Chapter 11: Open Your Eyes
Back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth, and forth and bac-
“Scram dearest, your grandfather needs ‘me’ time,” Gramps scolds me, impatiently waiting for me to move. “You steal my rocking chair every opportunity you get,” he lectures, pointing out the facts.
I grin up at him and bat my eyes innocently. “I’ll move, one one condition,” I pause, building up suspense, “convince Grams to let me off the hook.”
He taps his chin in thought, taking forever to come up with a response.
It’s like old people constantly live in slow motion while the rest of us run around anxiously trying to meet their every need.
“Please!” I blurt out in desperation, interrupting his slow thought process. “Convince her not to tell Yolanda about the incident.”
“You punched a person on the nose, Aqueela,” Gramps reminds me. “How am I supposed to convince that old batty hag not to tell your stepmother? She’s legally responsible for you.”
Actually, she isn’t. My father is the one who has sole custody over me. When he left, Yolanda took up the role as my guardian without the authorities knowing.
“I punched her for good reasons. C’mon, Gramps! Doesn’t that count for anything? Be a sport and do this itsy-bitsy favor for your favorite granddaughter of all time,” I plead, trying to sway him to see it my way.
If Yolanda finds out that I got detention again, then I am going to suffer a whole lot more wrath when I get home.
“You’re my only granddaughter,” he says in a matter-of-fact way.
“Exactly. Makes your job even easier,” I say with a grin.
“Well, how do you suppose I convince your wench of a grandmother not to tell her? The school phoned in. Lillian was furious. Oh, and thanks for putting her in a bad mood because that day I didn’t get a goodnight kiss,” he tells me, managing to disgust me in the process. As if I need that picture in my head…
“That’s only because the school and the principal himself are threatened by my all powerful demeanor. They totally twisted the story. They’re trying to ridden themselves of such great talent. Besides, you never get any love out of her anyway,” I tell my old gramps, his resemblance bearing similar characteristics to that of my father’s.
“Just tell me, kiddo, how do I do get your gran to listen to me? She hates my guts,” he reminds me.
“Hey, you’re the one who married her. Flirt or something. Win her over like the way you did in high school,” I smirk up at him with a mischievous spark to my eyes.
“That was all a bottle of wine and a good build, but now, here I stand wrenching my back in for you because you won’t give me my chair back,” he complains - nothing new.
He’s still on about that then…
“That’s how you going to treat your old man, huh? You want me to die? Because I guarantee my death will happen if you let me go through with the seduction of that old bat,” he adds morbidly.
I shrug. “Ah well, you win some, you lose some,” I reply nonchalantly.
His eyes widen in what I first think to be offense, that is until I realize that he’s looking passed me.
I close my eyes in dread and slowly turn around to face the demon.
“Open your eyes, Aqueela! You are in such big trouble. Just wait until your mother hears of this.”
I gulp. Uh oh!
I shake my head, stubbornly keeping my eyes closed, “Nah, I’m good with my eyes closed. Tends to soften the blow.”
“Open your eyes, child,” she demands, irritable.
“No,” I hypnotize myself, “I am dreaming and you both are nothing but figments of my imagination,” I say aloud, trying to convince myself that I’m asleep in bed. “Or you’re both dead and I’m now being haunted by your ghosts for having a party on your graves.”
I’m no longer convinced that I’m dreaming when a pinching pain sears through my left ear. I am quick to open my eyes and swat Gram’s hand off of my ear.
“Bless my own soul, we’re not dead for goodness sake!” she hisses at me with a pointed finger.
“Unfortunately,” I mutter, and thankfully, she doesn’t hear because her hearing aid is worthless.
I played with her hearing aid once, when I was bored…long story short, that hearing aid has been broken for the past two years and she has yet to notice.
I pick up on Gramps trying to escape the situation. The traitor!
I purposely cast the attention onto him, “Hey Gran, don’t you think Gramp’s haircut makes him look younger and sort of handsome?”
Grams immediately glances at Gramps to carefully inspect his hair. The sight is anything but admirable.
Gramps ruins it by opening his big mouth, clueless, “But I never got my hair cu-“
“Oh, my-my,” Grams cuts him off with a flirtatious smile. “It does make him look younger and a tad bit more dashing. How had I not noticed it before? I hated his old haircut. It made a cleaning mop seem more attractive.”
I stifle my laughter as she insults Gramp’s current hairstyle seeing as he actually never had anything done nothing to his hair in the slightest.
Gramps narrows his eyes at his wife for her comment and then at me for snickering.
“I agree, Grams,” I say and then give my Gramps a look, a look that means ‘flirt, or else’.
He doesn’t budge and so I elbow him discreetly in the back. He grunts and opens his mouth to say something, but it turns out that my force is too powerful. Instead of words coming out of his mouth, his dentures do.
My gran’s eyes widen in repulsion. “Howard! You sickening mutant spawned of an abomination!” she yells before storming off.
I glance at my gramps with a sheepish grin intact, “So that didn’t exactly go as planned?”
“You think?” he asks, sarcastic, before changing the subject at hand. “I just have one question, did you get her good?” he asks with a mischievous smirk, referring to the knockout I gave Melinda on her glass jaw.
I laugh and hold up my bruised hand, “You know me…” I shake out my hand, “when I do something, I go all out. I learn from the best.” I wink at my gramps teasingly.
“Attagirl. You make me proud,” he nods.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t see that Grams has returned and is currently standing behind him with a horrified look on her face upon overhearing him congratulating me for punching a girl in the face.
I burst out laughing when I realize that Grams just hit Gramps upside the head. I hate my family, but I love my family.
“No wonder this child is so rebellious, Howard!” Grams lectures, shooting me a glare for laughing.
I quickly fall silent under her unwavering gaze.
“Oh shut it, you old bag,” he murmurs in turn, rubbing his head where she whacked him with the back of her hand.
“What was that?” she questions, cupping a hand to her ear, having genuinely not heard what he said.
I watch in amusement as Gramps saves himself, “Oh nothing my sweet, sweet love.”
Grams merely shakes her head at him before waltzing out the room yet again.
I turn to Gramps and pat him on the back, “I have to go, but you work on those flirting tactics. Clearly, you need the practice,” I wink at him before leaving to meet up with Bells and Maggot.
“Well, what did you expect, Aqueels? You did punch her in the face,” Bell reminds me. “Plus, you got arrested the other day. Oh, and you told me of how, in your paranoia, you punched Jay. You also elbowed Mason in the solar plexus, choked Max and gave ‘manager dude’ a bloody nose. You’re acting out of character and I see a common factor in every equation - Jay Taylor. He is a bad influence on you.”
I twirl a lock of my hair innocently at the mention of yesterday’s incident.
I could care less about ‘manager dude’ because he replaced my picture with Blubber’s. However, I do feel bad for choking Max. He hasn’t spoken to me since.
What can I say? Don’t touch my bubblegum ice cream!
Blubber and Simo have teamed up against me, they both keep throwing it in my face on how violent I am and how I need anger management classes.
Mason, on the other hand, has made his obvious distaste for me even clearer than crystal - I got a forty-five-minute lecture, no jokes. To say he isn’t too impressed with me would be the understatement of the century.
And then there’s Jay…
Every time I talk to him, he refuses to acknowledge my presence. I thought we’d be passed this, but every time I think we’re moving up from the acquaintance zone to the friendship zone, he whimpers out. He pulls away and shuts me out. It’s like he is adamant on being alone for the rest of his life.
I mean I know I am not exactly the ‘best friend’ type, but hey, I try. Give me some credit.
“In my defense-“
“No, Aqueela! You cannot possibly have a defense for any of this. May I remind you that you punched my boyfriend in the solar plexus,” she points out, clearly not siding with me this time - it’s her loss in my true opinion.
“That is correct,” I nod in agreement, “but may I be the one to remind you that your boyfriend is a barbaric animal who most likely deserved it.”
Mason glowers at me in response upon hearing my comment. “You have no shame. You talk about me as if I’m not even here.”
“Then take the hint, buddy,” I wink at him and pat him on the back like I had done earlier with my gramps, indicating that his presence is not wanted or needed at this time.
“Screw you, Leech. I’m dating Bells, so excuse me for not leaving,” he retorts, slightly irritated yet suppressing a small smile.
I glance down at my nails, purposely portraying myself as a snob as I brush him off, “You’re not excused, however, I shall take your apology into consideration and weigh out the options for your highly unlikely forgiveness.”
His eyes widen as he takes a step toward me, “As I remember, according to the ‘Bequeela Book’, or whatever garbage you two came up with, you have to forgive me if I apologize.”
As he says the words aloud, it clicks in his head.
“Wait a sec! Why the hell am I apologizing?” he asks before clicking again. “Wait, I didn’t even apologize! You’re the one who elbowed me in the windpipe. You should be apologizing!” he raises his voice in anger upon realizing that I duped him.
I wave a finger before him in a reprimanding manner, “Tut tut. Lower your tone and speak to me with respect or Bells will ban you from all that kinky stuff.”
His mouth falls agape at my threat and I take delight in seeing him lose.
“It’s called kissing, Aqueela,” Bells rolls her eyes at me, hiding her face behind her hair as if embarrassed.
“She wouldn’t know,” Mason insults me.
I continue ranting nonetheless, “Windpipe…solar plexus…make up your minds. You both keep changing the story. If anything, it was more like a love tap to the solar plexus-windpipe region,” I grin up at the both of them and bat my eyelashes as if I have done nothing wrong.
“If that was a love tap then I feel sorry for your future boyfriend,” Bell mutters, still unhappy about my previous statement.
“If she ever gets one,” Mason adds with a cool glare directed at me.
“Doubt that indeed,” someone says from behind me.
I turn around to collide into familiar brown eyes. He has a bruised neck, my finger marks imprinted into his flesh.
Wow, the power I summon when my bubblegum ice cream is threatened by the enemy.
“Hey, Maxipad!” I grin up at him, apologetic for leaving a bruise.
Max rolls his eyes at the nickname, “If that’s an apology, then I really am worried about your future boyfriend. He is going to be living in hell.” He pauses dramatically, “I mean, just look at what you did to me!” he points a finger at his blue neck imprinted with my fingernails.
“Oh, stop whining! You’ll be thanking me in the future when those fingerprints of mine become recognized and I become famous. You can get those fingerprints scanned and earn riches for my imprint. You’ll be famous by association. You’ll have something better than my autograph, you’ll have my own flesh and blood imprint. People will pay billions to be strangled by me. I am just going to go ahead and say that you’re welcome. However, I am expecting something in return for my good deeds,” I tell him, dead serious in my generosity.
“How does she always do that?” Max asks in awe of me.
Bell shrugs, “A gift.”
“Yeah…that’s if you consider manipulating people a gift. She always makes herself look innocent and casts the debt she owes on to the one that she owes so the one that she owes will somehow have to owe her when that person doesn’t really owe her anything at all,” Mason pipes up, confusing us all.
Max lays a hand on Mason’s shoulder, “Dude, it’s not cool to make up sentences to make yourself look smarter.”
I laugh at Mason’s facial expression at this as I high five Max, “Nice one!” I congratulate Max, enjoying Mason’s annoyed facial expression.
Max takes a bow and pretends to tip his non-existent hat, “Yours truly.”
“I hate all of you,” Mason casually states, irritated.
“Now you sound like Jay,” I point out.
Bell chirps in, “Speaking of which, Mr. Taylor hasn’t been around much. Why is that?”
I shrug. “Dunno, but I intend on finding out,” I say in determination as I begin to walk toward the place where I know that I’ll find him.
I turn around to hear what Max has to say.
“Let me know if you want to try out for MMA’s this year. You can even try out in the male’s category, I guarantee you’ll make the cut,” he smirks mockingly, referring to the way I’d beaten him up, among others, at the ice cream store.
“And I can guarantee that you’ll make the cut for the women!” I call back over my shoulder.
I’m a legend on a mission…
I’m able to locate him with little to no effort.
He is sitting against the oak tree with his eyes closed. It’s the very same oak tree that I took a picture of, the picture that fate decided he’d end up in.
I smile in admiration. He’s at peace when he’s by himself.
I close the gap between us, eager to speak to him. I join him, silently sitting down beside, my back resting against the tree too.
He opens one eye as if sensing my presence.
“Hey,” I greet him softly.
He doesn’t reply, both eyes closed again.
“Stop ignoring me,” I demand, nudging him with my elbow.
“Why do you insist on following me?” he asks lazily, finally opening his eyes as he turns to face me. “How did you even know that I’d be here?”
“Because this is where you were when you landed up in my picture,” I explain, taking the gap while I have it.
He realizes this and shifts in his seat to glance my way. “I don’t even know your name,” he reminds me, hoping to learn it.
“So?” I shrug carelessly.
“So you need to stop this. You need to stop following me around. I know you want to be friends, but I can’t do friends right now - maybe never,” he sighs.
For once, I take his words to heart, trying to understand where he’s coming from.
“Did I do something wrong?” I ask cautiously, confused by his sudden change of mood.
“No. You never do anything wrong. Maybe that’s the problem,” he murmurs before standing up and leaving.
I’m tempted to go after him, but I halt, his words evoking something within me.
He needs space.
“I’m sorry, you signed up for what now?” Bells repeats in pure shock as if she hasn’t already heard me say it about a kazillion times.
“MMA competition,” Max says proudly, answering on my behalf.
“Mixed Martial Arts,” I clarify to Bells. She’s slow.
She falls speechless, blinking down at me in astonishment before quickly recovering. “I know what it is!” she snaps at me. “I am just…flabbergasted that you are even considering this,” she states.
“Not considering, Maxi put my name down already,” I correct her. “And I am flabbergasted that you used the word flabbergasted and made me say it in the process.”
Bells rolls her eyes.
“I expect you to show some support and wear a T-shirt with my face on. Make Mason do it too. Max is my manager and we’re going for the big win,” I add.
“You. Are. Both. Insane,” Bells says slowly, scrutinizing each word as if to get it through our skulls.
I shrug. “Heard that one before.” I turn to Max, “Am I right or am I right?” I laugh.
Max joins in and gives me a high five in agreement, setting Bells straight, “We’re,” he points to himself and the to me, “going to be billionaires.”
“Right,” Bells drawls out, not believing it.
“Now drop and give me fifty!” Max orders, turning to me with high expectations in mind. “Break a sweat!”
I’m starting to regret the deal I made with him. I didn’t think this through. I shouldn’t have agreed to him training and managing me.
Without question, I drop to the floor and begin to do push-ups…well I attempt in doing push-ups. I do three and then fall flat on my stomach, panting and unable to breathe. I am powerful, but sure as hell not fit.
Max gives me a little kick in the side as if to encourage me. “Up! Up! Up! Do you want to go up up up?” he yells, his tone ferocious as his trainer side comes into play.
I lift my face to make eye contact, my back taking strain. “Yes, Sergeant! I want to go up up up!” I salute him with my free hand.
Max bends down to my level so that we’re face-to-face before leaning in and whispering in my ear in a threatening manner, “Well, you’re sure as hell not going up up up if you’re down down down…” he trails off before he shouts right in my ear, startling me and just about giving me a heart attack, “now get up up up!”
I manage to do another push-up as a result.
“Why do I always come when weird crap is happening? I leave for a few minutes and come back to this.” I notice Mason’s presence as he gestures down to me with a shake of his head.
Bell gives him a tight-lipped smile in response. “Yes, apparently Max signed Aqueela up for the MMA World Competition this year and apparently we have to support them because they’re apparently getting us shirts made with Aqueela’s face on,” Bell explains, fake enthusiasm dripping in her tone as he tries to convey a secret message to her boyfriend.
Mason scoffs, seemingly not surprised in the least, “Of course they did.”
“Hey, Mason, you can be our number one fan!” I say, knowing perfectly well that I’m getting under his skin.
He rolls his eyes, an indication that he spends way too much time with Bells.
“I’ll even choke you so that will have my imprint in place of my autograph, just like Max. Worth millions one day I tell you,” I tease him, but then take on a stern expression, “but seriously, I’ll choke you happily. It would be a blessing in disguise, or a blessing in no disguise - either way it would be my honor. No, wait, it will be your honor,” I say with a final nod of conclusion.
Mase claps his hands, feigning excitement. “Yeah!” he says in a high-pitched voice, clearly being sarcastic.
I stand up, despite Max’s frown, to razzle Mason’s hair teasingly, “Thanks, Champ!”
“You’re welcome,” he grumbles, giving in.
“Now I’m going to need your shirt size,” I say as I begin circling him, examining his stature up and down as if to predict his size. Mason scoffs, annoyed, folding his arms across his chest as he endures it with impatience. “I’m thinking small, perhaps extra small,” I mock, ignoring Mason’s scowl.
Mase, being the star quarterback, is anything but small built.
I glance back to Max, “You getting this?”
“Yup. Indeed,” Max nods, a pencil behind his ear and one in his hand as he whips out a notebook and begins jotting down everything like some professional manager. “Hopefully, they’ll still have extra small in stock. We’re running low with all the orders coming in.”
Mason frowns and arches an eyebrow in disbelief, “Orders? What orders? No one can possibly be considering buying a shirt with Aqueela’s face on. I’d only buy one to burn it.” He falters and then shakes his head, “Scratch that. It still won’t be worth the nightmares.”
Max shrugs, “Advertising on the MMAs Facebook page has its pros, although we might get sued but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Check it,” he says and then holds up his phone screen to Mas, Bells and me.
Mason and Bells begin laughing whilst my mouth falls agape as I punch Max hard on the shoulder.
“Hulk smash!” Mason mocks, still laughing at what he’s just seen.
Max posted a picture of me on the floor doing push-ups with a manly expression on my face as I attempt in pulling myself up from the floor.
“I’m sorry, Aqueela, but sacrifices need to be made. Besides, we just got tons of orders from that single pic,” Max apologizes, not the least bit sorry.
If he were the sacrifice, it would be an entirely different story…
“I’ll be having nightmares for the rest of my life,” Mason points at the pic again and shudders.
“True that,” Bell giggles.
“More like sweet dreams,” Max winks at Mason, backing me up.
“I am anything but small, Aqueela,” Mason tells me in a serious tone, the thought still eating at him.
I grin at the fact that he’s still on about that. “I know you’re not small, it’s why I said extra small.”
I walk away, but not before hearing Max mock Mason and give him flack. Unfortunately, Mason follows after me, leaving Bells and Max to laugh at my picture yet again.
I stop and turn once we are far enough from Bells and Max because I already know what Mason wants to ask. Nevertheless, I keep up the cocky facade, “Forget something?”
He shakes his head. “Aqueela…” he starts firmly, “we need to talk.”
I feign a tremble to lighten the mood, “Are you breaking up with me?”
“Aqueela,” he drags out, “I’m serious.”
“You were never supposed to see,” I make reference to my scars, “so just forget about it.”
Mason stares down at me with earnest, his brown eyes glistening beneath the sun rays. “I can’t,” he whispers. He steps forward and lifts the sleeve of my shirt up, only to expose scars. “I can’t just forget about this,” he says softly and gently, taking me by surprise. He almost never uses that tone on me. It’s reserved for Bells.
I sigh and avert my eyes. “Mason…don’t.”
He runs his thumb gently over my recent wound, “I won’t just sit back and let you get hurt.”
“Yes, you will. You’re not supposed to care. We’re not even friends,” I remind him, frustrated.
Mason frowns and opens his mouth to reply just as my phone begins to ring.
I see the caller ID and sigh at the lousy timing. I glance back up at Mason, but he’s already seen the name flashing across my screen. If anything, he seems even more worried than a second ago.
I roll my eyes at him and turn my back on him to answer my phone.
“Aqueela, you better have a damn good reason as to why you hit that girl and landed up in detention…again!” I hear her voice and it sends shivers of fear down my spine.
I stand my ground. I don’t want Mason to see me afraid because it will only confirm his suspicions.
I scoff, already knowing that I’d regret my next words by the time I get home, “Because I learn best from my witch of a mother.”
She hangs up the phone with no reply.
I probably shouldn’t have done that…
I turn back around to see that Mason is still here. He has probably eavesdropped on the entire exchange.
“What are you still doing here?” I glare at him, taking it out on him.
He offers me a sympathetic look, in turn, one that I reject. I don’t need to rely on anyone and I’ll be damned if I start with him.
Fortunately, it’s all suddenly become clear to me now.
My stepmother found out, which can only mean one thing…
…Gramps really does suck at flirting!