Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 19: Slow on the Uptake

“I cannot believe you’re tying me up! You, of all people! Could I have not been taken down by a unicorn instead? That would be less embarrassing. But you!?” I shout as Max straps me down to the chair to make certain that I don’t run again, given the opportunity.

Nobody puts Aqueela in a corner!

Max shrugs helplessly. “Bella is scary when she’s mad or sad or whatever it is that she’s feeling as of now in this time, present, past, future-“

I raise an eyebrow at him, cutting him off. “Huh? What are you speaking? Krang?”

Max throws his hands up to the ceiling and closes his eyes dramatically. “I don’t know!” he shouts out in a high-pitched, warrior cry.

“Your infatuation with her is ridiculously stupid,” I tell him, rolling my eyes at his simpleton antics, nevertheless, there is somewhat of a smile on my face - Max does that to a person, he’s able to change someone’s mood from grumpy to joyful in a split second.

Max’s eyes widen at being caught out. “I’m not infatuated with Bells,” he states with a carefree grin, his cheeks flushing.

He can’t even say her name without grinning like some creep.

I bite back a smile at his reaction to my accusation. “Sure you aren’t,” I tease, drawing out the evident sarcasm in my tone.

“Get off my case, Lawson. We’ve spoken about this before, let me feel my feelings! You like Jay. You’re in the same scenario. I could mess with you too, you know,” he threatens and I almost laugh at the emptiness in his words.

I grin carelessly, watching him finish the last knot around my hands. “Well done for the observation, genius. Everybody already knows. You’re incredibly slow on the uptake.”

“Yes, but does Jay know?” Max asks with a wiggle of his eyebrows, taunting me.

“Of course, he knows. Told him myself. So go ahead and tell him,” I reply with a straight face. “In fact, I dare you. I still haven’t got a response back from him anyway. You’d be doing me a favor.”

Max pauses, his brown eyes brimming with confusion. “But I thought Jay’s the one that arranged your date with what’s-his-face.”

“He did indeed,” I clarify.

Max raises both eyebrows hesitantly before asking the inevitable. “But he knows you like him?”

I nod, playing it cool. “He does indeed.”

“I’ve hit a blank here. I’m so confused,” he exclaims in total bewilderment, trying to wrap his mind around my lack of an explanation because of Jay’s lack of an explanation.

“Get aboard the Aqueela train, me and you both, buddy,” I snicker, finding his reactions to be amusing.

“Why would he do that to you?” Max asks, wanting to get to the bottom of the mystery that is Jay Taylor.

“Beats me.” I make an attempt in shrugging my shoulders. “Jay’s mind is like an impenetrable fortress. I’ve decided that trying to concoct a reason for his strange behavior is like trying to find a needle in a haystack filled with poisonous spiders.”

Max scrunches up his nose, in turn. “Not the best analogy, Aqueela.”

“The best way to study Jay is to dissect his brain,” I add, a stray strand of hair bothering me.

Max scratches his forehead before sending me a look of pity. “And you’re okay with all of this?”

“I’m not entirely sure,” I admit, not wanting to push Jay to talk about it. If anything, he probably thought it was just the alcohol speaking.

“Then why are you not reacting more?” Max prods, knowing me all too well.

“What’s the point? It’s not like the mystery behind Jay is suddenly going to be solved,” I answer, giving him my very sensible point of view.

“You could always tell him how you feel about this you know. It’s a very simple option. One that normal people take,” Max suggests, implying that I could be normal - the kid is a jokester!

I let out a long, over-the-top laugh while he stares at me with a quizzical expression. “Oh, Max, you poor, naive idiot.”

Max presses his lips into a thin line, impatient, as he gestures for me to go on.

“The last time I told Jay how I felt, he drop-kicked me down the stairs,” I inform him.

He stays quiet for a second or two before shaking his head, whistling under his breath judgmentally. “Your guys’ relationship is real strange.”

I glance around Bell’s older brother’s empty room. It’s void of anything now seeing as it has been ages since it has last seen the vain, conceited monster. We were all shocked when he told us that he was leaving for college. It was…unexpected.

“Where’s Bells?” I voice my thoughts.

“According to her, she and Jay are discussing important details on what you should wear,” he answers, stifling a chuckle.

“As if Jay is going to contribute to that conversation at all,” I snort, finding it to be comical.

However, I see why Bell would ask Jay for his opinion on the matter. He has good taste, at least in his own outfits. He’s not sloppy like other teen guys. He’s stylish without being metrosexual. He’s well kept and takes pride in his appearance.

“Whose room is this anyway?” Max asks me, surveying the bleak walls.

“You don’t want to know,” I say, saving him the details.

Some days I do miss the walking explosive. It’s a good thing he likes to make surprise visits on the most random of days. I also know that those days are the highlights of his sister’s month.

His room has become my secondary room whenever I sleep over. Although, the house is just not the same without his arrogant presence. When he left, it wasn’t just Bells who lost a brother.

Fortunately, Troy has just returned from Troy on his trojan horse for a pop in visit. It’s actually quite unfortunate because, no doubt, he’ll mock me on my newfound dilemma. That, or he’s out killing Mason for devastating the highly strung Bells.

The door suddenly slams open and my eyes are met with familiar blue-green eyes, and this time they’re not Bell’s.

“Hope has arrived! Behold me and weep!”

I groan aloud at seeing him.

Well, well, well,” he greets with a kilowatt smirk intact, “we meet again, Squirt.”

I roll my eyes at his dramatic entrance, one of his many trademarks. He is literally not capable of just knocking and entering. It seems to surpass him and all his non-existent wit. “Hello to you too, Troy Story.”

It’s his nickname ever since he made me watch ‘Toy Story’ with him a couple years back.

Troy’s lips lift into a cheeky grin as he reaches out to ruffle my hair, well-aware of the fact that I despise it. He knows I’ll forever resent him for messing with my hair. It’s an unsaid rule - ‘don’t touch the hair’. Simple as that.

“I’d slap you, but I’m a little tied up,” I say and motion down to my predicament.

Max has no idea how to tie ropes, so instead of just tying my legs and arms to the chair, he tied my entire body down, except for my face. I currently resemble a ‘rope’ mummy. It even hurts to inhale.

“That I see,” he smirks, thoroughly enjoying himself, “which reminds me, we’ve got to stop meeting like this.”

“It’s not funny. I’m being tortured,” I complain.

He pretends to care, feigning seriousness. “It’s a problem. It’s a real problem.”

I eye him warily and that’s when he takes his cue to burst out laughing. I roll my eyes and scoff under my breath. He hasn’t changed.

“Now enough about you and more about me,” he says and then stops as a sudden thought occurs to him. “I meant to ask, who’s the beefcake downstairs with my parent’s lesser child? He’s way out of Bell’s league.”

Max and I answer simultaneously:

“That would be Jay Taylor.”

“That would be Aqueela’s new flavor of the week.”

I whip my head around to glare at Max. As if Troy doesn’t have enough on me as is.

Troy grins widely, his eyes glimmering up in mischief. “How…interesting.” Then, as if only catching up now, he turns to Max questioningly. “Who the hell are you?”

He is incredibly slow.

Max laughs, not taking offense. “A friend of your sister’s and an enemy of Aqueela’s.”

I snort. “Yeah right. You love me.”

“What a coincidence,” Troy perks up upon hearing Max’s explanation, “I, too, am an enemy of Squirt, and any enemy of Squirt, is a friend of mine.”

Troy holds out his hand to Max expectantly as if royalty.

Max stares down at his hand in question before sparing me a glance, silently seeking my assistance.

I roll my eyes at Max in response. “It’s easier if you don’t ask questions, but basically, he’s waiting for you to kiss his hand.”

Max blinks in confusion, staring at Troy’s outstretched hand contemplatively.

“Hey!” Troy suddenly snaps his fingers in front of Max’s face as if insulted. “My eyes are up here.” He accidentally pokes himself in the eyes.

Troy,” I send him a flat stare when noticing Max’s discomfort. “You’re so lovesick, with yourself, that I’m actually sitting here wondering when you’re going to propose and just get it over with already.” I clarify, “You have a serious problem.”

There’s not a person on the face of the earth who is more egotistical than Troy.

He surprises me by actually acknowledging my words. “You’re right, Squirt.” He turns to face the only object left in his room - one of his millions of mirrors. He stares at himself for a second or two before slowly running both hands down in his face dramatically, in total despair. He pats his cheeks as if checking to see if they’re real, biting down on his bottom lip. “Other than good-looking, what have I become?” He takes unnecessary measures as always and panics, pulling at his perfectly styled hair in worry. “Squirt, what’s happening to me?”

I open my mouth to speak but stop short when he takes matters into his own hands.

He drops to the floor, on both knees, and tilts his face to the ceiling. “Who am I?!” he shouts aloud into the room as if expecting an answer, both his arms raised above his head.

He’s always over-the-top in absolutely everything he does. I’m used to it, but Max, on the other hand, is most definitely not.

“Troy Bensten!” Mrs. J calls from somewhere outside of the room. “We’ve been over this much too many times before, son!”

Troy opens his eyes as if having found his answer. He stares at the ceiling in awe. “Thank you.”

It’s then that Jay chooses to walk in, having heard the commotion from downstairs. He leans on the doorframe and takes in Troy’s position on the floor. His eyes dart over to me, one eyebrow arched, as he nods to a preoccupied Troy. “Who’s the blockhead?”

“Better you don’t ask,” I warn him ahead of time.

If he were here just a second ago, he’d know.

Unfortunately for Jay, Troy hears his remark and is quick to scramble back up to his feet. “Who am I, you ask, why I am the cereal you take in your milk, I am the comfy pillow you rest your head on at night, I am the dreams that plague your mind during the day,” he pauses in an attempt to build up suspense, “I am the very heartbeat of the golden sun that shines upon your lowly head. I am,” he concludes slowly, “Troy, Troy Bensten.”

Jay turns to face me, regret pooling in his eyes. “You were right. I’m sorry I asked.”

Max openly laughs, his discomfort turning to amusement. He holds his fist out to Troy, under the impression that Troy’s only joking. “Nice one, dude.”

A grin filters it’s way over Troy’s lips. “Thanks, No Name Brand.”

Max already gave him his name. Typical of Troy to not pay attention. Nonetheless, I already don’t like where this is going. The outcome of them being friends could be catastrophic on the world.

“It’s Max, and are you going to leave me hanging?” Max asks, motioning down to his fist.

Troy stares at Max’s fist before hesitantly raising his own fist to Max’s. The second his fist touches Max’s, he lets out a whimper and snatches his fist back, cradling it to his chest, a pained expression on his face as he scowls at Max accusingly.

“You’re such a baby,” I mock him, holding back a giggle.

Unimpressed, Troy glares at me before his gaze zeroes in on Jay, a cunning smirk taking over his features.

I gulp knowingly. Uh-oh.

So, Bro,” Troy starts, “this guy over here,” he gestures to Max, having forgotten his name yet again, “tells me that you’re Aqueela’s new flavor of the year.”

He’s using me as the topic of his small talk. Once again, this is all Max’s fault because he has yet to master the art of keeping his mouth shut.

Jay falls quiet before forcing a grin, looking anywhere but at me, feeling the awkwardness too. He eventually manages to clear his throat. “Well, if she’s picking flavors then I must be bubblegum.”

I merely smile, taken aback by his thoughtfulness.

“Are you Bella’s brother?” Jay asks Troy, subtly (at least for Troy) changing the subject.

“If you’re referring to that thing I call a sister, then yes, you’re correct. Unfortunately, I’m related to that flesh-eating beast.” Troy flashes his usual smug face, taking great delight in himself. “As you can see, I’m the child who got all the good genes. You’d never think that she’s my sister.”

Usually, I’d nudge Troy in the ribs and tell him to shut up, but I have another issue at hand. These people seem to think that a person tied up in the middle of a room is an everyday occurrence. “Can someone untie me, please?” I ask. “I need to go.”

“Go where?” Troy asks, clueless.

Max facepalms himself, stunned by Troy’s genuine stupidity.

“To the bathroom,” I clarify my lie, frowning up at him in distaste. I just an excuse to get out of here.

Troy shakes his head, motioning to the others to get a load of me. “She needs to go, how attractive?” He mocks the way I phrased it. “You could’ve gone with ‘I need to powder my nose’. I use that one all the time.”

I don’t miss Jay drawing his eyebrows up together in confusion.

“This isn’t the 18th century,” I glare at Troy, snapping out of my gaze. “Would would you have me say? Your Royal Highness, may I please relieve myself?”

“Better suited for a man of my stature,” Troy answers, easily agreeing.

Of course, Max laughs and the small talk between the two continues, Troy using my head as an arm rest. The weight of his arm is giving me a migraine, especially since my head injury from both stairs has yet to cease in pain levels.

I glower up at Troy, wishing for his arm to fall off. When I do complain, Max threatens to duct tape my mouth shut. Fortunately, thank the skittles, Bells arrives in time to set him in his place.

Her frown sets into place when she spots her brother’s arm resting atop my head. She goes to swat him away, but he moves away before she can, which only ends with me getting whacked in the face instead.

“This girl just doesn’t catch a break,” I hear Jay murmur as he winces for me, concerned.

“I’m so sorry!” Bell gushes, her hand in front of her mouth as her eyes cloud over with guilt.

“It’s alright,” I brush the matter off and grin in spite of the searing pain, “I’m used to it by now.”

Bells immediately blames her brother as if it’s second nature to her. “This is your fault! You’re such a child, Troy! Grow up!”

Just to prove how much of gigantic kid he is, Troy mimics her in a high-pitched tone and imitates her with girly gestures, flinging his arms here and there for emphasis.

“Let’s be serious, you guys,” Max jokes, trying to ease the atmosphere between the siblings, “Aqueela had it coming.”

Bells blatantly ignores him, slapping her brother upside the head instead. “Troy, I swear-“

“Troy, I swear!” Troy cuts her off, yet again taunting her.

Mom!” Bell suddenly shouts, no longer able to tolerate him.

“Mom!” Troy shouts back, in turn, not threatened in the slightest.

From the corner of my eye, I notice Jay shake his head and sigh quietly to himself as if he’d rather be anywhere but here.

“Mom! I know you can hear us!” Bells calls again, aware that her mother has a tendency to tune them out when they’re arguing.

When there’s still no reply from Mrs. J’s end, Troy smirks in victory. “I’m her favorite, Sis. She wouldn’t take your side anyway,” he gloats, satisfied.

“I’m calling Daddy then,” Bells says, grabbing her phone, a sudden smirk of her own filtering over her lips. She knows her brother’s weakness. We all do.

Troy’s smirk instantly vanishes, his expression dropping. He holds his little sister’s gaze. “You wouldn’t.”

Oh, but I would,” she grins, licking her lips like some evil wench.

Mr. Bensten always comes down hard on Troy. He thinks of Troy as some kind of failure and never hesitates to remind of the fact.

“Can you both quit it!” I shout, exasperated with their bickering.

Bells, being the more mature between the two, drops it. “Fine, fine, let’s just do your makeup.”

I should have just let them battle it out and fight to the death.

“No, I don’t want makeup!” I whine, now joining in and becoming an immature toddler with them.

“You want some cheese with that whine?” Troy comments, seemingly very entertained in seeing me suffer.

Brothers. Don’t I know how to pick them?

“Says the one who whined for two days straight because we didn’t get you the chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs, which by the way, you’re the only one that sees it!” I snap, now agitated.

Troy furrows his eyebrows, putting on a somewhat mature expression, as he addresses me in a very serious voice as if to contradict all that I just said. “Everyone can see they’re dinosaurs, Aqueela.”

“Because that’s what everyone told you! They didn’t want you throwing another tantrum in the shop!” I hiss at him. “Now come closer so I can bite you!”

Troy scrunches up his face, his eyes widening, as it dawns on him. He turns to Bells accusingly. “Is this true, Sibling? Have you deceived me?”

“Pretty much,” Bell answers, owning up to her crimes, not ashamed in the least.

“Told you so. You’re an idiot,” I tell him with a happy-go-lucky smile.

He shakes his head, sending both me and his sister glares as if to express his anger without words. He’s giving us the silent treatment again.

“Where is all this anger coming from?” I ask him, faking concern. “Is it Max’s presence that’s upsetting you? You can tell me.” I talk aloud on purpose. “He has that effect on people,” I conclude, feeling Max drilling holes through my head with his narrowed gaze.

I guess I could always call Dylan, if I actually had his number, and cancel. Being taken hostage is a good enough excuse for just about anything.

“I thought I could trust you,” Troy vents, shooting daggers at his sister with his sharp stare. “You broke my heart, Sister, broke it!” he says over dramatically as he places a hand over his stomach instead of his heart.

“Oh, do your kind have hearts where us humans have our stomachs?” I ask, messing with him further before trying to hop away on my chair.

Bells pulls my chair back, having noticed my near escape. She ignores her brother’s complaints and refocuses her attention on me. “Back to the matter at hand - Aqueela’s makeup.”

I groan aloud in response much to Max’s brewing snickers. “Do I have to?”

“Just a little…” Bells begins to give a lengthy explanation, one that I completely zone out of, sincerely bored. Even Troy leaves, using breakfast an excuse in spite of it not being breakfast time.

“Blah blah blah, not doing it,” I eventually say, cutting her rambling off with a single breath.

“This girl…” I hear Jay murmur under his breath as if amused.

“You’re so difficult,” Bells sighs, facing me. “I’m only trying to help you.”

Then cancel the date!

“You’re not doing a very good job.” I point out, ungrateful.

“Stop fighting me.” Bell leans down to pat my cheek playfully. “I’m on your side.”

“Aqueela fights hard ’cause she loves hard,” Jay tells Bells, leaving everyone in the room, including me, dumbfounded with his perceptiveness.

“Where ever you’re going with this,” I fix my gaze onto him, biting back a grin, “just don’t embarrass me.”

He smiles down at me reassuringly, his eyes holding promise. “I got you.” He waves me off before turning back to Bells, “Just let her be herself.”

“A little makeup is not going to change her character,” Bell argues against him, passionate about looking good all the time. “So rest assured, your Aqueela will remain the same at heart. Don’t worry your pretty little head over it.”

“What I miss, Freakshows?” Troy addresses us, entering the room again with a bowl of Oreos in milk. He notices the raised eyebrows at the sight of his ‘food’. “What?” he asks innocently. “It’s my usual breakfast.”

“It really is,” Bell groans when seeing Max’s perplexed stare.

“Can’t be healthy,” Jay chuckles, cringing at the sight.

“Gives me everything I need for the day,” Troy answers in certainty.

“Sugar?” Jay mocks.

Bell glances around the room before beckoning everyone forward before Troy can reply. She takes in all their faces before motioning to them to come closer. When Jay doesn’t move, she stares at him expectantly.

He lets out a resigned sigh and lifts up one hand from his laidback position against the wall. “I’m good here.”

Bell leaves him be and continues on with her game plan. “Who here agrees that Aqueela should wear makeup? If so, please insert reasoning.”

I should have seen this coming - the cursed ‘group’ vote!

“You guys always do this!” I immediately complain, already knowing where she’s heading with this. “It’s not fair. I’m always outvoted.”

“If you’re outnumbered, Babe, you’re outnumbered,” she answers says in a prim and proper voice, acting like some rich prima donna.

I shoot her a flat look.

“Just a saying, girlie,” she resorts to a New Jersey accent, acting as if she’s chewing on bubblegum, going as far as pretending to blow the bubble before popping it.

“Oooh me! Pick me! Pick me! I wanna go first!” Troy jumps up and down all too enthusiastically with his hand raised high in the air.

“Is there anyone else?” Bell asks, pushing her overeager brother aside. She looks to Max hopefully. “No one else?”

Troy starts talking anyway. “I definitely think Aqueela should wear makeup. It shouldn’t even be a choice. It should be a permanent, spoken rule. I mean you’ve got to shield ugly from the public’s eyes. The world just isn’t ready for her for unspeakable atrocities yet.”

Of course, he would say that. I know he’s only messing with me so I don’t take offense. Besides, he wears makeup too.

I shoot him an edgy glare. “Watch your words, boy. I can’t stay tied up forever,” I threaten.

He adds in a smaller voice, “And because I think she looks pretty when she wears makeup.”

“Does that imply that I look ugly without makeup?” I question, putting him on the spot, enjoying seeing him squirm for once.

“Naturally, yes,” he answers and then sees my face, quickly correcting himself, “I mean, no. You look interesting without makeup is all.”

Interesting? As in some animal that can be analyzed?

Bells nods, taking her role as group leader very seriously. “I see your reasoning, brother,” she replies, continually nodding her head as if taking this to the next level. “I hear you, I hear you. I’m following your thought patterns and process, and to some extent, I understand where you’re coming from. Aqueela’s stares can frighten one out of one’s wits. Thank you for adding input. Your vote has been counted.”

“My pleasure,” Troy retorts in pride.

“Would anyone like to expound on that?” Bell asks, glancing around the room with expectation.

How difficult can it be to count four votes? You’d’ think the process would be a speedy one, but no, they have to drag it out every damn time. A group of babies could do a better, faster and more accurate job.

“Onto Max,” Bells commands despite him being reluctant.

“But I wasn’t finished,” Troy whines, unhappy.

“I’m sorry, Troy, but time is against us. We only have a limited time period. Another time perhaps,” Bell replies, gesturing for Max to have his say.

Oh goody, she just implied that there would be another time.

“Aye-aye, captain! Following,” Troy salutes her, submitting to her leadership.

“Well, I’d reckon Aqueela should wear makeup because she has two head wounds on either side of her face,” Max says, being the logical one of the two. “Maybe, just for the date, it can be covered.”

Bells nods again, indicating that she agrees. “I see your point. Nothing really to back up your reasoning like Troy’s debate, but it will do.” She stupidly adds, “Also, not coming from a logical perspective.”

Not logical? Nothing to back up his opinion? Try the gigantic bruises across my forehead and the swelling on either side of my face as back up.

I’ve never had the heart to shoot Bells down, but honestly, she is the most useless group leader that has ever walked this planet. If she ever had to become president, I’d move countries in a heartbeat. The States would go to hell.

Troy, unfortunately, speaks up again. “I see what Max is trying to say, but I’ll put it into a more in-depth perspective. You see, Aqueela’s head is disproportioned right now. Yes, both sides of her head have swelled up immensely due to throwing herself down the stairs, twice might I add, but her left side, her recent injury, is more inflated than the other side. In fact, it resembles a hot air balloon, causing her already dysfunctional face to look all the more hideous. It makes her head seem like some bobblehead toy, that, or she’s finally sprouting her demon horns.”

It can’t possibly look that terrible. As a result, I automatically glance to Jay for reassurance. He catches my gaze and smiles at me gently, shaking his head, signaling that Troy is talking utter garbage yet again.

“But look on the bright side, people, now when you say she has a big head, you’re technically not lying,” Troy jokes.

I grit my teeth in irritation. I’ll kill him with my bare hands when I get out of here…if I get out of here.

“Perhaps if we look at her head from a different angle…” Troy suggests and cocks his head to the side, closing one eye as if to compare the difference. “Nope. Nuh-uh,” he says, shaking his head defiantly, standing back upright. “There’s no difference at all. Her head is still enlarged and inflated more than ever. I’d say it’s the lighting in the room, but then I’d be lying. It’s definitely her disproportional head, her face in general really.”

I close my eyes and draw in a sharp breath. Please grant me grace so that I don’t end up in jail for manslaughter.

Bells nods, a thoughtful expression on her face. “Mhmm,” she says, having the mannerism of a professional warlord in spite of this not being the A-Team. If anything, this is the Z-Team. “What do you have to say about this dilemma, Jay? Makeup? Yay or nay?”

Max grins at seeing Jay’s reluctant expression. “One of us. One of us,” he approaches Jay like some walking, talking, breathing zombie.

“I hate that I’m being dragged into this, but if you’re asking for my opinion, let Aqueela do whatever she wants,” Jay answers in a smooth voice, stuffing his hands into his pockets as he steps away from the wall that he’d just been leaning on. “Either way, she’ll look fine,” he tells her, avoiding my puzzled stare.

Unbelievable. Jay Taylor just stood up for me.

Bell pulls a face, her lips quivering into a thin line, a contemplative expression as she takes in his suggestion. Dismissing him, she shakes her head, relinquishing his statement. According to her self-proclaimed rise to leadership, she’s allowed to throw out any vote that she doesn’t agree with, or, in simple terms, any vote against hers.

“So that means everyone says ‘yes’ to makeup!” Bells squeals ecstatically, clapping her hands in excitement.

Jay argues. “But-“

“Enough, Jay. Your reasoning made no sense to any of us. It was just utterly senseless,” Bell persists, cutting off his protests before he can put a stop to this.

I guess, by taking my side, he automatically kicked himself off the group’s so-called ‘team’ vote.

Speaking of which, the team, consisting of Max and Troy, chorus in agreement with Bells, just so they can beat me at all odds.

“All in favor say ‘pie’,” Bell states, pleased with the outcome. All she wants to do is use me as her guinea pig to gain more experience.

“Pie,” Max says briskly, raising his hand in agreement.

“Hi,” Troy waves, mishearing.

“Pie,” Bell corrects her brother in a vicious tone of voice.

“Die,” Troy corrects himself, well attempts to.

Pie!” Bells snaps, growing more impatient with each passing second.

“Oh, I see what you’re doing,” Troy responds knowingly. “‘Good cop-bad cop’, huh? Smart thinking. I’ll do bad cop,” he insists before any of us can protest. “Die, Pie!” he yells in an aggro voice before backing out of character, “and then Pie’s reply would be ‘not today’!”

I scoff at what’s taking place before my very eyes. Revolting.

“’Kay, now good cop,” he says, before jumping back into character, “‘hi, Mr. Pie’. Pie would be like ”sup, how’s it going muchachos?’ Personally, I like to view Pie as an outlaw who plays by his own recipe book.”

Like Jay then.

“Since when did Pie get given life?!” Bells snaps, her voice laced in frustration.

Troy is the deciding vote, so all he has to do is reply with ‘pie’ and we we’re good to go. But no, Troy always has to make everything ten times more complicated.

“Well, if you look at it that way-“

Bells cuts him off from reasoning any further. “There’s only one way to look at it, Troy!”

He shakes his head and, unfortunately, begins to elaborate. “It depends if we eat Pie, then obviously no life is given, and if we don’t, then Pie can thus rise as-“

“How can he rise if he never died first?” Max, the supposed smart one, reasons…much to my dismay.

“Wait a sec’, who said Pie was a ‘he’? Pie could be a badass chick too for all you know. You’re all sexist,” Bell replies, falling into their stupid debate. She’s supposed to be above this, but I’ll let her off the hook because she’s still getting over ‘he-who-shall-not-be-named’.

Yeah…I am going to be here a while.

I check the clock on the wall, the only thing Troy left behind in his room - his reason being, and I quote, ‘you can count down the hours until you see me again’ - and sigh softly. A couple of minutes have already been wasted on these pointless debates.

I should have never ever ever never ever never never never told Bells anything!

“What do you think, Jay?” Bells asks, wanting him to side with her. His antisocial persona apparently makes his opinion on the matter seem all the more powerful.

“Oh,” he arches a brow, a frown tracing his lips, “so my say is suddenly worth something again?” he bites back rather aggressively, clearly annoyed by all of this. He’s not used to their level of insanity.

“Well, only if yours matches mine, nuh-duh,” she replies in an ‘isn’t-it-obvious’ tone of voice, flipping her long brown hair to the side, mimicking the actions of a diva - her brother for instance.

“How do I always get dragged into these crazy shenanigans?” Jay asks loudly, everyone fixating their attention on him since he’s barely been speaking - that’s nothing new, I have grown quite accustomed to his content silence. However, this time, it’s discontent silence.

Max simply motions to me, hoping that it will somehow answer Jay’s question. “You know Aqueela right?”

Jay nods in response.

“There. You just answered your own question,” Max retorts with a cheeky grin. “She be trippin’!”

I’m quick to jump to my own defense. “Yeah, ’cause I’m the crazy one giving life to ‘Pie’ here. Everyone knows that the saying is ‘all in favor, say I’,” I state in a matter-of-fact way, annoyed.

Bell’s expression grows serious as she waves an accusing finger in my face. “You want another round of ‘who the sanest is’ like last year? Because I can guarantee that you will lose by a long run again.”

“Hey!” I snap, remembering that specific event. “Only because you and Troy called a group meeting and outvoted me…again!”

“You always lose.” Troy openly laughs at my expense. “You should be ashamed of yourself and your family.”

I open my mouth to argue but fall silent when seeing Bell’s signal.

She stops the debate from progressing any further. “Girls, you’re both pretty, now shush! I’m trying to count up the votes.”

“I am prettier, though, right?” Troy, insecure, asks, flicking his hair to the side in a girly pose.

“There are only four votes, Bell! Three, seeing as you cut Jay out. Besides, all three of you said the same thing. How difficult can this be? I swear, a group of girl scouts can do a better job,” I huff in protest, finally giving my say on the entire matter.

It’s amazing how Troy can drag out a simple procedure into a lengthy, complex one. How does he endure himself?

“Wow, Aqueela. Tame that temper. There’s no need to get hostile.” Bell sends me a disapproving stare as if I’m the one in this room that deserves it most.

For once, I’m being the normal one. I blame Troy. He always manages to change up the dynamics. It’s like he has superpowers. Personally, I have no idea how he does it, but he does.

Troy runs his hand along the top of my head like I’m some kind of pet puppy that he’s reprimanding. “Yes, Aqueela. You’ve got a hot temper and you need to cool it before you burn someone.”

I merely scowl at him in turn.

He removes his hand and shakes his head, clicking his tongue to indicate his disappointment. “Now, now, Aqueela, temper, temper.”

Max changes the subject, aware that I’m about to lose it. “So…” he starts awkwardly, “have you guys heard about Pluto?” When none of us answer, he shakes his head, quoting ‘Gus’ from ‘Psych’. “That’s messed up.”

Before I can even reply, Troy has already got his cell phone out, snapping pics of me. I give him a furious glare, still unable to stop him. I might as well make the images as scary as possible. I hope he gets nightmares!

I honestly think I will kill him when I get loose.

“Everybody we need to get Aqueela to a mirror,” Bell insists, her mind on the task at hand. “Troy!” she exclaims bossily, gesturing to the chair and me expectantly.

Troy, surprisingly, seems to understand and picks me and the chair up effortlessly.

“This would all be a lot easier if you idiots just freed me,” I voice my thoughts aloud with a deep sigh. I hate being taken captive. It happens much too much for my life to ever be considered somewhat normal.

Troy skips ahead with the chair and me intact in his arms before leaping down all the stairs at a fast pace. I squeeze my eyes shut, afraid. If he trips and I fall down the stairs for a third time I will seriously rip him to shreds!

“Careful,” Jay warns quietly, watching Troy’s every move with unease. “That’s precious cargo you’re carrying there.”

Troy Story and everyone else enter into Bell’s parent’s room for the usage of the large, fancy mirror - the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, in Troy’s case anyway.

“Where is Mrs. J when you need her? Murphy obviously hates me because I seem to have the worst luck in the whole universe,” I complain.

“Nope,” Jay shakes his head, disagreeing, “that would be me.”

I laugh, stopping when Bell’s holds my head still, applying a light coat makeup to my face.

The guys get bored after precisely two minutes and eventually leave me at Bell’s mercy to go play ‘Need for Speed’ on the Xbox. I have no doubt that Jay will win hands down, at least in real life anyway.

Being tied to a chair for so long does things to you. It’s something you can’t come back from.

It seems as if hours have passed when Bell finally speaks again:

“All done!” she exclaims in excitement before calling for Troy to come and undo the knots. However, he’s taking his sweet time in getting over here.

Suddenly, the doorbell rings. I glance to the clock in panic, only for Bells to state calmly, “Oh, its seven o’clock already. Would you look at that? Man, time passes by quickly.”

No, it doesn’t! Too agonizingly slow, if anything!

I try to put up my own calm façade as I casually address her. “Hey, Bells?”

“Mhm,” she answers, her thoughts elsewhere.

“That would be my date at the door. Jay gave him your address,” I remind her.

Bells nods, barely registering what I’ve just said. She speaks up, a blank expression on her face. “I’m sorry, who’s at the door now?” she asks, her calm amidst the storm still intact as she blinks down at me in bewilderment.

“Dylan, my date,” I repeat, far from ready to go.

I don’t even know what I am going to wear or do with my hair. I saw this coming. I knew they’d waste enough time and this would be the outcome. To be honest, I guess a part of me wanted it to happen so that I could cancel on Dylan.

“Oh, Dylan? Your date, Dylan? Dylan the date?” Bell responds all too smoothly, and then, as if suddenly realizing the issue, begins to shake me back and forth by my shoulders. “Holy cheese and bacon! Dylan’s already here!” she shouts, most likely waking up the entire neighborhood.

She shoves me back so hard that the chair, conveniently, tips backward and I fall to the ground. The worst part is that I can’t even pick myself up off the floor. “A little help,” I mumble, only for my words to fall on deaf, crazy ears.

“Sherbet, schnitzel, shalom! This is so bad!” Bells shouts in panic, overreacting for me so that I don’t have to. For some reason, I have an oddly tranquil pretense up but it’s about to crumble very soon.

“You think?!” I finally explode. “I’m not even close to ready. Just look at me! I’m stuck to a chair! I’m even upside down! Not even the right way up!”

“I know!” Bell whimpers dramatically. “Flip! Flip! Flip! Flippety flip! Flippy flip!” she panics as she scrambles around the room, pacing back and forth as if truly worried.

“Well,” I huff, “untie me, dammit!” I yell back just as Troy enters the room.

His immediate response is to place his hands over his ears to tune out the frantic screaming. “Ladies, ladies, what’s the ish and sitch?”

“Dylan’s at the door,” I tell him.

Troy grins giddily like a child about to receive a present on Christmas morning. “The pizza guy is here?” he asks, wiggling his fingers in excitement and patting his stomach. He’s never not hungry - always thinking about food.

“My date!” I correct him in a vicious tone.

His face drops. “Oh, him.” Then, as if too realizing what is happening, he starts sprinting in circles around my toppled over chair, his feet just missing my face. “Crud! Crud! Crud! What are we going to do?! What are we going to do?!”

Bells stops pacing and joins her brother, running in the opposite direction to him on instinct. She too runs in circles around me and my chair. “I don’t know! I don’t know!” she shouts, in turn, pulling at her hair frantically.

I can only imagine how this scene must look to a bystander. Me lying in a mess sprawled out on the floor stuck to chair whilst two complete morons run in circles around me in sheer panic.

With their panic attacks you’d think they’re the ones going on the date.

Talk about not functioning well under pressure…these two dimwits take it to a whole new level.

“Here’s a thought. Untie me and answer the door!” I yell for what feels like the billionth time according to my sore throat and lack of oxygen.

Troy immediately scrambles down and crawls to me as he tries to untie the flippen tight knots Max had made. Again, Max’s fault. But Tory is so panicky that his fumbling hands are useless. He tries for a solid good ten minutes as the doorbell continues to ring. You’d think Max or Jay would have the brains or manners to answer it, but instead I hear them chanting away at the racing game playing on full volume. Troy finally gives in, “I can’t! These knots are impossible. I’m sorry but you’re going on your date like this! If you’re lucky he might find it kinky or spunky.”

Bells slaps Troy upside the head so hard that the sound echoes around the room, “She’s not going like this. Look at her, she’s a gigantic heap of mess!” Chee thanks Bells, you’re the greatest. Always know how to boost confidence levels! “Go answer the door and stall while I get Max to untie this!”

Troy doesn’t bother responding as he is already off opening the door. I clearly hear his high pitched tone as he answers, an indication that he’s nervous. What the actual flip? He’s not going on the date for goodness sake! I clearly hear him say, “Oh Aqueela?” He trails off nervously before adding, “Yeah…um… she’s a little tied down at the moment if you know what I mean.” He replies smugly, knowing fully well that I can hear his every word.

No he does not know what you mean Troy!!!

Just you wait Troy, just you wait!

But his smug charade dies as his nervousness (for reasons beyond explanation to mankind) sets back in, “Chee you’re a good looking fellow. How did Aqueela snag you up? You want toast. I make the best toast.”

Dylan answers, “No actually I-“

Troy cuts Dylan with a laugh as if what he said was funny, “You’re hilarious man! Let me get you them toasts.”

Dylan falls quiet and I can only guess that he’s complying with the apparent ‘best toast’ because Troy petrifies him. Join the club buddy!

Meanwhile Max struggles and can’t get his own bloody knots out. He tries to no avail and leaves the room. When Max comes back in with a sledgehammer and flame thrower, I am quick to declare him a lost cause and turn to my last option before Max pummels me into a pulp and burns me alive.

So when Jay, my saving grace, comes in with sharp knife from the kitchen we all slap our foreheads in dismay and regret for not thinking of that sooner. Well I slip my forehead metaphorically. I mean Max thinks of a flame thrower, a dam flame thrower, before thinking of a knife.

Jay comes up toward me, tips my chair back upright effortlessly as he carefully cuts all the rope so that it falls loosely at my ankles when I stand up. Bells throws me a dress and Max throws me a brush, just missing my face. I’m sure he did that on purpose for revenge when I threw my shoe at his face. Work on your aim dude!

Jay stands aside quietly and lets us work. He’s most likely the only one with common sense in this household.

“I’d hurry if I were you.” Max says, coming out from the kitchen area and back into the bedroom, “Troy just told Dylan that he has lovely eyes before asking him what conditioner he uses.”

I nod, not even bothering to question it. Troy’s weird under pressure. Troy’s just weird in general. Us weirdoes stick together. “Hurrying.” I tell Max, as I brush my hair and throw on a nice pair of sandals Bells had quickly provided.

I spin around to face all three faces absentmindedly, “How do I look?” I ask, breathing in a frantic breath.

Max replies with a silent thumbs up and Jay just nods appreciatively before leaving the room as if not caring about this whole date ordeal at all. Could he at least pretend to be jealous to make me feel better?

Bell’s grins, satisfied, and embraces me quickly before stepping back to admire her unfinished work, “The raw material may have been rushed, but all in all the finished product ended up gorgeous.”

Wow! That may have been the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

I sigh in relief and then speak, “First things first…I have to pee!” I say and rush to her parent’s bedroom bathroom.

Soon after finally peeing, I rush out the room and enter the kitchen as quickly as possible to prevent any more embarrassing moments. The last thing I want is for Dylan to find out what happened here this afternoon.

Unfortunately that wish doesn’t last…

Turns out Troy panicked in the span of five minutes tops that he was left alone with Dylan. He ended up showing Dylan the photos he had taken of me in the chair just to keep the convo going. I pulled the most ferocious hideous glowers in those pictures. I groan in humiliation as I approach the very silent Dylan and the over anxious Troy.

I’m still certain that he thinks he’s going out Dylan. I see a weird bromance brewing here…

“And this is one I took an hour ago when Aqueela-“

“Troy likes to mess round, don’t you Troy.” I say, making my presence known as I come to stand right beside Troy, nudging him hard in his ribcage to get him to shut up and stop showing Dylan the pictures of me.

The purpose of stalling Dylan was so that Dylan wouldn’t have to find me stuck in a chair.

Troy managed to defeat the entire purpose all together.

Idiot!

Troy mutters curses beneath his breath before he feigns a smile, laughing awkwardly and shifting uncomfortably on the spot, “Always.” Troy responds in a pained tone as I shove my elbow in his ribs yet again, just because I can.

Dylan looks away and in that split moment I flick Tory on the side of his face an mouth ‘moron’ to him. When Dylan turns back to face us, I am quick to offer a sickly sweet smile.

Dylan turns to me specifically, his green eyes brightening at having some normal company…well normalish anyways. “Sorry I took so long.” I apologize, adding an excuse, “I got held up.”

“I see.” Dylan grins playfully and motions with his head in the direction of the photos Troy had snapped of me, still had on full display. I swear the audacity of this kid. “Why were you tied up?”

What is this? A bloody interrogation? I will get tied up if I want to without being questioned about why!

“Why weren’t you tied up is the real question?” I respond on impulse, not at all thinking that one through. Yeah that comment sounded…kinky.

“Pervert.” Troy coughs to me in a not so subtle fashion.

Dylan flinches back, eyebrows raised, a clear indication of confusion at my suggestion. “I’m sorry what? Did I misread what this is because if it’s just for sex then-“

My cheeks flame red at his assumption as I bow my head and and cough uncomfortably, not expecting that blunt responce.

I might as well try to lie my way through this somehow. It’s not like I can embarrass myself more than I just did with that comment, “I usually tie myself up before dates to prepare my mind and self in general.”

I see Troy cover up his snickers with a cough at my expense, whilst Jay and Bells shake their heads at my latest screw up. Max, on the other hand, has to turn away as he cackles aloud, stuffing his fist into his mouth to stop himself from laughing.

Dylan seems puzzled and perplexed at my explanation. So maybe it didn’t help much in clearing things up after all. If anything I just confused him all the more.

Minutes pass away as Bells gives me the thumbs down signal.

Finally Dylan clears his throat and manages to replace that bewildered frown with a soft smile as he takes my hand gently into his own, interlacing our fingers, “You know what? I don’t want to question it because clearly your methods of preparation are working. You look beautiful.”

My heart skips a beta at the compliment as I advert my eyes from his to cover the blood red blush. But to my dismay my eyes land on Jay instead who is standing nearby, leaning against the kitchen counter, with a dead set frown implanted on his face and an icy look that could kill nations.

He is not happy.

He meets my gaze and I raise a questioning eyebrow at him, stunned at the dark swirling tsunami in his eyes. Why must there always be a problem with him? He’s worse than girl PMSing.

Dylan doesn’t notice and tugs me all the way to the front door, but I can’t help but look back, my eyes remaining fixed on Jay’s condescending blue ones only to find Jay’s blazing gaze not aimed to me, but instead his somewhat of a friend, Dylan.

Now what?!

Chapter 20: Simple Chaos

I fidget with my hands nervously as Dylan drives us ahead in his white Volvo. I can’t help but be nervous. If you have yet to figure it out, let me break it to you, I’m not the ‘datey’ type. In fact this is my very first date, hence my anxiety and Bell’s previous excitement as well as Troy’s over exaggeration, plus his stressing. They’re the only two ones, including Mason, that know I have never gone out with a guy before.

Most times, if not all, I am that weird girl that people go out of their way to avoid. Not that I can blame them. I know I am weird compared to others. But I am done trying to change myself for people who will never be worth it. I’ve accepted myself as an ‘extraordinary weirdo’ as Bell puts it. I was just never expecting to be asked out, especially not by someone like Dylan. I mean he’s already got his own business at such a young get. He’s obviously successful, friendly and good looking. How on earth does he see me as a suitable date? I am not fit for his stature.

If he hasn’t run yet, he will soon…

“So what do you think about it?” Dylan asks, jolting me about from my hazy dream state. He’d been speaking for a while now, but I just got so bored and accidentally…or purposely tuned him out. He’s speaking on some other level. Clearly he’s way too sophisticated for me. He is way of out my league. Why is he even wasting his time with me?

My rub my clammy hands on my dress and peak a glance at Dylan to see that even though his eyes are still on the road, he’s still waiting for me to answer his question. Flamingo chips! I wasn’t even listening to a word he just said. I zoned out right after the second sentence. My eyes widen as Dylan glances to me briefly, wondering why I hadn’t asked.

Might as well try get out of this alive.

“Mhmm…”I shrug unknowingly, but on pretence to be knowingly. “It’s a difficult one.” I take my chances and decide to answer safely.

Dylan chuckles lowly and I can’t help but compare his chuckle to Jay’s. I mean Dylan’s chuckle is hot and deep, but also more mature. Jay’s chuckle is boyish, mischievous and secretive. I don’t know why, but I prefer the ‘unsophisticated immature Jay’ over ‘rich boy Dylan’. Also Jay’s car is better. And as observed, Jay is clearly a better driver than Dylan. Then again he is somewhat of an expert. It is his career.

Jay this…Jay that…

Dammit Aqueela, shut up!

You’re on a date with Jay!

Ugh fudge nuggets…I mean you’re on a date with Dylan!

Dylan!

Dylan!

No Jays!

Just Dylan!

I slap my forehead loudly in frustration as Dylan speaks up, choosing to not take note of me mumbling to myself like a mad woman, “I guess you’re right. But if you were her, what would you do about it? Out of curiosity that is.”

Leave me alone Dylan!

I groan inwardly, wishing for Dylan to just drop whatever it is we’re discussing. Here goes nothing. “Um…I-I’d just let the issue dissolve on its own before it escalates out of control.”

“Yes, but specifically, what do you mean by that? Any suggestions?” Dylan asks, looking over the wheel to me with a raised eyebrow.

He makes me feel stupid. Of course he was talking more specifically. Dammit Dylan, catch a hint! I don’t even want to be ere on this date with you in the first place. It’s all by Jay’s doing that I am here.

Sorry Dylan, but you have left me with no other choice but to move to Plan B, seeing as you are so persistent in talking about mature rubbish. If he only knew how he’s boring me. This date has barely begun and I am bored out of my skull. I can’t relate to Dylan in any way.

“Careful the squirrel in the road!” I suddenly yell as Dylan’s green eyes dart back to the road and off of me as he swerves the car in a panic to miss the non-existent squirrel. “Oh thank goodness. You just missed it.” I add a minute later when Dylan has calmed down and taken full control of his Volvo yet again.

Dylan seems confused a she tries to reason, “But I didn’t see anything in the road when-“

“That’s because you were looking at me before it scampered away. Look I am flattered and all, but I am also aware that men can’t multitask. Maybe just keep your eyes on the road and cut the in between chit chat for now.” I advise as politely as possible…which isn’t very polite, but come on, cut me some slack, I feel like I am on ‘Who wants to be a billionaire?’ with all these questions.

Dylan seems chocked back at my rudeness, but nods nevertheless, saying no more as he focuses on the and the oncoming traffic, seemingly a little disappointed and adding to the guilty feeling sinking into the pits of my tummy. “So how old are you? How did you become the manager of the store at such a young age, presuming you’re still young? How did you become friends with Jay? Why would someone as hot as you ask someone like me out?” I ramble out series of questions nervously, despite the fact that I had just made the effort to stop the talking altogether. I was a walking contradiction.

“I thought you just said to quit the small talk so-“

“I don’t remember saying that.”

“You literally just said-“

“Dylan please, just answer my question.” I cut him off before he makes me out. I am trying to be nice here and he’s making it incredibly difficult.

Dylan doesn’t bother arguing anymore and gives in too easily. For some reason that irritates me. I am used to Jay, Max, and Mason even all arguing with me until my last breath. As infuriating as it is in the moment, it makes for better memories. I mean giving in to me will so easily is not attractive, it just means you’re no fun.

Give the guy a chance Aqueela. You were more than willing before you met Jay. You even went as far too accidentally spill that you love him.

But I have met Jay now.

Everything’s changed…

I am distracted from my negative thoughts about Dylan yet again when he inhales a deep breath before quickly answering all my questions respectively as briefly as possible, stunning me that he answered accurately and still remembered all the questions as well as answered in the order that I questioned.

But I guess that’s to be suspected with someone as prosperous as him, “I am twenty three. My father own the original ice-cream parlour franchise. He made me head of this store as manger to keep my head out of the clouds, especially after I dropped out of law school. Jay was there one afternoon and we didn’t get along at first for obvious reasons, we’re entirely opposite, at least that’s what I thought we were. Turns out we have more in common than I realize. Jay has a tougher life than me and it was wrong of me to misjudge him. Despite being younger, the guy has a lot of experience and wisdom with the real word and offered advice on a personal situation. I know he makes himself out to be cold, but he’s actually warmer and more open than I first expected. He’s a good kid.”

Jay’s almost a year older than me. Am I just a kid to Dylan too? “And finally, I asked you out Aqueela because I like you. You’re new, fresh, and spunky and despite how weird you sometimes are…” Dylan pauses and turns to me with a small deviant grin before shrugging, coming to a conclusion, “I guess I like it or we wouldn’t be here.”

I am so shocked by everything that has just been revealed to me (from Jay’s ‘warm’ heart to Dylan being a college dropout and not stuck up as I presumed to Dylan being five years older than me and finally to Dylan confessing that he likes me) that all I can think to respond with is, “Wow Dylan. You talk too much.”

I am half assuming that Dylan will stop the car and dump me on the side of the road right here and now, but as I’ve come to learn, Dylan is decent and he happens to be a gentleman. He’s not Jay. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

“You’re funny.” Dylan laughs, not taking what I said seriously. That makes me smile a little. At least he’s not some soft sap that can’t take a joke every once in a while. “And cute too.” Dylan winks at me flirtatiously before chuckling at me when I blush.

“But you five years older than me and you can do so much better, why me?” I question, still confused.

“Can’t you just accept the fact that I like you?” Dylan asks and I am tempted to reply with ‘not really’ but instead I fall quiet.

We ride in silence until we reach our destination. I’m about to open my door and step out, but Dylan beats me to it, taking me by surprise as his hand intertwines with mine. I don’t bother analysing it as Dylan leads me into some over the top fancy restaurant. I happen to glance down at my clothes insecurely because I know I won’t fit on here. I am underdressed.

It’s as if Dylan seems to know what I’m thinking. He smiles down ta me with a reassuring sparkle to his green eyes, “You look stunning.”

“But I’m-“

“Fine.” He cuts me off, “You’re perfectly fine.” Dylan interrupts as he goes forward and asks about the table he had booked just for me. The waiter nods, leading us to the reserved table far away from the hordes of snooty people. I stop at the foot of the table and glance around, taking in the secluded spot lit with candles, adding to my anxiousness.

Someone is a hopeless romantic…

Not really my style.

Dylan pulls out my chair for me before I get the chance to sprint back outside. I sit down and smile at Dylan appreciatively a she joins me across from me. I fumble as I flip through the pages of the menu, not sure what it is I’m reading. All I know is that everything is incredibly expensive and seeing as Dylan is paying (I sure a shell am not) I want to order the cheapest thing possible for him.

Why the hell is everything in Greek Latin?! This is the States for goodness sake!

Dylan orders his drink and food already as both him and the waiter wait on me. I glance up sheepishly from the menu to find Dylan smiling at me, seemingly patient but the waiter himself seems impatient. “You ready to order mam?” the waiter hisses and I notice that he resembles Dylan’s age, except he’s much grumpier.

“I think I’ll just have a water and a salad so-“

“She’ll have a Zymarika too.” Dylan finishes for me with a helpful grin directed toward me. I of course ignore it like the polite lady I am.

“And to drink?” the guy waiter asks, jotting down the meal Dylan had ordered for me. All I know is that it is some type of pasta.

Dylan glances to me and I shrug, thinking on it for a few minutes as the waiter taps his foot impatiently. Jeeze this dude is rude! “I’ll take a coke.” I say, but judging by the responses of both Dylan and the waiter at the simple order I’m quick to decide against it, “I mean I’ll take a Choco milkshake.” Again same response, “No no wait! I’ll take the fudge choco-mocho espresso.”

“That’s not on the menu.” The stupid mean waiter responds rather harshly.

What the hell is his problem?

Jeeze someone is having a bad day.

He’s only allowed to complain when he’s been kidnapped and taken hostage.

“How about just an espresso to go?” I question, unable to decide.

“But this isn’t a ‘to go’ order. You’re sitting.” The waiter points out the obvious and I realize my stupid mistake.

“Okay um…jeeze this is strenuous exercise…no pressure…um…a-“

Before I can finish my next words the waiter throws down his notebook and badge, shouting, “I quit!” at the top of his lungs as he barges out the restaurant, attracting a large audience, including me. It’s when everyone turns their gaze on to our table that I feel myself sink deeper in my chair to avoid their accusing stares.

How is he quitting my fault?!

Clearly he wasn’t in a great mood to start with. I guess I just pushed him a little to the extreme. Great now I feel awful. Dylan sees this and tugs on my hands to get my attention, “Hey.” He soothes gently, “That was not your fault. He was being a royal dick.”

I flinch back slightly at Dylan’s choice of words. That’s etching. Jay would say that. I figured Dylan to be too high and mighty to insult people. Or too prim and proper to care to insult people beneath him. I keep misjudging him and maybe it’s time I ought to stop. He’s been noting but civil and sweet.

But is that what I really want?

Sweet and civil?

Soon after, the manager approaches us and apologizes on the waiter’s behalf, saying that it was indeed not my fault because the waiter has been having just a sucky day in general. However his assurance that it wasn’t me only makes me feel the more terrible. Is it weird to feel pity for someone you don’t know who just stormed out on their job?

We’re given a new waiter, a much politer female who taken my orders patiently. If you’re wondering what drink I ordered, the one that was never on the menu.

I am distracted from my thoughts when from the corner of my eye, two tables away, sit three people who seem to be hiding behind a large black menu as all their face are covered. But every once in a while one of them peeks out behind it in my direction. That’s when those three sets of green-grey eyes become too familiar. My stomach twists into knots as Bells, Max and Troy all come into view.

Bell catches my eye and hold a thumbs up with a large grin on her face. She’s letting me know that she’s here if I need her. Then there’s Troy making kiss faces and winking at me whilst Max is wiggling his fingers at me in some type of paedophile wave/greeting.

Oh fudge fragments! Shoot me!

I knew they’d spy on me. It was so not like them to just let me go out alone. I’m guessing Bells updated Max on the fact that this is my first date. But there is a pair of blue eyes missing from the trio and I can’t help but wonder where Jay went or what he is doing. He probably didn’t tag along because he doesn’t care. He has way better things to do than crash my date. He’s so indifferent to my feelings that it stings.

But he wants my friendship, the only friendships he has, and I’ll take what I can get and give out what he can accept.

But of course as fate would have it…a normal night out does not exist in my mind set or my friends’ vocabulary.

But apart from them three spying, Dylan coughs to grab my attention and shifts his attention to someone behind me, someone oblivious to my three friends watching him carefully. Now is really not the time to face him of all people.

So when I do…my eyes widen in terror. He can’t be here, not when Bells is here too. He might not see her, but she will see him here talking to me and question it. I don’t want to get in the middle, but it’s too late for that. He broke things off with her because of me.

This night can’t possibly get any worse.

You know what Murphy, screw you and your fat head!

“Aqueela…” Mason drawls, quite speeches to run in on me during a date. It’s in his hesitance that he seems to notice Dylan too, recognizing him. From what I know, the two are barely acquaintances. “You’re on a date?”

Well no sh*t Sherlock?!

What is he doing here???

“Yes.” I mutter and turn my attention off Mason, hoping he’d take the hint and leave. I don’t want to see him ever again. I hate Mason Montry, perhaps more than Bell resents his existence.

But that’s a lie.

A lie that I keep trying to bury.

Mason has been with me all my life, not in the good sense, but the fact of the matter is that he’s always been there. As much as I want to hate him, I simply cannot. He’s a part of me now. Sadly I cannot turn on my friends as easily as I had hoped. Despite everything he’s done, I still care for him, just not in the way he wants me to.

Mason seems angered by my answer as he scrunches up his eyebrows in distaste, “You weren’t supposed to go on your fist date with some guy you barely know.” He snaps venomously, his resentment for Dylan now quite clear.

I raise an eyebrow at the audacity of him to reveal to Dylan that this is my first date, “Oh? Then who was I supposed to go out with on my first date?” I ask rhetorically, not expecting him to answer. But he does and I really wish he hadn’t.

“Me.” He mumbles inaudibly, but just loud enough so that I am the only person in the room that hears.

I huff in a breath, desperate to diffuse this situation before Bells hears everything and disregards me as her friend. “Now’s not the time Mason so just…” I falter in my lecture when Mason takes a seat beside me, intervening the date,

Oh my cheesecake, he’s jealous!

Mason throws an arm around my shoulder possessively and pulls me to his side, “You’re way older than Aqueela.” Masons states, looking over to Dylan who seems a little infuriated as of now. “What are your intentions with her? How does she know you’re not some perverted paedophile who only wants her for se-“

I pull away from Mason and place my hand over his mouth before he can finish his sentence. I mean Dylan’s right eye is already twitching. It won’t be long now before he goes bonkers and completely loses it.

I can see a fight breaking out soon.

“Who the hell are you?” Dylan hisses, enraged by Mason interfering. Dylan turns his gaze to me with an accusing stare is if this is my fault. In a way I suppose it is, “Is he your boyfriend or something?”

Ha!

Funny!

I’m quick to shake my head as my throat closes up at the mere suggestion, “No. He’s my best friend’s ex and my enemy.”

“Well for enemies you two look pretty darn snug.” It’s then that I notice Mason has inched his way near to me yet again. I pull my seat and purposely drag it away from him. What the hell has gone in to him?! He’s acting like a four year old. Usually he’s the mature one, not the other way round.

“Well we’re not. I hate him.” I tell Dylan, making sure that Mason hears, but whether he does or not he still continues on with his new possessive jealous act.

“I feel the opposite about her.” Mason states, making his true feelings known as he keeps his eyes on Dylan. It’s become too natural to him to confess his feelings. I don’t like that. At least if he were a coward I wouldn’t have to hear this every single dam time, “So back off.”

“You’re the one that interrupted our date. You back off. She hates you anyways.” Dylan says, standing up, ready to attack.

Mason stands tall to as he gets up. When I try to yank him down, he merely brushes me aide as him and Dylan have some gay stare down.

A fight is defiantly about to break loose.

I was right about that.

I was just wrong about who’d be involve in the fight.

When I was keeping my eyes on Dylan, waiting for him to throw a punch, I really should have been watching Troy instead. There’s a warrior cry form two tables away and before I know it Troy has flung the table aside, exposing Max and Bells who both seemed stunned at what they just witnessed and frown in place with sheepish grins.

In a split second it is not Dylan throwing a punch in Mason’s direction, but instead it is Troy in honour of his little sister. My eyes widen as I watch the horror unravel. Mason, who’d not seen it coming, merely stands aide and lets Troy give him a beat down, probably realizing that he deserved it. Mason has always been the type to back down if he knows that it’s his fault. That’s at least one respective characteristic trait he possesses.

So while Troy is mauling at Mason’s back, Mason himself decides that enough’s enough and sends a fist in Dylan’s direction. Next thing I know, there’s glass shattering, plates breaking and blood everywhere as the three rip each other to shreds.

I let out a scream for help as the manger rushes in and some other male waiters try to break up the fight. I run straight to Bells who is crying frantically at the sight of Mason getting pummelled and for what he confessed to Dylan about me. Meanwhile she is also trying to make peace and make her brother stop fighting. She can deny it all she wants, but she stills loves Mason and she doesn’t want to see him get hurt.

Oh god, this is all my fault!

I glance toward Max frantically, offering him a pleading look. He registers what I’m trying to say as he walks forward and forces himself in the middle in an attempt to stop the fight, but instead Dylan accidentally hits Max instead of Mason. Max loses his cool as a result and like a lit fuse he starts targeting Mason and Dylan both. However Troy is still intent on murdering Mason. In fact I think everyone here is intent on murdering Mason one way or another, including me.

So that’s how Max gets stuck in the middle and in this time of need I can’t help but wish Jay was here to end this. No doubt he could if he wanted to, let alone if he was actually here. He had a rep for getting into nasty fights.

And so I yell and yell, trying to get these testosterone males to stop brawling, but my shouts of fear and panic land only on deaf ears.

Just when I give in I hear an unfamiliar and terrorizing shout, unfamiliar because Bells never shouts and by that I mean never ever. But tonight she does in a roaring tone too, “Just stop it! All of you! Enough!”

Even I freeze at the bitter, pained tone that Bell uses. I’ve known her for years and I’ve never heard her scream like that before, ever!

Troy drops his fist ready that had been ready to smash into the back of Mason’s head at the sound of his little sister yelling. Mason stops going at Dylan and covers his face from Max as he realizes that Bell, his ex-flame, had been here all along and had witnessed everything, including his heart felt confession. But it my opinion it was just sappy and utterly ridiculous. He seems ashamed to be caught by her in a wrestling match and he should be. They all should be. Dylan too stops fighting because Bells, his acquaintance, always seemed so soft and jovial that he never thought she was capable of using such a scary tone. He’s in shock.

Then of the course the only one who doesn’t stop is Max. He continues to send fists at both Dylan and Mason, oblivious to the silence overtaking his own warrior shouts. I hold back a laugh and tap him on the shoulder to make him stop. He turns around so swiftly to me with a raised fist, thinking I was another who wanted to fight. His grey eyes lighten when he sees that it’s just me and his fist drops as I dodge whatever punch he could have thrown.

It’s then when he heaves a tuckered out breath that he sees all eyes on him, including Bells. He also notices that the others stopped fighting some time ago. Immediately his cheeks flame red and I can see a small smile tugging at Bell’s lips at the sight, but when her eyes meet mine they grow cold and her smile relinquishes.

That’s when it dawns on me that she is far from pleased.

This is my worst nightmare coming true just like I knew it eventually would.

Now’s the time I own up because that devoid look in her oceanic eyes tells me that there’s no use in bothering about losing her because I’ve already lost her.

She hates me.

And with good reason might I add.


An hour later and here I sit, telling Bells everything that has happened between Mason and me. From him acting weird at first, to him being too concerned about me, to him breaking up with her, to him confessing to me and to him kissing me.

She didn’t want to vein listen at first, assuming the worst, and it took a lot of persuasion on Max’s part to get her to even hear me out. But now I wish that I hadn’t said anything. That look of betrayal and hurt she’s giving me terrifies me. She simply shakes her head at me and says nothing as I conclude the story up until now.

I want her to scream, yell, shout, vent, and let it all out. That way there was a chance to be forgiven. But silence says that there is no hope left. Her mind is set and I’m apparently not in it.

Bells gives me one final stare before getting up and leaving, taking along a bloodied nosed Max and a perfectly fine Troy (he attacked Mason from behind and no one dared to punch him). Troy gives me one final distrustful death glare, this time really disappointed in me as he swings a comforting arm over his sister’s shoulder and draws her near to him. It burns. It really does.

Two of the closet people in my life are suddenly peeved with me. Even Max follows after them after first sending me an apologetic helpless glance, in other words telling me that he’d talk to Bells and things will work themselves out.

But as I’ve come to know, things don’t work themselves out for me…ever.

At least Max doesn’t hate me.

When I turn around I see that Dylan has stormed off, leaving me at the restaurant with the expensive bill. He was furious at…well everyone in general, especially me. He left before I could explain a single thing. I don’t think there will be a second date anytime soon because ethics was just disastrous. It will surely go down in world history as worst first date ever.

My first date and this is how it turns out, just my luck.

Karma…I guess.

It’s not like I emit to anger Troy or hurt Bells, never Bells. She was the last one I wanted to ever hurt. I’d do literally anything for her. I’d give my life for her. No doubt.

It’s just…I wish Dylan left me alone at the restaurant, because even that would be better than being stuck here with Mason who, despite his black eye and concussed head (Troy’s attack from behind), is persistent on tying to make sure that I get home safely. He avoided Bells whilst I had my talk with her. I don’t think he feels ready to see her right now. I’m sure that he’s just as pained about it too. He’s also trying to move on. He can lie to himself al he wants, but a small part of him had loved Bells. It’s physically impossible to not love Bells. Said with experience. He’s also adjusting and it’s no easier for him to move on.

The female waiter comes and lays down the plates of Greek pasta on the shards of table left. She even had to bend to put it down, practically on the floor. You’d’ think she’d get the message that we’re not eating here anymore, although my tummy feels like it is eating itself from hunger. She glances to me expecting, “So you’re paying then?” she asks, handing me the cheque.

I guess I am. I grumpily take the cheque and my eyes bug out when I see the amount written underneath with the addition of the tip. My heart quickens at the thought. My mother will kill me if she finds out that I just made her even more broke than we already are.

A hand snatches the cheque out my hands swiftly. I turn to see Mason signing it and gathering notes out his wallet before handing the gold digger waitress her dam money. She grins ecstatically before trouncing off, not really too concerned about my situation. How sweet…

I shoot Mason a grateful expression and he waves it off as if it is nothing. He knows I am not financially wealthy. For him it really is nothing. His parents are wealthy and as an all-star quarterback of the state, he too has won a few thousands.

Unintentionally I let out a yawn as the evenings events wear me out.

Mason sees this and takes my hand into his calloused one tenderly. He ignore my tired protesting and drags me out the restaurant, promising the manger that he’d pay for the damage caused to the restaurant. He pulls me all the way along to his black Chevrolet, “Let me get you home.” He insists and though I want to just go home, I shake my head.

It wouldn’t feel right letting Mason taking me home. I’d feel like I am betraying Bells all over again and despite the fact that I seem to be a shitty friend, I try to be the best I can. If it were me in her shoes, I’d also be mad. So out of respect for Bells and my own personal values I decline his offer.

Instead I motion to him to sit on the hood of his car and without asking why he does. I get the safety kit out the back of his car and place it beside him on the hood. Like I said, I may resent Mason and despise his very existence, but he’s…I don’t know. I just can’t seem to shake him. I still care about him when really I should detest his guts. I mean I try to…but it’s Mason and I know he has a good heart buried under all the muck.

I come to stand in front of Mason, forcefully parting his legs as I wedge myself in between to work on his eye before it falls out.

I take out a piece of cotton and some disinfectant before lifting my hand to his face. I gently run the gauze across the length of his eye. He hisses in pain, but stays still nevertheless and stiffens noticeably under my touch. “You really piss me off, you know that?” I say sourly as I continue to med his stupid black eye. It is a real shiner.

Mason lets out a throaty chuckle, “I use to say the same thing about you and now look where I am.” He says as if to imply something.

“Not happening Mas.” I joke playfully, but the more my eyes trace his black eye, the more my heart grows heavy. He didn’t deserve this, I mean he did…but he didn’t. Does that even make sense? In my head it does.

My hand freezes and just as I come to my senses to pull my hand away from his eyes. But he captures my hand in his and brings me forward between both his legs. “Why are you dating Dylan if you like Jay?”

“Why do you care?” I snap as he interlaces my fingers with his.

See, this is why I didn’t want to get close to Mason. He gets to ‘touchy feely’ for my liking. I wonder if Jay feels the same about me. Now I understand why he gets so irrigated with me so easily. It makes sense.

“You know why.” He mutters and releases my hand from his own.

“Mason…” I start, “You can’t feel that way about me. I don’t know why you’d even want to-“

“Aqueela, you misunderstood. My feelings for you aren’t new. They’ve always been here. I went out with Bells to get closer to you. You may have not noticed but behind all my insults and shit attitude. I’ve always only had eyes for one girl, you.”

I pull away completely from him at his words, not wanting to diverge into this conversation. “Mason don’t.” I say softly because this side of him, this caring possessive side frightens me.

Mason hops off the hood and approaches me, “I mean if a tiny piece of you didn’t feel the same, then why stay and help me? Why stay and take care of like the way you’re doing now? You told me to figure out what it is that I want and I did. Now it’s your turn.”

With that said Mason takes his safety kit back and gets into the car driving off without a second glance.

And I realize that he’s right.

Does a part of me feel for Mason?

Is that why I constantly feel guilty when he’s around?

I shouldn’t feel guilty if I truly hated Mason and he meant nothing to me. Yet I took care of him and still feel incredibly guilty even though we didn’t do anything. Is this all because a small part of me reciprocates the way he feels about me?

I shake my head, clearing my thoughts as tears pool in my eyes. This has been an awful night. I take out my cell phone and scroll down until I stop at the one name that I always find myself turning to nowadays. It rings only once before he picks up, “What is it now?” he snaps, clearly not in a good mood either.

He seemed utterly pissed before I left with Dylan. But I know it’s not jealousy, after all he’s the one that arranged the date. He has no right to get jealous. He’s indifferent to my feelings for him. It think I’d prefer it if he heated me, at least that’s one strong emotion he’d feel towards me. “Hey Jay…I –I know you told me to never call you because I’m infuriating…b-but um…c-can –you please j-just…” I trail off in a hoarse voice, trying to not make it obvious that I’m crying, “Can you come and fetch me?”

There’s a moment of hesitance and silence before he answers, “Where are you?” and so I tell him, already feeling better just by the sound of his soothing voice.

It’s minutes later when Jay arrives in his red Gallardo and pulls up right beside me, where I still stand motionless and helpless. That was fast. Had he rushed over here for me? He steps out and walk up to me. He gives me a once over before his hard blue eyes soften a fraction. He obviously sees what a mess I’m in. He takes a dangerous step forward, closing off all distance between us. This time it is me who is surprised when I am taken up into his arms and all on his own doing.

For a moment he says nothing, giving me some peace to come to terms with it all. For that I am thankful. It’s is only minutes later when he speaks up.

“What happened?” Jay asks, as he places his chin on top of my head, drawing me nearer to him, probably in a failed attempt to make me stop crying.

I shake my head against him, “I just lost my entire life.”

“Bells isn’t your life. One person can never be your entire life.” Jay mumbles back a reply, indirectly sending me a message. In other words, he’d be here for me as a friend and nothing more. Message received.

I pull away from him and wipe at my eyes, feeling pathetic, “I’m sorry.” I whisper softly as I glance at the tear stains left behind on his shirt. He notices where I’m coming from and realizes that I am not just apologizing for the tear stains, but for everything in general.

“Hey now, you keep me active on my toes.” Jay teases playfully, trying to cheer me up as he brushes a strand of my hair out of my face. I smile slightly, feeling a lot better ever since he got here. “There’s that smile that grew on me.” He says, nudging my gently in the shoulder, managing to widen my smile in the process.

Jay motions for me to get into his beloved car. I eye it suspiciously and wearily, taking a step back, shaking my head. “Don’t worry. I don’t plan on taking you home.”

With that said I nod and jump into the passage side of his Gallardo without anymore questioning. He starts up his car in a commutable silence as neither of us talk. For once I can be content in the silence of the night because Jay is here. I trust him so I don’t bother in asking where we are going next.

Along the way my tummy begins to growl from lack of hunger. I peak at Jay to see if he’d heard, but thankfully his eyes remain fixed on the road. I shift in my seat and face the window as the trees fly past. I close my eyes, resting, and trying to shut my tummy up. If Jay hears…well that would be embarrassing.

Minutes later someone tugs at my arm not so gently and of course that person can only be Jay. He is not the most…affectionate person. I slap his hand off my arm, wanting to continue on drifting off into a deep sleep, “Leave me alone!” I grumble dreamily.

“Wakey Wakey Sleep Walker! Get out before I kick you out my car myself.”

My eyes flinch open at the new nickname rolling off his lips, “I don’t approve of that name either!” I moan, stretching my arms as I let out a yawn, failing to notice where we currently were.

“Dream walker?” Jay asks, hoping for different results.

I shoot him down again with a glare and cross my arms over my chest stubbornly. It’s then that Jay gets out himself and walks over to my side of the car, opening my door and practically throwing me out. No literally, he yanked me out so violently that I almost fell flat on my face. “Where are we?” I groan once I gather my bearings and come out of my hazy state.

“Mac D’s.” Jay answers nonchalantly as he walks ahead of me. To him this isn’t a big deal. To me, this is absurd.

I quickly walk faster to catch up with him as we enter MacDonald’s franchise, “Why are we here?”

“To get you food.” Jay answers casually. “Don’t think I never heard your stomach growling.”

I close my eyes and suck in a deep breath. How embarrassing? Also thoughtful and sweet of him…but embarrassing nevertheless.

So Jay takes the lead and I follow as he asks me what I want. I tell him and he orders it, paying for my food and buying himself nothing. Mhmmm…guess he’s not hungry.

He takes me to a booth in the centre of other people and not in some fancy secluded spot like Dylan had booked. For some reason that brings a small smile to my face. I prefer simple and casual over a fancy dinner. MacDonald’s with Jay is perfect, at least to me it is.

“You’re being awfully nice to me tonight.” I point out from my now relaxed position as I savour my food, no longer starving.

Jay sighs aloud at my words and leans in forward across the table toward me, “Aqueela…” he drawls out my name slowly, making it clear that he was about to say something of utmost importance or else he would have referred to me by one of his crazy ass nicknames. “I really didn’t want to bring this up again. But you can’t just go on like this and not talk about it. What happened earlier?”

I knew this was coming eventually. At least he had the decency to hold it off for as long as possible. I guess I owe him of all people an explanation, “Mason broke up with Bells because of me. That’s what he says, however I’m not convinced. Anyways Bells found out tonight when Mason happened to be there too. Troy obviously heard too and lashed out at Mason as Mason attacked Dylan. I asked Max to stop it, turns out that just landed Max up in the fight. So then the manager breaks up the fight and everyone is raging at me, including Bells. And it’s all my fault. The only one not remotely annoyed with me as of now is Mason, the person I hate. Just my luck.”

Jay listens intently as I go on into more detail. He never, not once interrupts, as I finally conclude the entire story. He nods wordlessly, taking the time to contemplate all that I’ve said, “Well if it helps, you still have me.”

Of course it helps.

“But you’re no Bell.” I remind him because despite my crush for him, Bells would ways be first in my eyes. For as long as I can remember, she had always had my back and when she needed me most, I let her down. Some friend I am.

“And Bell is no Jay Taylor.” Jay smirks and I smile discreetly, trying to cover it up. That she isn’t. Otherwise I wouldn’t be straight. But evidently as the facts prove that Bells hates me now weighs down, my smile falters and ultimately fades. Jay sees this before adding, “Look I know you have this incessantly weird bond with Bells. So weird that when I first met you I was disappointed because I thought you were lesbian-“

“Jay.” I emphasize, bringing him back to his point. He chuckles, enjoying teasing me, but that’s when I realize what he let slip. He won’t be laughing for much longer, “Why would you be disappointed if I were lesbian mhm?”

As if caught of guard by the question Jay’s blue eyes widen as eh breaks eye contact and shifts uncomfortably in his seat, all the while scratching the back of his neck, “D-did I say that? I don’t remember saying that.” He says, stuttering slightly, in order to cover up his mess.

Oh he said that alright and I couldn’t; be happier. I am not sure what to take for it, but by all means I won’t over analyse. My hopes would just be crushed in the end in any case. I mean it’s Jay Taylor, come on, he doesn’t change for anyone. He isn’t capable of having crushes and all those itsy bitsy romantic stuff. It’s just not him. Maybe that’s what I love about him. Hack I don’t know. There’s so much to love.

I keep my eyes solely trained on Jay, intimidating him as I watch him squirm under my gaz. No wonder he loves doing this to me. It is quite enjoyable. Eventually I decide to put the poor guy at ease as I take a single French fry and throw it at his broody face, “Lighten up. I’m here.”

A lopsided grin takes over his features as his blue eyes glisten and glimmer beneath the dim lights, “Yes you are.” He states confidentially, seemingly happy about the fact. However knowing Jay there was an ulterior motive as he adds beneath his breath, “Unfortunately.”

Must he always drown out all my giddiness?! Juts when I think he is being nice.

“So how come you didn’t come spy huh?” I muse, “I remember you staying behind with Bells, Max and Troy. I was sure they’d talk you into joining.”

Jay shrugs, ’’Spying isn’t really my thing.” He tells me, his eyes slightly drifting away from my own. He must seem my disappointment as he continues on elaborating, this time focusing all his energy and time purely on me, his blue eyes darkening and intensifying by the second as he finishes what he wanated to say, “If I really want something I go out and get it. Spying is cowardly.”

What the hell is he trying to imply here?

Is he saying he wants me?

Nope…that’s just me looking too deeply into what he’s saying. But dam his mind is like a jigsaw puzzle, confusing and messed up OR like a fort, undefeatable and impenetrable.

Why can’t he just make life easier and be straight forward rather than talking in riddles all the time?

Before I get the chance to question the meaning beyond his words he has already changed the subject, “So other than the fight, collateral damage and all your friends being pissed at you, how was your first date?”

I frown and cross my arms over my chest giving him a ‘what-do-you-think-look’, “Terrible. Disastrous. Worst date in entire history. Do any of those terms really come close to the actual experience? I think not. There are no words for….”I trial off as something dawn son me yet again, “Wait a sec…how did you know it was my first date?”

Only Troy, Bells and Mason knew.

As if expecting my reaction Jay graces me with a secretive smile, “I know everything.” He waggles his eyebrows playfully before reaching forward and stealing one of my chips.

“Bells right?” I ask, now curious.

Jay shakes his head, popping the French fry into his mouth, “Nope.” He says playfully, popping the ‘p’.

“Troy?” I question, needing answers.

He can’t just automatically know everything. It doesn’t work that way.

“Nah uh.” He shakes his head again, chewing his French fry with a mischievous glint to his electric blue eyes.

“Mason?!” I shout in disbelief. No way!

“Try again.” Jay simply responds. Swallowing his mouthful before a cocky smirk makes its way over his lips.

“Max?” I ask sheepishly, running out of names.

“Ice cold.” Jay chuckles teasingly as he leans back in his chair, finding this guessing game to be very amusing.

“How?!” I all but raise my tone, aggravated by his lack of information as per seal. Nothing new. Can he never open up about anything, even as small as this?

“Guess you’ll never know.”

I kick him under the table in his shin for the reply.

“Ow! And no, now I’m definitely not telling you. Shower me with respect and maybe-“

I kick him again, except harder this time.

“It’s for me to know and for you to…” he grabs another French fries and shifts back, tossing it into his mouth before chewing agonizingly slowly and swallowing, “Dot dot dot.”

I drop the subject deftly as he gives me a smug face with a gloating victorious smirk. He wins for now. Only because I am feeling to down to argue.

“So where you taking me after this?” I ask hesitantly, wishing in all my might that he won’t insist on taking me home. I don’t feel strong enough to face my mother tonight.

“Home of course.” Jay answers, staring down at the table as if finding it interesting beyond belief. He sees my silence and refusal to reply back to that. He lifts his head as his blue eyes meet mine in a burning flame, “My home.”

With that said I have out a gigantic sigh of relief. “See this is why I have a crush on you, this is why I like you so dam much. You’re a sweetie pie.” I reply on impulse of my excitement that he wasn’t taking me home without thinking what I’m rambling off about.

Jay raises an eyebrow at me, “Sweetie pie? Do you want me to go back to ebbing a jackass because with a nickname like that, I just might?”

Thankfully Jay chooses not to comment on the first part of my sentence and for that I am somewhat relieved and a little disappointed at the same time.

“What you say we get out of here?” Jay suddenly asks, dissolving my humiliation quickly and I can’t help but wonder if he always did this for me intentionally all by a coincidental accident.

He’s a lot softer, nicer than he makes himself out to be.

I’m sure my eye slight up greedily in response as I respond all too quickly, too desperately, “Yes please!”


“Home sweet home.” I say sleepily as I enter Jay’s house, banging open his front door.

He enters form behind me, showing me said and out of the doorway so that he could get past, “You realize that this isn’t your home right?” Might as well be though, “I think you’re getting a little too familiar around here.”

I would argue, but seeing as I am currently drinking out of the milk carton that I had helped myself to form his fridge…well as you can see I am in no piston to argue. I’ll be walking contradiction all over grain if I tried.

He’s right.

I’ve got cosy around here. It’s just such a natural homey feeling whenever I step into this house and I can’t decipher if it’s the house in itself or the fact that Jay always steps into the house with me.

I place the milk down and wipe the milk off my lips with the back of my hand before returning to face Jay, “But come on. I can be your roomie? How fun will that be?”

“How about no?” Jay replies a she flops down into the lounge sofa, making himself comfortable, just relaxing after the eventful tiring night, even though he missed all the fun…fun? Not exactly the correct choice of words…

“Maid?”

“Will you be wearing a maid’s outfit?” Jay asks suggestively with a flirtatious grin.

“No?” I question more than state.

His suggestive grin fades back into his indifferent frown, “Then no.”

“So no roomie?”

“Established that. Still no.”

“Hmmm.” I tap my chin in mock thoughts, “How about your personal chef?”

“And die from food poisoning, no thanks. How about my personal butler?” Jay asks instead, resting his head back onto the cushions as his black spikey airs flops into his blue eyes.

“And see to your every need, I’m good. How about I live in your vents? You won’t even you I’m here.” I state, glancing up at the silver vents in his ceiling. Hey it is possible, Chang on community did it.

“Oh but I will.” Jay replies with yet another secretive smile as if he knows something that I don’t but he chooses not to expound further on it, making me inquisitive about what he meant by that. Again with the riddles. “So I’ll pass.”

“Dammit Jay, at least accept me as a pet. I will sleep in a kennel in front of your house for goodness sake, that’s how desperate and willing I am. I’ll be you pet.” I huff indifferently and exasperatedly. He is impossible! But I knew that already.

Suddenly he sits up and turns in his position on the sofa to face m sitting on his kitchen counter top, “Oooh kinky.” He grins and waggles his eyebrows flirtatiously. How charming? I try to ignore the butterflies setting for eruptions at the mere suggestion, “As temping the offer, I’m going to have to go with no.” I give him a flat look, trying to hide my blush. He shrugs and holds up his hands defensively, “You move in and you just become another mouth to feed.” He teases with an arrogant grin as I throw the empty milk carton at his head. But he ducks, just missing it.

Fast reflexes I see…

“Yeah because if I move in it will turn to adaption and survival of the fittest, right?” I ask sarcastically, feigning irritation.

“Yup.” Jay nods, again popping the ‘p’, “Exactly that.” He gives a toothy grin with that smug look in his gorgeous eyes.

“And you’re scared that I will be the fittest right?”

Jay’s eyes visibly darken, “Well it depends in what category you’re referring to.” He says all too seriously, implying the innuendo,

I give him a look, furrowing my eyebrows trying or register what he said and if he was being remotely serious. He sees this and behind laughing. The pervert! I glare at him a she continues to guffaw aloud, “Your face.” He replies in hysterics though his laughter.

“Yeah laugh it up.” I grumble, annoyed that I actually fell for that. He loves saving me form embarrassment and causing embarrassment all at the same time.

Eventually the laughing and jokes die as I go over and plop myself beside Jay on the sofa. We fall into a peaceful since before he decides to break it all with a single question, “Why do you hate your own home so much?” Um…because I don’t consider my home a home…

Am I that transparent?

That obvious?

“It’s not so much my home that I hate.” I reply coldly, closing myself off to him, not wanting to digest such personal information with him. Not ready for that yet. I like the guy, but I am not going to open up to him and tell him all my deep dark secrets just like that.

But again…as fate would have it…I shiver when a cool breeze picks up from the open widows. I wrap my arms around myself, pulling my knees up to my chin and that’s when my bare arms come into view…and so do the scars.

Where the hell is my cardigan?

It must have fallen off a while ago back in all the commotion.

I tense in my position as my scars face me, a cruel reminder of my life. Shit! I try to cover broth arms with my loose, hair, but it’s close to impossible. How had Jay not seen the scars already? If he had, surely he would have commented or queried it.

My heart begins to race as it dawns on me. I am screwed. He’s bound to look my way any second and see my ugly side.

Before I can react further a warm hand is placed on my scar filled arm itself as my arm is tugged out into the open before Jay. I fling myself backwards at the affectionate contact. He’s caught me in my vulnerable state. I peak a weary glance at Jay to see him looking at me sternly, purposely keeping his softened blue eyes off my arms, “You don’t have to hide from me.” He whispers, before reaching backwards and taking off his own forsaken leather jacket. I sit frozen in my spot as he wraps the jacket around my arms gently to protect me…form myself? Because clearly he isn’t protecting me form him. He’s already seen my scars, that much is obvious now and I don’t really know how I feel about that.

“Why didn’t’ you say anything earlier?” I ask, completely unaware that he had noticed my bare arms and as scars a loooong time ago and made no judgment me nor openly stared. That blows my mind. It astounds me.

God Jay is amazing. I truly mean that, mostly feel that.

Jay shrugs, adverting eye contact, “I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable or push you. I figured you’d tell me if you wanted to.”

His words warm my soul.

He was different from everyone I’ve ever known.

I like that.

In fact I love that about him.

“I’m sorry you had to see that. I mean it can’t be pleasant trying to talk to someone when this…” I gesture to my scarred arms, “Is preventing your from seeing anything else-“

Jay shushes me by placing his hand over my mouth. He lets go and I watch in silence as he adjusts the collar of his shirt slightly, exposing his own scars. Except Jay’s isn’t countless small scars. Instead it is one gigantic scar that starts from the base of his necks and most likely runs down to at least the upper part of his chest.

My breath leaves me at the sight because that scar meant one thing…Jay had been through as much pain as I had. That thought is too agonising to bear. Who would hurt Jay? And why? God forbid it ever happen again, not on my watch.

Since when did I get so protective of him? Beats me. It just happened along the way.

“I don’t know why you hate your home or where those scars on your arm came from, but I do know that we’re one in the same now. We understand each other. I don’t like being questioned myself on the details of my life so in retro respect of you offering the same consent to me, I didn’t ask and I won’t unless you want me to.” Jay replies softly, tenderly as if I am so fragile that I might break in a split second.

“Thank you Jay. I appreciate that. In fact it means more to me than you’ll ever know.” I reply breathlessly, still hurt because I realised that Jay has been hurt. That saddens me beyond disbelief and really it shouldn’t.

I just can’t stop these growing feelings for him. He makes me feel whole and not broken anymore. I need that. I want that. I want him.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake the hold he has over me now. I keep falling deeper into the despair of his hands. It is dangerous because I’ll only be broken all over again by the end of it all. I know Jay will remain indifferent to me and never return the feelings…but maybe just having a small part of him is worth it, is survivable.

Jay smiles and warps and arm around my shoulders, drawing me to his chest, “You might not believe it now, but it gets better. Once you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s no way but up. Try accept where you’re at and build from that.” I nod into his chest as my eyes slowly drift close, yet a part of me, the more sensible part, stays away to hear what’s eh is saying.

What Jay fails to realize is that he is my ‘better’. Before him there was no getting better. Life only started getting better when he came into the picture.

I vaguely feel his fingers softly brush the hair out of my face before his warm touch caresses my cheek, “Your scars don’t make you ugly in the way that you perceive, because to me they just make you all the more beautiful.”

I barely register his words as my eyes flutter closed.

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