Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 30: Pulling Away

“This way Miss Lawson.” the officer says before motioning to Jay, “Is your boyfriend going to accompany you?”

“I’m not her boyfriend.” Jay corrects the officer at the same time I say, “Why yes, yes my boyfriend-” I emphasize the word boyfriend, liking the ring to it, “will be accompanying me.” I answer with a cheeky grin much to the officer’s confusion in not knowing who to believe. This earns me a glower from Jay.

The officer brushes it aside and leads us past the holding cells and to the visiting area near the prison cafeteria. They allow her to see me in person because let’s be serious, it’s not like she’s on death row nor has her trial taken place. I had yet to testify. I could still save her from a life in prison. But that’s why I’m here. I need to see that she’s changed, that she deserves freedom.

“If there’s any hassles Miss Lawson, an officer will be here watching to make sure nothing happens. Just call to him if anything goes wrong. Though I’m certain all will be fine. You’re safe.” The head officer nods at me with a stern expression before leaving me and Jay with another officer keeping guard over the visitors.

I gulp, staring at my step mother in the distance as she sits at a table with her head in her hands. It’s been three weeks since I last saw her.

I can do this…

Jay coughs awkwardly, reminding me that he’s still here, that I’m not facing this alone. I shoot him a grateful smile at the not so subtle gesture. He’s got a twisted way of making his intentions clear. He’s saying that he’s here for me. At least I get him, that’s all that matters. He sure doesn’t make it easy though.

I take Jay’s hand into mine before pulling him along as I take a seat in front of my step mother, Jay taking the seat beside me so that we’d be facing her directly. She must hear the screech of the chairs against the floor as her head shoots up from her hands. It takes her a second or two for it to register before a smile breaks across her face.

“Aqueela.” She smiles beautifully like she once use too. She stands up and approaches me where I’m sitting. Out of modesty and manners, I stand up as well to address her. “God I’ve missed you.” she whispers before taking a step forward and embracing me tightly in a motherly way.

I freeze in my spot, not expecting this. Jay, weary himself, watches the reunion quietly, still deciphering if to break us apart or not. He goes with the latter, allowing me to overcome and deal with this on my own…just like I need to.

I don’t say anything and merely pat her on the back uncomfortably until she releases me and steps back to take a good look at me as if she hadn’t seen me in years. It allows me to get a better view on her too. She’s lost a lot of weight, yet she seems healthier. The dark circles under her eyes are no longer visible. That meant she’d been getting enough sleep. Thank goodness. If anyone needed rest, it was her.

I don’t fail to miss the officer guarding the cafeteria, moving his eyes to us every so often to make sure that all is fine. It’s not like the cafeteria was empty. There were plenty of prisoners out for visiting hours. They were seeing their families too. Of course, only the minor offenders were allowed out their cells in public like this.

“You look well Yolanda.” I say, careful to no longer address her as ‘mom’. Those days were over. However, it didn’t mean that I didn’t care for the woman standing in front of me. She had been the closet thing I had to a mom.

“Thank you.” she says as if pleased, retaliating well to my compliment. If she noticed that I didn’t call her ‘mom’, she never made it known. It’s as if only then she notices Jay sitting quietly beside us. Her eyes stray toward him and then back to me, “And who might this be?” she asks kindly, referring to Jay.

A flare of fury flashes through the blue hue of Jay’s depths before he stands up to greet her. Surprisingly, he offers his hand as Yolanda shakes it. I was sure he would misbehave in some form or another.

So maybe he does have manners after all…

Yolanda takes his hand and shakes it with a faint genuine smile, “Yolanda.” she greets, “Aqueela’s step mother.” she introduces herself to Jay.

I blow out a breath of complete relief when she says step mother and not just mother. She’d finally realized and accepted the fact. Maybe prison is good for her. It’s certainly charging her and making her aware of things I’d wished she’d be aware of a lot earlier.

Jay nods, shaking her hand rather dominantly, “Jay Taylor.” he greets and then pauses as if hesitating before coming out with it, “The guy that got you arrested.” Jay concludes through gritted teeth like a violent spitfire waiting to blow.

Okay…so maybe he’s not choosing to behave after all…

He’s only being respectful for my sake and he’s only being quiet because he’s fighting to control his hot temper. I see that now.

Like a bucket of stinging ice cold water, Yolanda pulls her hand away as if being burnt. A spark of vengeance courses through her brown eyes, but then in that moment she happens to catch my eye. Her brown eyes immediately soften, taking note that I’d been watching the exchange the entire time. And so that spark of vengeance is put out quickly by just seeing me hurt. Proof that she cared, she cared about me.

“What are you doing with my stepdaughter?” Yolanda asks patiently, doing her best in maintaining her facade of nonchalance and calmness. She was doing it for me and I appreciated the effort she was putting in.

Jay opens his mouth to answer her question. I can already see him fueling a heavier argument so I’m quick to step in and introduce him my way, “He’s my boyfriend.” I lie smoothly. That way Yolanda couldn’t pass judgment on him without me being offended.

Jay glances at me with a narrowed stare, quick to deny the fact, but when he sees my persuasive stare he gives in, deciding to follow through with wherever I was going with this. He was letting me take charge.

Yolanda doesn’t seem pleased with my answer, however it does keep her at bay from saying anything to him that might not hurt him, but will hurt me. You say something against Jay…you hurt me.

Jay himself is refraining from saying anything insulting. I hadn’t been expecting this from him. Earlier on he seemed so self assured and at peace. But now he’s a ticking time bomb.

“Boyfriend?” Yolanda repeats aloud, utterly confused, however still less confused than Jay is. “How come I never knew you had one?” she asks rather silently, more to herself than to me.

Jay decides to answer her rhetorical question none the less and put her in her place, “Maybe because you were always too busy abusing her!” Jay snaps, his tone raising and his temper getting the best of him.

If I’d known he was going to react to her presence in this manner…I never would have brought him along. He’s handling this worse than me.

“Jay!” I hiss bitterly at him bringing up the past that I was so desperately trying to move on from.

Forgive and forget.

That’s my motto.

My shouting doesn’t stop Jay from continuing on, “And you can be sure that I’ll make sure you rot in here if so much as lay another f**king hand on her again so-“

“Jay! That’s enough!” I yell at the top of my lungs, very quickly silencing him as he steps back from Yolanda to give her some breathing space. I don’t think he even realized that he was getting all up in her face…and for what? Just because he’s pissed. Well now so I am. Yet, I keep reminding myself that this is good. Jay’s only behaving like this because he cares for me and doesn’t want to see me get hurt again.

“But she-” he tries, but I silence him with my hand. He doesn’t give up so easily, “But it’s her-”

“Sit.” I demand and immediately he slumps into his seat, frowning and sulking unhappily like some toddler not getting his own away.

It’s cute.

“Sorry.” Jay mumbles to me stubbornly with an apologetic look that I can’t quite resist, especially when he’s giving me such a remorseful puppy eyed gaze.

It’s when I glance back to Yolanda that I see the tears pooling in her eyes. My heart shatters then…just a little. I never wanted to see her hurt. That was never my intention. “He’s right. I deserve to stay here after what I’ve put you through. Aqueela, I’m so sorry.” she says softly, barely audible, but I hear it.

When a single tear traces her cheek I can’t help but act on impulse, suddenly feeling like her daughter again. I step forward and lunge myself into her arms, lurching her forward, “It’s okay. You’re forgiven.” I say as she cries into my shoulder. And here I thought I’d be the one breaking down this morning. If it’s not Jay, then it’s Yolanda. I’m the one that’s suppose to catch a break.

I release Yolanda’s form when she’s gets in control of herself and her emotions again. I know she’s pulling herself together to keep me stable. I didn’t want to reach my breaking point like Jay and Yolanda had.

She takes me by surprise when she lifts the sleeve of my shirt up and traces her hand over the scars on my arms, “I’m sorry.” she cries, “I’m so so sorry.”

I flinch away from her hold, cautious and not wanting her to fuss over the scars when they’d already faded. I don’t want to be stuck in the past, besides…I’ve always been rubbish at holding grudges. For the life of me, just can’t do it..

I pull the sleeves of my shirt down and nod in understanding, “It’s okay. I’m okay.” I say, trying to reassure her. I encourage her to sit back down and so do I as she grabs hold of my hands and begins telling me about her rehabilitation and counseling for alcoholism. She said she’s done with alcohol. She’ll never get drunk again. Sober for life.

I smile at this, my heart warming in the process, “You’re improving. I’m impressed.” I say softly, squeezing her hands for a brief second. It’s then that my mind is been made up, “I am not going to testify against you. That means you should be out of prison in a couple days.”

Yolanda raises her eyebrows, releasing my hands, caught off guard. She’s not the only one.

Jay’s head shoots up as a scowl takes over his expression, his eyes ablaze. “Are you insane Aqueela?! You have to testify…” he trails off when he sees the deadly look I’m shooting at him. He stops mid-sentence with a scoff as he shuts his mouth to hear my reasoning.

“You only hurt me when you were drunk. Now that you’re sobering up, I don’t see a reason to keep you behind bars. You’re no longer a threat to me if you don’t drink. I believe you deserve your freedom. I know how regretful you are of your previous actions and I can see your sorrow. You’re a good person and you don’t deserve to stay in here.” I say quietly and firmly, motion to the prison.

Yolanda begins shaking her head, “Aqueela. No. You don’t have to-“

I place my hand up in order to stop her from continuing, “I’m doing this. You can’t change my mind. The only difference is that I won’t be seeing you as often. Other than that…you can have your life back…but don’t screw up the gift of freedom that I’m now offering you. Use it better this time.” I smile as I stand up and motion to sulking Jay that it was time to go as visiting hours ended two minutes ago.

I bend down and place a kiss on Yolanda’s cheek, “I’ll see you when I see you.” I say my goodbyes before dragging Jay after me as he continues on glaring daggers at Yolanda from behind me.

Would he just give it a rest already.

He made his point.

He hates Yolanda.

“Ah it’s good to be home.” I say, flopping down onto the pink and blue blotchy couch.

Jay enters after me, shutting the front door after him before rolling his eyes, “Not your home for the billionth time.” he reminds me much to my dismay. “Although with the way you’re so comfy around here it might as well be.”

I grin up at him, “Your words, not mine.”

Jay brushes my cheeky statement aside as he sits down beside me, eyeing me calculatingly, “You were quiet the whole ride back.” Jay states bluntly, pointing out the facts.

I shrug in response, “So?”

I already know where this is going.

“So…” he breathes hesitantly, “You were a loud nuisance on the way there and now you don’t make a sound on the way back. That’s not you. What’s bothering you? Clearly there’s something up with you.” Jay acknowledges the issue at hand for once, point blank might I add. “You should talk to me about it. I’m listening. You have my full attention.” Jay assures me, before adding quietly, “You always do.” he ends, keeping a steady gaze on me as he waits patiently for me to say something in return.

Oh, so the one time I have his full attention is when I don’t want it. Right now the limelight should be on someone else. Not me.

“I’m tired. It’s been a long day. I think I should just sleep for like a decade or two.” I answer, trying to hint that I’m not ready to talk about this with him.

“That’s your excuse.” Jay raises one eyebrow in amusement, “C’mon Aqueela, you can do better than that.”

“No I can’t.” I huff, frustrated, as I pull a couch pillow to me and hug it tightly trying to emphasize my need to sleep. “Carry me to bed so I can sleep.” I say, adding a fake yawn just in case he didn’t buy it.

Jay rolls his eyes at me for being childish and for lying straight to his face.

“As much as I’d like to take your little delicate form in my arms and whisk you off to bed in my arms right this instant…that’s not really my style…too Clarke Kent or Tony Stark for my liking.” Jay flashes me his billion dollar smirk, his cheeky smirk that has found a way to grow on me. It’s only intact when he’s entertained or simply having fun, or in this case…trying to distract me with his boyish charm.

I sit up straight, my attention caught as my cheeks begin to flush at his insinuation. If Jay sees this he sure doesn’t make it known. “Hey! I actually like Tony Stark!” I lift the pillow I was holding and whack it in his face to stop his stupid grin from widening. He was loving my reaction.

Jay winks at me once I stop hitting him with the pillow, his blue eyes glowing with delight and amusement, “Do I have your co-operation now then?” he asks, making me realize he’d said all that to get my attention. It was a ploy. Stupid evil mastermind!

Wow…why does it suddenly feel like we just reversed roles. I’m the one usually trying to get his sole attention.

“I hate you.” I grumble, still humiliated at his flirtatious comment.

Jay lifts my chin with his thumb, forcing me to look up into his eyes, “If only that were true.” he teases as I slap his hand away, blushing all the more.

This must be fun for him.

I try to change the subject as quickly as possible to avoid another awkward situation, “You have one hell of a temper. You need to go to anger management sessions or something. You made Yolanda cry.” I hiss, reminding him of his unacceptable behavior earlier on.

Jay’s taken aback by the sudden change in atmosphere. He sees that I’m not playing around anymore. His smile falters for a split second before vanishing completely, “That’s what’s bugging you? How I acted?” I nod at his question, being truthful.

“I’ve never seen you get so mad before.” I say my thoughts aloud, “I’m not a fan. It was my day. It was suppose to be my day to break and lose it. It was my day to react, to get angry, to get out everything that I was feeling. But you…you didn’t give me that chance.”

His blue eyes cloud over with anguish, “I’m sorry Aqueela. It’s just…” he falters as if thinking if he should say what he was about to say or not. I give him an an encouraging glance, motioning for him to get out with it, “She hurt you.”

I nod, “Yeah…we gathered that all ready some time ago.”

Now I’m confused.

“Yeah but…she hurt you. She hurt you Aqueela.” Jay mutters beneath is breath, trying to relay to me what he was meaning. Without warning, he lifts up one of the sleeves of my shirts to take a look at the scares left behind from my abuse.

I watch Jay heedfully as a fierce look flickers across his eyes like a burning meteorite shooting through a black darkened sky, “She did this to you.” he says softly, his voice vulnerable yet his eyes saying something else all together. “And I let it happen. I should’ve stopped it sooner.”

Feeling ashamed, I suddenly flinch back from him and pull my arm away from his grasp. But Jay’s not having it. He grabs hold of my arm again as I cower back, not wanting him to inspect my arm so thoroughly. “Hey hey hey…” he soothes gently, successfully calming me down with his comforting tone, “You can trust me.”

“I know that.” I whisper, suddenly aware of his close proximity. I try to pull back again, but this only results in Jay pulling me forward so that I fall into him instead.

My breath hitches when I notice that there’s no space separating us anymore.

He’s too close.

“Then stop pulling away from me.” he demands before his head dips slightly. I watch nervously as his fingers brush against my skin, tracing my fading scars.

A thoughtful expression crosses his features before he presses his lips gently to my wrist. My heart speeds up at the action whilst his lips linger against my skin, his warm breath caressing my wrist.

And then just like that…he pulls away completely.

He always does…

“C’mon.” he says, standing up as if nothing happened, “Lets get you to bed, Tony Stark style.” he smiles softly before he lifts me up into his arms and carries me to my bedroom. I tense at his touch, too shocked to react. I wasn’t expecting that.

I watch him, speechless, as he places me in my bed and covers me like a gentleman would do. Jay’s no gentleman, Everyone knows that. “You’ve had a rough day. You need to sleep. We’ll talk more in the morning.” he says before turning to leave the room.

“But what if I want to talk more now?” I protest, beyond puzzled by his behavior today. He’s not acting like himself. There’s definitely something up with him.

He doesn’t turn to face me.

He merely shakes his head before switching the lights off in the room. “Good night Aqueela.” he whispers before he closes the door shut after him.

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