Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 10: Happy-Go-Lucky

I stare at the clock in hopelessness, time ticking away ever so slowly. I am literally watching my day plans slip right through my fingers. I tap my pen against my table, anxiously waiting for the class to end, when in actual fact it has just started, yet I’m already losing my mind.

“Ms. Lawson, do you mind with the pen?” Mr. Daughtry asks and I know better than to backchat him, hence my gazillion time being here.

I drop my pen back down to the table. Absentmindedly, I begin to tap my foot away at the messy tiles. Mr. Daughtry shoots me a look for disrupting yet again. I halt my foot from tapping away any further and send him an apologetic look in return.

I glance back at the clock to see that only a minute has passed. There’s no way I am surviving this. No freaking way!

I begin to fidget in my seat as I glance around the class, frustrated for getting myself into yet another sticky confrontation. Most of these people are complete morons or rebellious losers. They’re the kind of people I steer clear from, yet here I am, joining them.

“You’re late, Taylor,” Mr. Daughtry says as if used to it.

His words slowly sink in, my head snapping up to see brown hair and the prettiest eyes I have ever encountered in all my life.

I grin, maybe I can endure this after all.

Jay doesn’t bother giving any remark back and simply brushes Daughtry aside. He spots me in the front of the classroom and completely ignores me when I wave at him, blocking me out as he walks to the back of the class.

“To the front, Taylor, where I can see you,” Daughtry insists, obviously annoyed at Jay’s apparent dismissal of him. “Take a seat next to Lawson,” he says and points to the open seat beside me, giving my surname away.

Jay glances at me and then back at Daughtry as if looking for a way out of it, however, in the end, he decides not to fight the system. He does as told and reluctantly takes a seat beside me. He doesn’t bother to greet me or even look my way, almost as if I don’t exist at all in his eyes.

Do I take offense to any of it?

Not at all.

Am I mad?

Hell no!

Did I expect this of him?

You bet I did.

Am I amused by it all?

Hell yeah!

The rebel bonds with me and we end up going to jail together, yet still, he doesn’t classify that as friendship. If sharing a cell and being cell mates for a day isn’t true friendship then I sure as hell don’t know what is.

Then again, he did ask that we part ways. I guess he’s living up to his words.

Nonetheless, I stare at him as he keeps his eyes trained solely ahead of him. He’s wearing a navy blue button-up shirt and his hair is styled up in it’s usual yet attractive messy array.

He doesn’t bother to converse with anyone unlike all the others in here. He’s a loner in that way, prefers to keep to himself.

I glance down at my hand briefly, only to find that it’s purple and swollen. I have one hell of a right hook. Go me! I am officially an outlaw. Stop in the name of no law!

I can see it now, soon I’ll be making headlines: ‘Aqueela, the outlaw, to attack again?’

I then remember my new found conquest. I go back to staring at Jay. He has to break at some point or another - they all do.

He senses me staring and turns slightly in his seat. I follow the action and continue to stare. I widen my eyes purposely just to freak him out all the more. He twitches uncomfortably but shakes it off as he keeps watching the board ahead of him.

He’s watching me from the corner of his eye, his peripheral vision coming in handy. As the minutes pass by, he begins to tap his pen as if growing agitated. I grin to myself as I keep my eyes trained solely on him until finally-

“Taylor, stop tapping that pen!”

Okay, so that’s not what I was hoping for. I wanted Jay to crack, not Daughtry.

Suddenly the crap hits the windscreen wiper as Jay turns in his seat to shoot me a cool glare, “Would you quit staring!” he whisper-yells, drawing attention to us, not that I care - but clearly he does. He prefers to stay on the down-low.

“Would you quit ignoring?” I reply back in a cool and collected demeanor.

He gives me a deadpanned stare just as Daughtry interrupts, “Taylor? Lawson? There a problem?”

I smile a sickly-sweet smile, “Nope, teach,” I say, keeping my eyes trained on Jay all the while, “none at all.”

“Ms. Lawson, that is Mr. Daughtry to you,” he corrects me.

“Gotcha. Whatever floats your boat, teach,” I reply back in an informal manner, brushing him off.

Mr. Daughtry merely sighs - a sign that means he’s given up.

“Pst!” someone calls from my left-hand side.

I break the stare competition, frowning at Jay for not cooperating. Instead, I turn to my left, my back now facing Jay, to see who it is that is calling me.

A gigantic smile graces my features as I meet the sparkling personality of none other than Max Mills. His brown hair flops messily just above his brown eyes as he greets me with an award-winning smile, “’Sup, girl?”

“Max!” I nearly shout at the tops of my lungs, then remembering that I should restrict myself from ‘full on shouting’ to just ‘shouting in general’, considering where I am and all.

“Inside voice,” Max teases in good nature.

Jay glances our way, confused at the exchange happening.

“Where have you been hiding?” I whisper to Max as Mr. Daughtry gets up to retrieve something from the other room. “I haven’t seen you in forever. You been avoiding me?” I tease and elbow him in the side playfully.

“You know me, always keeping on the down-low, hiding in the shadows and what not,” he lies, a fleck of mischief flickering through his eyes.

“Shut up. You know you’d die without the spotlight on you,” I tease just as a screeching noise is to be heard across the classroom. Max moves his table and chair closer to me, no shame whatsoever in disturbing the class.

Max’s gaze strays. I turn around to see what’s bugging him, only to find Jay glaring at the both of us while blatantly eavesdropping on our conversation - in his defense, we are talking quite loud. We suck at whispering - all my friends included.

“Oh, that’s just JT,” I inform Max before doing the introductions, “JT meet Max, Max meet JT.”

A smile stretches across Max’s features seeing as he is one of the most friendly people that you will come across. He leans forward over me in order to reach Jay. He extends his hand in greeting, “Hey, buddy. It’s nice to-“

“I don’t care. Save it,” Jay mutters, still evidently annoyed at the world.

Max slowly retracts his extended hand. He moves in to whisper to me instead, “What’s his problem?”

I shake my head, disappointed in Jay for his open rudeness. “He always has a problem,” I tell Max, hoping to somehow justify it. “He’s a grouch.”

I know Jay hates people, and maybe I am changing up the dynamics by introducing him to more people, but all I want is to show him the power of friendship. You can’t survive without friends. People need people.

“Forgive him, Max, it’s his time of the month again,” I say loudly, only for Max to erupt in laughter. “Maybe you can help him with a maxipad?”

Max stops laughing almost immediately to frown at me, “Not cool. I don’t provide that stuff.”

“Stop being so grouchy, JT,” I scold him, hoping he’d lighten up.

I’m already missing his playful side.

“What do you want from me?” he asks through clenched teeth as if restraining himself from lashing out at me.

I flinch back, feeling intimidated by him for the very first time since meeting him. I somewhat see it now - I see why people stay clear of him.

“Friendship,” I answer in all honesty.

“Friends are overrated,” he replies coldly as if convinced of the matter.

“Yeah, and so is your ego,” I retort bitterly.

Friends, the true ones, will last you a lifetime. Yes, sometimes they put a ‘pause’ on your life, but without them, well life just wouldn’t be the same.

Jay fixates his gaze on me for a second too long. He sighs to himself and stands up, furious. I watch on in pity as he grabs his stuff and storms out the classroom like ‘Hurricane Katrina’.

He doesn’t get it. He simply doesn’t get what life is all about. His perspective is distorted. He can’t see that people are good enough, that people are generally good at heart. He’s lost that faith in people, faith that can possibly change the world.

“Jeez,” I whistle below my breath, “who the hell crapped in his cornflakes this morning?”

“Nice guy,” Max chuckles, sarcastic and unoffended.

“Mhm,” I nod, “just absolutely lovely.”

He just needs to be given a chance.

“So where did you snag him up? Anger management classes?” Max jokes, cheering me up instantly.

“Might as well have, but we’re not together, apparently not even friends,” I explain. His brown eyes begin to glow. I grin in amusement and realization, “Spit it out already, Maxi. You obviously have something to say.”

“If you’re not dating him, then why did he go all jelly?” he asks, pointing out something that I failed to notice.

“He’s always like that. He’s permanently grumpy.” I shake my head at Max, disagreeing, “I don’t even think Jay is capable of feelings. You need feelings to be jealous.”

“And that’s why he got jealous. It’s because he’s not a robot and he clearly likes you,” Max repeats, convinced of his ridiculous theory. “I saw the way he was looking at you. Guys get guys. Trust me on this.”

I laugh, amused. “Yeah, sure, okay.”

Max, seeing that he’s not getting through to me, changes the subject. He places both elbows on my desk and leans toward me with a devious grin. “So what are you in for?” he motions around the detention room.

I play along. “I killed a girl, well I should have,” I confess and show him my fist. He makes an attempt to touch my hand, but I snatch my hand away before he can. “Stay back or I punch you too!” I threaten him.

He laughs before one-upping me in his next comment, “First you need to decide with which hand you’re going to punch me with.”

“I’ll give you that one,” I admit defeat, clapping for him.

He winks, satisfied. “And here I thought I was cool because I stole chocolates out of lunch lady Petunia’s secret stash of candy.”

“I killed a girl. I win,” I smirk at him, victorious.

Then again, Petunia is a lot scarier than a petunia. Max is bold, very bold.

“Funny. How coincidental? I killed Petunia’s candy stash,” he says in a serious tone, as if really comparing our situations.

I can’t tell if he’s kidding or not. He does have the best poker face that I know of.

“Max!” I punch his shoulder with my bruised hand, causing me all the more pain. I wince but continue lecturing him nonetheless, “That’s not even coincidental.”

“Kidding. Kidding,” he holds his hands up in surrender. “I just stole a few chocolates. I just wanted to seem more badass like you,” he confesses with a sheepish grin, humoring me. “Your story is hectic.”

“Yeah,” I nod in agreement, my ego immediately inflating, “I’m pretty badass now. On a whole other level. I think it’s Jay’s influence,” I confess. “Since we’ve been hanging out, I’ve ended up in jail and now detention - places that I usually avoid.”

“Yeah right,” Max scoffs, sending me a deadpanned stare in turn.

Okay, so it’s not my first time in detention, sue me,” I stick my tongue out at him, aware that he knows better.

“My first time in detention was where I first really got to know you,” he reminds me. “You showed me the ropes, taught me everything I know.”

“Yup,” I nod fondly at the memory. “I remember that day. You were terrified of me,” I lie, waiting to see how he’ll handle it. “You’re still terrified of me.”

“Oh yeah, totally,” he goes with it, as expected. “You’re so badass now. So scary. In fact,” he holds up his hand to my face, “I’m trembling.”

He’s just shaking his hand ever so slightly.

“I know,” I nod and sigh overdramatically as if it’s a burden, “I know.”

He laughs at me. “At least you got humor down, I’ll give that one to you.”

“You will damn well give me a lot more than that if you ever want to see the light of day again!” I snap at him jokingly, enjoying his company.

Max holds up his hands defensively. “Slow down, Dweeb. I mean no harm.”

“Yeah,” I grin cunningly, “but who said that I don’t?”

Max chuckles and he leans back in his chair as if to avoid getting punched in the face. “But for real, who’d you beat the living shiznit out of?”

I think back to this morning:

“Midget, how’s the head? I know that you knocked it pretty hard that night, not that it would make a difference. You need brains to injure brains,” Melinda randomly insults me as she passes by my locker.

I’d usually let it go, but today I’m feeling feisty.

“Don’t make me test that theory on you,” I warn, at least having my say, as I show her my fist.

“I would not like to be on the receiving end of Lawson’s fist,” Laiken, Mason’s best friend, snickers along with the rest of his jock buddies. “She punches like a man.”

Yeah, he would know…

I ignore them and make an attempt to walk away, but Melinda is still blabbering on and so pulls me by my hair to stop me, offended that I’m not listening to a word she’s saying. My head is yanked backward.

Never. Touch. The. Hair.

I jump straight into a warrior stance and land a powerful uppercut on her chin.

What is the point of first slapping her around when we both know that we will resort to punching eventually? I just decided to jump ahead of our time schedule.

“Don’t. Ever. Touch. The. Hair,” I say through gritted teeth as she grabs onto her jaw in pain and whines like a baby.

I roll my eyes when Laiken goes to comfort her. He’s practically her toy boy without him even realizing.

She pushes Laiken back and steps forth to take a shot at me, but Mason quickly steps in and holds her back whilst Bells encourages me to quit while I am ahead.

I listen, however, Baby Barbie is a mega tittle-tattle.

She was asking for it.

I finish telling the story to Max, “I ended up getting a one-on-one bonding session with Principal P as I explained my side of the story to him. He listened attentively and decided to let me off with only a warning, so long as I apologized to the she-witch.”

“Everything is starting to make sense now,” Max nods, aware of where I’m going with this.

“Of course, when I made gagging noises at just the thought, I ended up being put straight into detention for the next week,” I conclude with a shake of my head.

Of course,” Max shakes his head, still humoring me. “You could’ve had it worse. You could’ve been suspended. You’re lucky Principal P favors you above the rest. I have no idea why because you’re such a troublemaker. I think all your trips to his office and all your heart to heart talks are taking a toll on the unfortunate lad.”

I ignore him and continue to rant, “Turns out, Melinda gets off scot-free because she only pulled my hair when I practically broke her jaw. It’s not my fault that she has a glass jaw. She’s weak. My gramps taught me how to box at a young age.”

I’d still rather be here than apologizing to Melinda. Call me childish, but I don’t do apologies. Never have, never will.

I glance back to Max, pulling myself from my inner thoughts. “I don’t care what she was saying. What got to me was when she ripped my hair.”

Max laughs and nods in agreement, “They always go for the hair.”

“Uh-huh,” I shake my head, “tell me about it.”

“Everyone knows that the hair is the prized possession. It’s just a big ‘no-no’ to touch the hair. I am with you, sister. Up top!” Max raises his tone in a mock girl voice as he holds his hand up for a high-five.

I just look at him, leaving him hanging until he drops his hand with a pout.

“You’re still so mean,” he complains.

I shrug. “So I’ve been told.”

Max simply grins in response as Daughtry enters the classroom again.

Mr. Daughtry immediately notices the absence of Jay. He raises a questioning eyebrow at me, aware that I hold the answers to everything.

On any normal occasion, I would ‘rat’ Jay out faster than I can fry a pancake, but because he seemed extra grumpy today, I decide to cover for him instead.

“He has an orthodontist appointment. Poor guy is getting braces,” I lie, blurting out the first excuse I can think of. “He excused himself as politely as a…ballerina. Go easy on him. It’s a tough life he leads.”

Daughtry nods and finally dismisses us, taking the bait.

I grab my backpack, relieved that it’s over, and exit the room.

Max catches up with me as I stroll toward the parking lot area where Bells is waiting, and impatiently I might add, to try and offer me a lift home as per the usual.

I once let her. I had her drop me off at an average looking house not far from my real house. My plan failed when I suddenly had a dog. When Bells asked to see the little guy, the fluffball bit me because it didn’t know who I was.

She quickly figured it all out, yet still, she persists where she can.

“He is going to be so mad. Braces? Ballerina? That was the best you could come up with? So original,” Max retorts as he walks in step with me, hands in his pocket, laid-back. “You’re screwing up his rep. There goes his street cred.”

Max and I aren’t exactly friends. He’s more of an acquaintance. I barely ever see him. In fact, the only time I do see him is in detention or on a sports day where he runs marathons for our school.

See, Max is odd to describe because he literally cannot be classified under any cliques. He surpasses my understanding of how schools are supposed to work. Everyone has a classification to fall under. For instance, I’m the weird one.

Max - he doesn’t fit any descriptions, not efficiently. He’s unique. He’s the funny guy, the athlete, the rebellious dude always found in detention, the immature one who steals candy, the overbearing flirt, as well as the bright spark, all in one. Everything that is the very essence of Max is nothing but a contradiction. He contradicts his very own existence.

He’s this huge combination of so many good and bad characteristics that there is literally nowhere to put him under. The only label I can come up with for Max is the ‘one who cannot be labeled’ - a very rare group, currently sporting only one member, and he just so happens to be standing right in front of me.

“I panicked,” I defend myself.

“Oh, like you did with Melinda when your fist met her face?” he teases, unable to resist.

I glare at him in turn.

He obviously feels bad because he wraps an arm around my shoulder, “I’m just messing with you. I’ve missed your spunky attitude. Detention hasn’t been the same without your cockiness and superior-like personality,” he confesses, sounding slightly sincere, but this is Max and being sincere can change to teasing in an instant.

He is difficult to get to know because there is so much to learn about him, and with all my knowledge on him, I have only just scraped the surface of all things ‘Max’.

“Glad you know your place. I am superior,” I play along, which results in his common smile - one that is impossible to get tired of.

“As much fun as it is to see you again, I really got to move. Places to be, connections to see and bathrooms to pee,” Max says, sharing one of his twisted goodbyes before bidding me off.

“T.M.I!” I yell after his retreating figure only to hear him chuckle under his breath.

“The usual,” I say to Simo upon entering the ice cream shop.

Simo, the same grin intact, hands me the blue ice cream all too happily. “Sprinkle!” he greets, one of the few people always overjoyed to see me.

I roll my eyes at him, feigning irritation. As infuriating, annoying and insufferable as Simo is, he tends to grow on you.

“Thanks, Sims,” I grin as I dig into my bubblegum ice cream like it’s the most important thing to do on this planet - might as well be.

“Anything for number one customer, Sprinkle,” he laughs and points to a picture behind him.

I follow his gaze only to notice the wall of fame behind him that he and all his glory are covering - no wonder I missed it.

I scan the pictures of the number one customers in the past month and suffice to say, I have made it to first place.

I grin and clap my hands, showing Bells, proud of my achievement. However, it doesn’t last long. Another worker, one that I don’t really know, goes and removes my picture without so much as an explanation.

“Hey! Hey! What are you doing?” I complain. “That’s my face you’re touching.”

Bells and Simo give me a look, and so does the other worker, trying to make sense of my words.

“Okay, so not my literal face, but that’s me,” I tell the worker determinedly.

The worker ignores me and continues to follow through with her instructions that were no doubt given by ‘sexy, hot manager dude’.

Someone’s bitter…

“Wait! Look! See!” I stand beside the picture of me and pull off the very same expression that I am wearing in the picture - a huge smile showing all my pearly whites. “See? Mirror image,” I try to convince her to stop.

The worker nods, seemingly not giving a damn. “Yeah, well, I was given orders by the manager to replace it,” she tells me as she moves my picture down to second place and moves the next person up to first place.

My eyes widen at the sight in front of me.

“He’s officially topped you,” she explains when seeing my confusion.

“Blubber!” I blurt out. “Blubber beat me?! He doesn’t even appreciate bubblegum ice cream the way I do. He doesn’t even savor the flavor because he gobbles it down too quickly,” I whine, unhappy with the outcome.

Out of all the people I can lose to…

“That’s the problem. He orders every flavor, you always stick to bubblegum, hence your loss. The manager wants what the manager wants. Don’t shoot the messenger,” she replies and attempts to walk away, but I lace my arm around her wrist, swiftly stopping her.

Screw this!

The manager is just peeved with me because I don’t want to go out with him. Yes, he may be sophisticated and intelligent, but he’s boring, and nothing about him screams ‘spontaneous’. I’m looking for someone different, the apple that never fell from the tree. I’m searching for the apple that thrived in the tree…before getting devoured by birds and worms…that’s beside the point.

How can I be expected to order other flavors? That’s just a disgrace to mankind. I can’t betray my beloved bubblegum like that. It would be heinous of me.

I lean in forward with a menacing growl. “Unfortunately for you, I do believe in shooting the messenger.”

She turns a distraught stare on me, her mouth hanging wide open as a result of my threat. “How dare you? Are you disturbed?”

I am about to react when Mason (he’s been here the whole time, minding his own business because, in his words, Simo freaks him out) grabs me around my waist and pulls me away in the nick of time. “Down, Leech! Down!” he orders as if I’m some kind of dog.

I struggle against him. All the while, Bell laughs. I glower at her, but to no avail.

The worker, feeling threatened, calls in the manager.

“What the hell is going on here?” hot, sexy manager dude asks as I try to get to the worker who replaced my picture with Blubber’s.

Speak of the devil and he shall appear!

“Hell! That is one sexy picture of me. Don’t you think, Babe? Too bad you moved down a place,” Blubber appears from nowhere as he enters the chaotic scene. He reaches up to pat my cheek sympathetically as Mason locks my arms behind my back to prevent me from attacking him. “Next time, Love,” he mocks, aware that I’m currently helpless.

I let out a roar of anger as I try to leap forward, but Mason - being a football player - easily outmatches me.

“Dammit, Mason! Let go of me!” I hiss, trying to break free so that I can kill the worker for listening to the manager, to kill the manager for giving the order, to kill Blubber…just because it’s Blubber, and to kill Bells and Simo for laughing at me.

I’ll deal with Mason last. For once, he’s kind of in my good books.

Suddenly there’s a ringing at the front desk, but no one pays heed to it because we’re all preoccupied.

“Wow. Colorful place. Literally,” a familiar voice snaps me out of my rage as I stare up at Max, puzzled by his sudden presence. He gives me a little wave with raised eyebrows as he takes in the scene before him. “Is this a bad time or should I…” he trails off, distracted by something, “ooooh lookie, bubblegum ice cream! My favorite!” he exclaims in glee.

That’s when I hit my breaking point. I let out a warning shout, Mason still preventing me from reaching for my ice cream.

It’s too late!

Max’s hand has already reached for my bubblegum ice cream. Before I know it, Max has brought my ice cream to his mouth, unaware of the torture he is putting me through.

Bells yells out in panic, “Max, no!”

Of course, my struggling and Bell’s shouts are all in vain as I am forced to watch Max take a lick of my beloved ice cream.

There’s no saving him.

I let out a shout of agony as my wrath builds up. I shove my elbow into Mason’s windpipe. He lets go of me and drops to the floor in pain, trying to get his breath back whilst I run to Max to kill him. I jump on Max, wrapping my hand around his throat whilst he chokes on my ice cream.

Bell gets down to the floor to help up a pained Mason. Blubber begins to argue with the worker about the lighting of his picture and the angles etcetera, adding to the commotion, while hot sexy manager dude tries to pull me off a choking Max.

Among it all, Simo stands laughing, tears flowing from his eyes. He’s enjoying this way too much for my liking. I always knew he was secretly evil.

I am beginning to think that Jay hating bubblegum ice cream is a good thing. No good seems to come from it.

Now imagine this scene in your head:

You walk into an ice cream shop, expecting nothing but ice cream. You’re definitely not expecting some riot. You go in to find your somewhat of a buddy laughing his belly off, your enemy on the floor grumbling in pain whilst his girl tries to help him up, one random worker and fat kid arguing nonstop over a photo, and then there’s me, strangling a choking Max while the manager tries to pull me off of him in order to spare Max’s life.

Can you really blame Jay when he walks straight in, only to do a ‘180’ and head straight back out? This is the second time that he’s walked into a full-blown eruption in the ice cream shop - the place where things happen.

“Come again soon!” Simo calls after Jay all too joyfully.

Unfortunately for Jay, Simo’s not the only one who has spotted him.

I let go of Max in a hurry, much to his relief.

As I turn to run after Jay, I end up accidentally smashing hot manager dude in the face with my elbow. He groans out in pain and grabs his bleeding nose, Mason and Max grumbling and holding their throats while I run after Jay who seems to be lost once again.

I grab hold of his leather jacket and pull him to a stop.

He arches an eyebrow at me, not too impressed that I touched his jacket. Considering what I did with his other jackets, it is somewhat understandable.

“What is it?” he asks in a clipped tone. “It better be good.”

I flinch at his tone, “What is your problem? Why are you so mad at me?”

“Because you annoy me,” he states casually and then turns to leave.

I quickly move so that I am standing in front of him. “I’m sorry, okay? Whatever I did to you, I am sorry.”

His hard expression softens as he gazes down at me, perplexed by my apology. “You should be sorry for what you did to me,” he murmurs, his voice just audible enough for me to hear.

I open my mouth to say more, but he interrupts:

“We done here or should I stay and wait until the end of whatever this is?” he asks, impatient and rude, gesturing around to the chaos taking place.

Without thinking, on impulse, I stand on my tippy-toes to be somewhat near his height. I reach forward and wrap my arms around his neck, bringing him in closer for an embrace. I can feel him stiffen beneath me, but I go along with what I have to say anyway. “I really am sorry.”

He stares down at me contemplatively before sighing in defeat, “Alright, alright,” he forces me away from him, “we’re good. Now enough of that.”

“Enough of what?”

“That what you just did,” he answers carefully.

“You mean hugging, you Martian?” I chuckle at how awkward he is.

“Yeah, that,” he nods, taking another step back from me.

“It’s a good thing you don’t want to be human because you sure don’t act like one,” I tease him for being so uptight.

“You caught me off guard,” he defends himself.

“Oh, I did now?” I taunt him.

“Yeah,” he owns up to it, “you did.”

“How could I forget? You have boundaries,” I joke, reminding him of the previous words he said to me. “Well, put your mind at ease, I won’t do it again, at least not without warning,” I wink at him playfully. “Wouldn’t want to catch you off guard.”

“Want to make out?” he asks, a solemn expression on his face as if dead serious.

“What?” I question, doing a double take. I then shake my head frantically upon registering his blunt suggestion, “No!”

I’m certain that my eyes are the size of flying saucers.

He laughs at my facial expression, backing away, his resolve dying, “How’s that for being caught off guard?”

“I hate you.”

“I don’t care.”

Yes, you do.”

No, I don’t.

“Yeah you do,” I nudge him teasingly, a happy-go-lucky grin on my face.

“I don’t care because all you do is irritate me.”

“True, very true, but it’s got its perks right?” I ask playfully, not expecting an answer in return.

Imagine my surprise when he glances at me from the corner of his eye, his hand gently brushing against mine. “Yes,” he confirms with a serious expression, one that indicates that he’s not at all kidding this time, “yes, it does.”

“It does?” I ask, bewildered by his honesty.

“Eh,” he says, a boyish fleck in his blue eyes as he holds back an obvious grin, “sometimes.”

“Only sometimes?”

“On very rare occasions.”

“Good enough for me.”

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