Chapter 3: The Extra Mile
I’ve never been one to go back on my word…much. This may or may not explain why I am currently sitting in the boy’s locker room with Bells curled up fast asleep on my right-hand side. I’m also pretty certain that she’s drooling.
I impatiently check the wall clock to find that we’d been sitting here for two and a half hours already.
Where could he possibly be?
I went the extra mile and decided to brush up on some golden facts, facts such as what the latest fashion is, what Brangelina are up to, why the world hasn’t stopped spinning yet and, of course, when does Jay Taylor usually make use of the boy’s locker rooms - clearly all the ordinary day-to-day stuff.
Bell stirs beside me as the doors to the locker room fly open. I, being the impulsive one that I am, immediately spring up to me feet and point my finger at the unexpected crowd accusingly, “Uh-huh!” I yell at the top of my lungs in excitement.
Silence fills the room, the loud chattering dying down under my voice as if I was the last person any of them had been expecting to see. Even after homecoming and the last game, they still practice.
My arm falls back limply to my side when I see that Jay Taylor is not among the group of jocks. The football players bring their focus to Bells and me with wide eyes, shocked.
“What?” I huff indignantly. “You guys act like you’ve never seen two girls hiding in a boy’s locker room before,” I conclude knowingly, my expression falling and my excitement wavering at the sight of all of them.
The locker room continues to linger in silence, their previous racket having diminished when having spotted Bells and me. A penny could drop and one would notice. We definitely caught them off guard.
“Is it our lucky day or what?” one of the football players finally comment, breaking the tense atmosphere. He motions to us, “First we win the game and now this.”
“Nah, it’s just Aqueela Lawson getting up to her usual weirdness,” the more well-known player, Laiken Edwards, our school’s famous linebacker, remarks in turn. He and I don’t have the best history. He’s a jerk, to put it bluntly, and I cannot even stand to be in his presence. I end up losing brain cells.
I pull a face at Laiken, unfazed, as I brush his comment off uncaringly, “Meh.”
“Why you always got to drag Bella down with you?” Laiken queries, evidently a fan of my best friend. It makes sense seeing as Bells is head cheerleader.
The jocks begin talking again when I don’t say anything back to their precious Laiken. I stand back and listen for the meantime as I consider a way out of this unscathed.
“Mason’s a beast. You see him with that winning touchdown?”
It was only a friendly game for practice yet they still make a big deal out of it.
I roll my eyes upon hearing the name. Mason Montry happens to be the star quarterback of the team, Laiken’s best friend, Bell’s boyfriend, and my worst enemy. He’s tormented me for years. He puts Laiken to shame with his ways.
“You get used to it,” Laiken shrugs, very aware of how talented his friend is.
All the talk on Mason makes me wonder where he is. He and his team are usually inseparable. They all usually parade down the hallways together as if they own the school.
“We’d be nowhere without him,” another one chants in order to give his opinion on his beloved captain, Mason.
I unintentionally scoff loudly in disagreement.
Laiken arches a brow my way, “You got a problem, Lawson?”
I stand my ground bravely in the spur of the moment, “You know I do, Edwards.”
Once again, I am met by deafening silence as punishment of my impulsive words.
“You got a lot of dynamite packed inside of you for such a nobody,” Laiken retorts as he and his posse gang up on me.
I take a step back, now feeling the weight of their glares.
I play with the strands of my hair nervously as I try to divert their attention so that I can make my grand escape, “So…um…yeah. I’m just going to get going,” I tell them as I slowly begin moving toward the exit of the locker rooms.
“Nice try,” Laiken grasps me by my elbow and yanks me back to him. “You don’t get to come in here, insult us, and then decide to leave. Payback.”
Thinking on my toes, I point to nothing behind them and shout loudly, “Something!”
As expected, the idiots all spin around to look. I take my chances, pulling away from Laiken, as I sprint past him and the rest of the pillars of muscle. I head straight for the door. It’s only when I exit the room that I feel as if I’m free from their contempt.
The feeling doesn’t last long. It is soon replaced by a feeling of dread and uncertainty, almost as if I’m forgetting something.
I hesitate just outside the locker room and contemplate on what it is that I could be missing. I mull it over in my head:
Cell phone? Check.
“Where the heck is Aqueela and why are you all surrounding me?!” I hear a high-pitched shrill from inside the room as it occurs to me.
“Ah,” I nod to myself, now remembering what it is.
Bells? Not check.
I sprint back into the room to save her, but somehow she gets to me first and ends up dragging me out by my wrist, quite painfully may I add. The girl can hold her own, no doubt.
Bella ignores the wolf whistles directed at her as she furiously marches us away from the locker room and over to the cafeteria for lunch instead. Her anger is justified seeing as we missed half of our classes for today, and she just so happens to be the goody-two-shoes between us.
“I know you’re probably quite irritated seeing as I forced you into another one of my famous ploys, only for us to miss all our morning classes and not to mention the fact that Jay never pitched and that I might’ve, kind of, sort of left you sleeping in a room filled with testosterone, but I really believe that our friendship is strong enough to bounce back from this,” I conclude and then thoughtfully add, “well, my half is in any case.”
Bells cocks her head to the side and analyzes me with judgment, “What are you trying to say?”
“Your side has always been a tad bit weaker, rustier if you will. You know, I gotta admit, I’ve had my doubts about you. Nonetheless, your forgiving, merciful, compassionate spirit always pulls us through,” I suck up to her in a futile attempt to get back into her good books.
When she doesn’t budge, I feel the need to try and justify my actions, “Also, in my defense, you’re the one that fell asleep. Plus, you’re also a heavy sleeper, impossible to wake up. Oh, and I went back for you, let’s not forget about that. In fact, if anything, I think you’re in my debt. You owe me. I practically just saved your life, that’s if you forget the tiny fact that I put you there in the first place. You’re just lucky, you know. You’re just lucky that I-“
“Oh, enough already!” Bell cuts me off from my rambling with a raised voice and a sharp tone, clearly exasperated with me. “Just drop it. We’ll call it quits,” she reasons.
“No, we’ll call it even,” I say with a grin at the realization that she has already forgiven me for my significant lack of memory and accountability. “For real though, I’m sorry that I forgot about you,” I apologize and excuse my actions, “I must be getting old.”
A strong arm collapses around my shoulders and a warm breath caresses my cheeks, “Sure are, too bad you’re aging like sour milk instead of fine wine,” the familiar voice says as I support all his weight.
I sigh in true despair and shove him away before glancing at Bells accusingly, “Alright, own up, who summoned Satan? I was not ready.”
Bell rolls her eyes at my childish insult aimed directly at the demon she calls her boyfriend. I watch on in disgust as she leans up to kiss the sweaty quarterback, “Hey, Babe.”
“Hey,” he greets her back, barely acknowledging my presence. It’s only when her eyes stray for a brief moment that he sends me a cunning grin as if plotting yet another one of his evil plans.
“Bell!” I raise my voice in rage as if to capture her attention. “He’s doing his evil grin thing behind your back again!”
The only reason why I put up with Mason Maggot-face Montry is because Bell is so infatuated with him. I know that he’s not right for her and I’m hoping that she will dump him as soon as she realizes it. The only thing he has over me is his looks, but his personality kills it. I’ve known Bella longer than him, so I’d like to think that I will always have the upper hand…and lower hand…and all the hands. In actual fact, Mason has no hands in this scenario.
Bell sends her boyfriend a deadpanned stare, one of strong warning. He holds his hands up in turn before blaming me, “She started it.”
“I did nothing, you vile cretin of darkness!” I defend myself, annoyed that he’d have the nerve to lie.
Bells merely shakes her head at us, “Every girl’s wish, her boyfriend and her best friend want to murder each other,” she states sarcastically. “It’s my worst nightmare - my boyfriend and my best friend wanting to kill each other, well other than my boyfriend and my best friend having a thing for each other.”
Mason and I both make gagging noises simultaneously as soon as she finishes her last sentence.
Bella stares at us as if comparing us to toddlers in her head. She pouts unhappily, “Why can’t you two just get along?” she ends in a manipulative whine.
I, being the immature one, gag aloud again at the suggestion. The mere thought of me getting along with the maggot makes me squirm in repulsion.
I, of course, lose this battle because Mason plays the safe card and plants a kiss on Bell’s pouted lips. “I’m trying so hard, but she makes it so difficult,” he blatantly lies to her once again like the compulsive liar he is.
I narrow my eyes at him threateningly, hoping to come across as intimidating.
“See,” Mason points to me as if to prove his point, “just look at her. She’s cute, but not lovable.”
“Duly noted,” I conclude bitterly.
Bell hits him upside the head for my sake. “Don’t speak to Aqueela like that. You know I don’t like it,” she scolds him, putting him back into place with her reprimanding. “Also,” she raises a daring brow at him, “when were you planning to mention that you find my best friend cute? Mhm?” she delves in quickly as she interrogates him.
“Oh please!” Mason responds back calmly. “I only said that to boost her confidence levels. She is alway self-conscious and it’s a real buzzkill. Besides, how can I be attracted to a mental person?” he questions incredulously.
“I’m not self-conscious,” I retort on a sour note.
“Yeah?” he muses. “Then why don’t you prove it and remove that beret huh? Take off the hat and I’ll believe it,” he challenges me.
When I don’t step up to the plate, he grins in satisfaction.
“That’s what I thought. You put on this confident charade, but behind it, you’re this scared little girl who fears facing rejection. You can’t even walk out the house without some type of hat on and you’re telling me that you’re not self-conscious. Yeah right,” he scoffs mockingly.
I scowl at him, “You should be a lot nicer to me considering the fact that I encouraged Bells to go out with you when she was still unsure about you. I’m the one who gave her the thumbs up in spite of you being you. Instead of insulting me, why don’t you start thanking me?” I glower up at him, annoyed.
I instantly regret my words when I see Bell’s facial expression. She asked me to never digest the details of her previous uncertainty with him.
At first, she didn’t want to be with him because of the fact that he tends to pick on me. However, I saw how much she liked him and so I compromised. In the end, I persuaded her to go for it.
Mason’s eyes widen at the revelation as he turns to Bells for an explanation of some sort, “You had doubts?”
Bell winces, “Well…”
I take it as my cue to leave.
I purposely shove Mason out of my way and turn my back on what I now presume to be ‘the not so lovey dovey’ couple anymore. Nevertheless, I halt in my steps as a realization comes to mind:
He’s a hypocrite.
I quickly spin back around to face him before voicing my thoughts aloud, “Oh, and Maggot, you’re a self-righteous hypocrite. Take off that letterman jacket that you always wear and let’s see you be someone without having to be defined by a football jacket.”
I grin in satisfaction when his expression falters.
“That’s right,” I add, “I went there!”
I don’t like people taking advantage of me, especially people who claim to know me, but, in reality, don’t know the first thing that makes up the essence of me. Why can’t I just like hats?
Bell is most likely going to give me cheek for the stunt I pulled back there, but I’d be damned if I let that garbage child use me as his personal doormat.
I walk shamelessly down the empty hallways, feeling bad for the next person who dares look at me wrong. Mason is the only one who can put me in a foul mood within a second. Kid has skills, I’ll give him that much.
I don’t know what he holds against me, but ever since we met as kids, he’s made it his life goal to make sure that I’m miserable. He enjoys putting me down whenever he sees fit. I’ve never really hated someone or had any enemies, mostly because I tend to lay low, but ever since he started dating my best friend, I became forced to associate myself with the likes of him. I’m forced into interacting with him and his crowd. He managed to squirm his way into my life, and quite frankly, I’ve had it with him. His mere presence puts a damper on my mood.
I make a turn around the next corner and come to a stop in front of my locker. I unlock it with my secret combination that Bells and Mason somehow figured out, making it not so secret anymore. I guess the combo ‘1234’ is not very creative.
I reach inside my messy and unorganized locker - the complete opposite of Bells organized one - and take out my camera.
I dump all my books into my locker before heading out to the school’s back garden. Bells will be seeking me out sooner or later. I might as well be in a location where she’s bound not to find me.
The garden is peaceful and secluded. It’s my secret place. No one ever hangs out there because everyone seems to prefer the loud, busy cafeteria during lunch time.
My only passion is photography. Bell knows that when I’m stressed out or simply in a terrible mood, I’ll be somewhere with my camera taking random pictures in order to liven my spirits.
I remove the lens cap off of my camera and begin taking pics of my surroundings, already starting to feel my mood change to a slightly peppier one.
I suck in a deep breath of the fresh air and relish in the moment of freedom, taking it all in. I love being outdoors.
I glance down at my camera and click on through all the pictures I’ve taken in order to see which are worth keeping. I smile to myself when I come across a picture that I deem worthy of the standards a professional photographer would have. It’s of the school’s ancient oak tree and the lighting and angle are practically perfect.
What people don’t get about photography is the fact that a single picture can say more than a million words. It’s simply divine to use pictures, rather than words, in order to communicate and express oneself.
Pictures capture single moments and memories that will stay with you for eternity. Pictures are replaceable, but the memories they hold are irreplaceable.
When you lose someone you love, the only thing you have to hold on to are the memories, and the memories are captured in single moments and printed out to create a beautiful picture. That alone is reason enough as to why I love photography.
I view my latest picture of the Oak again and analyze it closely this time ’round. It’s only on the second inspection that I notice something unusual sticking out behind the bottom half of the tree. I cock my head to the side to observe it more carefully but come up with no theories.
How did I miss that when I took the picture?
I walk back to the oak tree itself and begin to circle the tree, searching for whatever it is that ruined my best picture yet, but I come across nothing. It can only mean that it has moved, and if it has moved, it either means that I’m in a horror movie, or that ’it’ is a person.
I lift up my camera again and look through the lens, testing it, but stop short when I see a person walking some distance away. Everything is blurry through the lens, but I’m able to make out a black leather jacket and dark brown hair.
The hair color matches the mark in my picture. It has to be the person that unintentionally destroyed my perfect piece.
The guy suddenly turns in place as if he knows he’s being watched, his sixth sense sharp. He glances my way and it’s then that I see it - blue eyes. Not just any blue eyes - bubblegum blue eyes.
Jay Taylor sure knows how to play hide and seek well. I’ve been trying to locate him during school hours for the past week. Here I thought that I laid low. It’s clear that if Jay doesn’t want to be found, then he won’t be.
I just want to return his stupid jacket. He owes me an explanation for just falling off the entire world map. He went M.I.A. on me. I just want to prank him, is that so much to ask?
He looks up and quickly spots me capturing his every move. He frowns and then begins walking away.
I automatically lower my camera in response and run after him. I need to get my vengeance on him for not pitching up the other day after I worked for several hours decorating his jacket - speaking of which, he has a black leather jacket on right now. If he had two all along then why the hell did he go out of his way to make me clean his previous one?
It soon becomes apparent to me that he played me.
What’s he doing in the school garden in any case? I would think it’s too joyful for his liking. I would figure that the school garden just isn’t his scene. Then again, I could see how I am wrong. A troubled person like Jay might find the emptiness and quietness comforting. The silence would draw him in because the silence is a whisper of reassurance in something better to come.
From what I’ve seen and heard, Jay Taylor absolutely despises noise, and the one thing he hates more than noise is people. For a long as I can recall, he’s always preferred his solitude over popularity. You could say that he’s kind of an outcast.
I’ve known him for a while but have purposely steered clear because of his intimidating persona.
I draw to a close as I near the spot he’d just been standing in, only to find that it’s now empty. I search and scout the entire area, but he’s long gone. I can only assume that he still wishes to remain hidden from the crowd’s eye. He doesn’t want to be found.
I stare down at the picture as I contemplate on deleting it, my eyes wandering to the part where the top of his hair is sticking out just behind the foot of the tree where he’d been sitting.
In the end, I decide to keep the picture.
It classifies as one worth keeping.