Rewind (Book 2)

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Chapter 9: Wild and Crazy

I step into the house, perplexed. It’s been so long since I’ve last been here.

I just about jump out of my skin when I hear his voice, “Here’s a blanket and a pillow.” He proceeds by throwing it my way. I react quickly and catch it in the nick of time. I can’t help but feel like he was aiming for my face. “I’d tell you to get out, but we both know that’s not happening.” He yawns, obviously tired and not in the mood to put up with me and my stubbornness. “I’m assuming that you still remember where the guestroom is.” He says, subtly granting me permission to use the room I once called my own.

Jay starts retreating upstairs, heading for his own bedroom. Out of desperation, I call out to him, “Can’t we just talk about this?”

Jay spins back around to face me, his eyes narrowing as he stares me down with intensity, “You said one month, it’s been five years.” He states, allowing me to see his anger, now that he’s finally revealed it. He’s not holding back anymore.

“Are we ever going to talk about anything other than all the lies I told you?” I question humorously, not liking where this topic is going. I want to explain myself, but on my own terms. I don’t appreciate being interrogated, and I have a feeling Jay’s about to rocket launch all his questions my way any second now.

I’m wrong.

Instead of asking me everything that we both know has been circulating around his head for the last five years, he just makes one single statement that ends up crushing my persistence, “Before, I would have killed to have you back in my life - but now, I would kill to have you leave it.” He says, emotionless.

I nod awkwardly, unsure how to respond to something so cruel, “Harsh.” I say meekly, knowing that I deserve this. I indisputably lied to him when I said that I was only leaving for a month - now I’m paying for it and taking in what I first dished out.

“I’ve been swamped with races and quite frankly, I’m too tired to care much for this conversation right now.” He tells me straight forwardly, an indifferent expression on his face. He then surprises me by whistling. A small dog emerges from the kitchen excitedly, the fluffy tail wagging back and forth enthusiastically. Jay crouches down and the fuzzy furball jumps up into his arms. Jay notices me staring, “Don’t recognize your own puppy?” He asks rudely, “Then again, Slobber isn’t much of a pup anymore.” He ends in a clipped tone.

Feeling on edge, I shift in stance. Seeing Slobber, my little pup, all grown up really puts the time that has past into perspective. “You cared for him all this time?” I manage to ask without tearing up, Slobber jutting out his nose as he eagerly sniffs the air. The pup starts barking when he takes in my scent. It’s an indication that he remembers me. Slobber struggles in Jay’s arms to get free as a result.

“He’s alive, isn’t he?” Jay asks sharply as he hands me the overzealous puppy. Jay doesn’t wait to see my reaction as he retires to his room, leaving me behind with my dog. Technically, Slobber is Jay’s dog now. Jay’s the one who has taken care of him for the past five years, not me. Jay deserves Slobber; I don’t.

I glance down at my pup in adoration. Slobber - excited - begins licking my hand and gently nibbling on my fingers, refusing to leave my arms. Guilt stirs up within me at the sight of the fuzzball. I should have never left him behind, nor should I have left Jay. Then on the other hand, it was leaving that first made me independent and able to put my past behind me.

When I left, I learned to stop relying on other people. I learned to let go of the pain that Yolanda and my father caused - I can now finally say that I have forgiven them (doesn’t mean I have to like them). I learned to bury the past and drop the weight and control it once had over my life. I even learned to put my biological mother’s name to rest. I’ve grown, and for that to have happen, I had to have left. I had to face it all on my own in order to conquer it all on my own. It wasn’t an overnight task. It took time. It was a tough five year journey that I had to endure through. But now, I can finally say that I’ve come to the end of it. Mentally and emotionally, I am where I’m supposed to be. I had to leave in order to get where I am now.

Lonely, I take a seat on the bright pink couch, suddenly growing nostalgic as memories resurface. Slobber snuggles up beside me, enjoying my company. A ghost of a smile traces my lips as I pat the top of his furry head, “I missed you too little buddy. Don’t worry, things around here will get back to being the same again very soon.”

a week later:

“Well at least he let you in.” Bells says, trying to be an optimist for me. “He could have easily just left you waiting outside the entire night. It means that a part of him still cares.” Bells assures me with stride. She was let out of hospital a few days ago. As for the little ones, they’re doing perfectly well. Troy is a hands-on uncle. He’s apparently grown so attached to them. Max said that he’s been hogging the kids from the actual parents - that being Max himself and Bells.

Benley frowns, making it apparent that he disagrees with Bells, “Or it could just mean that Jay’s a decent human being and won’t leave another human being out in the cold.” He argues, bravely might I add (most don’t challenge Bells).

Bells narrows her eyes at Benley before throwing a couch pillow in his face in order to get him to put a sock in it, “Not helping anyone, you overgrown gerbil. Go play with a weasel or something. Better yet, go play in traffic with Oog. Get hit by a bus for all I care.”

Oog used to have a terrible habit of playing in traffic. It was more petrifying than comical for the rest of us left watching. I actually miss that crazy little dumpling. He was like a bad combination of Smigel and Voldemort. However, I’m happy for the ‘Dung Beetles’, no matter how hellacious they might be. For the better part of last year, they’ve been on tours in and around the country. Surely, it means they’re slowly becoming popular. On the other hand, probably not.

Benley raises a brow at Bells, “Now that was just uncalled for.” He jokes, not offended in the least. We all know that Bells has been on edge ever since…well ever since, full stop. If you want to get technical, Bells has been uptight ever since she came into this world. It’s impossible for her to lay back and chill out. She’s incapable of playing it off cool. She’s usually portrayed as a goody-goody. In school, she’d never dare break a rule unless I manipulated her or guilt-tripped her into doing it.

“I am going to bring the ‘Dung Beetles’, and all the rest of those who left us, back.” I speak up in confidence, “You’ll see.” I say insistently, “It’s going to happen.”

“As long as you don’t bring back Mason.” Bells pitches in, rolling her eyes at the thought of her ex. Unfortunately for her, a reunion calls for all to be invited.

“Or Bex!” Dylan finally chooses to join in on the conversation.

“I hear that brother.” Benley nods at Dylan in agreement, fist-bumping his pal. “That chick ruins lives for a living - but nevertheless, she will track us down. She’s like a damn bloodhound in that way. Never get jealous when you see your ex with someone else because our parents taught us to give our used toys to the less fortunate - that’s what comes to mind whenever I see her vile face. She’s a pile of human garbage.” Benley grits out, clenching his hands into fists, “I just get so mad thinking about it!” He hisses in fury, frustrated at how things went down between him and Bex. He’s never mentioned the story, hence why I never ask. If he wanted to say what happened, he would have.

I stifle a laugh and pat his shoulder comfortingly, “Take a lap. Go take a walk and cool off.” I suggest, just messing around.

Much to my surprise, Benley gets up and does exactly that.

“What’s his problem?” A voice asks from directly behind me, startling me in the process. I just about fly out of my seat in fright. “Sorry.” AJ giggles, “Didn’t mean to alarm you Aqueels.” She apologizes, seemingly amused by the situation. The girl is like a Jedi crossed with a ninja/assassin. You don’t see her coming until it’s too late.

I grin up at her from my seated position on the Bensten sibling’s comfy couch, “I’ll try to find a way to forgive you.” I tease her, “No promises.” I wink playfully. She knows I will forgive her instantly. After all, she’s a fellow village idiot. We don’t turn on our own. However, I will turn on Blubber…just because I can.

Bells takes the liberty to amicably explain the situation to AJ, “He’s fretting over ‘Bex the ex’ again.” She answers AJ, seeing as I didn’t.

AJ’s face falls in disappointment, “Oh.” She responds glumly, quickly masking her hurt as she turns to me for confirmation, “Do you think he’s over her?” She asks hesitantly, cautious to not give herself away. She’s worried and insecure about her relationship with BoyBand, that much is apparent.

“Benley would never go back to that sea-biscuit. Don’t you worry.” I reassure her whilst innocently twirling a lock of my hair around my finger, “He dated her five years ago. Feelings usually tend to fade by then.” I say absentmindedly, well aware of what it is I’m actually saying.

Bell’s reads my mind. She knows that there is more behind my words. Knowing me well by now, she clarifies, “You’re meaning Jay?” She queries. I shrug, not really feeling up to talk about it. “Aqueela…” She sighs in sympathy, uncertain as to what to say. There’s not much room for her to say anything in any case. “Just give him some time.” She uses the oldest line in the book on me - but at heart, her intentions are to help.

I’ll wait for him as long as I need to.

Bells, seeing my discomfort, quickly - in ease - changes the topic of conversation, “Now can we stop fussing over boys and get back to my dilemma - my little boy?” Bells asks effortlessly before explaining, “I might lose my own children.” She gestures over to Troy and Max playing pool. They took a bet. If Max (he’s terrible at pool) loses, he must forfeit his only son. If Troy (he’s worse than Max in pool) loses, he must forfeit his pride and stay silent whilst Max gloats in his face for an hour. In my opinion, the stakes are much higher for Troy - he’d better win for his own sake. Someone bragging in front of him will most likely kill him.

“Why would Max place a bet on his own son?” AJ asks, still not quite up to standard with understanding how these weirdos all function. “Now you could stand a chance to lose Rhys.” She reminds Bells as if shocked that Bells is down with it.

Bells giggles and waves the matter off, not bothered in the least, “Puleease! There’s no way Troy will win. I wouldn’t have let Max done it otherwise. Max knows that he loses sleeping privileges if he slips up and violates my command for him to kick my brother’s ass.” Bells then pouts moodily and glances my way before making a random statement, “Being a parent is hard. I can’t do it without you girl.”

“I can’t help you be a parent.” I chuckle, seeing her request to be humorous. She wishes. I’m not the one who decided to be stupid and get pregnant. I don’t want any kids yet. I still have a life to live.

“Fine, I’ll do it without you.” She says nonchalantly as if she never really meant it to begin with. She just wants to rant about the difficulties of being a mom.

“You bet you will ‘Mommy B’.” I wink at her playfully before getting up and joining the dream team, also known as the dynamic duo - Max and Troy.

“I do not approve of that nickname!” Bells calls after me before turning to converse with AJ some more - Dylan joining in on their girly chat.

“Aqueela!” Max enthuses as I come to stand by him, watching their game of pool play out, “Hi. How are-“

“Enough small talk.” I cut him, and his incredibly boring greeting, off. “Do you have this in the bag or not?” I interrogate him, only for him to shrug and fall quiet at the question. “You little bastard, do you or do you not have this in the bag?” I ask through clenched teeth as I shake him back and forth by his shoulders, searching for an immediate answer.

“That’s my girl!” AJ swings her fists across the air, “Knock him dead!” AJ encourages, choosing to be supportive. She then turns to ask Bells more softly and timidly, “What is she knocking Max dead for?” In spite of her being clueless, she still sides with me. You got to love it!

“I don’t actually know.” Bells answers AJ truthfully. She turns to Max and me son after, “Love the momentum, but dial it down a notch, my kids are sleeping.” Bells reprimands Max (in spite of him being the father of ‘her’ kids) and me. It’s still so weird to hear her refer to her children. I still have trouble comprehending the fact that she’s a mother now, that Max (of all people) is a father now.

“If Troy gets ownership of Rhys-” I start, only for Max to squirm out of my grip and talk over me completely.

“Ownership?” He questions, “Rhys is not an object, you understand that right?” Max holds back a smile, intrigued and amused by my anger. This coming from the guy who’s made a bet on his own kid, his own flesh and blood. Yeah…’cause I’m the bad guy here.

When I held Rhys - a week ago - in the hospital, I bonded with the little fellow. Rhys is, hands down, my favorite from the triplet - his sisters being Melby and Blanche. Melby is Max’s little tomboy and Blanche is Bell’s little baby fashionista. Rhys, Rhys is mine - not Troy’s. Troy can take Melby or Blanche, but not Rhys. I love Rhys. Unfortunately, Troy’s favorite happens to be Rhys as well. Damn him! He always wants what I want.

“Point being, if you lose, you can bet on Troy accidentally harming or killing Rhys. He’ll never be fit to be a father.” I reprimand Max, annoyed at his stupidity. Who places a bet on their own child? “Troy might just unintentionally set Rhys’ cradle on fire or feed him poison or something on those lines. He’s capable of anything.”

Troy, eavesdropping, nods proudly as if not quite understanding, “I’m capable of that and so much less.” Troy then narrows his eyes at us, “But if any of you need anything from me, shame. Deal with your own damn problems like real adults.”

I raise a prodding brow at him, “Level with me here Troy, you didn’t hear anything except for vague snippets, am I right?” I go on a hunch, assuming the worst of him.

“Goodness gracious Aqueela,” Troy snorts, “do you kiss your…” He trails off in search of someone to use, “your gramps with that filthy mouth?” He asks randomly, trying to divert me. I cross my arms over my chest, sending him a deadpanned stare. He caves, “I only heard pieces…” He purposely emphasizes the word in place of snippets, “of the discussion. I will not use that cuss word you used. I have a little bit of self-respect.” He sighs, admitting the truth. How is snippets a cuss word?! He has no self-respect whatsoever. “Not only do I have gray hairs now, but I’m also going deaf. I’m ageing like sour milk. I feel like a deformed…something.” He ends dryly.

“You mean, just deformed?” I ask him, “Because you are.” Feeling sorry for him, I offer him a sympathetic smile, “You are stupid, yes - but at least you are beautiful…on the inside…deep down…where your spirit lives.” I make a futile attempt to compliment him. It’s a lot more difficult than I thought. It takes a lot out of a person. I’ll probably never be able to do it again.

Troy flashes me a seductive smirk, “You still have it for me.” He jumps to his own assumptions.

My mouth falls agape at his suggestion, “Excuse me? Since when have I ever ‘had it’ for you?” I question, irritated by his idiotic and senseless theories.

Troy places a hand on my shoulder in a flirty manner, “Since always. You totally just made a pass at me. You called me beautiful.” He points out, accusing me of toying with him in a flirtatious way. He slouches back against the pool table, biting his bottom lip, as he purposely checks me out for the hell of it, “Yup, I’d totally hit that.”

I reflect over what he just said for a second before coming to a stern conclusion: gross. I quickly tear my eyes off of Troy before shouting atop my lungs, “Bells! He’s being weird again!” I complain as I take a step back from him, unbelieving that he just said that to me. He crossed the line this time.

Bells rolls her eyes at her brother’s antics, used to it, “Stop being weird again Troy. Knock it off. Stop harassing Aqueels.” She yawns, unfazed by my dilemma with her moronic, pathetic excuse of a brother. “She’s just not that into you.” She gives a little grin at her movie reference as if proud of herself and of her rare witty side.

“You guys would actually be adorable together.” AJ teases, adding fuel to the fire so that she can later sit back and watch the explosion take place before her very own eyes. How cunning of her. She does anything but deflect the current situation.

“Stahp it!” Troy gushes as he waves her off shyly. His false coyness doesn’t last very long before his obnoxious side swings back in full force, “Please AJ,” he grins boastfully, “I’m Troy Bensten, I’m fricken adorable together with everybody!” He concludes on his own terms.

I scoff at that, “As if.”

Max, taking full enjoyment in this, claps his hands giddily, “Ooooooh!” He jokes, intentionally riling me up, “Sparks are flying!” He chimes all too mockingly, purposely irritating me further.

“And people are trying!” AJ adds with a delighted grin, referring to Troy trying a shot on me. This happens to be the second time now. I’m getting worried. Note to self: find Troy a girl immediately or at least pay her to take a false interest in him.

“Respect!” Max smirks proudly before he meets AJ halfway and fist-bumps her for her efforts, “Yo gurrrl, game recognizes game.” Max says in a ‘gangster-like’ voice as he offers her praise for stepping up to the plate. Something clicks and registers in his little puny brain, because he suddenly remembers as he strays right back to the current topic, “Now what will their couple name be? I’m thinking EelTro.”

“That’s an awful name!” I snap at Max just as Troy shouts the complete opposite simultaneously:

“That’s fantastic! I love it! No, I adore it! I troydore it!”

“Knew you would buddy.” Max clicks his tongue and flicks his fingers at Troy in shooting motions as if holding guns in hand. He’s the king at manipulating and operating Troy. He’s mastered the skill. It’s really not a difficult task to master.

I have terrible friends: Bells couldn’t care less, Dylan remains silent, Benley is nowhere in sight, Max and AJ enjoy pushing people’s buttons and Troy is just too effervescent for my liking - he’s way over the top.

“Nah.” Bells stands up for me for once, “Aqueela and Jay are meant to be togeetha.” She says it so that it rhymes.

“Agree to disagree, Babe.” Max smirks, quickly sending a flirtatious wink to his girlfriend.

He’s getting off topic! “Max!” I raise my tone at him, reminding him of what we just discussed about Rhys. His laughter instantly fades at seeing my serious expression. “Focus and take your turn already.” I demand, glad to see that Max is currently in the lead. I push him back toward the pool table so that this game can finally end already.

“Don’t worry so much, I’m hustling Troy.” Max assures me confidently. It’s a few minutes later when Max loses the lead completely, Troy one-upping him entirely. I cross my arms over my chest and offer Max a flat look in turn. He’s such a epic failure. “So…” Max scratches the back of his neck as if truly uncomfortable, “I might have not thought this through.” He averts his eyes from me in shame and humiliation. “Troy’s actually a lot better at pool than me. I’m off my game. The hustle is backfiring.” He confesses, sheepish. I swat him on his chest as a result. “Hey ouch!” He yelps out in despair. “Take it easy.” He rubs at his chest like the giant baby he is.

I glower up at him through my lashes, “Only you, Max dammit Mills, would screw up a hustle with idiot Troy of all people!” I hit him again for the hell of it, “What’s wrong with you?”

He pouts, “By the end of this slapping spree, a lot of things will be wrong with me. I can tell you that much.” He answer as he rubs at his arm, the latest place where I’ve unleashed my wrath on him. He gets a hold of himself, preparing his aim as he gets ready to sink the last ball - the eight ball. “Don’t worry, I got this in the bag.” He assures me.

I crouch beside him as a result and watch him intently, “You’d better not mess this up. It’s not like your kid’s life is at stake or anything - oh wait.” I whisper threateningly, effectively breaking his concentration. He regains his focus, but I take the liberty to break it again, “Don’t blink.” I order, only for him to blink. “Don’t even breathe.” I warn. He glares at me as he just takes the shot without aiming, completely missing the eight ball. I sigh and slap my forehead at his loss, “Way to go Max, way to go.” I congratulate him, fake clapping. “You did the opposite of what I said and completely messed up.” I point an accusing finger in his face.

He slaps my finger out of his face, “Shut up.” He mutters with a frown. He turns with his pool stick in hand, accidentally poking me in the rib cage with it (he ignores my cry of pain), “It’s your fault! You were putting me under pressure! You antagonize all the time! Antagonize! Antagonize! Antagonize!” Max whines, stomping his feet like a little child. I sigh and shake my head at him.”Quit staring at me.” He moans before then apologizing, “The pool stick thing was an accident, FYI.”

I press my lips into a thin line and nod, “Mhhm, sure it was.” I scowl up at him, unimpressed by him losing. His audacity to try and pin his failures on me.

“It was.” He confirms before giving me the stink eye, “But next time, it won’t be.” He subtly threatens harm upon me.

I open my mouth to say something back, but get sidetracked when I hear a noise. I follow Max’s gaze to see that Troy has just sunk the eight ball, thereby winning the game and the bet. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Bells voices my exact thoughts.

Troy leans his chin on his pool stick, a devious grin on his face, as he gestures Max over. He starts in a genuinely sincere tone as if taking this bet extremely seriously, “Max, take a moment to say goodbye to your baby, your son.” He pats Max on the back in comfort, “I know it’s hard, but I’m taking Jelly Bean. He’s mine and I’m taking him right now.” Troy concludes, referring to Rhys. He tends to call Rhys, Jelly Bean.

“But he’s sleeping.” Max groans, searching for a way out of this as he silently blames me for causing him to miss the shot. I didn’t even do anything. Him missing is all on him. I was just trying to help.

“People can wake up from sleep Max, don’t be dumb. We’re not mummies.” Troy corrects him in a matter of fact way, completely missing the point. Max doesn’t want him waking Rhys up because it’s difficult to get Rhys back to sleep. Troy, on the other hand, seems to be under the impression that Max thinks one can’t wake up when sleeping. Troy takes the liberty to eagerly push Max in the direction of the triplet’s room, “Now go find Jelly Bean and take your time in saying goodbye. Explain to him the situation. Explain to him how his dad’s an utter failure.”

“He’s a baby, Troy.” I roll my eyes at him, “He won’t understand the situation you…deformed something.” I use his own insult to describe him, at a lack of words.

Troy ignores me as he turns in place, facing Max, “I hate doing this to you man, but I’m taking your baby and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re like the little sister I wish I had-“

“You have me!” Bells interrupts out of nowhere, furious with her brother, “I’m your sister!”

“Just a rumor!” Troy protests, ashamed to call Bells his sister. “You go and say goodbye to your only likable child so long.” Troy brushes her off as if her existence means nothing to him. Bells sighs and shakes her head at him. She’s letting him have this one.

“I take offense.” Max speaks up, opinionated on the matter, “I don’t want to be your little sister.” He argues, defensive.

“Who does?” Dylan jokes.

“Offense taken too!” Bells shouts out yet again, “I have to actually take up that horrific role in real life and it’s downright awful. Be more sensitive to my situation.” She requests, demanding as ever. Can’t blame her for getting mad, she’s related to the biggest moron on the face of this earth. It’s a damn shame!

Troy ‘tsks’ me, an accusing expression on his face. “What?” I shrug innocently, wondering what he’s on about now.

“You started this.” Troy blames me point blank, not bothering to sugarcoat any of it (not that he ever does).

My mouth falls agape at his blunt accusation, “What the hell did I do?” I ask him. He’s exactly like Benley. Benley always blames me for everything - granted, most of the time it is my fault, but not all the damn time.

“You’re always the sole perpetrator behind conflict. It’s a known fact.” Troy flashes me a daring grin as if challenging me to say something. He wants a reaction. Manipulative jerk!

“No, that’s an opinion.” I correct him.

He frowns and looks away in defeat before mumbling, “Well that’s your opinion.” He replies calmly, “And yours is wrong.” He finalizes. I give him a flat stare in turn. An opinion cannot be wrong. He places his hands up in defense, “I’m just giving you the cold hard facts.”

Back to the facts already?! It’s like he learns nothing…

I place a bright peppy smile on my face, “Gee, golly, thanks Mister.” I say sarcastically as if appreciative of his so called ‘cold hard facts’. I then proceed by hitting him upside the head for being an idiot.

“Ouchie!” He lets out a cry of pain.

“Been there buddy.” Max offers Troy some sympathy.

Troy throws Max’s sympathy back in his face, choosing to get vicious, “You! Servant Boy!” Troy points to Max, bossily placing his finger on Max’s forehead, “Bring me my baby.” He commands, turning on the one taking his side. Typical Troy Story.

Bells merely laughs as she watches this play out, well aware of the fact that she’s keeping her baby no matter what. She’s just enjoying the show whilst it lasts, even at Max’s expense.

Max crosses his arms over his chest as he sizes Troy up, “Look Dude, you realize that you can’t really take my son, right? You could literally get arrested.”

Troy’s face falls at Max’s words as if he’d truly been excited to have a son of his own. He’s quick to recover and mask it, “Sure man, it’s whatevs BroMax. It’s not like we made a pact or a bet or anything. We’re all good. It’s not like a man’s word is placed above everything in this life. It’s not like you gave me your word that I could have your son. It’s not like you are backing down on your word or anything. It’s all chill. No problemo amigo.” Troy says nonchalantly as he slowly begins to retreat, taking cautious steps back, not so discreetly making his way toward Rhys’ room. “Like I said, it’s whatevs bro. No hard feelings bud.” Troy assures Max before turning around and making a run for Rhys’ bedroom.

Max, like all of us, sees it coming and leaps into the air before tackling sprinting Troy to the floor, “Oh no you don’t!” These two are so predictable. Somehow, their debates always turn into this - a mess. I sigh and step over the two of them wrestling on the ground like raging lunatics. No way am I getting in between that…

It’s then Grey, with his impeccable timing, pitches up. He sees Troy and Max fighting each other, now using their pool sticks as weapons (as swords). He doesn’t question it and merely grumbles out beneath his breath, “I hate my life.”

“Don’t be so dramatic.” I grin as the rest of the racing crew step in, all of them seeking my help. The only two of the racing crew missing happen to be Jay (for obvious reasons) and Dean. “What’s up?” I question upon seeing their facial expressions.

“So remember when Dean got arrested for trying to jack his own car?” Emma asks me. I nod. “We’ve tried bailing him out, but the police are adamant that it wasn’t his car. They don’t believe his story and want to keep him in prison until they have enough evidence to release him.” Emma notices my confusion and explains, “You’re the best with speaking to people. You influence people so easily. If anyone’s going to get him out of jail, it will be you. Please speak to the cop that had him arrested. We’ve all tried, but he won’t listen.”

I tap my chin in mock thought, “What’s in it for me?”

They all think, only to come up empty handed. Of course, I’m just teasing. I’m going to help anyway. I just want to see how creative they get.

Sarah offers me a weak smile, “You get to annoy Grey.”

This girl gets me. She is a genius.

“Thanks.” Grey gives Sarah a look for her amazing suggestion.

“Sorry Grey.” She apologizes, forcing a smile, “Sacrifices have to be made.”

“Like she’ll take that.” Xavier scoffs, doubtful.

“I’ll take it.” I agree instantaneously, making Xavier look like a fool.

“Knew it.” Landon smirks in satisfaction before he fist bumps with his sister as if they’d (the Kitler siblings) had both been counting on me doing it with little effort.

I love feeling needed. Even the great and legendary racing crew come to me for stuff. I’m like the master at making people’s dreams come true. I’m the problem causer and resolver. I’m thee legend - Legend Lawson.

“Don’t even think about it Troy!” Bells snaps at her brother from the background. I spin around to see Troy trying to sneak back into Rhys room. Troy snaps his fingers in dismay at being caught by his sister, his eye now blue. I’m assuming Max kicked his ass. Troy has always been on the more fragile side of things. He bruises easily. I can’t wait until he looks in a mirror and sees that his face is no longer perfect. He’s going to freak out, whilst I’m going to have to get my camera out to tape his reaction. Considering the fact that he always checks his appearance every ten minutes, it shouldn’t be long now.

“I just want to take your child from you, is that so much to ask?!” Troy all but yells back at his sister as if she is the one in the wrong. Max is still lying on the floor, trying to recover. “You’re both selfish.” Troy lectures them, seeing no wrong in taking Rhys from his parents (it’s a criminal act by law). “It’s like bets mean nothing these days!”

Xavier frowns and opens his mouth to question it, but Grey holds up his hand to signify for him not to bother. Grey understands that the less he knows, the happier he’ll be. He doesn’t even want Xavier to succumb to such eccentric and absurd answers to his valid, plausible questions.

“We’ve been over this at least a billion times now, stealing a baby is a crime Troy!” Bells shakes her head at her brother, now aggravated with his persistence.

“So is not living up to a bet.” Troy remarks in a sulking manner at not getting his own way. If Troy’s not careful, he’s going to land up in prison with Dean.

“Not a crime you idiot.” Bells corrects him as they continue arguing back and forth, Max now reaching for an ice pack for his own blue eye. They’re like matching twins (Max and Troy with their sets of blue eyes). I have to stifle a laugh at the sight, amused.

“Is so!” Troy argues in spite of having no knowledge on the subject, or on any subject for that matter.

Benley, stepping back into the room, grins when he sees the two of them, “Loving the new shade of blue you guys.” He teases as he motions to their eyes, already guessing what happened. He knows us all too well.

“Troy wants Rhys, and so a bet was placed on the child. Max tried to hustle Troy in pool for Rhys, but failed. Troy is now trying to get Rhys, but Max is not having it - hence their colorful eyes.” AJ debriefs her boyfriend, completely casual about it as if this is now the norm for her. She’s getting used to us. She’s fitting right in.

“Yeah and I’m the crazy one to question the sanity of all of you.” Nancy sighs in sarcasm as she tries to get past this - but it’s futile, she’ll never understand how we operate. She’s not one of us.

Troy, now frantic at their hinting, turns to Bells for an explanation, “What are they talking about?” He asks in a panic as he feels around his eye, wincing at the new found pain. Figuring it out, he runs to the bathroom to check his appearance.

“Wait for it.” I grin to myself in delight, “Three.” I begin counting down, “Two-“

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!” Troy screams in a girl’s voice atop his lungs, all the way from the bathroom - right on time too. “My beautiful face! What happened to my flawless face?! I look like a hideous beast! I look like Grey for crying out loud!” I burst out laughing at the last one, Grey scowling in response to Troy’s rude insult. “How am I going to go around in public like this?! I’m not as brave as BroGrey! Damn you Max! This is all your fault! You couldn’t have just given me Jelly Bean! Rot in hell you little bacon-rat! Bells I’m just going to use your makeup again to fix this masterpiece creation I call Troy! It’s me in case you didn’t get that!” He calls out to her, still fretting. Troy’s physical appearance is everything to him. Without it, he’s nothing. His appearance is his dignity.

Again?” Dylan raises an eyebrow, intrigued by Troy’s implied statement. Bells, on the other hand, is grumbling about something on the lines of having to always buy new makeup because Troy uses all of hers whenever he gets a small blemish. “Is this a frequent thing around here?” Dylan quizzes in interest.

No one bothers to answer Dylan, so boring Benley takes the initiative to, “Yup.” Benley nods in amusement, popping the ‘p’. I’ve come to learn that Benley loves chaos when he isn’t expected to participate in it. He prefers to be the peanut gallery.

“I’m starting to see why you think they’re all insane now.” Ryan pipes up, his eyes still cast downward on his phone screen. It’s obvious he’s talking to Nancy. He refuses to acknowledge the rest of us.

He’s only starting to see that now. Where the hell has he been?! The award for most oblivious goes to Ryan. Then again, his best friend is his phone. He barely ever sees all the craziness happening because he’s always texting away.

With hope filling my hazel eyes, I turn to Max and Bells, “Now that Troy’s out of the picture, may I-“

“No!” Bells and Max shout at me simultaneously.

I pout, “Aww come on, you don’t even know what-“

“You can’t have Rhys, Aqueela.” Bells, reading my mind as always, states sternly. I stomp my foot angrily, unhappy. Nevertheless, I give in. “What is it with everyone wanting to jack our baby?” Bells asks aloud, more to herself than anyone else, as she ponders over it thoughtfully. Rhys is a legend baby, as simple as that.

“Let’s go!” Grey growls, impatient as he taps away with his foot.

“Alright, alright.” I reply as I begin following him out. It’s then, from the corner of my eye, that I see Troy exiting the room with Rhys strapped to his chest. He tries to make a clean getaway as he heads for the back door. I’m about to warn Bells, but she’s one step ahead of her brother. Hell, everyone is at least a few hundred steps ahead of Troy Bensten.

“Where are you going Troy?” Bells doesn’t even have to lift her eyes off the pages of her book to know what Troy’s up to.

“To the shops?” Troy tries tricking her. His blue eye has been perfectly covered. You can barely see it now. It makes me wonder if he always wears makeup without the rest of us realizing it. Hell, he’s done a better job at covering his eye than celebrities do with covering up their blemishes. I guess Troy’s not good for nothing after all.

“Why through the back door?” Bells questions, not at all concentrating on him. She sees him as not a threat. She’s more focused on the story that she’s reading.

“Scenic route.” Troy makes another attempt to get away with it.

“Put him back.” She says solemnly as if psychic, already well aware of what it is her brother is trying to accomplish. Troy, alarmed, instantly freezes. He is obviously wondering how Bells knows without looking. The girl has got mad skills, I’ll give her that. Troy hesitates, glancing to the door as if contemplating on running again. “We’ll catch you.” Bell says, still not even bothering to look up from her book. She just knows how her brother’s mind operates. It’s as if she can read his every thought.

“Fine.” Troy mutters before reluctantly handing Rhys back over to Max. “I just want you both to know,” he glances at Bells and Max, “that I hate you two and hope you live a horrendous life. It’s personal.” Troy then crouches slightly so that he can look at Rhys in the eyes, “I’m sorry, Jelly Bean, that you have to live with these terrible excuses belonging to the human race. I can only hope that one day, by some miracle, you escape from their evil clutches little man.”

Bells and Max don’t take him seriously, the both of them shrugging as if they couldn’t care any less of what Troy thinks of them.

“That’s it! I’ve seen enough!” Grey grabs my arm and tries to tug me right out the house. I resist, wanting to stay longer and watch this play out first. The dream team are just too legendary to not watch. Grey gives and releases me, knowing that he can’t win. When my mind is set, it cannot be changed. However, my mind can be changed with excessive force - Grey and his cruel tactics. Before I can react or dodge the bullet, Grey’s already swooped me up and thrown me over his shoulder against my will. “Much easier.” He breathes out a sigh of relief as he and the others finally escape the Bensten household. I tell you, there’s never a dull moment when with the Benstens and Max.

“I demand that you release me ‘Ferrot Face’!” I shout, appalled by his behavior. Not really. It’s just fun saying ‘appalled’. “Let me go!” I hiss as I grab hold of the door handle to hold on to something, restraining myself from lashing out and killing Grey for treating me like an object. I’m not a sack of potatoes.

“Not until I have stuffed you in the car.” Grey remarks bossily as if he controls me and can do whatever the hell he likes. “And until I have you bolted in so that you can’t escape.” He adds thoughtfully, “And until I’ve locked the car with you inside.” He goes on, “And until I’ve driven away.” He finally concludes, determined yet unaware that he just described kidnapping me.

“Bye Aqueela!” AJ waves at me fervently as if not concerned that Grey is basically kidnapping me. She’s so so so clueless.

I shout for help to Mr Responsible, “BoyBand help me!” He glances my way, but then averts his eyes as if saying that he won’t respond to that name. I roll my eyes before sucking in a deep breath and doing the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life, “Benley please.” I grovel, using his real name for once.

“No can do.” Benley answers, rejecting my plea in spite of me calling him by his name. He motions to Grey (he’s still on a mission to get me out the door), “I don’t want to get in the way of that bodybuilding machine.” He steps down to Grey.

“Oh please! Grey’s not even that tough.” I remark just as Grey effortlessly undoes my grip from the door handle. I glare at Benley for not being accountable when I need him, “You’re a coward!” I yell after him, knowing better than to ask Max or Troy for any assistance. I can guess what they’ll do - laugh loudly.

“Oh I see how it is.” Troy says with much attitude, “Grey gets to kidnap Aqueela, but I can’t kidnap Jelly Bean.” Troy crosses his arms over his chest as he glares us all down, “And how come all the fun stuff always happens to Aqueela?” He questions as if it is, once again, my fault. Being kidnapped is not my definition of fun. It might be fun if it wasn’t Grey committing the offense. I rarely admit it, but he’s scary when he wants to be. “Why can’t anyone ever think of me and kidnap me too?” Troy asks out of pure jealousy. He always wants what I have, even if it’s bad.

“Shot dude.” Landon grins at Troy as if to patronize him, “Next time.”

“Really?” Troy asks in glee. Lan nods. “Whoohoo!” Troy throws his fists to the sky as he spins around in circles excitedly, “I’m going to be kidnapped! This is so exciting! I’m going to scream.”

Sarah nudges her boyfriend and frowns at him for lying and getting Troy’s hopes up in being kidnapped.

“Don’t scream.” Grey demands only for Troy to ignore him and scream in any case.

“Bells!” I call after her - seeking her help - as Grey begins carrying me to his car, the rest of his crew tagging along. Bells is the only one that everyone seems to be weary of, even Grey. Jay used to be petrified of her, probably still is.

“Mhmm?” She answers calmly, too engrossed in the story she’s currently reading to take note of what’s happening to me. She’ll care when she later searches for me, only to find herself unable to locate me.

I am a terrifying badass human being, so that must mean that Grey is fearless. He doesn’t even flinch when I struggle and try fight him off. He’s indestructible. He’s probably a robot. It would clear up a lot of mysteries if it were true.

“Help!” I say, willing for Bells to look up and see that I’m currently being kidnapped. “I’m being taken!” I shout out in terror as I try to squirm out of Grey’s grip.

“Sounds exciting.” She replies nonchalantly, making it apparent that she isn’t really listening to me, “Have fun,” Bells answers absentmindedly as she flips a page of her book, indifferent and ignorant to my current situation, “on whatever wild, crazy adventure it is you’re going on this time.”

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