Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 12: Wildfire

I’m dreading going to school today because I know who will be waiting just around the corner to interrogate me. Mason keeps tailing me, wanting to know more about the situation with my stepmother. It’s tiring.

“Why don’t you just quit walking away? I am not leaving until you talk to me,” I hear his voice echo from behind me as I keep forcing myself to move ahead, trying to put up a mental block against him.

I round the school corner into the school garden, hoping to lose him, but he’s persistent. Now I know how Jay felt when I stalked him non-stop. Lately, I’ve been staying out of his way.

I continue on in willpower, my camera in hand, as I stop alongside the flower beds where the new flowers have just been planted. I ignore Mason’s pointless presence as I snap a few shots.

“You know, winter will come to an end soon. Eventually, those long sleeve shirts will go and you’ll be left exposed. Then what?” he asks harshly.

My fuse is short and I end up losing it. “What the hell is your problem? Just leave me alone!” I spit, furious, now only capable of seeing the red flowers.

You,” he snaps back, “you are my problem!”

I take a step back, my lips parting, his tone catching me off guard. “H-How?” I stutter, confusion etched into my features.

Mason takes a step forward and grabs hold of my left hand and lifts up the sleeve. “This,” he glances down at my bruised wrist, “is the problem.” He sighs, averting his eyes, “Believe it or not, Aqueela, but I do somewhat care about what happens to you. I’m not completely heartless.”

I beg to differ. Agree to disagree.

I must look like a fish out of water, my mouth opening and closing, as I try to come up with something to say in turn. His concern has left me completely speechless.

“I’m worried,” he admits softly.

I stand still, taken aback by his sudden closeness.

“Aqueela, I…”

I zone out of whatever it that he’s saying when Jay brushes passed us, hoping to go by unnoticed. He lifts his head and meets my gaze for a second before he heads for his usual place by the oak tree.

My senses come back to me as I quickly snatch my hand out of Mason’s. I narrow my eyes up at him in warning, “Stay out of my business.”

Mason reaches out to me, but I pull back and leave instead.

“There you are!” Max shouts upon seeing me as I walk on by.

Unfortunately, he easily catches up with my quick paced strides.

“I’ve been looking everywhere for you. You haven’t pitched to any of our set training times,” he scolds me from within his sports attire.

I stop to scan his appearance, only now noticing his baggy basketball shorts, running shoes and the red whistle hanging from his neck. He has to dress the part to play the part - hence dressed as my coach. He is either all or nothing, he can never just be. He always has to go all out in everything he does. He puts cheerleaders to shame.

I roll my eyes in response. “Well, excuse me for not being able to make it during school hours!” I stomp my foot with a whine.

Who makes training times during maths class? I am barely passing as it is.

“You’re excused, but you need to get your priorities straight and you need to get your head screwed on right. This MMA competition is the big break that we’ve been waiting for all our life and since the very beginning of time,” he reprimands me as if I’m the delusional one with my head stuck in the clouds.

“Max, you’ve only been my personal trainer and manager since four days ago. Just what big break, exactly, have we been waiting for since the beginning of time?” I ask. “Oh, and by the way, that diet you gave me pretty much bans me from all types of food. Did you even research it? Because quite frankly, I am sure that no carbs, no proteins, no fruit and veggies, no fats and no dairy products, practically bans me from eating at all.”

Max clicks his tongue twice and winks at me, holding his hands pointed at me as if holding a gun, “Exactly, Babe.”

I shake my head. “Are you serious?!” When he doesn’t reply, the answer becomes obvious. “If I don’t eat then I will die, you genius!”

He grins and winks again, “Exactly, Babe.”

I narrow my eyes at him, unimpressed.

He gives in and laughs. “Okay, okay, relax. I am kidding…about the whole ‘you dying thing’, only because how else will I make the moolah? You’re my way to ka-ching!” He holds his hands in front of him as if holding paper money, rubbing his fingers back and forth while blowing down on his hands.

I scoff. He wishes he had actual cash to do that with.

“Though,” he adds, “I am dead serious about the diet. You will follow it.”

I take the diet that he had written on a piece of paper out of my pocket. I skim over it again. “No water?” I ask softly in disbelief before raising my tone, “No water?!” I shout, “What is the matter with you?!”

He shrugs, “Never trust non-man-made stuff. Water is from nature, and let’s face it, ‘Mother Nature’ is the cruelest of all.”

“Not quite the cruelest, you take the cake,” I mutter, just loud enough for him to catch it.

He glares at me, rising to his own defense. He motions to Melinda and her cheerleading buddies in the distance, “I may be cruel, but, doll…” he starts in a high-pitched girlie voice, “Melinda can eat my chocolate oats for breakfast.”

I scrunch up my face at his choice of word. Nonetheless, he’s right. “True that, my friend.”

His strict demeanor comes flying back as he brings the whistle to his mouth and blows right in my ear. Literally, he blows it right by ear! “We’re not friends as of now! I am your coach and manager and nothing else. Now drop and give me one million! Go! Go! Go!” He orders, his mood changing entirely.

I don’t move, completely peeved by the earache he just caused, and challenge him with a daring stare. I have yet to drop to the floor and fall to his every command. My defiance leads to him taking the liberty to kick me in the shin.

“Why?!” I wince, stupidly hopping up and down in pain, which only adds to it. “What the flying fuzzy hamster was that for!” I don’t wait for him to answer as I screech out in agony, trying to numb the hurt, “Ah!”

He’s insane.

I continue on jumping and shaking my leg out. It must seem, to the outsider, that I am parading in front of Max as if doing the ‘Hokey Pokey’.

When the pain subsides and I finally calm down, I turn back to Max and give him the ‘drop dead’ glare. “Resorting to violence to get your way is shallow. You’re shallower than a puddle,” I mutter, now bitter with him.

“Yeah, and you’re lazier than a sloth,” he retorts back, not in the least apologetic about having just kicked me.

“Well, you try and train non-stop every day!” I whine in protest.

“I would, but I’m not the one who signed up for MMAs!” he points out.

“Yes, you did. You signed me up!” I remind him.

“Only because you asked!” he argues.

“Why didn’t you sign yourself up?” I turn the question back on him.

“Because I don’t want to commit to non-stop training!”

“You’re proving my point here,” I state in frustration.

“But once again, I am not the one that signed up!” Max uses the same flawed argument.

He may not have signed himself up, but he did sign up for me, thus he did sign up. I win.

“Once again, yes you were! Why did you have to kick me in the shin? What were you hoping to achieve?” I rage.

He gives me a blank stare in response.

Well?” I repeat, sucking in another deep breath in order to restrain myself from killing him right here, right now, in cold blood.

“Honestly, I was hoping you’d fall down to the ground in pain and thus, from then on, start your push-ups.” He sighs in disappointment, “But instead, it turned for the worst and you jumped up…leading you further from the ground.”

His plans are pointless.

“Keep this negligence up and you’ll stay put on the ground. You’ll never jump to fame,” he scolds as if I am the one in the wrong here. “Now drop dead and give me six hundred for disobedience!”

My left eye ticks in frustration at his audacity to even try that again. “First off, I am injured, no thanks to you! Second, I can’t give you six hundred if I am dead!”

“Did May Gale give up when she lost both legs in a fatal explosion? No! She kept running marathons and just look where she is today,” he lectures if trying to inspire me - he’s failing horribly.

“Oh, please do tell, Max, where is she today?” I question, humoring the idiot.

He ignores me and continues on, “And did Kyle Evans stop attending funerals just because he was dead? No! And look where he is today-“

“Dead?” I cut him off with a perplexed expression.

“That’s beside the point. You have no excuses, Aqueela! Try and be like May and Kyle for once in your life!” he debates further.

So, in other words, dead?

I stare up at him, a blank expression on my face. “I cannot believe that you are trying to motivate me with a speech on two people who I am pretty sure don’t exist, nor ever did.”

Panic strikes through his eyes as he is caught red-handed. Before I even have time to point it out, he has already kicked me in my other shin to cover up his tracks. I whimper out in agony, glaring daggers at him.

“They do so exist!” he yells and then runs away in a rush as I curse his name and tend to my shin, ruing the day that I ever agreed to have him as my personal trainer.

He’s going to create a monster.


“Psst, Aqueels! Can I borrow a pen?” Bell whispers from beside me.

“Why can’t you bring your own damn pen to school?!” I snap, on edge after my encounters with Mason and Max.

Her eyes widen in surprise. “What’s your deal?”

I shake my head and throw my spare pen at her. “Everything.”

She glances down and notices the blue bruises on my legs. “What happened?”

“Max happened.” I feign a shiver, “So evil. So very, very evil.”

Bell gives me a curious glance and then shakes her head. “I am not going to even ask.” She leans over and hands me her phone, “Check this out.”

I take it out of her hand and my eyes widen at the sight. In shock, I clumsily drop her phone and watch it crash to the floor.

Max uploaded a video of me yelling at him, jumping up and down after he kicked me in the shin. “The little devil!” I shout, not really caring that we are in class. The teacher is out anyway, not that it would make much of a difference.

Bell shrugs. “Over a million views already. He might be a good manager after all. You’ve got a lot of fans behind you now. People are actually placing bets on you and expecting you to go through with the MMAs. Hell, they’re expecting you to win.”

When did this get so over-the-top?

Oh, yeah…when I decided that Max needed to be involved.

“Maybe he’s a good manager, but he’s a sucky coach. When was abusing the trainee part of the curriculum?” I mutter to myself, but Bells hears anyway and stifles her laughter by putting two and two together as to what happened to my shin.

You’d think she’d get it after seeing the vid…

She’s a genius in school work, but when it comes to general knowledge…well then you might as well classify her as an airhead.

A couple of jocks walk passed my desk, pointing at me in recognition before bursting out into laughter as they replay the video Max uploaded. It seems as if everyone has already seen the clip.

I glance at Bells in defeat. She’s offering me a sympathetic stare, sensing my mood.

I turn back to the jocks who are still mocking me and throw my fist to the air. “Yeah, just keep walking! Thank your lucky stars that I am a peaceful person!” I yell after them, only for Mason to laugh aloud as he leaves his group to sit down beside me.

You? Peaceful? I don’t think so,” he says teasingly.

I avert eye contact. I don’t want to be near him after our confrontation.

Bell notices my discomfort, her rare perceptive side on display, as she raises a brow at me, skeptical. I brush her off as Mason speaks up again, “As funny as the vid was, you shouldn’t let Max hurt you like that.”

Yeah, because you are so much better…

“Well, maybe I wanted Max to hurt me!” I hiss, my fury getting the better of me. I don’t need him worrying about me. Where is our mutual hatred? It feels like it’s diminishing to make room for change. I hate change.

He seems perplexed by my unreasonable snapping and by my answer in itself. Yeah, I bet the thought never crossed his puny mind.

He coughs awkwardly, clearing his throat, “I was just saying. You shouldn’t be abused.”

I catch the double meaning, but I wish I hadn’t.

I narrow my eyes at him, “Maybe I like being abused! Back off, Maggot!” I yell out, irrational, quickly getting up to walk away from him, leaving a shocked Bells behind.

I end up bumping into Jay on the way out. He and half the class have apparently witnessed that whole exchange. He glances down at me, refusing to acknowledge me. He turns to leave, but I can’t help but stop him.

I grab hold of his arm, immediately regretting when I see the icy glare in his eyes.

“This morning with Maggot was not what you think. I mean, it was - wait, what were you thinking?” I ask in a falter.

He folds his arms across his chest, cocking his head to the side, impatiently waiting for me to elaborate.

“If you were thinking that it was nothing, well then it is exactly what you were thinking. But if you were thinking that I was seeing my best friend’s boyfriend behind her back, then you, Sir,” I get carried away and poke his chest in accusation, “are sorely mistaken. I’m innocent!”

I gaze back up at Jay who is staring down at me with amusement written all over his stupid face. “Innocent, huh?” he asks. “I somehow doubt that.”

He’s onto me.

I panic. “Your face. What? Shut up!” I ramble on instinct. Needless to say, I have terrible natural instincts.

I take the gap to flee before I shame myself further. I grin, a smile tugging at my lips when I hear him chuckle from behind me. I round the corner to escape him altogether.

It’s when I see Max that I turn on my heel in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, he spots me.

“Okay, come along, ‘Young Padawan’. You have much to learn. We have a training session scheduled…” he drawls out, checking his newly bought sports watch, “right about now.”

I groan in despair.

He grabs my arm and begins hauling me toward the school gym. I struggle against him and sink my heels into the ground as not to be taken captive, yet he keeps dragging me across the floor effortlessly.

“This could be considered kidnapping,” I point out to him.

“And you could be considered as lazy. Sue me,” he retorts back, unfazed, as he practically shoves me through the gym doors.

Immediately, all the jocks’ heads whip in our direction upon hearing the commotion, no thanks to Max friggin Mills. Once their gazes land on me, they burst into laughter at the reminder. I glare at each of them. If the school didn’t know me before for my rebellious acts, they sure as hell know me now.

I narrow my eyes at Max as soon as he releases me. “I hate you for uploading that video to the internet!”

“I am sure you’ll get over it, ‘Little Ms. Innocent’,” he replies calmly, not bothered in the least.

I am never going to live that video down!

“How did you find out about that?” I snap, my mouth agape in shock. I literally just spoke to Jay like a second ago.

He shrugs, “Eavesdropping and gossip at its finest. Spreads like a wildfire. Also, you should know that I know everything.”

“And you should know that I know that you know nothing,” is what I say in response to his statement.

“What?” he pulls a face, confused.

“Leave me alone!” I snap at him, agitated, not knowing where I’m going with this.

He pokes my forehead. “You.” Poke. “Need.” Poke. “To.” Poke.” Train!” Poke.

The last one was just unnecessary.

I grit my teeth in frustration when he tries again. I twist his finger before he can get the chance. “I liked you better when I didn’t know you.”

“You can’t like someone if you don’t know them, Aqueela,” he argues.

Oh, so now he’s a smart ass!

“Well, I did!” I yell and then halt once I realize what I just said.

Max’s eyes widen at my confession.

Here we go…

“You liked me?” he asks in surprise.

“This just got interesting, the losers are interacting,” Laiken remarks as he and the other jocks fall silent, watching this all play out and, no doubt, predicting a horrific outcome.

“Once upon a time,” I admit, shamelessly, ignoring the prying ears of morons. “You were my first crush. In kindergarten, you once saved me from Mason’s bullying - that’s when you first realized that I actually existed and that I wasn’t invisible.”

Max scratches his neck, thinking back. “We were in kindergarten together?” he prods. “I don’t remember that.” He shakes his head with a sheepish grin, baffled.

“Yeah, I know you don’t remember, it’s why I never brought it up until now. You have no idea how difficult it was to get your attention. You were always stuck in your own freaky world where only you existed,” I explain, remembering how odd he used to be as a child. I see nothing has changed.

“Well, you should have said something,” he pins the blame on me.

“Max, I gave you a valentine card that literally said ‘I love you’. You looked me straight in the eyes and all you said was ‘thank you’, and then you continued on like I never existed. You even turned the card into a paper plane. I worked at least five minutes on that thing and you completely ruined it. Did you even see the two stick people holding hands? I even drew you with spiky hair,” I complain as I reminisce back on my skillful work of art.

Telling him would have made no difference. He was a dense child. Still is.

“You loved me?” he asks in awe, having only taken that bit from my rant.

Before I can answer, his lips are on mine.

It takes me a while before I register what’s happening. When my brain comes back for the occasional visit, catching up, I realize the situation I’m currently caught up in.

I shove him off of me before slapping him through the face.

“Oooh! Rejected!” Laiken snickers at Max’s misfortune.

I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand as the rest of the jocks erupt in laughter, holding up their phones and snapping pics of what just happened.

This story is bound spread across the entire school. You’d think the cheerleaders are big on gossip, well the jocks outdo them by a milestone.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I finally shout at him, angered, as the red hand print takes a form of its own on his right cheek.

He just stole my second-first kiss!

I had my first kiss when I was just a kid with an old friend.

“You said you loved me,” Max points out, a lazy grin on his face.

The jocks clap as if audience to a stage production. Some even take the liberty to walk up to Max, pat him on the back and congratulate him for his act of bravery.

“Yo, Mills!” Laiken hollers. “You’re a free man today. That took courage, especially since it’s Law. Mas and I will go easy on you today.”

He and Mason are the bullies of the school. They seem to have it out for many, especially me.

Max blatantly ignores Laiken. If I weren’t so infuriated with him, I’d be proud.

“Yeah, ’loved’ as in past tense. I was six! I didn’t know what love was. I still don’t even know! We were in kindergarten!” I raise my voice, still unable to fathom the fact that he just went ahead and planted one on me.

“I thought we were having a moment,” he defends himself, his brown eyes sparkling in mischief.

“Well, you thought wrong!” I huff, frustrated, as I correct his stupid assumptions.

“We need a stage name when you go up to fight at MMAs. People need a cool name to cheer you on by. I personally like ‘Aggressor’, ‘Beastly’, ‘Roar’ and ‘The Annihilator’,” Max changes the subject as if what just took place never took place.

“You kissed me!” I whine, still not quite over it just yet.

“Yeah, so? Get over it.” He shrugs, “I am.”

“You’re over it? So that kiss meant nothing to you?” I question in a fit of rage.

How dare he just kiss me!

“Well that depends, did it mean something to you?” he asks, skeptical, as he observes my stature, trying to get a read on my body language.

I don’t answer and send him a deadpanned stare in turn.

“I feel like you’re mad. Are you mad?” he questions, clueless.

Men!

I stomp my foot in aggravation, “You kissed me!” I repeat, trying to get it through his head. I’ve never really been kissed before so this is a big deal to me.

“I am getting this weird feeling that you’re repeating that to send me some kind of a message, but there must be a disturbance in our mind link because the message isn’t quite being conveyed.” He smirks, “Come on, Babe, you know guys don’t do subtle.”

I send another slap across his face, marking both his cheeks a striking red. “How’s that for subtle, ’Babe’?” I hiss at him.

He rubs his left cheek, yet still, he is grinning like a Cheshire cat. “Kinky,” he grins cheekily, unconcerned that I’m on the verge of strangling him.

I lose my temper. “You can’t just kiss me and then make out as if it didn’t happen! Don’t touch your lips with mine ever again without my consent! Or else!” I threaten him.

“Where’s the fun in that? I want it to be spontaneous,” he clarifies, still joking around.

“I will spontaneously cut your lips off if they ever touch mine again without my consent! Then you can never kiss anyone or eat cookies ever again! Understood?” I ask, my aggressive side coming out more so than usual. “Do I make myself clear?”

“Why cookies?” he asks, that being all that he took from my lecture.

I shrug, “I like cookies.” I then resume my fit of rage, “Cut your lips off! You hear me, Max?” I warn. Ain’t nobody going to just kiss me!

Max takes a step back and holds his hands up as if to fend me off. “Chill. It was just a kiss, you’re acting as if it’s your first kiss…” he trails off, his eyes widening in realization as it finally dawns on him. “I’m your first kiss?” he asks aloud, stunned.

“Excuse you, second-first kiss!” I correct him.

The jocks begin to whisper their theories among each other. I am sure news of Max and me will reach everyone by tomorrow, even the geek table.

“Wow! No wonder you’re giving me so much sass. Who would’ve thought that the rebel, Aqueela Lawson, is really a ‘goody goody’ in the real world?” Max taunts me, leaning forward again.

I roll my eyes at him and shove him back with such a force that he lands up on the floor. I take it as my opportunity to escape, and so like the bat in the night or the Batgirl in the night, I vanish…which means I run like hell, trying not to fall face down over my own two feet again.

Being the klutz I am, you can imagine that I am not successful in my efforts, and you can imagine the ridicule and laughter that erupts like a volcano at the sight of me on the floor beside Max.

I feel like Scott Sterling.

So much for leaving with my dignity intact.


“Since when did you and Max go public?” Bells asks as I meet up with her after school. “Oh, and thanks for mentioning to your best friend that you have a thing for Max,” she says in sarcasm, annoyed at the lack of information, information that I don’t even seem to have.

Since when did I go public with Max? I have no idea.

I raise an eyebrow. “Who told you this? We didn’t go public. Plus, I had a thing for him, not have. Had, as in past tense. Where did you get this information from because I swear if Max so much as-“

She shakes her head. “Not Max.”

She shows me a picture on her phone, one of Max kissing me.

You’ve got to be kidding me!

“It going around like a wildfire. The jocks are sending it to everyone,” she informs me, filling me in on the latest news. “Mason said he’d put a stop to it, so don’t worry. They always listen to their quarterback, although, I, myself, am curious as to how and why that kiss took place if you’re not interested in Max.”

“Because it slipped that I used to like him in kindergarten and suddenly he’s kissing me. The jocks must have captured the picture and sent it all around.” I roll my eyes, knowing that their ringleader is Laiken, at least when Mason’s not around. “Ugh, I hate the football team so much. They’ll do anything to climb further up the popularity ladder.”

Bell laughs just as her phone beeps. I frown at her in suspicion as she elaborates, “Max just changed his status on Facebook to ‘in a simply complicated relationship’ with Aqueela Lawson. On the MMA official Facebook page there is a picture of you and Max kissing with a caption underneath saying #Maxeela. People are liking the trend. Your fans increased drastically within the span of a few minutes. I had my doubts, but now I really think that you and Max might actually make the big ones. You two might be rich and successful after all.”

What does she mean ‘after all’? I’m offended.

“What little faith ye have in me,” I glare at her for the lack of loyalty.

“Not in you, in Max,” she clarifies with a sheepish grin. “It’s a pity it was all a mistake. When the Maxeela fans hear of this they’ll go on a rampage and stop supporting you two.”

Maxeela fans?

I sigh, knowing that what she says is true. I am about to say something more before Max comes up from behind me and wraps an arm around my waist, surprising me as he leans in and kisses me on my cheek. “Hey, Baby.”

I turn around, ready to punch him in the face, but then notice camera crew of the school following him around. He discreetly motions over to them with his eyes, mouthing to me ‘we need this’.

They all erupt in ’aww’s and begin giving donations toward the MMAs at the sight of us together. I force a smile as I lean in toward Max. “Hi…” I trail off, thinking of a pet name to call him. I land up stumped and just go with my first thought, “Maxipad!”

They all laugh, finding ‘us’ to be adorable.

Max gives me a subtle glare before he pinches me in the side, fooling our audience into thinking it was a loving gesture. The pain from the pinch makes me jump and squirm as he fakes a laugh to cover it up.

His grip on me tightens. “Aren’t you just too cute today?” he asks in a sickly-sweet voice.

“Indeed I am, Maxipad!” I delight in glee.

“Baby, you know I hate it when you call me that,” he grins down at me creepily, his eyes unblinking as he conveys the message privately to me, one that said to stop calling him ‘Maxipad’ in public.

Unfortunately for him, I don’t quite receive the message, just as he had not received my message earlier.

I decide that maybe this could be fun after all. He stole my second first kiss, it’s only fair to milk this a little.

I grin innocently up at Max and bat my eyelashes. “Aww, but you told me you love it when I call you Maxipad, that it makes you feel more feminine. You always say that you wish you had more estrogen because your testosterone comes with a price. For instance, you feel like you can’t share your feelings. But now that I call you Maxipad, you feel like you can.”

The guy filming us bursts out in laughter whilst the girl section of the camera crew coo at us in awe.

Max and me together? Yeah…in a million years from never.

Max narrows his eyes at me before bringing me closer, planting a big sloppy kiss on my forehead, just to get even. “I just love you so so much.”

“You tell me that much too often,” I smile up at him, purposely fluttering my lashes, amusing myself in the process. Bells, herself, stifles her laughter and shoves her fist over her mouth to prevent herself from laughing aloud.

“Much much too often,” Max whispers in my ear to convey how angry he is right now.

Join the club, Max Mills!

The bystanders see his whispering as a loving gesture. I fake a laugh as if what he said was funny. I should really stop tormenting him now, but I can’t. It’s too much fun. I’m too far gone. I’m hooked.

“I think I am going to be sick,” I hear his irritating voice mutter from beside us. I glance to my left to see Mason standing and watching with a disgusted expression on his face. “So this…” he gestures between Max and me, “is really happening?”

“Of course, Maggot,” I lie.

Max opens his mouth to say something, but I quickly interrupt him, knowing that he hates being interrupted because the spotlight has to always be on him. “Sweetie, Maxipad, Darling, Sugar-pie, Plumb-Cupcake, Brownie-Avalanche, Honey-sickle, please fetch me my usual morocco chocolate, double mocco, extra chocolate latte with sprinkles and cream.”

I make up a drink from the tip of my tongue as I force Max to leave, knowing he wouldn’t be able to refuse my request in public.

Ugh, sprinkles…gah!

Max glowers at me, but when the camera crew continues filming, he plasters on a charming smile instead. “Of course, Buttercup.” He obliges before walking to his car, his usual spring to his step fading - I might just be the cause of it diminishing.

I glance back to the camera crew as they begin to ask me questions on the special drink I just ordered.

I answer in a lie, “Well, I’ve always been a simple country girl, but Maxipad is quite the contrary. We met at the kiddies restaurant, Rowdy’s. He was a waiter dressed up as a giant Teletubby. I, being down to earth, ordered a coke, and he, being stuck-up, told me that I could do better. He made me this amazing drink and ever since he insists on making it for me. He’ll make it over a million times if it isn’t the way I like it. He once remade it because there was a sprinkle too much.”

Mason furrows his eyebrows in distaste at my story. Bells turns away, her shoulders shaking. It can only mean that she is laughing quietly to herself.

It’s a couple minutes later before Max returns with a drink that seems to be close to how I imagined it to be. “Here, Darling,” he says and practically shoves the hot cup into my hands, cranky as ever.

I take the cup from his hands and smile, but then deliberately drop my smile, feigning disappointment at the sight before me. “Maxipad, pumpkin pie, you know I hate it when there’s more foam than milk…” I trail off with a pout.

“Just drink it as is, Baby,” he replies back in a clipped tone, silently telling me that he is not making me another drink anytime soon, unless it’s over his dead body. I suppose I could arrange that….

I put my hand up to him as I turn my face away, dejected. “You’re right. It’s fine. It’s fine,” I conclude in a hoarse tone.

I must say I am not half a bad actress.

One of the girls watching frowns at Max. “How can you say ‘no’ to her? She is upset! You remade her drink a million times even when there was one sprinkle too much, and now you won’t do it again? Bipolar much. I thought you never refuse to remake it if the drink isn’t how she envisioned it to be.”

Max turns to me with a daggered glare. “Oh did I say that now?” he asks me in turn, trying to mask his anger.

I nod and then whimper out flatly, “How can you forget something so special to me? It was how we first met. You were dressed in a ‘Tinky Winky’ outfit. It was so romantic.” I sniff and wipe at my eyes.

Max looks ready to blow a gasket, yet he complies nonetheless. He grumbles beneath his breath at how conniving I am before plastering back that fake smile of his, heading off to fetch another drink.

Little does he know that I’ll be sending him back a couple more times before I cut him any slack. Revenge is a dish best served deliciously sweet and icy cold.


I begin my journey home with a carefree smile on my face. Despite everything, life is sweet!

I laugh as my thoughts drift to Max. That drink is taking him longer to remake than he expected. He will come back to find everyone gone.

I cross the street only to notice ‘chocolate and bubblegum’, also now known as chocobubble chubblegum, walking across the road, passed my house.

Jay!

His brown messy hair reminds me of chocolate and his piercing blue eyes remind me of bubblegum, hence the nickname. I think it will stick.

What is he up to?

I follow after him silently. I end up following him all the way into a bar where he takes his position as a bartender. He did mention that he was a bartender, but that somehow slipped my glorious mind.

I watch from outside the window as four tipsy girls flock around him and flirt with him shamelessly as they order more drinks. However, Jay pays no heed to them as if genuinely not interested.

What kind of guy passes up an opportunity like that?

I am about to walk away before spotted, but it’s too late. Jay just so happens to glance up in the moment, almost as if sensing that he’s being watched. It is then that he catches me red-handed - like a deer caught in headlights.

Uh-oh! Abort mission! Gotta blast!

He shakes his head before telling some other guy to take his place at the bar as he makes his way outside, toward me. He’s coming to kill me, resurrect me, torture me and then kill me again.

Turns out my hypothesis is correct…

“I told you to stop following me around!” he snaps, his usual bright and vibrant blue eyes turning to a cool shade of gray.

He should know by now that I don’t take to commands very well.

“We’re not friends,” he reminds me.

Is it just me or is that line is getting a little cliché ?

I throw a tantrum, stomping my foot like an immature toddler. “But why not?” I jut out my bottom lip out, wanting answers for his blatant rejection and downright rude attitude.

“Because I said so,” he answers in a tone that suggests I just try to argue with him and see what happens. Although, me being me, I argue anyway, not taking the hint.

“You’re so bossy,” I point out the facts. “Just because I said so,” I mimic him, pulling a face. “You know what, Jay? I don’t really care if you want to be friends or not. I am telling you that I am your friend, whether you like it or not. I am not going anywhere,” I say just as adamantly, daring him to cross me.

I tried staying out of his way, but I can’t help myself when it comes to him. When he’s not around, I somewhat miss him and his grumpy persona.

He folds his arms over his lean chest, leaning against the wall of the bar. He, clearly aggravated glances up at the sky, murmuring something to himself as if he cannot withstand my presence for much longer. In fact, it’s almost as if he forgets my presence altogether, until, that is, that I cough loudly on purpose in order to capture his attention.

His gaze snaps back to me, his eyes filled with irritation. “I give. What will it take for you to leave me the hell alone? I don’t want you around me. I don’t need a friend. They are over-“

“Overrated,” I roll my eyes, “blah blah blah. Heard it all before, JT,” I smirk, finishing his sentence off for him.

He scoffs and averts his eyes, annoyed.

“Let’s make a deal. I leave you alone on your terms if you agree to be my friend for a month. You hate me, which I guarantee you won’t, then I’ll agree to leave you alone forever,” I say with a straight face, completely lying.

I’ll never give up on him, no matter what. I like him far too much. He has some serious potential in the friendship category.

He arches an eyebrow, “A month?” He pauses as if contemplating it before shrugging, “I think I can survive that.”

No, buddy…no you can’t. You have to be mentally, physically and emotionally prepared for an entire month filled with Aqueela Lawson.

He holds out his hand, agreeing on my terms, “Deal?”

I spit on my hand and then hold it up to him. “Deal,” I confirm just as he drops his hand, a repulsed glint to his eyes.

“Use your other hand because I am not touching spit infested hands. No deal if spit is involved in sealing the deal,” he protests, flinching back, afraid of my itsy bitsy gob.

So he does have a weakness…

Note to self: JT is a germaphobe.

I grin and hold out my other hand in compliance. “You’re right. Spit can’t seal the deal. I’ll get a pocket knife and we can seal it with blood.”

His laid-back expression changes to a mortified one. “No deal.”

I laugh at his reaction as I grab hold of his hand with my clean one, “We have ourselves a deal. I promise you won’t get sick of me.” However, you might want to murder me.

A lopsided smile slowly forms on his lips, almost as if he’s amused but trying to hide it.

I add in, “Oh, and you have to put up with Bells and Max too because they’re a package deal,” I say as I waltz quickly away, not wanting to hear his refusal. I glance back over my shoulder to see his slight smile completely dropping and twisting into a morbid frown.

“That was not part of the deal!” he yells after me.

I wink at him playfully as I keep on walking, too busy glancing back at him to notice the light pole in front of me.

Bang!

A sound of metal and my vibrating head is a clear indication as to what just happened. I might have hit that pole…with my buzzing forehead…and it might just hurt…like a lot. I have never felt more like a bobblehead until now.

I begin to grow dizzy, slowly losing balance. Still, I sneak a glance at Jay, hoping that he didn’t just witness that incredibly awesome unplanned stunt. I manage to see through my blurry vision the humongous grin painted on his face. He definitely saw Aqueela go boom boom.

Speaking of which, I am not feeling too well.

Everything turns black as I lose my footing, growing wobbly on my legs. I can feel myself stagger back before I begin to fall to the concrete. Fortunately, Jay has fast reflexes. His arms materialize around me, out of nowhere, preventing me from hitting the ground a second time with my fragile and delicate head.

So much for using my head…

The pain leaves my forehead and subsides when I find myself looking up into his striking blue eyes. A subtle feeling of peace eases into my bones at hearing his words, “At least we don’t have to worry about brain damage.”

“That’s sweet,” I whisper, out of it.

“You’re an idiot.”

With that, I smile and close my eyes in content, “Thank you.”

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