Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 15: Rise of the Rebellion

“I swear, Aqueela Lawson, you better be kidding or I will hurt you,” Max says from in front of me, his brown eyes swirling up in irritation.

“It was a mistake, Max. I never meant for this to escalate out of control,” I tell him truthfully.

“You’re fake breaking up with me?” he asks in a dejected tone.

I nod at his question. He needs to stay in his lane.

His hand clutches into a fist before it’s sent flying in my direction.

I close my eyes and shield myself with my hands. “Just not the face! My face is my job! My face is my job!” I mimic CeCe from ‘New Girl’.

“Sike!” I hear him laugh.

I peek through the gaps in my fingers to see that he’s dropped his fist, a grin on his lips as he openly chuckles at my reaction.

“First off, your face is not your job, and second, did you really think I was about to punch you? Please. I would never get into a fight with an MMA champ. I am actually relieved because I don’t want to do this MMA thing anymore either. You didn’t have to do anything while I worked my backside off all day. For the coach, it is utterly exhausting,” he explains, sympathizing with himself.

I am about to tune him that at least he didn’t starve or be forced to cut class to train until his limbs felt on fire, but I decide against it, thanks to my better judgment - I didn’t know I had any.

“Thank goodness, otherwise you’d leave me with no other option other than to punch the living daylights out of you,” I threaten him.

Max smirks in delight and raises a challenging eyebrow upon hearing this. “You think you can take me?”

I hold my fists up in front of him in a boxer stance as I pretend to punch, bobbing up and down on the balls of my feet. “I don’t think I can take you, I know I can take you. Square up and come at me, bro!”

I just bro-zoned him.

Max holds his hands up in surrender. “Wow. Tame yourself. Don’t unleash the beast on me. We cool? We cool? Or do I gotta activate stealth mode?”

“You wanna fight huh, you wanna fight, let’s go!” I shout, circling him, ready to pounce and attack if necessary.

“Okay, that’s it. I’m leaving before I lose an eye or a limb, and knowing you, probably something worse,” he grins, clearly used to my simpleton antics.

He leaves the room and I smile to myself. It’s good to have the old Max back, the one that’s crazy, but not so crazy to the point of being a psychopathic trainer.

When he pokes his head back in through the door, I realize that I’ve spoken too soon. “Oh, and Aqueela, just because I’m not your trainer anymore, doesn’t mean that you should stop watching those carbs,” he winks teasingly at me.

If I could open a wormhole and have him drown in it, I would. He’s the one who should lose little Max on his stomach over there. Food before dudes!

I roll my eyes at him before picking up the thing nearest to me, which just so happens to be a stapler. On impulse, I chuck it in his direction, except, he dodges it just in time. I’m forced to watch it fly past his head and hit Melinda in the face instead.

Oopsies!

I gasp aloud, placing a hand over my mouth in shock. “Whoopsy daisy!”

I’ve really dropped the ball on this one…

Melinda lets out a screech of agony as Max stifles his laughter behind his fist before mouthing to me that I’m on my own. He’s quick to abandon me in my time of need like the coward he is.

At least, her face has not been stapled - that’s looking at the bright side to things.

Melinda, still groaning in pain, steps inside the class to find the one responsible - me, obviously. Lies, it’s Max.

I quickly lean against the wall of the classroom, pretending to be looking at something on the board, casually whistling a tune as if innocent.

I can be low-key when I need to be.

Melinda buys none of it. “Give it up, Lawson! You’re the only one in the classroom,” she hisses at me, the pain speaking. “I am so reporting you to the principal. You can sit in detention again whilst I will be shopping,” she tells me as she slams the stapler back onto the desk beside me.

Snitches get stitches! Although, I’m sure that she’ll be needing stitches in any case.

“I should hope so with the skimpy outfit you’re wearing,” I murmur as I glance at her, noticing the mini, mini, mini skirt and tube top. So much for the school’s dress code…modesty doesn’t exist in high schools, not anymore.

“Excuse me?” she huffs in aggravation and crosses her arms over her chest, her forehead bruised badly.

The protruding mark taking the shape of a stapler across her forehead makes it difficult for me to take her seriously. “Anyways, I think we’re done here,” I say, changing the subject as I remove myself off of the wall and head out the exit of the classroom in the hopes of escaping.

“Watch your back, Lawson, and while you’re at it, pull down your sleeve,” she whispers in malice as she motions to my long sleeve shirt that has traveled up ever so slightly, making some of my scars visible to her.

My eyes widen as I scramble to pull my sleeve back down. When I glance up again, she’s gone.

It’s not my fault her forehead is so big - I could watch a movie on that screen. She must be out of her mind if she thinks I am sitting another detention just because she got in the way of my stapler.


“You threw her with a stapler?” Bells asks, astonished, the rumors already soaring across the school.

Yes, because I am that strong!

People are stupid. I’m powerful, but I’m not superman.

I bang my head repeatedly against the table. I’ve been over this with at least six different people now. “I wouldn’t say that I threw her with the stapler, more like gently chucked the stapler in her direction, but, in my defense, it barely touched her, and she has a really humongous forehead. I mean seriously, how her mother gave birth to-“

Aqueela,” Bells gives me a reprimanding glare, implying that I should not dare finish my next sentence. “How can you say it barely touched her when she has a gigantic bruise across her forehead? I am surprised she didn’t slap you right there and then.”

I crack my knuckles with a grin. “She knows she’ll get another blue eye if she ever challenges me again. But now she’s going to play the dirty card. I can handle her in brawn, but brains…yeah…that’s where you…” I trail off and point at Bells, “my friend, come in.”

“Oh no. Oh hell no! No. No. No. I refuse to be part of your ploys. How can I defend you when my other friend is walking with a blue mark on her face because of your surpassingly, deadly arm?” Bells asks incredulously.

“She has a huge forehead,” I mumble in my defense, hoping that my poor excuse would stand valid.

Bell rolls her eyes at me. “You’re such a child. If we’re going against my other friend then we’re doing it my way-“

“You mean, acquaintance,” I correct her.

A perplexed expression crosses her features. “Huh?”

“We’re going against your acquaintance, not your ‘other friend’, acquaintance,” I clarify. Facts are facts. “In fact, it could be arch-nemesis, mortal enemy, fiend, whatever floats your boat.”

She gives me a flat look in turn. “None of those words float my boat, Aqueela.”

I am about to reply when the intercom comes on, the voice blaring across the school speakers, “Aqueela Lawson, please report to the principal’s office immediately.”

People send me looks and gossip among each other, trying to guess what I’m in for this time.

I glance at Bells to see her shaking her head at me. Way to be supportive. However, I can’t say that this is a new thing. I can’t say that I’m not used to being reported over the intercom by now. This is not my first rodeo. In fact, I am quite experienced.

Ah well, time to manipulate my way out of this.

The teacher over us gives me a look before staring up at the ceiling, mumbling complaints beneath her breath. “Why Lawson, why?” she mutters aloud to herself, audible enough for me and the rest of the class to hear. “Just go,” she says and gestures to the door, having given up on me.

Well, a goodbye would have been nice, even a ‘good riddance’ would have sufficed.

“Skipping the pleasantries then, I see,” I say as I stand up, saluting my teacher, some students snickering.

I glance back at Bells, remembering what I wanted to say. “Have you ever considered that maybe none of those words float your boat because the words aren’t what is sinking the boat?” I ask playfully, picking up on Max’s evil ways.

Her jaw drops as she gives me a narrowed glare.

I shrug innocently and with that, I’m out of that classroom within the next blink of any random person’s eye.

I saw this coming - stupid Melinda tattletale, narcissist nasal bred freak couldn’t keep her big mouth shut just because her big forehead has a little mark on it.

She should be thanking me, I’ve successfully improved her appearance - just another advancement in animal experimentation.

Slay. Even her great-great-great-grandparents felt that one.


“So we meet again?” I ask deviously as I lean my elbows across the principal’s table with a smug smirk on my face, thoroughly enjoying his company.

Most times, I will talk him out of his unspeakable atrocities that he would have inflicted upon me, hence the plenty detentions and no suspensions or expulsions as of yet.

“I was hoping it would be under better circumstances,” Principal Long replies, a straight and stern look on his face.

I shrug and slouch back in my chair. “I can’t really think of any better circumstances than this.”

“You do realize that you’re here because you threw another student with a stapler?” he asks, unbelieving of my audacity. In all honesty, he should be used to me after all this time. My audacity is never-ending. I have an infinite supply of nerve.

These people really got the story all wrong. As if I could pick up Melinda and toss her across the classroom…I wish.

I press my lips into a thin line as I kick my feet up onto the table, making myself feel more at home. “Meh,” I shrug again. “All hearsay,” I retort, casually brushing the idea off.

Principal Long sighs, clearly fed up with me. It doesn’t take long for him to give in. Over the years, I’ve learned his vulnerable areas. I give special attention to anything that tests his patience.

He frowns and glances at my flats propped up on his table. He seems to be contemplating if it’s worth telling me off or not. Turns out he knows me well because he doesn’t say anything and goes back to the reason why I’m even here in the first place. “So you are denying Melinda’s claims then?”

Alleged claims,” I correct only for him to grumble something to himself, running out of patience.

“Did you or did you not throw a stapler at Melinda?” he repeats, frustrated.

“I did,” I reply simply.

His eyes widen. “Then why did you just deny it.”

“Deny what?” I question, at a loss.

“Nevermind,” he sighs aloud and pulls at his hair in aggravation. “So you hit Melinda with the stapler and then-“

“I did not hit her with the stapler,” I correct him yet again.

His mouth falls agape. “But you just said-“

“I threw a stapler and it happened to hit her forehead. I did not walk up to her and physically hit her with the stapler,” I clarify and then add under my breath, “well not yet anyways.”

Principal Long runs a hand down his face in frustration. “I’m just going to let you go with a warning and call its quits because if I try to reason with you any longer I’ll be in a coffin. You will be the one to drive me to my grave early.”

I knew I’d get my out! I’ve done it again.

“Thank you,” I grin, taking it as a compliment, but I can tell by the hard look in his eyes that I’m meant to take it as an insult.

I stand up, ready to leave, but yet again I’m stopped by Max’s influence:

Early? Don’t you think you’re running on overtime? That’s coming from the gray hair budding and the wrinkles, not me. Also, have you by any chance budged on the whole ‘wearing capes to school’ thing? I fight crime,” I say to him, soon finding myself standing outside his office with a familiar slip in hand - detention.

So much for getting out of that one…


“You’re not serious, are you?” Mason asks, glancing from Bells to me with a bewildered stare. When I don’t answer, his impatience drives him to look at Bells instead. “She’s not serious, is she?”

Bell shrugs and takes a guess, “Knowing Aqueela, she’s dead serious.”

That I am.

I ignore the both of them and continue on with my posters and colorful pens.

From the corner of my eye, I notice Bells looking around wearily at the mass of people joining me in my rebellion.

She voices her thoughts, “I don’t know how I feel about sitting at the delinquent table. It feels…” she trails off when Mavis, a butch emo chick, gives her a cool glare as if daring her to finish her sentence, “different,” she concludes awkwardly.

I hold back a grin. Bells has been taken out of her comfort zone, out of the realms of popularity, and now she doesn’t know how to quite fit in with the street kids.

“You got that right,” Mason agrees with her. “Only Aqueela I tell you, only Aqueela.” He winks at me, tapping my shoulder playfully before swinging his backpack onto his shoulder, leaving our busy table to go and join his stupid friends.

Bells, with her beautiful big heart, takes her chances in staying a while longer despite her evident unease with the situation and the people surrounding her. She continues to sit in pure discomfort as if too afraid to even move or breathe.

I chuck my pen down in enthusiasm as I finally finish up the last of our posters. I clap in excitement before jumping up onto our delinquent table, my group silencing as I, their leader, address them. “Now I know we’re labeled as the delinquents, rebellious kids, detention freaks, the outlaws, the-“

“I’d say you’re going overboard with the whole outlaw thing. You’re acting like you’re a group of murders or serial killers or something to that extreme,” Bell whispers into my ear from below me and attempts in pulling me off of the table.

“Let the woman work,” Mavis narrows her eyes at Bells in warning, pushing her away from me so that I may talk to my people. She’s all for the cause and I appreciate her vote of confidence in me.

I continue, “But we’re done taking orders from the nerds, bookworms, goody-two-shoes, cheerleaders, jocks and every damn clique out there, even you, Max, and your non-cliquiness!” I shout upon seeing Max walking by.

He stops and holds his hands up in surrender when my minions turn to glare at him.

Technically, Max is part of us seeing as he’s been in detention every now and then, yet he still isn’t quite one of us. It frustrates me to no avail.

“Everyone thinks that we’re the scum of the school, the gum you scrape off the bottom of your shoe, well, newsflash to them, we’re not and everyone who says these things must die!” I raise my voice, gathering more followers.

Die. Everyone must die!” my people chant over me, repeating my exact words.

Others begin to back away slowly.

Off with their heads!

Bell frowns at me, motioning me to end this because it’s beginning to get out of hand with all the unexpected spirit I’m currently receiving. She’s probably right in the fact that I’ve gone too far, but ah well, let’s see where this goes.

I raise my hand up to shush my people and immediately their chanting dies at seeing my hand - it signifies that their leader is to talk next. “Every clique here thinks they can tell us what to do and every clique here is evil!”

Evil!” they chant after me yet again and raise their fists in anger as the clique of skateboarders not too far away overhear our shouting. They give us confused expressions as they grip onto their precious skateboards tighter as if genuinely afraid.

Technically, not all cliques are evil. I might have been slightly, okay, majorly, overexaggerating. I just got carried away. The skateboarders are a peaceful group and are usually chill with everyone. I think we may just have offended them.

“Except the skateboarders!” I add quickly.

My people seem befuddled by my next words but do not hesitate in repeating after me. “Except the skateboarders!” they chant aloud in unison.

Bells rolls her eyes at us, or more specifically, me.

One of the skateboarders raises her eyebrow at me, puzzled by what’s going on.

It doesn’t have to be like this, her group could join us. I would gladly embrace the skateboarders and their easy-going natures.

“Word!” I acknowledge her and the other skateboarders with a nod, folding my arms across my chest as a sign of respect. “Peace out.” I use my arms and ‘dab’ at her much to her growing amusement. I speak their language.

My minions copy me and mimic the ‘dab’ in the skateboarders’ direction.

Their leader merely shakes his head at us, in turn, unimpressed.

I grin deviously and send him a wink, my own quirky way of making amends and letting him know that we’re cool. He nods at me, cautious, before I overhear him telling his crew that at the first sign of danger they’re skating.

I brush it off and continue to rant to my people and at everyone else. “Order shall be restored in the land! No more detention for us! No more staying after school for something we may or may not have done or deserved-“

“Detention kind of implies that you did do something wrong and that you deserve punishment, hence detention being the consequence in the first place,” Bell chips in yet again. I give her a fierce glare to which she holds up her hands apologetically, “Just sayin’.”

“I say to hell with detention! Let the rebellion arise!” I shout at the top of my voice as my followers erupt in cheers and clapping, all fist pumping the air aggressively and way too passionately.

Bell manages to successfully pull me off the table this time. “You realize that your little rebellion is going to get you expelled, right?”

She’s my Achilles heel.

“I say it with all due respect,” Bells feels the need to add.

“Well, with no respect to you, whatsoever,” I grin at her teasingly before informing her of the facts, “I’m way ahead of you.”

“I’m listening,” she gestures to me, “proceed.”

Colby,” I call and motion to the muscular meathead to bring me my stack of untidy papers.

He instantly obeys. I smirk in satisfaction. I could get used to this.

“Your head is the size of a hot-air balloon right now,” Bells scoffs at my arrogance.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I lie. It’s a good day to be me.

“You have Mavis painting your nails black, Colby running your personal errands, Brice filling in as your bodyguard and that little scrawny kid has been polishing your flats this entire time we’ve been talking,” she points out in a matter-of-fact way.

His name is David.

I don’t pay attention and, instead, skim over the papers in my hand before handing them over to her. “The law rules that I have freedom of speech. Protesting is allowed. I’ve already contacted my lawyers.”

“Yes, and where is proof of this document, mhm? And who are your lawyers? Are they even qualified?” she questions as she goes through the papers, her rare smart side rearing its ugly head.

Bill of Rights, for starters, is proof enough.

“The proof is somewhere in there. If they want it, they find it. My lawyer is obviously myself, nuh-duh. I only trust myself to get out of a situation as such,” I say as if it is obviously obvious. “Know what I’m saying?”

“You only trust yourself to get out the situation that you first got yourself into? Interesting. And how can you be a lawyer when you haven’t even read through all these papers yet?” she asks, seemingly unsurprised at my brilliant solution.

“You’re overanalyzing it all, Bells. Just go with the flow,” I tell her with an encouraging grin , unfazed by her criticism.

“People who use that phrase land up in jail,” she states with a flat look, refusing to budge on the matter.

Been there, done that.

I shrug. “Meh. Hearsay. It’s most likely an alleged jail anyway.”

Bells gives me one final look with a shake of her head. “Sometimes, I think that ninety-seven percent of the words that comes out of your mouth is absolute bull. You spout whatever comes to mind and it’s a load of garbage more than half the time.”

“Can’t argue with a strong, alleged opinion like that, now can we?” I retort.

“I tried,” she gives in and walks away, right back into the arms of her precious Mason and all his blockhead friends.

Well, it’s about time…

Now we can really get down to business.

I glance back to my fellow followers with a cunning grin, “Where were we?”


Approximately an hour later…

I glance around the school giddily as my loyal protesters yell aloud and wave posters around in not only students’ faces but teachers’ as well, including Principal Long’s.

Principal Long marches my way after finding out that I’m the instigator behind it all.

I begin to chant our rebellion song that brought us to our rise and great reign of tyranny, shooting my poster up and down in the air. “Detention must die for us to fly! So just try and along with detention you will die! Goodbye!”

“I am not impressed, Ms. Lawson. Within half an hour after giving you detention, you have already raised up a clang of protestors who started a food fight, blocked hallways and sprayed graffiti all over the school detention room,” Principal Long says in a voice meant to threaten me, although I am not threatened in the least.

It’s washable graffiti, at least.

“What can I say?” I shrug carelessly. “I work fast.”

How is all that not impressive? This man is crazy.

He scowls. “This behavior is downright despicable and I will not tolerate it in my school. As the one who started this all, you better have a way to end it all or I’m ending your time in this school. In fact, why don’t I just end it right-“

A strong arm wraps around my shoulders. I glance up to find Mason sweet-talking Principal Long. How typical.

“Principal L, please let me have a word with this savage and I can promise you that this will all be over soon. There is no need for any expulsions today,” he reasons, his reputation of being the ‘golden boy’ preceding him.

I scoff at his words only for Mason to glance down at me in warning, mouthing to me to ‘zip it’ before I screw this up any further.

“Extend an olive branch. She’ll have it all cleaned up very soon. No need for drastic measures such as suspension or expulsion,” Mason clarifies, making his intentions of saving me known.

Principal Long eyes Mason skeptically for a second or two before giving in with a stern nod. “Just see to it that it gets done, Mr. Montry. I am only holding back on expulsion due to the fact that you have a relatively good track record and I happen to trust you. Don’t make me regret my leniency.”

And with that, Principal Long walks away, leaving me at the mercy of Mason.

Here it comes…

I peek up through my lashes to peer at him. He immediately removes his arm off of my shoulders once he’s sure that Long isn’t coming back anytime soon. He stares down at me with ferocity, clearly angry.

It’s not like I asked him to swoop in and save me.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” he asks sharply and bluntly. “No, seriously, what is it? Because I’ve been hell-bent on trying to figure you out for years, but I swear, I will never understand you.”

“And that’s the way I like it!” I say bitterly, peeling myself away from him. “Now if you excuse me, I have got some things to take care of.”

I begin walking away.

“I hope that when you say you’re taking care of things, it means that you’re fixing the mess you’ve created!” he shouts after him, but I ignore him, having more pressing matters to attend to. “Otherwise it will be me that takes the fall for you!”

“How unfortunate for you,” I mutter beneath my breath as I head for the detention room, school having ended for the day.

I glance around, pleased to see that there is practically no space to walk. All my minions have stuck to the plan, sitting in front of the detention room in order to block access. They are all still yelling and raising their posters to the ceiling, making me proud.

I’m just spitballing here, but I could run for president some day.

I join my precious minions, sitting down right in the center of them all as we chant our song, at the top of our lungs, together.

We will not be entering the detention room, nor will we let the detention facilitator out of the room.

“Detention must die, for us to fly! So just try, and along with detention you will die! So goodbye! It’s no lie, that detention will die! Just try and stop us and it could be your eye!” we all chant with no one able to put a stop to it.

Heck, I think that even if I wanted to end it all, I wouldn’t be able to now. My groupies seem to have developed a mind of their own. It’s been made personal. They have been brainwashed by me into brainwashing me. I’ve created beautiful monsters. I’m their Frankenstein.

My rebellion fantasies come tumbling down when an icy voice simply commands in one word, “Move.”

I glance up into his steely blue eyes to find that he’s already looking at me. “C’mon, Jay. Don’t fight us. You’re one of us. Join our rebellion, join the revolution,” I try to sway him over to our side.

He glances down at all of us surrounding the classroom as if contemplating the idea before he shakes his head, adamant in his decision. “I distinctly recall telling you that I don’t plan on sticking around, especially not for your vendettas. Now get out my way so I can get this over with. I have better places to be as is.”

“Yeah, like the bar,” I scoff in mockery. It’s only when his face drops that I realize what I’ve just said. I know working at a bar isn’t ideal, but it’s the only thing that gets him by. “Wait, Jay!” I get up to my feet. “I never meant-“

“Take a shot at my job, nice. Glad that you think so highly of me despite knowing my circumstances. If this is your way of talking me into your little childish riot, then you can forget it,” he replies in a bitter tone as he moves through us, forcing his way up to the room.

He’s going against the rebellion.

Brice, the bodyguard, takes the liberty to stand up, joining my side as he venomously hovers his bulky form over Jay’s defined one. “Don’t talk to our leader like that you piece of garbage, you garbage child!” he snaps in fury.

Let’s just say he hasn’t got much going for him, except muscles. He isn’t the brightest crayon in the coloring box. However, he is extremely possessive and aggressive when he becomes highly attached to people, people being me.

Jay restrains himself from knocking Brice out. He stays silent, fixing a piercing glare on Brice as if telling him to back down without the use of words.

For Brice’s own sake, I place my hand on his arm and command him to sit down. “Jay is out of your league. Leave him be before you end up dead in a ditch somewhere.”

Brice reluctantly obeys and steps out of Jay’s way, as do the others, all now feeling uneasy and restless in his presence. His reputation, just like Mason, precedes him. But in Jay’s case, he’s the black sheep, not the golden kid.

I guess I’m the only one that’s crazy enough to try and befriend him, what with all the rumors that go around about him and what he’s done. Then again, I’ve never been one to participate in gossiping - way overrated in my opinion. It won’t fly with me.

They all make space for him to get through.

Jay takes delight in squashing me under his food with his next words of conviction, “Keep listening to this delusional girl and you’re all gonna land up expelled or in juvie with no future.”

With those being his parting words, he confidently enters the detention room.

I watch on in horror as people begin to question my authority. It’s not long before the rebellion dies. One sentence and he manages to crush me and my rebellion risers. How the hell does his words have such a drastic impact on others?

Sadly, my minions arise from their seated positions, chucking their posters and protestor boards away as they follow after Jay and enter the detention room too, some grumbling curse words beneath their breaths as they give up on the worthwhile cause.

Weaklings!

Now I have to add all my previous followers as enemies to my ‘to destroy’ short list, not that I’m running out of enemies anytime soon. I’ve got many to spare.

They’re all just a little annoyed because I almost got us all expelled. Personally, I am pretty certain that my natural-born lawyer abilities would have kicked in and seen us through, but not everyone sees it my way.

And just like that, my rebellion is forgotten through one single sentence uttered by one single person.

Jay Taylor.

The true rebellion leader.

The Mockingjay.

I sigh cheerfully, content. At least, we came this far. Bad omen I tell you. I knew it would end sooner or later, I was just hoping for the latter. I’m a little shocked at how easy my creation turned against me. I shrug, not like I cared anyway. I made the best of it. Now it’s time to clean up my mess and attempt in making amends with Jay as soon as detention ends.

With a spring to my step at my latest achievement, I walk into the cafeteria in order to clean up the food and graffiti, only to find the place entirely spotless. I glance around, in complete gratitude. I was not looking forward to cleaning everything all on my own.

It’s then, from the corner of my eye, that I spot Mason, a cloth in his hand, as he rubs the graffiti off of the walls.

Confused, I hesitantly approach him, picking up a cloth off the floor as I begin rubbing down the walls with him. He notices my presence but says nothing. “This is surprisingly…” I falter, “nice of you.”

He shrugs, turning to face me, “Figured I owed you one for all the times I made you miserable.”

“Got that right,” I mutter.

I know I always brush Mason’s bullying off as lightly, but truth is, he hurt me back then. It’s not easy for me to just get over it, hence only talking about it when someone brings it up.

“Did you clean the entire cafeteria all on your own?” I ask, stunned, trying to change the subject - I prefer not to relive old memories.

“No. I got Bells and some other geeks to help out. They left a while ago. I just wanted to stay and finish it off,” he mumbles from beside me, averting his eyes in shame, his mind clearly stuck on what he first said.

With a smile, I drop the cloth from my hands and wrap my arms around Mason’s neck, catching him off guard.

“Thank you,” I say quietly, stepping back to release him before he can even react.

He chuckles in good nature. “It’s no problem. Like I said, I owe you.”

My face falls at his reference to the past yet again. My smile fades, the light leaving my eyes and the energy leaving my body. “Let’s not talk about that right now.” Or ever.

I try to walk away, but he catches me by the waist. “Hold up,” he pleads.

I sigh and decide to give him my time of day for all that he’s done. “You’ve got ten seconds, Montry.”

He lets me go and uses his ten seconds wisely. “I’m sorry. I regret doing all those things to you. I never meant for it to get so out of hand. You need to know that I really am, from the bottom of my heart-“

“Pitless soul,” I correct teasingly.

“From the bottom of my pitless soul,” he repeats after me with a hidden smile, “sorry. I’m sorry.”

“I forgive you,” I decide then and there. “Life is too short to hold grudges.”

Today has been eventful. One bridge leading to friendship got burnt whilst another got mended.

I’ll take what I can get and I doubt I’ll ever get much out of Jay.

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