Chapter 29: Oh You’d Like That, Wouldn’t You?
“Are you ready?” Jay asks from beside me as I grab my bag. I look up him with doubtful eyes, feeling incredibly vulnerable. I nod my head briefly when inside I feel like I’m going to puke from my nerves. Jay sees this, perceptive as always. He can always tell what I’m really feeling. I watch him in distress as he steps forward and places a hand on my shoulder, “You don’t have to do this Aqueela. We don’t have to go. I don’t want you to feel pressured into doing this.”
I shrug, “If not now, then when?”
As expected, he understands what I mean by that. If I back out now, I may never have the courage to face her again. Jay offers me a soft smile, the blue hue in his eyes parting like a storm being passed over by sunshine, “I’m proud of you.”
Normally I would be unaffected by such a simple sentence, but when those four words come tumbling off Jay’s lips my heart skips a beat. Knowing that those words are being directed to me by the most detached person I know, warms my heart…and my face apparently… “I cannot believe you’re blushing because I said I’m proud of you.” Jay retorts with a mischievous grin appearing on his lips, clearly amused by my flushing.
“Shut up.” I snap, not bothering to deny it. Jay’s too witty and bright to fall for a lie.
Jay simply chuckles in response before adding, “No worries. It’s kind of cute.” He says that to reassure me that I don’t have to be embarrassed but it only leads to further blushing as my cheeks grow even more red at the sweet as honey words dripping from his lips. “Too precious.” Jay teases as he pinches my cheeks in amusement as if I’m some kind of itsy bitsy baby.
I slap his hands away and advert my eyes away from his penetrating blue ones, “Don’t touch me!” I huff, crossing my arms over my chest in the most defensive yet intimidating stance I can muster.
This time Jay falls silent, sensing that this was no longer a joke. I was actually annoyed with him. “Jeeze.” Jay sighs, frustrated, “What’s gotten into you to make you so feisty and aggressive all of a sudden? I was only messing with you.”
That’s the problem. He’d even said it aloud and failed to realize. I’m sick of him just seeing as me as someone to tease and mess with when he knows better, when he knows the truth behind my blushing.
It’s as if we’ve swapped roles. Now I’m the mopey grumpy one and suddenly Jay has energy and an uplifting beat to his step. Wow, our timing is definitely not impeccable.
“Eela, what wrong?” Oog asks, tugging on my hand gently as if very concerned and no doubt he was.
I glance down at him and feign a smile, “Not now Oog.” I say politely, shaking him off me in the nicest way possible. He tends to get possessive over me every once in a while, especially when Jay’s around. Don’t get me wrong, he loves Jay, just not as much as he loves me. He’s gotten very attached to my presence. It’s kind of adorable in a twisted way.
Oog nods, understanding. I’m one of the few he listens to. He backs off whilst growling at Jay who rolls his eyes and seems unfazed, used to Oog backing me up over him. The tension merely thickens when Oog leaves the room.
I’m not stupid. I know Jay knows why I’m irritated. He’s not as clueless as most males. He acts like he is, but he knows. He always knows.
Jay grumbles something inaudible beneath his breath before looking at me with a determined gaze. I know that look all too well. He’s ready to apologize, “Aqueela-“
“Save your breath.” I say, putting my hand up to block his apology. I didn’t want his pity. I just wanted him to return my feelings. Of course I can accept him not feeling the same way. That’s fine. What I can’t accept is him messing with me when he knows I like him. I don’t appreciate being strung along.
Jay takes my lifted hand into his before moving it back down to my side as he takes an intruding step forward, his eyes never leaving mine, “Can you just let me finish-“
I summon the courage to stand my ground. I need to learn to hold my own. I force myself to glance up at him through my eyelashes as I bite on my bottom lip shyly, “Jay.” I whisper, “You can’t keep treating me like this. I’ll take what I can get from you. Your friendship is enough. But still, you know how I feel about you. Yet it doesn’t stop you from flirting with me at times when it suites you. Other than that, you don’t acknowledge my feelings. I’m never taken into account.” I conclude in a soft voice, restraining my hot temper.
I don’t want to cause a fight between us when I need him most.
Jay’s eyes follow my own as he stares at me intensely as if trapped in a trance. Whatever I’d said had him now in deep thought. He’s pondering about something and how I wish he’d just open up, even if it’s only once.
My voice brings him out of his thoughts as he suddenly releases his hold on my hand quickly as if I had some kind of disease. Of course I took offense to that. He keeps his eyes fixed on me when he takes the first step back to create more space between us.
Having him closer was comforting. At times I find my strength in his presence.
When I see the guilty expression on his face and the sadness twinkling through his sea blue eyes…I realize my mistake. I’d overstepped. Now he’s pushing back. He’s pushing me away. He’s blocking me out.
“We don’t need to discuss it further Jay. I know you don’t like talking about stuff like this. But I have boundaries so we should at least establish that-“
Jay cuts me off with a loud cough. I blink up at him, surprised at the obvious and very rude interruption. “We should go Aqueela. It’s a long way there and it’s getting late. Wouldn’t want to miss visiting hours.” Jay replies firmly as he begins walking ahead of me, now refusing to meet my eyes.
My heart shatters a little at his blunt rejection. He’s doing it all over again. “This is exactly what I’m referring to Jay!” I raise my tone as I follow begrudgingly after him, pissed and hurting immensely. “You always do this.”
Still, he ignores me. His walls are set back in place as he waits for me patiently in his car. I’d crossed a line that he drew and now he’s shutting me out like when we first met.
I won’t allow it. I didn’t work this hard to become friends with him only to lose him over stupid feelings that I wish I could erase. But it’s too late, I’ve become too attached.
I get in the car and slam the door to his passenger car shut, glaring at Jay, ready to lash out and just give up on him entirely.
But for a split second something glows through Jay’s eyes. I can’t tell what it is, but it’s there and it’s alluring. It only lasts for a second before he covers it up with a frown. “Please stop shutting me out.” I whisper, reaching toward him as he flinches back in his seat to avoid my touch. I sigh and bring my hand back. “I like you Jay. I have ever since I met you. You can try to forget it, you can try to erase it, hell you can even run for the hills, but the one thing you can’t do is force me to stop feeling the way I do for you. Because I won’t.”
He always makes out if the problem isn’t there. Still…it never goes away.
Again, Jay blatantly ignores me. He doesn’t bother in acknowledging my presence as he starts the engine and reverses out of the driveway. “Are you seriously just going to ignore me? Is this how you’re going to handle all of this? I thought you were better than this.”
“Well that’s your mistake!” Jay hisses, finally speaking to me, “You should have known better. I told you from the start to leave me the hell alone.” he growls menacingly, having lost his temper.
For an infinite amount of time I sit in the car and watch him drive, processing what he’d just said to me. Jay is always the type to insult and hurt wherever possible. I’m used to it. But these words he’d just uttered seems kind of unforgivable.
I can tell he feels me watching him, but refuses to meet my wandering eyes. His jaw is clenched and his hands are gripping onto the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles are beginning to turn white from the lack of blood flow.
He’s not just mad.
He’s furious. More so than I’ve ever seen before. He’s never gone so far as to utter such spiteful words, at least not to me.
“If you want me to leave your life for good Jay, just say so and I’ll be gone by morning. I swear it.” I reply softly, being completely truthful. If he really wanted me to get out his life then who was I to not obey.
Jay doesn’t satisfy me with his next response. He simply refuses to acknowledge this conversation. He acts as if nothing happened as his eyes move off the road and onto the new bowling alley being built halfway in town, “That place is going to be a hot spot once it’s completed.”
I see how it is. So predictable. I should’ve realized that he’d go back to being indifferent. I must say I’d prefer him telling me to leave than this. This is the worst way he can possibly treat me. He always gets like this whenever I bring up how I feel.
I simply roll my eyes at Jay’s words, not interested in the stupid bowling alley that’s getting more attention from Jay than me. “Pull over.” I demand on impulse, not thinking this through seeing as I have absolutely no where else to go.
“Jay!” I raise my tone to get his damn attention, “Stop the car!”
This time he listens, pulling over on the side of the highway. He mutters curse words beneath his breath as he unlocks the doors, allowing me to get out and leave. A sign to say that he’s not holding me back.
I begin opening my door when I hear him sigh. Then suddenly his hand is tugging on my arm gently and forcing me back into my seat, “Aqueela. Please don’t leave.” I hear him say quietly from beside me.
I shove his hand off my arm and turn in my seat to face him, “You just made your intentions clear. You don’t want me around. Fine. Consider me gone.” I’d pack my stuff and crash at my grandparent’s house until further notice. I’ll keep a low profile and leave him to be.
He begins shaking his head at my words, his eyes twinkling with anxiety in it’s blue depths. This is most likely the first time he’s showing me anything other than indifference or coldness, “Aqueela, don’t go.” he whispers, repeating himself almost inaudibly, as if ashamed of even saying this aloud.
“Then give me a reason to stay.” I demand, folding my arms across my chest and narrowing my eyes at him, incredibly hurt that he’d implied he wished he’d never met me.
There’s a flash of fear that crosses his eyes as he looks at me, his mouth slightly agape as he thinks of something to say, but finding nothing. If he can’t find anything to say then there’s really nothing keeping me. His hesitation increases and his expression mirrors a deer caught in headlights. Is expressing his true emotions really that terrifying? I doubt it. He just can’t find a reason for me to stay because there isn’t one.
“That’s what I assumed.” I say, opening my door and getting out. I’d find another way home. I close my eyes as a tear drips down my cheek, not once looking back at him as I walk on ahead on the side of the highway.
It’s when I hear another door slamming shut and footsteps from behind me that I realize Jay’s coming after me. “Go away.” I huff, frustrated and tired of the ongoing arguments between us because Jay refuses to open up.
He tries to get me to look at him, but I simply refuse and turn away from him. I don’t want him to see me like this…weak. My stone has crumbled by his hand. I’m in pieces. I ignore him and continue on walking, refusing to give him any more time of day.
Eventually his footsteps fade out and I realize he’s stopped walking.
There’s nothing more to be said in any case.
He knows how I feel about him and he doesn’t care.
But then something freezes me to the spot, my heart thumping when I hear his voice and the truth in his next sentence.
“You’re, honest to God, the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” I hear it but I don’t quite believe it. His words float in my head for what seems to be an inevitable amount of time until I come to a halt in my steps completely.
Slowly, I turn around to face him, to make certain he was being genuine and sincere.
It’s only when I see his blue eyes stretching out before me in an expanse of a never ending ocean that I realize he’d meant every single word.
He’d really meant it.
His blue eyes swirl with fear at his confession and I’m taken aback in awe of him having the courage to finally express something other than indifference toward me. Like a wave tumbling and crashing over, the flash of fear in his eyes vanish beneath the breakers only to be replaced with a cold gaze.
But still…the fear was there.
I’d seen it.
In that moment he made himself transparent so that I could read him, so that I could understand him….and now I do.
He’s scared. In fact, he’s petrified.
Somewhere along the line that fear that’s always been in his eyes has finally been revealed to me, no longer lost in translation.
Why is he so frightened?
“If that’s not a good enough reason to stay, then I don’t know what is.” he whispers, pulling me out of the trance he’d trapped me in. A glimpse of that fear can no longer be seen. It’s camouflaged beneath his cold blue ocean that he’d created for himself as a safety net.
“You’re scared of commitment?” I say aloud impulsively, not really the best thing I could say at a time like this when he’d practically just told me how he felt about me. But in my defense, I hadn’t been expecting that. He struck me speechless.
Much too my surprise he chuckles lightly as if it isn’t such a big deal, brushing his fear aside like he always does. But he can’t pretend anymore. Now I now the extent of his fear. Now that I know his fear exists, I won’t allow it to control him.
I take a step toward him as he speaks up, “It’s not so much commitment that scares me.” he replies with no hostility this time round, “It’s the fact that everyone I’ve ever committed to in someway has left me. They always do. My birth parents, my adopted parents…I can’t commit solely to you, only for you to leave in the end anyways.”
It’s like a blindfold has been lifted off my eyes. I finally understand why Jay is the way he is. It makes sense. I should have noticed or seen this fear in him sooner. But I didn’t pay enough attention to it, to him.
It’s not because Jay doesn’t return my feelings that he behaves this way, it’s because he’s scared.
I close off the distance between us and take hold of his hand, his warmth now comforting and soothing, “I wouldn’t leave you.” I say with utmost conviction to reassure him that he needn’t be afraid. His fear was irrational and misplaced…yet it was still there.
He feigns me a grin to hide his emotions, but I see through him this time, “How can you say that when you were so close to leaving just a second ago?” he asks and I falter in my confidence, caught of guard by that question.
He was right.
I had almost just left him.
“You really have abandonment issues, Jay.” I smile playfully as I step forward and embrace him, wrapping my arms around his neck and bringing him closer to me, “I think you could use a hug and I don’t care if you told me to never hug you unexpectedly, I’m doing it anyways.” He laughs at this as he wraps his strong arms around my waist and returns the hug, “I was only going to leave because I thought that’s what you wanted. I only want you to be happy.” I say honestly, releasing him and taking a step back to look him in the eyes, “But now that I know you’re such a baby and lost puppy without an owner…” I trail off when he gives me a deadpanned gaze for making fun of him. I grin and then place a solemn expression on my face to indicate that I’m serious, “I won’t leave Jay. Not if you don’t want me to. I promise.”
“But Aqueela…” Jay falters as he tries to think of a way to say what I already know he has planned saying. I smile at him and gesture for him to continue, having already accepted it, “I can’t give you what you want. I can’t be with you in the way you want me to…” he breathes, waiting for my reaction. I don’t give one so he continues, “It’s not because I don’t want to be with you like that…it’s just not that easy. It’s just a lot more complex than you realize.”
I nod understandingly much to him being astounded. He seemed to be expecting a slap from me instead. “You’re not in the right place. I can see that now.”
Jay flashes me a sparkly white grin as he wraps a loose arm around my shoulder, motioning that we should get going. My outburst happened to set us back against the clock. He says nothing more as we get back in the car and we’re off on the road again.
I grin to myself, watching the trees pass us by swiftly as Jay pushes his foot down on the accelerator so that we’d get there in time for visiting hours. I’m glad that Jay opened up to me. I finally understand why he’s such a jackass. But he’s my jackass Jay.
“I still think we should get a dog.” I smirk, breaking the comfortable silence as Jay pulls into the police station where my step mother was being kept.
“I’m still going to give you the same answer and I say no.” Jay replies back playfully, our earlier discussion being avoided at all costs.
Things are back to the way they’re suppose to be, yet I can’t help but wonder if this means Jay returns my feelings for him. So being me, I ask him, not beating around the bush, “Does this mean you like me now?”
Jay scoffs and chuckles aloud at my question, “Wouldn’t you like to know?” He teases, not being direct, but implying something else all together.
I nod my head firmly, “If I didn’t want to know, I wouldn’t ask. Just give me an answer.”
“Oh you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” he grins mischievously down at me before walking ahead, leaving me behind as clueless as ever.
“Jay!” I shout after him in order to get my answer, except my shouting falls on deaf ears.
He merely laughs from way ahead of me as if finding this all too amusing, “Why else would I put up with you Aqueela!?” he calls back from over his shoulder.
“I knew it! I knew you had the hots for me!” I clap my hands enthusiastically, feeling ecstatic. Hell I hope the clouds can hold me because I’m skipping on them right now.
“Wow.” he comments, “Let’s not get a head of ourselves. No one said anything about having the hots for you.” My face falls at this and Jay sees this before his blue icy eyes soften a fraction, “But it’s a given, isn’t it?” he adds much to my hopeful gleam returning. I space out at his words, drooling over his pretty face in the process. I never thought he’d admit it. He recovers and flashes me a genuine smile, “Aqueela, as amusing as it is to watch you watch me…we’re going to be late…c’mon.” he insists, taking my hand into his and pulling me along after him.
“So tell me more about me being the best thing that’s ever happened to you.” I flash a cheeky grin as Jay gives me a cool glare.
“Just shut up Aqueela.” Jay huffs, frustrated with me taking advantage over this new information released to me.
“Oh you’d like that, wouldn’t you?”