Chapter 26: Dismantle & Recover
“This isn’t a good idea Aqueela.” Jay reminds me for the billionth time and I ignore him for the billionth time. “You know we’re not on good terms as of right now.”
I nod, “Yah and that’s my fault. Remember?” I take the liberty to remind him too of when Grey called me crazy and Jay took my side, practically throwing Grey out the house. I really didn’t see that coming. I didn’t think that Jay would take my side over his friend’s, perhaps is only real friend, side. It meant a lot to me and though I was highly flattered, I also felt responsible and guilty for Jay losing his only real friendship. “I’m going to fix what I happened to stuff up.”
Jay rolls his eyes, “You’re so melodramatic. Grey would come around on his own eventually. He always does. Besides we were never really that close so-“
Now it’s my turn to roll my eyes, yet again copying his actions, “Oh shut up already Jay. The whole world can tell that you and Grey have some type of bromance going on. Just face it, you two are friends or were friends, whatever.” I huff, exasperated by the two of them always denying it when it was so obvious that they depended on each other, especially on the tracks. I mean Jay gave Grey a car for flip sake and he still denies that Grey is indeed his friend.
Jay furrows his eyebrows in distaste at my choice of words, “Can you not use the word ‘bromance’ ?” he asks, frustrated, but not denying any of what I’d said either.
“That depends.” I answer nonchalantly.
He raises his eyebrows, skeptical, “On what exactly?”
“On if I feel like it.” I tease, “Do I feel like it?” I ask aloud and tap my chin in mock thought, “Yup I do indeedie. Jay and Grey are in a bromance!” I shout the last part offal blast as Jay slaps a hand over my mouth to shut me up.
“Can you not be…you?” Jay asks as he removes his hand off my mouth, “At least not around here.” he motions to the tracks and the cars and his people, the so called bad ass people.
“JT are you really asking me to mask my true self?” I ask, feigning offence as I place a hand over my heart.
He takes one look at me before nodding, without so much as some hesitation, “Yes. Yip. That’s definitely what I’m asking.” he confirms way to easily for my liking, so much for not trying to hurt my feelings.
I frown, “Oh please Jay, don’t sugarcoat it any further!” I snap sarcastically.
He holds his hand sup in defence, “You called me JT again. Technically you were asking for it.”
I think about it and shrug, “Touche.” All though it had been quite some time since I called him JT, but do I get any gratitude? Nope. None!
We fall silent as a girl in a racing suite strolls past us casually. She immediately notices Jay and grins, “Sup JT.” she greets, over friendly and offers me a smile in the process and I return it all to eagerly with a bounce to my step and a wave, excited to meet new people. How I love meeting new people. It should be my hobby.
I was hoping she’d stay and talk, but she was racing soon so she went off to see to her ride. I pout at this and then turn to Jay accusingly as it clicks, “Hey!” I raise my voice at the realization, “She called you JT!” I point out to him, “And you didn’t say anything.” I retort stubbornly, not letting this go. “In fact everyone around here addresses you as JT, so why can’t I?”
Jay sighs, adverting eye contact, “Because you’re not one of them Aqueela.” he mutters.
I cross my arms and glower at him, “Wow. If you’re trying to piss me off I must say that you’re very talented!” I hiss before spinning around on my toes and heading to the tracks to wait in anticipation for Grey to get back from his stupid race with his stupid car that stupid Jay gave him.
Jay hauls me back with his sudden strong grip on my arm, “Aqueela wait. That came out wrong.”
I turn to him, offering him my time of day to hear him out. “Sure did.” I agree, nodding my head profusely, still offended. How dare he tell me that I’m not one of them! Okay so I’m not. But how dare he tell me that!
Jay glances down at me with a less harsh gaze, one that had softened incredibly so, his blue eyes forcing me to freeze in place, “It’s just that…that nickname, JT, a lot of bad people from my past used it. It’s just a reminder of everything I’ve done wrong in life. Stuff I’m trying to forget and move on from. Sure the people here at the tracks use it as my racing name and at first it irritated the hell out of me but I grew use to it. But you Aqueela…I can’t grow use to you using it because you shoudn’t be associated with the past. Right now, you’re the present. I guess you’re just better. By using that nickname it kind of defeats the entire purpose. You’re better than all these people.You shouldn’t have to call me JT when you can just use my name. You’re suppose to better than them…you know? You’re always suppose to be better.” he tries to explain and even though I have no idea at what the heck he’s trying to get at, I just go with the flow and nod absentmindedly to get him to stop rambling. It’s getting me too flustered. You can’t just go around telling people that they’re better and not expect a reaction.
“I understand.” I say, obviously lying.
Unfortunately Jay knows me all too well by now. He grumbles a few curses beneath his breath before facing me again, “You don’t understand at all do you?”
I let out a relieved breath and shake my head, “Nope. Not a freaking clue.”
“Why must you always be so dam difficult?” Jay asks rhetorically.
I take the pleasure of answering anyways, “Because difficult is better. Didn’t you say so yourself just now.” I grin playfully, enjoying seeing him get annoyed at me as usual. I swear I can never get bored with Jay.
“No.” he breathes, “What I was getting at is that to me you’re always going to be better than the people who refer to me as JT. It’s a crap nickname for a crap past. I’m new and reformed now. I’m Jay. And you…you as one of the better people in my life should refer to me by the new and reformed me. So please Aqueela, it’s just Jay to you, especially you. Only you. Because you matter.”
I fall silent at his words, caught off guard. I see from where it is that he’s coming and I understand. I feel honored that Jay considered me to be better than all his other friends. In fact, for once, I feel content in the fact that he hates me calling him JT because I finally understand why.
Jay moves forward, a puzzled expression on his face as his eyes take me in as if inspecting me. He raises a questioning eyebrow as he looks into my eyes with a small smirk pulling at the corners of his lips, “Are you seriously blushing right now?”
And that’s when I realize that I am. I’m quick to slap my hands against my cheeks to feel that they are in fact ridiculously hot. As if this couldn’t get nay less embarrassing. Thanks a lot charming Jay, you bloody idiot! I need a safe clause and so I do what I do best. I begin laughing aloud at him, waving the matter off, “What?” I ask between fake hysterical laughter, “Me blushing? Because of you?” I ask, taking a breath before laughing out my stomach again, “That’s rich. Pshaw. Nah uh.” I defend myself, “It’s just the weather. It’s really hot out and-“
“It’s freezing Aqueela. Look around.” Jay interrupts with an amused smile as he motions to the grey sky and cool wind gently tossing my hair around. “Hence your coat and boots.” He reminds me, raking over my appearance from head to toe rather slowly, leaving me with a swarm of butterflies.
“Well maybe it’s just me then.” I shrug, meaning that it’s me getting hot with all the extra warm clothes on, trying to come up with some kind of excuse.
Jay grins playfully at this and nods, agreeing, “Yeah. You’re right. Maybe it’s just you.” he whispers in a suggestive voice and that’s when I realize the ambiguity in his words. He’s flirting. This only causes me to blush further much to Jay’s amusement. The bastard! Jay takes a step forward and places a hand to my cheek, “Man you’re burning up.” he laughs more as I slap his hand away from my face in a vain attempt to regain some of my dignity. “I can’t believe you’re actually blushing just because of what I said. You’re so innocent. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you blush, let alone at something I’ve said. Jeeze if I knew it was this much fun to see you squirm I would’ve said something to make you blush sooner.”
“I’m not blushing!” I hiss bashfully, hard headed and stubborn as always even though the cat was out the bag a long time ago. “And even if I am it’s got nothing to do with you.” I add rather shyly, glancing up at him through my lashes.
“Admit it Aqueela.” Jay flashes me a kilowatt smirk as he leans in forward toward me, his face mere inches away from my own, his blue gaze focused solely on me, making my heart pound just that much faster, “You’re blushing and I’m definitely the cause of it.” he whispers, his cool breath caressing my face whisking me off to a place of fantasies and possibilities. But then he suddenly pulls away, “Besides…” he breathes, “You said yourself that you like me.” he concludes teasingly as he winks at me flirtatiously before walking up to the tracks, leaving me by myself with an agape mouth, shocked, and needing to recover and get my cool back because Jay just dismantled it all.
It’s official, I hate him.
No one dismantles Aqueela’s cool.
It’s only when there’s clapping and a loud roar of cheers that I realize Grey just pulled up, having finished the race first. The crowd goes wild, chanting his name. Since when did he get so popular around here? Or maybe he always was but I failed to notice. I usually fail to notice anything other than Jay.
My attention captured, I watch, intrigued as Grey loosens his helmet before taking it off and being congratulated by the rest of his buddies. I’m a little more than stunned when he smiles at them, thanking them. He actually smiles. Hooray! Grey isn’t a robot after all!
I remember why I’m here and suddenly skip up to him, making my way through the crowds and by that I mean shoving everyone aside until I reached Grey. His back is still to me as he gets caught up in a conversation with just one of his many many many female fans. “Hi!” I chirp loudly, already knowing he’d recognize it and hear it above the rest. I’m just that good.
And like predicted he turns around swiftly at hearing my voice, familiar to him. He searches past the faces, looking for me and when his grey eyes finally meet mine an immediate frown forms on his features, his grey eyes darkening severely and his laid back cool persona changing into his aggravated tense once that I’d grown so accustomed too.
“What the f**k are you doing here?” he all but roars as he takes hold of my upper arm and begins dragging me away from the crowds. Jay meets us halfway and I try to avoid eye contact with him after our awkward little encounter, however Jay notices this, perceptive as ever and sends me a knowing smirk, seeing right through my charade. I tell you…there’s just no pulling wool over that one’s eyes. He notices everything. Should that flatter me or bother me? But I’m taken from my thoughts when Grey notices Jay’s presence too and sends a look between us, “What do you guys want?” Grey asks immediately, because apparently Jay and I rocking up to see his show is a little suspicious.
“Slow down big guy.” I answer, “We’re just here…hanging…chilling…chillaxing…ya know, the usual stuff.”
Grey gives me a dead panned stare that would have me six feet under by now, “Other than that horse shit you just sprouted, what do you really want?”
Dammit! He’s got us.
I slowly take a step horizontally to be beside Jay. I cup a hand to my mouth and whsiper to him, “I think Grumpy Face is on to us.”
“Grumpy Face can hear you, idiot.” Grey insults, but I don’t really care because I already know that he despises me thoroughly ever since I prank called him seventeen times. “You’re so f**king discreet.”
“Thank you.” I smile warmly at him.
“Flip I hate you.” he sates aloud, giving up on me as he turns to Jay for an explanation, thinking to actually get somewhere with him, “What do you need?”
Jay just stare sat him with a frown, clearly not having forgiven Grey just yet. I frown at Jay and elbow him in the ribs, Jay looks at me with a sharp glare and I gesture for him to proceed as we planned. He sighs before turning back to Grey, “I wanted to apologize for the other day.”
Grey shrugs, “Long forgotten bro.” he replies, making it clear that he was over it and had already forgiven Jay, even though in my opinion, it’s Jay who should be the one doing the forgiving. “I was out of line.”
“Yeah you were.” Jay agrees, still a little cold shouldered but getting there slowly.
“So boys…” I say, throwing my arms around both their shoulders and pulling them in for a group hug, “I need to know…is this bromance back on or what?!” I ask loudly and excitedly. Neither of them say anything which earns me two death glares instead. I glance Grey’s way, “Huh huh?” I glance Jay’s way, “C’mon now!”
Grey shoves me off him whist Jay pushes my face away from him.
“This is why I love you guys! You’re both so dam lovable!” I retort sarcastically as they walk ahead, making plans of their own, leaving me behind.
“I still don’t get why she has to tag along.” Grey points out as we sit in the ice-cream parlor, the one where it felt forever since I’d last been here. I’d only come with Bells and seeing as that fell through…well there wasn’t much reason for me to come anymore. “She’s…strange.” Grey says as he watches me ducking behind the menu, not bothering to question my strange behavior.
“She’s hiding from the manager.” Jay answers, “It actually makes sense after how things ended between them.”
“What, were they like dating or something?” Grey asks, genuinely lost as he glances Dylan’s way. Fortunately Dylan hasn’t noticed me because surprise surprise, he’s on his phone again…not. In fact I wish he was busy with business, but no, not this time. This time he has a beautiful brunette on his arm and by the way they’re chatting intimately I can tell that he moves on rather quickly. It’s not like I even had feelings for the guy, in fact it was only by Jay’s doings that I went out with him, but still…it hurts that I’m so easily forgotten, that I didn’t make even the slightest impact.
I snort at Grey’s assumption, “He wishes. It was one date that ended…well lets just leave it as ‘it ended’. It’s all Jay’s fault really.” I turn to give Jay an accusing glare much to which he responds with a sheepish yet apologetic grin.
“Not surprised. I’d hate to guess what happened. Knowing you it’s no wonder the date ended in a disaster. I feel for that guy.” Grey replies, taking Dylan’s side. So predictable of him.
I brush off the matter, not giving a dam about Grey’s opinion merely because his opinion is stupid. I turn to look at both guys before me, “So I demand bubblegum ice cream and FYI, I’m not paying. This is all on Jay.”
“Knew it.” Jay snaps his fingers as if he predicted me saying just that.
Unexpectedly all the waiters are busy with other orders so upon seeing Jay, Dylan’s supposed buddy, Dylan takes the liberty to approach us to take our orders himself. “Jay dude, how’s it going man?” Dylan asks him, rather friendly and of course he would be. It’s not like Jay did anything to him.
“All good and yourself?” Jay answers, laid back and polite as ever.
“Great. This here is my girlfriend Bex.” he introduces to Jay.
I sink deeper in my seat at the sound of his voice, hoping he won’t see me cowering behind the menu as he stands there In the open all confidently with a beautiful girlfriend.
Now why does that name sound so familiar…mhmmm…Benley…ah shiznit…I guess Dylan’s going to end up in another fight very soon…
“Nice to meet you.” I hear Jay say before adding, “This is my friend Grey.”
Grey’s about to greet them both before something registers in my head. friend. friend. friend. Suddenly, acting on instinct and impulse rather than pure logic, I chuck the menu away and stand up, pointing in Jay’s face with victory, “Aha! I knew it! I knew you’d eventually confess that he’s your friend! I was right!”
Jay blinks at me, not making a sound as everyone around the table falls completely silent. He gives me a look, making me remember that I was suppose to be undercover. I just blew my cover. From the corner of my eye I see Grey snicker, enjoying my embarrassment through my slip up. Well…he won’t be snickering for much longer.
“Aqueela?” Dylan asks, stunned, as he takes in all that is me.
The name must register in the girlfriend’s head as her eyes widen, “That’s ‘thee’ Aqueela?” she asks, whispering a little too loudly seeing as I heard.
So clearly Dylan told her everything then…great…absolutely bloody fantastic.
“In the flesh. Yes, I have graced you both with my awe stricken presence.” I joke to break the tense atmosphere.
Dylan stares at me for a little longer before breaking out of his trance like state, shaking his head slightly as he turns his attention back to his girlfriend and nods. “Aqueela, this is my girlfriend Bex.”
As if I don’t know already…
The girlfriend gives me a scowl filled with warning as I greet her ever so politely by completely wiping her presence out. She’s not needed right now. She’s rather irrelevant. Plus, I’m only as friendly and sweet as my friends allow me to be. And seeing as she screwed over Benley, who just so happens to be my friend, she can get stuffed. I could care less about her. Poor Benley. How can she move on so quickly while Benley is still mourning his loss, not that it’s much of a loss in my opinion. Yes, she’s beautiful, but she’s an idiot for letting Benley go without a solid reason.
I move my eyes back to Dylan’s green ones to find him smirking at me as if proud that he’d moved on first, as if he’d won. I see the arrogance in his eyes rather clearly. The obnoxious twit. Jay obviously sees it too as a frown merges across his features and I can’t help but find it adorable that Jay is affected a such as I am, that he’s getting mad in my defence.
But I’m Aqueela Lawson and I don’t lose. Ever.
With that in mind I act on impulse yet again and loop my arm through Grey’s arm, snuggling up to him with a smile that says ‘play along or else’. “Oh well this is my fiancé Grey and we’re totally serious, so very serious, seriously serious as serious as I can be and I mean that seriously.”
Grey, startled, begins coughing on his soda as I just play the ‘smile and wave’ game, batting my eyelashes up at him in a loving gesture that sickens me inside, but I hide that. I would’ve picked Jay, but Grey is closer to me and after my encounter with Jay today…well I’d rather not stir up another awkward moment with him.
Dylan’s proud expression falls at my words and I take satisfaction in that.
Score! Fiancé beats girlfriend.
Dylan- who’s he again? Yeah that’s his score now. That’s how bad he’s doing. Forgettable. That’s what he is.
“Oh.” Dylan retorts blandly, “Well…congratulations I guess.” he mumbles, scratching the back of his neck, clearly uncomfortable with situation right now.
“Yup.” I nod, “We’re so very much in love.” I convince Dylan as I place my head against Grey’s very very tense shoulder.
Once Grey finally catches his breath, blinking rapidly, confused, as he starts, “What? She’s a psychopath. I would rather jump off a cliff than marry h-“
“Forgive him. He’s just very thirsty. Been a long day.” I say as I stuff the soda can against Grey’s mouth, hoping to get him to shut up before I force the can down his esophagus. I stomp down on his foot and he bites down on his tongue to keep from yelling aloud. I smirk to myself, reembarking on when I’d pulled this off with Max, but at least Max was willing.
Grey clears his throat before correcting his earlier mistake, “I would rather jump off a cliff than marry anyone else but Aqueela.”
Upon hearing this I give him a sickly sweet smile, “Awe. Isn’t he just adorable.” I ask, placing a hand over my heart, “Sometimes my heart just can’t take it. I swear one of these days he’s going to give me a heart attack.”
“I can only hope.” Grey mutters inaudibly from beside me. I kick him in the shin this time round to get him to shut up and comply. He looks away briefly to keep from shouting at me. He quickly gets the gist and adds, ”I love her so much that I want to smother her in all my love ” he says through gritted teeth as he tries to offer me a loving smile but fails as if the mere thought repulsed him. dam i feel sorry for his future wife…
Dylan and Bex pull disturbed faces at his choice of words. Heck even I’m disturbed. But I have to save this, “Isn’t he so romantic? Always flattering me with beautiful words?” I ask, batting my eyelashes at Grey again in what’s suppose to be a loving gesture when really I want to throttle him right now. He’s worse than Jay when it comes to expressing himself.
Then again its me making him do this. He hates me so much and now I’m adding to it. Man am I so gonna pay for this later…
“Yeah…so romantic.” Bex replies, sounding perplexed as to what I saw win Grey. Jay would’ve been a much better candidate. “So lets see the engagement rings.” Bex says, seemingly jovial.
“Oh yeah…” I mumble, totally forgetting to cover for that part. Fortunately I am a skilled liar. “Well this is personal but Grey is poor, like really really poor. I mean you can probably tell by the dishevelled hair look and his clothes and you know…just him in general really. He has that poor persona. I mean when I first saw him I was wondering who pulled him out form underneath the bridge if you get what I’m saying. So anyways Grey can’t afford to meet his basic needs like hygiene let alone rings, but fortunately his love for me covers all that.” I elaborate as Grey sends me a look that says ‘I’m killing you for this later’. He’s just mad because I insulted his appearance and made him poor in this story of ours.
“Oh I see.” Bex says dryly.
I glance Jay’s way to see him yet again amused by my actions. There’s a small lopsided smile curving his lips as he tries to stifle his soft melodious laughter. Then I notice Dylan not so subtly sending daggars Grey’s way as if jealous. Really? He has a girlfriend.
“So other than Grey and I being soul mates and hopelessly in love, yadah yadah yadah-“
I’m suddenly cut off by a high pitched, desperate, very distraught shout and before I know it I’ve been toppled over onto the floor, my chair collapsing on top of me. Startled, I look up to find obese hands gathering me in their arms. And it’s then when he picks me up that I meet his eyes and consistent smile.
“Sprinkle can’t love GreysFace!” Simo screams, squeezing me against his fat chest before swinging me around in his arms as I slowly begin to suffocate. “Simo want Sprinkle. Simo love Sprinkle more than GreysFace. Simo marry Sprinkle and look after Sprinkle forever and ever and ever.”
Jay, like the gentleman he is, begins laughing hysterically, no longer able to hold back anymore. I’d glare at him if I could see him past all this fat.
I begin to panic, Simo is abut to destroy everything and then Dylan will surely win. “Grey, my love, little help.” I plead, needing to get away from Simo and save this entire charade before Dylan sees through it.
“Not now Honey, I’m on the phone with a client. You know I need this job since I’m so so so poor as you described in raw detail.” Grey responds before I hear his footsteps as they faintly disappear, letting me know that he’d totally just ditched me. I guess I dissevered that one.
“Simo!” I whisper snap. “Put me down.”
Fortunately it is Dylan who comes to my rescue and tells Simo to get back to work and if I didn’t know any better I’d say it’s because he’s not only jealous of Grey but Simo too. Simo reluctantly lets go of me and places me back on the floor as he leaves with a heart broken expression.
Great…I’ll fix it later.
I look at Bex ad Dylan, humiliated but hiding it, “Well it was lovely meeting you Bex and nice seeing you again Dylan, but we really should be going.” I say hurriedly.
“But you haven’t even ordered.” Dylan points out.
Not in my right mind, I say whatever comes to me, “And you are being very nosy so pish posh, no slosh go take a wash.” I wave the matter off and begin pushing a still laughing Jay with me outside the store seeing as he was laughing so much he couldn’t bloody walk on his own. Glad he got some entertainment out of this.
As soon as we get out Grey comes to me, shaking his head with an intimidating stare as he points to me, “You!” he shouts, “I could kill you.” he lowers his voice as bystanders look upon the commotion. “You infuriating, attention craving, selfish…” he trails off as he looks behind me as if seeing something before continuing, “beautiful, gorgeous, intelligent love of my life…”
This time I zone out, pulling a face. Okay…what is happening? I turn around to see Bex leaving the ice-cream store, staring directly at us as if suspicious. When Grey continues complimenting me she takes that as a sign of our true love and leaves without anymore bothers.
I take advantage of Grey in this moment, “You think I’m gorgeous?” I ask tauntingly, knowing it was just for show. He just gives me a look, not saying anything. “Okay okay.” I hold my hand up in a surrendering motion, “I’m sorry. I just needed to win and so I used you to do it. Probably not my wisest move.”
“You think?” he mutters, agitated as he runs a hand through his dark hair.
It’s then that Jay, yes Jay, finally stops laughing like an imbecile and comes to stand beside me, “Loosen up bro. It’s just Aqueela being Aqueela.” Jay defends me.
“Yeah well I don’t like Aqueela very much.” Grey retorts, “She’s psychotic. I believe that for real now. Concerning you Jay, we’re good, but Aqueela…stay away from me.” Grey bids goodbye ever so politely, note the sarcasm, leaving me alone with Jay yet again.
I smile and clap my hands, turning to face Jay, “Well that went well. I think he’s warming up to me.”
Jay shakes his head, “Of course you’d think that. The guy hate you more than ever.”
I shrug, “Meh. He’ll get over it.” I yawn, tired of the day’s events. I tug on Jay’s arm, “Let’s go home Jay.” I suggest tiredly, persuading him to take me home already so that I can curl up into a ball and sleep.
I back away from him and begin walking to his car, before his arm unexpectedly wraps around my waist and brings me to a halt, forcing me to spin around to face him. “What now?” I huff, exhausted as his cobalt blue eyes meet my own in a powerful gaze.
He places his hand on my cheek all too suddenly that I’m caught off guard by his warm touch sending tingles throughout my body. I’m struck speechless as my heart begins to race when I notice him staring at me intensely and at how he keeps edging closer, closing off all distance between us, “Next time…” he breathes into my ear tenderly, “Make me the fake fiancé.” he insists sternly as he caresses my cheek with his thumb gently one final time before hesitantly stepping away from me and turning back to his car, leaving me yet again to recover all that he’d just dismantled.