on walking, his answer evident in his silence.

“Go!” Benley orders, breaking me out of my state of brief confusion. He doesn’t want Grey to change his mind. He wants me to take the gap and grab the opportunity with both hands. He’s on my side. It’s a good thing to, I could do with all the support possible.

“Good luck Sweetie!” AJ calls after me, being nice and compassionate as always. You can’t help but love her. She’s a legend.

I don’t waste a second longer as I hurry after Grey. Dean, for some reason, follows. From what I’ve heard, he’s only met Jay once. He vaguely knows him. Why the hell does he have to tag along? The rest are hanging back, why can’t he?

The three of us hop into Grey’s car. It’s not a second later before we’re racing down the highway toward the airport. I’m in the passenger seat, Grey’s obviously driving and Dean’s lounging across the entire backseat - his feet propped up against the window.

This is it! I’m officially going to reunite with Jay again. There’s no turning back now. Grey wouldn’t allow it even if I tried. My heart is now pounding quickly and heavily from inside my chest. I’m so anxious, I can’t stop shifting and fiddling with the radio.

“Pick a station already!” Grey snaps at me, growing more irritated and impatient with me by the second. When I still can’t make up my mind, he slaps my hand away from his radio.

“Yeesh, temper.” Dean comments from the backseat, adding his opinion every now and again like the peanut gallery. There’s no flies on this one. “Such a scary dude you are. Go easy on ‘Furby’ over there.” He says, obviously referring to me as a ‘furby’. He really has the wrong perspective on me. I’m not cute, I’m a badass. I make Grey seem friendly. I scare myself sometimes…that should tell you something.

Other than Dean mumbling to himself occasionally or humming a random tune, the car ride is silent. As annoying as Dean is, he’s just as entertaining. His jokes manage to ease my tension ever so slightly. Without him, I’d still be a nervous wreck. Grey’s of no help - if anything, he just makes it that much worse.

“Shut up already man.” Grey tells him, the two of them being mutual friends. They were introduced a while back through Landon - the middle man. Dean is also a street racer, hence why he knows the racing crew so well.

“What’s so special about this ‘JT guy’ anyway?” Dean asks, refusing to listen to Grey. It’s as if he can’t help himself. He’s naturally big on talking. I can tell that silence bothers him. He prefers noise, even if it’s his own annoying voice.

Everything is special about Jay, everything. He’s one in a million. “You’ll see for yourself once you get to know him.” I answer Dean solemnly.

He casts his gaze to me upon hearing my answer, “Why’s he so special to you? Did you guys have a fling or something?” He questions, curious. He’s out of the loop and wants to be filled in.

“That’s enough.” Grey thankfully saves me from another interrogation on my personal history with Jay.

Dean frowns at us before mumbling audibly beneath his breath, “I’ll take that as a yes then.”

“As if Lawson is the type to have flings.” Grey scoffs as he finds a parking space, quickly pulling into it. He’s in a rush to see Jay. He doesn’t want to be late for him. He’s aware that Jay will probably be tired. No one likes waiting when exhausted.

When I hesitate to climb out the car, Grey threatens to lock me in. I reluctantly leave the vehicle and follow after him and Dean. I don’t think I’ve ever been more apprehensive in my life. This is more nerve-racking than a job interview.

Grey, sensing how uptight I am, scolds me, “Would you relax?!” He hisses at me, “It’s just Jay.” He makes a failed attempt to reassure me. He’s not exactly sensitive towards these kinds of things, at least not with me.

The problem is, I hurt Jay. Mason is proof enough that Jay isn’t exactly the forgiving type. Jay still holds a grudge against Mason in spite of Mason doing nothing to him. It’s Mason’s parents who hurt him, not Mason himself. He just used Mason as his scapegoat and took it all out on him. Then again, Jay hated Mason because Mason picked on me a lot of the time in high school. There’s just so much left unsaid between us (Jay and me). Our relationship was only detrimental to the both of us - the scattered thought floating across my mind doesn’t help to boost up my confidence.

“We’re late!” Grey raises his tone at me in irritation. I may or may not be walking slow purposely as to prolong this for as long as possible. “Move those legs and hurry the hell up!” He commands fiercely, “Jay’s probably already waiting for us.”

Dean dawdles along with me, taking the most of Grey’s impatient complaints. Dean couldn’t care less. He doesn’t find Grey to be a threat. I like it. He’s got potential to be my friend.

“So how does he look?” Dean asks as we all search for Jay among the crowded airport. He’s met Jay once, he should have some idea by now. Before any of us can answer him, he goes on, “Does he have a lot of fans?” He asks in query, his eyes set on someone in the distance, “And is he quite popular with the ladies?” He quizzes us, eager to see how Jay looks. His memory needs to be refreshed. He’s forgotten. Granted, he’s only ever met Jay once.

I frown and shake my head. That does not sound like the Jay I know. That sounds like some kind of famous celebrity or a rich womanizer like Laiken.

Dean pretends to wipe a bead of sweat off of his forehead, “Phew!” He breathes out in relief, “Because if it were that guy…” he points to the person he’d been staring at, “then I wouldn’t stand a chance with you.” He takes his eyes off the guy to send me a suggestive wink.

However, I’m not paying any attention to him. My eyes are set on the person whom Dean just pointed at. My eyes widen in alarm as my heart takes off like a rocket, pounding quickly within my chest. It takes a second to register before all the memories comes knocking full force, completely overtaking my thoughts. I’d recognize that breathtaking smile of his anywhere, “That is him.” I say softly, fidgeting in place as I grow more anxious by the second.

Dean glances to Grey for confirmation. Grey follows my gaze before nodding. Dean groans as a result, disappointed, “Just my luck.”

Jay has yet to spot us. I don’t know what it is, but I can already tell that there’s something different about him. It might be because of his rare, genuine smile as he happily signs autographs for all his new racing fans - mostly females. In the past, he’d be annoyed and see the act as waste of time. He’d be impatient and rude to the people getting in his way. He wouldn’t be remotely interested. I can’t help but be intrigued as to why that’s not so anymore. It could be because of my absence in his life. Maybe me leaving was the best thing for him. He achieved his dream only after I left. The thought of it being true depresses me. He seems to be on some upswing, whilst I’m headed on a downward spiral. What a contrast between us - it used to be the other way ’round.

His patience with the people surrounding him astounds me. I can barely fathom it or comprehend it. He’s never been a people person, yet what I’m seeing now is a care free person who seems to be more alive than ever before. The previous storm clouds, that once hung over his head, have vanished - in their place, nothing but sunshine and content. I find myself envying his pure bliss with life. I want that too. I want that peace too.

I come out of my trance to notice that I’m no longer beside Grey and Dean. I’m now standing by myself. Grey and Dean are making their way over to Jay, leaving me behind - tense in place. It’s as if Jay feels someone staring, because it is in that moment where he happens to glance up. I automatically suck in a deep breath as he slowly scans the area. I blow out a breath of relief when his gaze just misses me. Instead, his eyes land on Grey. Recognition takes over his expression as a grin forms on his lips, his blue eyes brightening at the familiarity.

He places his shades back on before pushing past his fans in order to reach Grey. The people step out of his path, making way. The crowd disperse and part like ‘The Red Sea’ in order to allow him through. It’s as if everyone has to spare him a glance, even if it’s just once. He’s as intimidating as he is easy on the eyes. It’s then I actually take in his appearance. He’s still as good looking as ever, but even more so now. He has a slight five o’clock shadow - the only indication that he’s older than what he was five years ago. His hair is a messy array of wild spikes styled up in a seemingly effortless way atop his head - resembling that of a supermodel. His skin is a tone darker, presenting a more gold yet flawless tan. He’s wearing a leather jacket over a tight white v-neck shirt, emphasizing his toned and well built physique. The outcome of it all, is radiance. Hell, even his young fulfilled, boyish grin is radiant.

He has a red backpack slung casually over one shoulder whilst he greets Grey, the two of them now talking. He removes his sunglasses before running a free hand through his dark hair. He clips his sunglasses on his v-neck and it’s then that I notice the cross pendant hanging from the silver chain around his neck. It’s not just his appearance, it’s his personality. It’s like he’s a different person. He’s changed. He seems happier, as if he’s floating on clouds or walking on air. He’s doesn’t seem to be so broody anymore. He actually seems to be enjoying life. It’s like a breath of fresh air and I find myself instantly attracted to him. Although, I got to say, I’m a little jealous that it wasn’t me who brought out this jovial, easy-going side to him.

I have no idea where Dean, that ‘meat-head’, has wandered off to - but right now, I couldn’t care less. My entire focus is on Jay alone. I’m transfixed by all that is him, spellbound by this clear transformation in him. He laughs at something Grey says and the sound is addicting, mesmerizing. I find myself caught in the moment as I reminisce back to the times when he’d laugh like that for me:

Those days are gone.

I’m not quite sure how it happens, but somewhere along the line, he spots me. He stops short, his gaze locking with mine as our eyes meet for the first time since five years. It feels as if my heart just stops. I try to tear my eyes away, but find it to be an impossible task - not because I can’t, but because I don’t want to.

He, himself, seems at a loss. He seems unsure of himself and uncertain as to how to go about this. He blinks once as if to make one hundred percent certain that it’s really me he’s currently seeing, that I’m not some figment of his imagination.

Grey, confused as to why Jay just suddenly stopped talking, lifts his head to follows Jay’s gaze. It’s then that he sees that it is me that has stolen his friend’s full attention. Grey, now with the program, pats Jay on the back in encouragement before walking away. He’s doing it to allow us our privacy, respecting that we need to be alone for this conversation.

Time seems to slow along the way, leaving just him and me in the moment. He’s declining to tear his eyes away from me. My breathing hitches, my heart skipping a beat, when his cerulean colored eyes fill with sheer determination. It’s then he makes up his mind. He drops everything, suitcases and all, before choosing to approach me. My heart begins to race faster until I reach the point there it feels like I’m suffocating - drowning - from lack of air, as if I just can’t break surface for that much needed breath. I want to run away, but my feet are planted firmly to the ground, my body refusing to move.

When he nears me, I end up in a full blown panic as a string of apologies instantly leaves my lips, “Jay, I don’t even know what to say. I don’t even know where to start. I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. It was never my intention to-“

When his soft lips touch mine, I freeze.

In that spontaneous moment, I feel it all come back - the memories, flashbacks, Jay…all of it.

He doesn’t even give me chance to finish explaining myself. With his hands placed carefully on the base of my neck, he holds me still against him as he impulsively kisses me.Unintentionally, my eyes flutter close as I try to savor the feeling before it ends.

His emotions seem to be running wild, yet the connection between us is still there. The spark hasn’t died. The kiss is short lived. Before I can even respond to him, he’s already pulled away from me - like he didn’t just initiate that. I reluctantly open my eyes to see him staring down at me in disbelief. Stupidly, I reach up to touch my tingling lips, sure that I’m dreaming. Surely none of this can be real - yet here he stands, right before me, an expectant glint to his steely blue eyes.

At a loss, I glance up at him in longing. I’ve missed being in his presence. I’ve missed him in general, more so than I first realized. I let out a wistful sigh before blinking up at him in confusion, too shocked to say anything. That was definitely the last reaction I had been anticipating from him.

He takes the liberty to speak first, his expression impassive, revealing nothing, “Been a while. Just had to get that out of my system.” He confesses, seemingly unaffected, whereas I am moved and rattled by that simple kiss. It’s as if he brought back all my past feelings through one single, fleeting moment of time. Yet my feelings seem one sided. He’s unfazed by it all and as if to prove it to me, he merely whispers coldly, “I’m over it now.”

A sting of rejection flows through my veins at hearing him admit it so easily. He’s over me and I’m still hopelessly hung up on him. He concludes it all in four words, convinced of the matter, his tone bitter and filled with resentment. It’s all directed at me. I predicted this much of him. I predicted him holding a grudge against me, refusing to forgive me. It’s all in good reason. I deserve this. I know I do. Fall down seven times, stand up eight.

He makes an attempt to walk away, but in pure desperation, I call out to him, “Jay wait! Let me explain, please.” I beg, already missing the tender embrace of his lips and the warmth caress of his cool touch. He’s awoken dormant feelings that I tried burying over time. I obviously failed. I still care deeply for Jay. I’m not sure if that will ever fade.

To my utter astounding, he actually stops to hear me out, something he would have never done had it been a few years back. He’s really matured. Seeing that I have his full attention as he patiently waits for me to say something, I try to tell him everything, “I never left because of you, the reason I never came back was because-“

My phone, at that precise moment, begins to ring loudly. I try to ignore it, but the blaring sound echoes around us consistently. I eventually take out my cellphone from my bag to see Benley’s name flashing across my screen.

“You should answer that.” Jay says, breaking the silence. It’s as if he reads my thoughts. We both know that Benley only calls if it is something urgent. There’s no way Benley would call me now, knowing that I’m seeing Jay, unless it is vital.

I sigh before reluctantly answering, “What’s up LeyLey?”’

“I’d lecture you on that damn name and for taking so long to answer, but there are more pressing matters to attend to.” Benley says from his side of the line, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but you need to get back immediately.”

I begin to shake my head, “No, I can’t. I’m in a conversation with-“

“Go.” Jay cuts me off, “It sounds important.” He says, his aloof side on for display. I take the hint, noticing that he’s not really interested in hearing me out - in hearing all my excuses. In the end, we both know that I can’t find a means to justify breaking his heart.

With the phone still propped up against my ear, I give Jay an apologetic expression, “I’m sor-“

“Bells is in labor!” Benley raises his tone in order to regain my attention, the desperation evident in his tone. My eyes widen in alarm as he fills me in quickly, “We’re all at the hospital, even Emma with her stitches. Bells is damn scary and I’m afraid for Max’s life. Bells keeps asking for you. Troy fainted and Blubber’s freaking the hell out. It’s chaos. You need to get down here, now!”

If anything, it sounds as if Benley is the one freaking out. It’s within good reason - it sounds as if he has his hands full. The background is noisy and I can hear Blubber’s voice above all. I can even hear Sarah reassuring Landon that birth is a beautiful thing. I’m not surprised that Bells has gone into labor, I called it being very soon. Poor Max. I can only imagine what current grief Bells is putting him through. She probably has a death grip on his hand…or neck…here’s hoping it’s just his hand.

“Grey’s my transport and there’s no way he’ll even consider giving me a lift. You know, as well as everyone else, that he hates me.” I remind Benley. I’d ask Jay to come with, but I’m sure he’s worn out and tired from his long flight. He probably just wants to head home and settle in again. Besides, there’s no way Grey and Dean would want to go see a baby being born either.

Benley shares his solution, “Thought ahead, it’s why I sent AJ to come and fetch you. She’s on her way. She should be there right about-“

“Hi!” AJ chirps loudly from behind me. I hang up on BoyBand and spin around to face the beauty queen herself, but she’s already introducing herself to Jay. He nods at her, barely acknowledging her, before his eyes stray back to me. Once the introductions are out of way, AJ says her goodbyes to him before grabbing my wrist and dragging me after her.

I stare back at Jay as I am forced away from him. I send him another apologetic stare, hoping he’d forgive me. But in turn, he merely shakes his head, unaware of why it is I have to leave him once again.

“Sorry to have disrupted that talk,” AJ apologizes once we reach her car, parked just outside of the airport, “but from what I’ve seen, you have nothing to worry about.” She assures me in confidence.

I stop short, raising a brow at her, before shrugging and getting into the car, “What do you mean by that?”

“It’s obvious that he’s still in love with you.”

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