Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 2: Kicking it up a Notch

“Infuriating, dimwitted, obnoxious, annoying, mean person,” I grumble under my breath as I scrub the jacket as hard as I can. I’ve been scrubbing it for hours on end, even though the blue mess came out long ago. I need to take my anger out on something, especially if it cannot be someone.

I glance at Bells, blowing a few stray blonde hairs out of my face, “He’s just lucky, you know…” I express myself, fed up.

Bell groans aloud and throws her face into her hands, “Ugh, I hate it when you get like this,” she whines, already predicting what’s coming next.

I ignore her and continue on rattling away words, “He’s just lucky that I held myself back, that I have so much self-control. I restrained myself. If I didn’t, then who knows what would have happened to him. The few loved ones he might have would probably be attending his funeral right now. He’s just lucky is all,” I mumble to myself, just audible enough for Bell to hear.

“Or what? You’d pummel him to a pulp?” Bells asks smugly, not expecting me to immediately agree to it as she continues to paint her toenails a vibrant pink.

All the while, she watches me willingly torment myself with his stupid jacket, not bothering to question my actions once. She’s used to my shenanigans.

“Exactly, now you’re catching on,” I nod profusely and then click my fingers as an imaginative light bulb hovers over my head - an idea generating and starting to take a dangerous form in my mind.

“No, no, no! I know that facial expression all too well and my answer is still no,” Bells insists.

I ignore her and proceed in telling her my plans anyway, “I am going to shrink his jacket and dye it pink…by mistake, of course,” I add the last part thoughtfully, only to achieve a disappointed glare from her in return.

“I am so not getting involved in this. He will tear you to pieces, have you forgotten who he is?” she asks me, shaking her head profusely as if to prove that she wants nothing to do with it.

“I’m sorry, Bells,” I pause dramatically to build up suspense, “you’re in too deep as it is. There’s no backing out now,” I tell her as I take the black jacket out of the bucket of water and bring it to my nose. “How is it that I have been scrubbing away for hours, so much so that my nails are drenched in sweat and blood, yet still his scent manages to remain intact?” I question in childlike wonder.

“And his scent bothers you because?” she asks, amused.

I breathe in his scent and sigh dreamily, “It smells so good, so minty and fresh. In fact, suffice to say, I think I’m in love.”

“You barely know him,” Bell reminds me with a roll of her eyes. “In fact, I don’t think anyone knows him. Jay Taylor tends to keep to himself…” she pauses and adds thoughtfully, “all the damn time.”

I laugh at her foolishness, “I’m not in love with him,” I clarify, “I’m in love with his natural scent. It’s heavenly,” I say and sniff his jacket again before Bella swiftly snatches it from my hands.

“Cut it out, you stalker,” she teases before leaning back to mock me, only to accidentally bump her nail polish bottle over.

She tenses when the pink liquid spills out onto the jacket. She gasps in panic when it stains pink over the black. I grin to myself when she begins to rub at his jacket frantically, “Crud, crud, crud!” she curses in fear whilst I sit back calmly and watch my nonexistent plan fall into place.

“Now you really are in too deep, Bells,” I laugh at her expense.

“I hate you,” she states, under pressure, as she continues on rubbing strenuously.

“Can’t hate what you never loved,” I ‘tsk’ her before grabbing the jacket from her hands, “have you never heard of ‘dab, don’t rub’?!” I hiss playfully.

She wipes her face and glowers at me, “Yeah, I have, it’s similar to ‘say it, don’t spray it’.”

“Time to put phase one into action,” I gather my troops, “if he wants to hate on bubblegum, then he’s got another thing coming,” I grin cunningly. I turn back to my friend, “Also, you’ve already ruined it so why not ruin it in style?”

3 hours and 21 minutes later…

“I cannot believe you convinced me to participate in this,” Bella says in horror as she holds up the jacket that has since shrunk and been dyed pink.

“Say it,” I smirk in all my smugness, having won the battle.

“Say what?” Bella frowns knowingly.

“You know what,” I wiggle my eyebrows tauntingly.

“You are an idiot,” she replies back scoffingly.

“Bella! You’re ruining it,” I complain with a pout.

She huffs in irritation, “Ugh fine, you’re an evil genius,” she reluctantly complies and then glares at me for making her say it.

“Why thank you,” I say and curtsy for some reason beyond me, to which Bell scrunches up her eyebrows and shakes her head, indicating that it is a ‘no-no’ action. “You know, you shouldn’t have,” I add insult to injury, being my humble self.

“You made me,” she mutters under her breath aggressively.

I cup a hand to my ear mockingly, “Sorry, Love, what was that? I didn’t quite catch it.”

“Nothing, just that you shouldn’t be so modest,” she retorts sarcastically.

“Bells, time?” I ask, trying to diffuse my excitement. I can’t wait to see his face. It should be entertaining to see him flip out over his beloved jacket.

She checks her watch for me, “We might as well leave now. He said same time, didn’t he?” she questions.

I nod, “That he did.”

She replies back calmly, “Then we leave now, and so help me if he tries to kill you…I am not helping you, nor am I responsible for planning your funeral or burying you. I will, however, write you a great eulogy.”

She pauses as a deceitful thought enters her mind, “Oooh! And I want all your funky hats for me…” she catches herself and trails off when I give her an impatient glance, not really surprised that she’s already planned out my entire death, “memories. For memories, of course. That’s totally what I meant,” she concludes dully.

Nice save!

I roll my eyes and grab her hand as I tug her after me. “I will leave my hat collection to you in my will, that’s if you outlive me,” I grin cheekily as we step out her house and embark on a journey towards the incredible ice cream shop that has made quite a mystical impression on me.

It’s a habit of mine to collect and wear all different kinds of colorful and vibrant hats - from beanies to caps to berets, and last but not least - my personal favorite - my wacky self-made ribbon hat. Bells doesn’t allow me to wear the last one in public because she says I scare people away as if in competition with the Grinch. She’s definitely dying to get her claws into that one. Yup, definitely jealous. It’s quirky and I’ve got ridiculous spunk within me.

Upon reaching the store, I, still thoroughly convinced that my ribbon hat is in imminent danger, sprint the rest of the way. Excitement and fear mix within my stomach at the apprehension swarming through my veins. However, my face falls when I see that his presence is lacking.

I turn back to look at a heaving Bella (she tried to sprint after me), “Are we early or something?” I question, at a loss.

“No, nope, we are actually ten minutes late,” she says after having first checked her ‘Guess’ wrist watch that I bought her for her eighteenth birthday.

“Stupid loser is not pitching,” I mutter under my breath and run a hand through my blonde waves, my current blue beanie almost slipping right off at the action.

I am never caught dead without some form of a hat - it’s just my trademark.

“You talking about me again?” a velvet voice says from somewhere behind. I turn around, only to be sucked into endless pools of blue.

It’s the manager - fantastic. Maybe I can redeem myself, or maybe I can further thrust myself into the brink of no return where my embarrassment will haunt me for the ages.

“No,” I answer too quickly, my heart leaping out of my chest as the handsome manager, about twenty-one years of age, stares down at me expectantly, awaiting an answer. “I-I w-was…just…nevermind,” I sigh in hopelessness and give up.

He laughs at my expense, pegging me down for a lost cause, before turning to greet Bella, “Hey.”

“Hi!” she chirps overconfidently, giving me a devious smile when he isn’t looking. She kicks it up a notch and wags her eyebrows playfully as if to insinuate something between him and me.

The guy is way out of my league. I’m too weird, or so I’ve been told countless of times by many people. Nonetheless, I’m convinced the world will stop spinning without us weirdoes.

Bells is the sane, beautiful one between us two. It’s difficult not to envy her and her slender curves. Just about every person we come across stops to sneak a glance in the hopes that they’d catch a glimpse of the angel that is my best friend. Her lengthy height, clear turquoise eyes, tan skin tone, and brown curls make her absolutely stunning - like some Swiss model.

I am a basket case. I’ve accepted that. Thus, I going to marry food. Food can never hurt you…unless you burn your tongue on it, which in that case, the ones you love most tend to hurt you the most.

Suddenly, Bella nudges me in my ribs and I jolt in pain. I glare up at her to see her motioning with her eyes to the manager. I follow her gaze to see that he’s talking to me.

Uh-oh. I zoned out again.

“So are you going to write that down or what?” he asks.

“Or what?” I repeat like an idiot, having no clue what he’d just been rambling on about.

He laughs and shakes his head in amusement, “Nevermind, I’ll do it for you.”

I raise an eyebrow and watch as he takes out a pen from his pocket. He asks Simo for a piece of paper and then quickly jots something down before handing me the paper.

I stare down at the paper and digits blankly, lost.

“Give me a call,” he winks before walking off to, ironically, answer another call.

What he’s written down soon dawns on me. I cough awkwardly, despite his absence, as I try to come to terms with reality.

A polished hand, one that could only belong to Bell, snatches the paper right out of my hands.

“Hey!” I whine in protest and try to retrieve it back, but she merely dodges my attempts on her life with ease.

“Oh my goodness! You got digits!” she praises in exhilaration.

Well, this is turning out to be a very productive day.

The facts set in and I begin to smile, feeling joyful since this is a very rare and unlikely occurrence.

I grab the paper from Bell’s hand and tear it up before throwing it in a nearby trashcan.

Bell gasps, her eyes widening in disbelief before she recovers and makes her expected remark, “I will never understand you.”

I shrug carelessly, “I will never understand me either. I’m much too complex.”

I glance up to meet Simo’s warm smile. A consuming feeling overwhelms my insides until I’m left feeling nauseous with him in my sights.

I keep my eyes focused on Simo as I whisper to Bells, “I think I’m dying. Something is not right with me. There’s this disgusting feeling brewing within me whenever I cast my gaze on Simo-“

“Aqueela! You are so rude!” she gapes at me in utter astoundment and places a hand over my mouth to prevent me from saying anything more.

I remove her hand with a sharp stare and correct her in her theory. “No,” I shake my head, “not like that, you chicken wing.” I clarify, “I mean it feels like my insides are being eaten from the inside out and then being regurgitated. I feel sick. I think I am going to puke,” I conclude absentmindedly, my attention fixated on Simo alone.

“And I think you’re feeling the emotion called ‘guilt’,” Bella taunts from beside me, failing to whisper.

I wave my hand, dismissing her assumption, “No,” I argue relentlessly, “that’s not it. Can’t be. I’m not capable of such petty emotions.”

“Admit it, Aqueels. You are feeling guilty for being a complete jerk to him yesterday whilst he was nothing but polite,” Bella tells me as she wraps an arm around my shoulders.

I reluctantly sigh in admission, “Could be, could be…” I trail off after receiving a cold glare from her. I finally give in, “Okay, so I’m feeling guilty, so I’m not made out of stone-“

“No one thought you were made of stone, Aqueela,” she cuts me off abruptly.

I thought I was made of stone.

“No, but many have thought of me as some kind of superhero. Just so you know, I’m not. I’m an ordinary civilian just like you, well a little better than you, but still similar to you,” I tease in good nature. “But it’s true,” I carefully add, “there’s an urban legend going around saying that I’m made of stone, and I hate to break it to you like this, but it’s true.”

Bella laughs lightly, “No,” she shakes her head for emphasis, “nope, I don’t think so. No one thinks you’re a superhero or that you’re made of stone. Trust me.”

I don’t bother commenting back on such a pathetic response, so instead, I ignore her and skip over to the front counter where Simo currently stands.

“Hi, Simo!” I hum, trying to be as friendly and welcoming as Bella always is.

“Sprinkle,” he replies, in turn, a smile still plastered on his face. This guy should make the ‘Guinness Book of Records’ for the longest smile held in the history of all mankind.

I frown at his words and take the liberty to correct him, “No, my name is Aqueela,” I point to myself and then point to him, “and you, Simo.”

He nods and points to himself, “Me, Simo?” he asks as if waiting for me to confirm it. I nod, indicating that he’s on track. “And you, Sprinkle,” he finishes, to which I quickly shake my head.

“No, me is Aqueela,” I correct him a second time.

“You is Sprinkle,” he retorts back in all boldness, his smile transitioning into a cheeky grin.

I grit my teeth in aggravation, “Aqueela.” I say the letters aloud for him to hear, “A-Q-U-E-E-L-A.” Even when I go as far as to spell it out to him, he still disappoints me. I’m trying my utmost best here to be polite, but hell, he sure isn’t making it easy for me. “Pronounced like tequila. Ah-Kee-Lah!”

He nods confidently, “Yes. Sprinkle.”

He has to be messing with me.

I lose my patience, “No, you severe looney tune! My name is Aqueela, Aqueela dammit!”

“Sprinkle!” he raises his voice slightly, mimicking me.

“Aqueela!” I yell back and slam my fist down on the counter, expecting him to react, but he does nothing but blink at me lazily. It’s when his gaze moves to someone behind me that I realize I’m in for some more humiliation.

I slowly turn around, only to come face to face with the manager, who’s name still escapes me. I’m certain he just witnessed the entire exchange. He has impeccable timing.

I groan aloud and rest my head in my hands on top the counter, “Why does the world hate me so much? Why Murphy, why? Your law is stupid and so is your timing.”

I hear his laugh but pay no heed to it.

“Trouble with Simo again?” he asks me.

Yes! He’s like a huge baby learning to talk, but failing with immense…failure.

“Not at all,” I lie smoothly, pretending to be on good terms with Simo.

I’m pretty sure it can’t get any worse from here on out.

Yet it does.

Bella pops up right beside me and leans in toward Simo as she bats her long, dark eyelashes at him innocently. “Hey, I’m Bella,” she takes the initiative to introduce herself properly to him.

I shake my head with a murmur, “Give up, Bells, he’s not capable of-“

“Bella,” he greets her in ease, pronouncing her name perfectly.

My eyes fly open in shock.

Once again, Bell reaps the rewards and benefits of always winning and sticks her tongue out at me victoriously.

I glance back at Simo in newfound wonder, seeing hope for him after all. “Aqueela,” I point to myself in a last attempt to straighten him out.

“Sprinkle,” he nods as if he is in actual fact saying it right.

“You’re dead!” I threaten as soon as his manager vanishes out of sight.

Bells manages to yank me back before I can jump the counter to kill him. She releases a sigh of relief when I calm down, happy to see that Simo’s life was spared, for today anyway.

I suck in a deep breath and glance around the empty store. I take in all the brightly colored chairs and tables whilst a sense of peace rushes over me. This place is officially my haven.

I let out a yawn as the night slowly streaks in, the moonlight filtering in through the windows, flooding the small store with extraordinary light.

As I glance out at the stars shining against the bleak sky, it then dawns on me - hits me in the face like a bucket of ice cold water - he isn’t going to pitch.

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