Chapter 25: What I Need
I cock my head to the side as Jay continues to ramble on with lectures.
Here’s a good question, why don’t hedgehogs just get over it and share the hedge?
Oooh…here’s another brain teaser, three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.
If at first you don’t succeed … so much for skydiving.
How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?
Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience. That’s why I don’t argue with Jay…speaking of which…
“Hey Aqueela!” Jay shouts, “Are you even listening to me?!”
I nod absentmindedly, “Sure sure.” I lie smoothly without him suspecting a thing.
“What did I just say?”
Okay so maybe he suspects a thing or two…
“What is this? A pop quiz?” I mutter, annoyed.
“I knew you weren’t listening.” Jay responds, probably more annoyed than me. Okay a lot more than me. “You never listen!”
Ouch! I felt that one. He crossed the line.
“You should go.” I mumble, pointing to the door.
He raises both eyebrows incredulously, struck speeches by my audacity, “This is my goddamn house!”
I flinch at him raising tone, but I’m amused none the less, “Still, you should go.”
“Not anymore. It’s our house now and you need to go.”
“Dammit Aqueela, I just spent the last forty five minutes explaining that this is my house only. You didn’t listen to anything I said. Now we’re back to phase one, arguing it out.”
“Ooh my favourite part!” I squeal excitedly and clap my hands.
“Yeah, only cause you always win.” Jay curses, frustrated with me as he paces about, still taking in the new mess that is our home. “First Oog and now you. Anyone else you want to move in to?” he snaps.
I raise my hand in enthusiasm, “Oooh! Oooh! What about Max or-“
“I wasn’t serious!”
I pout at this.
“Don’t give me that look!” Jay complains. “You seriously can’t stay here.”
I stomp my foot in a childish manner, “But you’re eighteen and legal. I have no where else to go to.”
“Your grandparents. I even offered to pick you up for school and drop you off. What happened to that plan?” he questions, genuinely confused.
I yawn and wave off the matter, “It died.”
“So will you if you stay here.” he threatens me, trying to be intimidating, but failing.
“Meh.” I shrug casually, “I’ll take my chances.”
Jay sighs, “Of course you would.” I grin, realizing that the sigh was a sign he’d given in. “C’mon, let’s get this place cleaned up.” Jay says softly, motioning to the filthy yet pink decorative house.
I smile, leaning forward to poke his cheek, “Does that mean I can stay?”
Jay rolls his eyes, pushing my prying fingers out of his face, “Only temporarily until we figure something out.”
“Whoo!” I jump up in victory, fist bumping the air until Jay bursts my bubble by saying, “Only temporarily Aqueela!”
That’s what he thinks…
“Hey Jay?” I ask into the empty lounge.
“What?” he huffs, flopping down onto his newly spray painted couches, exhausted as he and I…or just he…cleaned up his house after Troy, Oog and I trashed it.
“I think we should get a dog.” I state randomly, feeling bored out of my mind and extremely depressed. Troy’s left and my mother has been arrested. I don’t even have Bells anymore. Could things possibly get any worse?
I glance Jay’s way to see his reaction. He raises a furious eyebrow at me, “You’ve been living with me for…” he trails off and checks his watch, “Approximately two hours and you already implementing decisions and getting too comfortable. A dog? What part of ‘temporarily’ did you not get?”
“Um…” I tap my chin in mock thought, “The ‘tempo’ part.” I answer his rhetorical question just to piss him off a little. “Oooh and the ‘rarily’ part.” I add slyly.
Jay suddenly sits up as if something I said caught his attention, “You know what Aqueela, I hate to admit this, but I’m worried about you.”
Now it’s my turn to be surprised as I raise both eyebrows in question of what he meant, “Why?”
“Because you’ve just lot of people and you’re not talking about it. Either you’re in denial or you just don’t care.” Jay explains, causing me to fall silent at his words, “I mean your mother, or the woman that’s claimed to be your mother for years, just got arrested. You moved out. Troy left the country a couple hours ago and your best friend, the one you claimed was your sister, wants nothing to do with you. How are you keeping up with this cool charade? You should know that you don’t have to pretend around me.”
I frown at his words, aware that it’s nothing but the truth, “I’d rather not discuss my personal affairs with you Mr Jay Taylor.” I tease, an attempt to change the subject.
“Stop that!” he snaps, venomous, but his tone hinged with a tint of genuine sincerity.
“Stop what?” I ask innocently, batting my eyelashes as if I didn’t know at all what he was implying his words to.
“Stop acting like you’re fine.” he clarifies.
“But I am fine!” I whine, insisting him of the fact. He simply gives me a dead panned stare, one that actually manages to convince me to cave because today he’s not buying all my crap. “What do you want me to say Jay? Of course I’m hurting right now. I’m so lost and confused. I don’t even know where my future is taking me anymore. You’re the only one I have to turn to.”
“That’s better.” he whispers. “I know I don’t always act like I care about your well being, but I do. I know you don’t want to talk about it and believe me I get that. If anyone understands, I do. But let’s say you need someone if you change your mind, you know where to find me.” Jay smiles softly in my direction before getting up and retiring to his room for the evening.
He leaves me alone, feeling less down as butterflies fill my insides at his words. Sure, he’s nothing short of being insensitive, but at least back there he tried. He made the effort to let me know that even if I had no one, I’d always have him. And I’m glad, more glad than he’ll ever know.
Feeling overwhelmed by the day’s chaotic events, I whip out my cell and begin strolling through my few contacts, wondering who might be available to annoy. I skip past Grey’s name, well aware that he’d most likely kill me if I dared prank call him again, especially after he and I quote called me ‘goddamn crazy’. Meh, there’s no point in arguing against that. No doubt I’d lose that and plea the ‘insanity’ claim.
So of course I’d choose to prank call Blubber or Benley, but I kind of feel bad for locking Benley up the last time I saw him when building Oog’s tree house. Plus, I’m pretty sure it’s past Blubber’s bedtime. Fat kid. That leaves me with the next best thing, Max Mills, one of my very own personal favourites.
I don’t hesitate to hit the call button, waiting way too eagerly to drive him mad. What can I say? Perks of being me. It can’t be helped. His phone rings a couple of times until he finally answers in a groggy tone, “What do you want Aqueela?” he snaps rather rudely and harshly, making me think that I woke him up from his sleep.
Checking the time from the clock on the wall, I become well informed that it’s eleven pm. Of course most people are sleeping by now considering that it’s school tomorrow. “Just felt like talking.” I answer honestly, needing a distraction from my life and as sad as it is, Max is the only one besides from Jay that I can actually talk to, never mind relate to.
There’s a brief silence from the other side of the phone before he replies, “Now’s not really a good time Aqueela.” he answers quietly as if keeping something from me.
On any other day I’d ask why and interrogate him until I get an answer. But tonight I don’t particularly feel like myself so I don’t bother. “Oh…okay then.” I reply, disappointed. You know it’s bad when even Max Mills is too busy for you.
I’m about to hang up, but obviously Max senses something distressful in my tone, “Okay I give, what’s up?” he says tiredly, so tiredly that even I feel bad for waking him up and as you all know, I’m not exactly an angel.
“Forget it Max, it’s cool. We’ll talk another time.” I reply, wanting to allow him some sleep. If anything he sounds like he could use it. Maybe he’s going through a rough time too. You never know.
“You sure?” he asks hesitantly.
“Yeah. Don’t worry about it. It was silly anyways to call you at this hour.” I say quickly, hoping he’d buy it. But of course he would. I mean, I’m Aqueela Lawson, the crazy weird girl who can never be serious or sad. No, that’s impossible. I always have to be the happy go lucky, laid back one, even when I feel like the walls to my life are slowly yet surely crumbling and there’s absolutely nothing that can fix any of it. It’s not just my mother or Troy or Bells, it’s everything. I don’t really have any family and I’m beginning to wonder if my father even remembers my existence. Surely he’d heard of the arrest by now. I don’t know…I guess I was just expecting a phone call or something. Just a sign to show that he still cares a little. Fathers are suppose to check in on their daughters, especially when they have no where else to go or no one else to turn to. His rejection stings, more than I’d like to admit.
“Aqueela this sounds serious.” he whispers, trying to keep his voice down, making me question whether he is alone or not. “Maybe we should talk now.”
I shake my head, forgetting he can’t see me, “No no.” I insist gently, “It’s all good, night.” I say quickly, hanging up on him before he can persist. I switch my phone off before he can call back and knowing Max, he will.
Instead I decide better of it all and head to bed, seeking sleep. Yet as I toss and turn in the guestroom sleep lacks and I’m too blame. Maybe everything is only hitting me now or maybe I’m suffering from insomnia, either way there’s no sleeping for me tonight.
I sit up in the bed and switch on the bedside lamp as the room is lit up dimly. I contemplate on waking up Jay, but even I don’t have the heart to wake Jay up. First off, he’s dam scary when trying to sleep and second, I don’t really know what’s going on with me, so how do I explain it to someone? I feel like I’m losing sight of who I am. The only one who understood that was Mason, but there’s not a chance in hell that I’d call him. It will open too much of what I’ve buried of him. Remembering what he’d said to me is too much. The timing is all wrong.
It’s not long before a weight is added to the bed as it dips in from beside me. Tuning out of La La Land I look up to come face to face with his bubblegum blue eyes. I suck in a deep breath, leaning back slightly, feeling uncomfortable with the close proximity between us. “Can’t sleep?” he asks affectionately, taking me by surprise. I was expecting him to be angry with me since I’m pretty sure I woke him up with all my racket. I shake my head, confirming his theory, not lis to speak. “Figures. I was expecting it. You’ve been through a lot.”
“Sorry if I woke you.” I mumble sheepishly, avoiding eye contact, feeling stupid, vulnerable and shy. Shy for goodness sake! Since when am I ever shy around anyone?!
He shakes his head, “You didn’t wake me.”
“I lied.” I confess, ready to open up to him like he’d requested. “I’m not fine.”
“I know.” he nods, supportive and already aware. He can practically see through me. “You’ve had a rough day, talk to me.”
Where do I even begin….?
“I’m scared Jay. I know I have you and I have my grandparents and my uncle and so many others, but it doesn’t feel like it’s enough, you know?” I ask, questioning myself, but needing him to see where I’m coming from. “I don’t know, maybe I’m just ungrateful-“
“You’re not ungrateful Aqueela.” Jay cuts me off, immediately disagreeing. “You’re only human and I think it’s time you start to see that. I know you and I know you want everything and everyone to be fine, even if you’re not. It’s compassionate, but it’s also incredibly stupid. You need to stop living for others and start living for yourself or I swear to God you’re going to burn both ends of the candle.”
I hear what he’s saying and unfortunately he is absolutely right. I don’t live for myself, I live for others. I swallow solemnly, “I don’t know who I am anymore.” I say what’s been invading my thoughts for months now…I finally say it aloud, finally admitting it.
I’m half expecting Jay to either judge me or give me the pity stare. But as always he does the unpredictable and goes with sensitive instead, “Then maybe you need to start searching.”
“For what?” I ask aloud, confused to what it is he was hoping to get at.
“For whatever it is that you’ve always been searching for.” Jay answers in a whisper. I open my mouth but he’s quick to shush me, “Don’t even bother trying to deny it. I’ve been where you are now. I’ve stood where you are now standing. You’re searching for something, the question is what.”
He hit the nail right on the head, opening my eye so that I can finally see what I’ve been so desperately trying to block out all these years.
“My father.” I finally answer, “He left when I was-“
“Twelve.” Jay finishes for me, “I remember you told me.”
I smile a little at this. Jay always seems to remember all our conversations, even if they were months ago.
“I haven’t seen him or heard from him in six years. I just thought that he’d call me by now, but he hasn’t and I feel empty inside. I know he left, but god, he’s still my father. That clearly doesn’t matter to him and it kills me. For the last six years I’ve been trying to erase him from my memories but it’s impossible. He’s always there, haunting me. I act like I don’t need a dad, but I do. I need a father. I need him.” I confess, being truthful for once and it’s terrifying seeing as I’m pulling off the honest streak with Jay of all people.
“I understand. I wonder about my real parents too sometimes. Who are they? Why’d they give me up? Why’ve they never tried finding me? I understand.” Jay replies in a gentle tone, not condescending in the slightest.
“But do you ever want to find them?” I coax on, wanting to relate more.
“Sometimes.” Jay admits after a brief pause of silence, “I almost tracked them down a couple years ago. But I gave up on that. I’m better off without them…at least that’s what I’ve convinced myself.” he concludes, then sees my down fallen expression and goes on to add, “But you Aqueela, you have a real shot here. I know six years is a long time, but if you want to find your dad then we’re going to find your dad.”
“We?” I question.
“We.” he confirms, letting me know that he’s with me in this and for that I am thankful because this is something I cannot manage on my own. It’s too close to home. “What about you?” I ask, referring to the ordeal with his parents.
“What about me?” he waves off the matter, “I’ve had years to find my parents, but I never go through with it. I’m taking it as a sign. I’m better off without them.”
“No one is better off without their parents Jay.” I sigh, hoping he’d listen.
“Well I’m the exception.” he argues and his tone gets slightly more aggressive so I back off, not wanting to push him nor upset him. He’s finally telling me things about him and I don’t want him to block me out again. I’m not messing this up. “Now tell me Aqueela, are you ready to find your father?”
I take a minute or so to think about it. What it would be like to see him again, to track him down and see where he’s at now and perhaps make some reconciliations…
It doesn’t take me long to make up my mind. I look up and face Jay with determination in my eyes, “I’m ready.” I state with a strong conviction.
“It’s going to be tough and time consuming, but if that’s what you want then I’m going to be the one to help you track him down and finally find him once and for all.”
It’s what I want.
It’s what I need…
“But really Jay, we should totally get a dog.”
“But we already have an ‘Oog’ to fulfill the pet role!”
“Fine fine fine! Daddy first, doggy later.”