Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 31: Just Try and Stop Me

“Wake up.” he demands for the umpteenth time and again I just turn over and ignore him, lulling myself back to sleep. “Aqueela, get up.” he repeats. I never thought I’d hate hearing his voice before now. I moan and choose not to comply, burying my head into my pillow. Before I know it, the covers are removed off me.

I wanted to talk two nights ago, but Jay wanted me to sleep. Yet now when I want to sleep, he decides he wants to talk.

I jolt up in panic, rushing to get my covers back. He’s intruding my private space by doing this. “Back off Jay.” I whine sleepily, glancing around my dark room with no light in sight what so ever, “It’s like three AM in the morning. What’s your deal?” I complain, letting out a yawn of exhaustion.

“It’s three, yes, but three pm you idiot.” Jay corrects me.

“Yeah right. Then why is my room is so dark?” I ask, wanting to disprove his stupid statement.

Jay taps his chin in mock thought as I blink up at him innocently and rather tiredly, “Hhmm, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because of the black plastic bags you hung up all over you room, including the window, to block out all the light.”

Oh yeah…totally forgot about that…

“That’s a preposterous theory.” I try to defend myself. “I’m not a crazy person.”

Jay shakes his head at me impishly, “First off, you are a crazy person. And second and I’m quoting you now, ‘Jay I can’t sleep with light. Ooh plastic bags would do the trick. It would seem like night all day long’.” Jay mocks me in a high pitched girly voice that sounds so unlike me.

However, I did say all that.

I glare at him, “I do not sound like a wounded puppy juggling marbles in its mouth!” I hiss at Jay and his terrible annotation of my voice. “And besides…I forgot I had put black plastic bags up all over in my room. That just proves my idea was great. On the other hand, the night did feel awfully long.”

Jay rolls his eyes at my rambling before leaning down toward me and yanking me out of bed, “I would’ve let you sleep more. Hell I’d let you sleep forever seeing as the house is so peaceful, but unfortunately I had to wake you because you have a visitor downstairs.”

My eyes snap oven again a the word ‘visitor’. Immediately I jump out of bed, shoving Jay aside excitedly, “Oooh visitor! We have a visitor!” I squeal happily, clapping my hands repeatedly much to Jay’s frustration with me growing. “You could’ve just said that from the start than your boring lecture Jay!” I snap, pushing him out my room, well his guestroom, to change out my PJ’s that no doubt Jay had now seen.

I change into a colourful sundress before running downstairs to meet this visitor of mine. I glance around the lounge questioningly. Jay seems to already know my question as he answers it, “He’s waiting outside. He insists on not coming in. I think he’s still pissed with you.”

Well now…what male is pissed with me at the moment? That doesn’t rule a lot of people out. My list hasn’t been narrowed. There’s a lot of males pissed of with me at the moment.

I open the door ecstatically to see no one. I frown. Then there’s coughing from below. My eyes drop down to the floor where the short pudgy kid stands. I sigh mentally before slamming the door closed. Well that was disappointing. “No visitor in sight.” I say to Jay but he sees through my lie.

Jay grumbles curse words beneath his breath about always having to answer the door for me. He, being courteous and polite, invites the devil into his house. “Cool Guy Jay, good to see you.”

Jay grins down at him in a friendly manner before fist bumping his fist, “Sup Buddy.”

“More like sup pudgy or porky.” I mutter to myself, annoyed.

The kid narrows his eyes at me having heard my slip of the tongue, “Well to be quite frank Babe, Cool Guy Jay can do a lot better.” Blubber grins, sizing me up with his perverted eyes. My mouth falls agape at his comment as Jay cracks up laughing at Blubber’s insinuation. Blubber’s eyes roam over my body seamlessly yet again, “However…I’ll meet you halfway and compromise. I’m single, you’re single and you know where to find me.” he winks suggestively.

“No.” I shake my head, “Wait, is it the ball pit?” I smirk teasingly.

“No.” he glares,”Just call me instead Sweet Cheeks.” Blubber smirks, clicking his tongue flirtatiously at me before sending me the ‘call me’ sign with his chubby fingers.

Jay laughs aloud at this, enjoying seeing me squirm in discomfort no thanks to this psycho pervert baby child in front of me. I send a glare Jay’s way and immediately he shuts up.

“I wasn’t going to bring this up, but seeing as you’re being so civil today, I won’t hold back. You looking a little pink my friend.” It’s my turn to wink playfully as I purposely slap Blubber on the back.

“Owe mother fudge!” he shouts, jumping up at my soft tap to his back. I smirk to myself. He was asking for it. “I’m only pink as you say because you let me fall asleep in midday without sunblock!” The funniest part is that he was wearing shades that day. His entire face is red except around his eyes, that part is still white.

Ah good times…

“Awe boo hoo!” I mock cry as I wipe the fake tears away from my eyes. I then turn to Jay for a high five, “That was good huh. Huh?” I grin, waiting for my high five, but he leaves me hanging.

“Not cool Aqueela. He’s just a kid.” Jay reprimands me, clarifying the fact that I seem to always forget.

“Well it’s not my fault he acts like a sixty year old pervert.” I mumble and pout, folding my arms stubbornly across my chest. “I’ve never been good with kids.” I mutter aloud.

“I figured.” Blubber says with a mischievous grin forming on his lips, “That’s exactly how I came up with my revenge plan…an army of kids.”

“What?” I ask suspiciously, suddenly feeling cornered. I turn to Mr Grumpy, “Jay, what’s he talking about?”

Blubber cuts Jay off from answering, “I’m sorry Jay. With you, it’s nothing personal. You’re just collateral damage.” Just then Blubber whistles. It’s literally a few seconds before I hear screaming and then in a flash there’s about a billion kids surrounding the outside of Jay’s house.

I narrow my eyes at Jay, “Why the hell did you let me invite Satan into my house?!” I shout at him, blaming him for this. He’s the one that let Blubber in, not me.

“It’s my goddamn house, not yours!” Jay shouts back, not concerned about the army of kids but more concerned about the fact that I was taking over his house.

“Attack!” Blubber shouts, stepping aside as to let the kid inside the house.

I’m about to sprint upstairs and lock myself in Jay’s room, but Jay himself has other plans. “Oh hell no!” he yells, “Those buggers are not trashing my house. They want you, fine. They can have you!” he raises his tone and before I know it I’ve been shoved outside the house into the kids’ army along with Blubber, the chief commander of them.

I run back to the front door only to find that Jay had locked himself in.

“Open up Jay!” I shout, banging my knuckles on his door, “You never leave a man behind! Don’t break protocol! You’ve come this far.”

“It’s nothing personal Aqueela, but my house has been trashed by enough people as it is! You’re weak, you’re their prey. It’s just how food chains work! Deal with it!” he shouts back from within the safety of his house.

“I see how it is!” I shoot back, aware that he’s a neat freak. He literally won’t be able to handle a ton of kids running around his house and dirtying it. He’ll have a fit. “You good for nothing traitor!”

When I don’t get a reply, I turn back to face the little monsters. They’re all watching me with vicious eyes, waiting for Blubber to command them yet again.

I’m vulnerable now. There’s no escape from their slimy clutches.

“Back demons, back.” I warn, flaying my hands back and forth, failing to come off as threatening.

It’s then that I see all the kids holding catties, ready to fire at me. They lift their weapons at my comment and aim at my head. I close my eyes, preparing for the sting of jawbreakers, which just so happened to be the weapons they were firing.

Blubber lifts his hand, “Seize fire.”

Immediately they all lower their weapons. I can’t help but wonder how Blubber became in control of such an elite army.

“I won’t let them touch you if you promise to go out on one date with me.” Blubber says, trying to persuade me into his evil will.

“I’d rather go down fighting!” I scream, definitely not agreeing to go out with a thirteen year old, especially not Blubber. He’s disgusting. He might be young but he isn’t innocent. He has a filthy mind and he creeps me out.

“Suite yourself.” Blubber lifts his arm again as the kids charge me, shouting at the top of their lungs. “Take her to the torture camp!” Blubber shouts in a demanding voice and before I know it, the kids have lifted me up and are now carrying me as if I had just stage dived into a crowd.

“Put me down you animals!” I yell, only for all my threats to fall on deaf ears. Little bastards!

“Aqueela?” I hear a familiar voice over the kids’ shouting.

I glance his way to see a bewildered Max. Yeah…I can imagine how this must look right now. I’m being carried away by ten year old’s against my will to who knows where and they refuse to let me go.

I’m being kidnapped by ten year old’s.

Naturally, I decide to play it cool.

I give Max a subtle head nod, “Sup Max.” I wave casually, pretending that being paraded around by kids was the norm. “Just a…just a chilling, hanging out with a few good buddies of mine.”

If I were Max, I so would have bought that.

“What have you done this time Aqueela?” Max immediately asks with a frown.

Why do people automatically assume that I did something?!

Jeeze, I’m not always the cause of trouble.

“She burnt me, literally and figuratively.” Blubber answers for me, being rather dramatic in the process. Just because I said no to a date and might have accidentally forgot to wake him whilst he was sleeping in the sun.

Okay so maybe 1 out of 10 times I do have something to do with it.

“Why’d you sick little kids on her? Other than you being completely red all over. Dude were you wearing sunglasses or something because your eyes are…” Max trails off in his questions when Blubber gives him a narrowed glare for his last comments.

I still try to get free from their filthy clutches, but to no avail. These little bros are stronger than they look.

“Because she won’t compromise.” Blubber explains, answering Max’s first question as Max tries to negotiate a way out of this for me.

“Save me Max!” I shout in desperation as I am taken further away from him much to my terror. “I think they’re planning on eating me!”

“Well she has to compromise.” Max tells Blubber, ignoring my pleas. Whose side is he on? “I need her right now for something equally important so could you please call off your attack dogs.” Max asks politely. That’s rare. This must be serious. Max hasn’t needed me since MMAs.

Why am I always needed by everyone? On any normal occasion I would flat out refuse to help Max because we have a love-hate thing going on, but today I’ll do absolutely anything for him so long as he doesn’t let these Teletubbies feed on me.

“I like you MaxMan, so I’ll be on point here and make this simple for you.” Blubber states like some real businessman. MaxMan? Cool Guy Jay? What planet did this kid get kicked off from? “Aqueela is hot, yes?” he poses his statement as a question to Max, waiting for Max to agree.

Max shrugs, “Meh.” he answers. Meh?! Did he really just ‘meh’ me? “To some extent I suppose, but her physco personality is off putting. Then again, I practically dated her and I was her first kiss and love and crush and all that jazz so I guess we have a special connection in some real stuffed up way.”

Yeah Max is a dead man when I get free…if I get free…

“But to be practical, yeah, Aqueela is hot physically, but only physically, you got to be a whole lot crazy to take all of her on. I leave that to Jay and thoroughly respect him for taking up such a mental case.” Max concludes.

Even deader man…

“Personally her physco character is a real turn on for me.” Blubber states when Max interrupts with shock, “A turn on?! What turn on? You’re like eight years old.”

Blubber scowls at him and crosses his stubby arms across his round belly, “Well that’s just insulting. I’m thirteen.”

Max chuckles, “Not helping your case little bro.”

“The point is…” Blubber glares at him before adding, “Aqueela will not be set free until she agrees to one date with me and it has to be on my terms.”

“Don’t do it Max!” I shout after him. There’s no way I’m going out with Blubber. I’ve had enough bad dates as it is. Dylan’s one was enough for me. I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a blunt object than go with Blubber anywhere. “Just punch him! Drop kick his ass! Knock him out! KO! KO! KO!” I chant repeatedly as Max turns to me with an incredulous expression.

What is it now?

“Not cool Aqueela. He’s just a kid.” Max retorts with a disappointed look directed at me for even suggesting that option.

He’s exactly like Jay.

Gosh…people with moral compasses…they suck the fun out of everything…am I right or am I right?

“I swear Max, you better not make me do anything I don’t want to or it’s on you and by that I mean I will be on you, killing you that is!” I hiss, already aware that Max wasn’t going to listen to a thing I was saying.

He doesn’t seem very phased.

Are my threats that empty these days?

I’m losing my touch.

“She’ll do it. She’ll go a date with you.” I vaguely hear Max say as I’m quite far from them now as the kids run with me up and down the street. This is worse than a roller coatser. I feel so dizzy. I think I’m going to puke. Was that their goal? Judging by their beady little eyes and taunting smirks I can tell it was.

“Great, I’ll see her sometime this week then.” Blubber says all too happily, then turns to his minions and lifts his arm.

Suddenly I’m being dropped in the middle of the street on my back.

Flip that hurt!

I think I just broke my spine!

I quickly jump to my feet, not waiting to express weakness in front of the evil munchkins. They’ll sniff it out. “That’s right. You better run you little spineless devils who have now made me spineless!” I shout, suddenly more brave than I was a second ago.

Yeah I know…I’m all talk.

“Aqueela watch out!” I hear Max shout in fear just as I hear a car hoot. I fall back down onto my back as reflex, instinct. The vehicle slams on breaks over me. I find myself staring at the underneath of a car. Wow…that was freaken awesome! My heart is racing. “Get out of the street Aqueela!” Max shouts, but I’m too scared to move at this point. If I move out from underneath the car I might really get hit by a bus or a truck or a jet or something.

Someone jumps out the car and kneels down to see who they’d almost ridden over and killed. His grey eyes are alarmed but as soon as his eyes meet mine they shower in fury. “You. Are. A. F**king. Psychopath.” I hear him say through gritted teeth as if very very very infuriated.

I bat my eyelashes innocently up at him as I offer him a sheepish wave like I’d done with Max. I’m playing it cool. “Sup Grey. It’s been a while. We have to stop meeting like this.” I grin cheekily before adding, “By the way, the underneath of your car is fantastic. Did you get it serviced? It’s all shiny bro. Liking the new rims Home Slice. How you like dem apples? This thing needs an upgrade. You got that new nos yet? It’s sick man! Off the chains yo dawg!”

“Are you suicidal now too!?” he asks sarcastically, blatantly ignoring my warm greeting.

“Well with your attitude I could be.” I retort, taking up to him by being just as rude. I love it.

“And for the billionth time, I don’t even talk like that. Just because I race cars doesn’t mean I’m a gangster. So drop the nos, the yo’s, the ‘off the chains’, the Home Slice and the damn dawg!” he scolds me on the same thing that he always does.

I can’t help it. It’s fun messing with him. I know he hates it when I speak like that to him.

“What? No hello? Is this how you treat all your fake fiances?” I ask innocently, pushing for a reaction.

Fun fun fun for everyone!

“I should have just run you over while I had the chance.” I hear him mutter as he offers me his hand, pulling me out from underneath his car. I stand up and dust myself off, thanking Grey for being semi-polite for once.

Almost immediately, I’m embraced from behind tightly by someone and lifted off my feet. “Shit! I honestly thought you were going to die back there!” Max raises his tone in relief as he spins me around, my back still sore.

“Is that why we’re celebrating?” Grey asks, implying that he’d celebrate if I died. Whatever. He’s just saying that. He’d be crying the most at my funeral. We have a unique bond.

I shove Max away, still mad at him, “Oh no! You’re not getting off that easy.” I point an accusing finger in his face just as Grey asks, “Where’s Jay? That’s the only reason why I’m tolerating this bizarreness.”

I point to Jay’s front door, “Have you tried his house? He’s usually there like most people who own houses that aren’t vacant, but occupied.” I say sarcastically, “But good luck getting in. He’s being particularly melodramatic and moody today.”

Grey heads for Jay’s house, ignoring my sarcasm, as I hear him mutter, “Can’t possibly imagine why.”

“I heard that!” I call after him only to receive the middle finger in return as he keeps walking, not bothering to face me.

Rude son of a gun!

He obviously doesn’t want to spend another second in my presence. Probably because he can’t handle my level of legendaryness…and Max’s…well Max in general really…he’s quite the handful.

“Dress sexy babe.” Blubber salutes me with a suggestive wink before he and his stupid little gang of brats vanish around the street corner. I wonder who they’re going to terrorize next?! Poor soul.

“Max!” I scream, hitting him hard upside the head only to receive no reaction from him, “This is all on you!”

Max ignores my complaints as he grabs hold of my upper arm and begins dragging me after him forcefully, “Right now you’ve got more important things to tend to.” is all he says.

Please, I never do anything remotely important…

Everybody should know that by now!


“Are you stupid Max?!” I whisper shout, “I’m not doing this. You can’t make me. I refuse.” I hiss, placing my hands on my hips as I defy him and stand my ground.

“Please.” Max begs, “I’m trying to help here.”

“Max, she hates me. She doesn’t want to see me anymore. She said so herself.” I elaborate my reasoning for backing out on this as we both stare at Bells who is waiting for Max in the ice-cream parlour. Little does she know that she’s actually waiting for me.

Yeah…Max’s elaborate scheme for you.

“You guys have been fighting enough and now I’m sick of it. If you two won’t talk it out then I’ll make you both talk it out.” Max says fiercely and threateningly before shoving me through the open glass doors and right into the ice-cream parlour.

Immediately I begin to panic and look for an escape. Maybe I can dodge Bell’s view. I begin looking around for places to hide when my eyes fall on Bells and the worst part is…she’s looking straight at me.

So of course I turn to flee back out, only to find Max bolting the doors closed. He can’t be serious? What is it with people locking me out or in places today? I knock on the glass doors, mouthing to Max to open the damn doors. He shakes his head and motions to Bells. I narrow my eyes at him, absolutely furious. I narrow my eyes at him before drawing my finger over my throat and then pointing to him. Yes, I did just threaten to slit his throat.

He isn’t going to let me out until I talk to Bells.

Bastard!

“Aqueela?”

Awe fudge knuckles!

I slowly turn around to face her. She’s not seated anymore and is instead standing right before me. Good, then she’d see that this was Max. But when I turn back to the glass door, Max is out of sight. Damn him and his ninja assassin skills! Now she thinks that I’m responsible for this.

I close my eyes and let out a breath, releasing my dreaded fears of facing her. It was time we talk this out.

I cannot believe I’m even admitting this, but Max is right.

“Hey Bells.” I mumble, turning back to her with no way to escape. “So before you yell at me, the door is locked and it wasn’t me who set this up.” I clear the air, not prepared to die.

There’s only one person I fear and that just so happens to be the brunette beauty I use to call ‘sister’ and who is now standing right before me with a deadly frown.

She simply nods, not saying much except for, “Max right?” I nod thsi time, answering her question. She’s smart. Of course she’d suspect Max. He’s the link between us because he’s friends with both of us. “Listen Aqueela, I’m kind of glad Max did this.” she confesses much to my ear’s surprise.

I raise my eyebrows, not sure if I had heard correctly, “You are?”

This is news to me.

“Yeah…” she falters, “I’ve been meaning to come see you. I uh…um I heard all about your step mom and I…well I…I should have been there.” she swallows as she adverts her eyes from mine, obviously feeling guilty about the whole ordeal.

“Nah, it’s understandable. I hurt you.” I say, trying to defend her against her own attacks.

None of it was her fault.

“But Aqueela, you had to go through so much and I wasn’t there because I was being a flippen idiot, trying to figure who I am without you. Funny thing is, I found my answer and it was pretty damn ironic.” she says and then goes onto explain, “I’m no one without you Aqueela, without my best friend, my sister, my family, you.” she concludes and for a split second I feel like I might just explode from the happiness she just brought me with those words. She returns my smile and in that moment we both know that our bickering is over. We’re done fighting. And with that said mentally, girl code, Bells leaps forward and wraps her arms around me, drawing me in for a long embrace, one we both needed, “I missed you Aqueela.” she whispers.

“Same here.” I reply as we step back from each other, mirroring lively smiles that no one else could replace. “So how are you coping now that Troy is gone?” I ask seeing as I’ve been wondering about it for a while. The two were so close. It must be difficult on Bells.

“I was prepared, so I guess I’m okay. I mean I obviously miss him, but it’s not like it’s the last time I’ll ever see him. He’s my brother. I’ll still see him.” Bells answers and then raises a perfectly plucked eyebrow at me with a mischievous smile, “So update me on absolutely everything I’ve missed and include deets.”

A massive grin takes over my features as I loop my arms through hers and drag her to the nearest table, relieved that Dylan isn’t working today. I tell her all she’s missed, but carefully avoid the Mason topic at all costs.

I’m busy listening to Bells story when I hear some warrior cry and before I know it, I’m being lifted up from my seat and squished into a round belly.

Simo.

It can only be.

“Sprinkle! Sprinkle!” he chants in my ear and much to my relief, Bells saves me and pulls me out of Simo’s flabby arms. Simo glances from Bells to me with an enormous smile, spreading from ear to ear. “Sprinkle friend with Bella again. That make Simo very very very very very very very very very very very very happy.” Simo says and for once I find myself agreeing with him.

I turn to Bells with a happy go lucky grin, “Have I told you how much I missed you? When you weren’t here, there was no one around to save me. All my so called friends would just stand around and let Simo suffocate me. I missed having a girl friend around. Guys are animals.”

“But that’s how you like them, no?” Bells comments playfully whilst wiggling her eyebrows. “Seeing as Jay is the biggest animal of all.”

I laugh aloud at this, “You’ve got to be kidding me. This coming from the one who is so crushing on Max Mills, the guy that I cannot even classify as a human being.”

Bell’s mouth falls agape at this, much to my amusement. “I do not!” she protests in vain. I drop the subject for her sake, but it was so obvious.

“Damn straight Sista!” Simo chirps in whilst snapping his fingers rather dramatically. “Simo think Bells so do.” Simo adds, backing me up on this one, making kissy faces at Bells before squealing in high pitched laughter like some little teenage girl feeding off gossip and secrets.

Okay, since when did Simo join our gossip clang?

Bells either ignores the fact that Simo has joined our private conversation or she just doesn’t notice seeing as she treats him as one of our own. She scoffs at Simo as she would do with a girl that peeved her off, “Please Simo, you the one to talk. It’s crystal clear that you’re madly in love with Sprink - I mean Aqueela.”

This said, my eyes widen as I immediately turn my gaze to Simo to see his reaction. Unexpectedly, he begins to turn beetroot red. Then in a blink of an eye he starts running away whilst screaming at the top of his lungs, right out the store when he’s still suppose to be working on shift.

He’s gone in a flash.

Who would have thought that he could move so fast?

I turn to Bells with a narrowed glare, “See what you just did. You chased the poor guy away. You humiliated him. That was unnecessary and uncalled for. He has feelings too Bells.” I scold her, a little ticked off.

Simo is my friend. No one hurts my friends. No. One.

Bells sees my disappointment as she lifts both hands in surrender, “Okay Aqueela, first off, you know me better. I would never say something at the expense of someone else’s feelings. I didn’t think I was right. I mean sure, the guy has a massive crush on you…but I never thought that he could actually be in lo-“

“It really doesn’t matter to me how many by the dozen love Aqueela. The fact is, I’m the lucky bastard that gets to take her out on a date. And when you go out with ‘Blubber The Great’ you fall in love instantly. I will melt her heart and the competition will be dropping like flies.”

I grumble aloud at hearing his voice. I thought I had got rid of him for the day.

Bells giggles at Blubber’s words as she takes in his pudgy red blistered form, “Puhleeease! The day you get Aqueela to agree to go out with you will be the day hell freezes over because Satan got lazy.”

I don’t say anything, aware that a deal was made and unfortunately I always live up to a deal…even if I wasn’t the one who made it.

Blubber sneers at Bells before whipping on a devious grin as he turns his perverted gaze onto me and flashes me a wink. I feel like upchucking at this point. He then turns back to Bells with determination to prove his damn point, “Well Sweetheart, put me in a red jumpsuit, give me a pair of horns and you might as well call me the devil, because I just got damn lazy and hella lucky.”

When I don’t deny what he’s saying and Bells looks to me for an explanation, I simply say, “Ask your boyfriend.” Obviously I’m referring to Max. He’s the only one who could possibly commit such a heinous crime. He possesses the skill, the talent and the wit necessary to go through with such evil. Of course I’d never admit any of that to him. His ego is already the size of a planet.

“Oh and Babe, you’re paying. I used all my pocket money on ice-cream.” Blubber informs me and what scares me is the fact that he’s being dead serious.

My eyes widen at this as my mouth falls agape. The audacity of this man child! He begs for a date but makes me pay. “When!?”

“Right now.” he answers as he orders a bubblegum ice-cream and purposely licks it slowly in front of me, making me incredibly envious. The little gloat! “See you sometime this week Gorgeous.” Blubber blows a kiss at me before he exits the store.

I glance back at Bells to see the cheeky grin forming on her lips, “Don’t even.” I breathe as she begins to giggle. She’s enjoying this. “I will kill Max one of these days. I swear it!”

“You and I both.” Bells mumbles and I raise an eyebrow questioningly at this. She huffs at seeing my expression. “You’d think he’d ask me out by now.”

He’s planning to. But that’s for Max to share, not me.

Speaking of the devil…

“Look who I found wandering the streets. He’s been whining like a baby for the past ten minutes straight. What did you do to him Aqueela?” Max asks casually whilst comforting a tearful Simo. He really has the audacity to accuse me of something so horrendous when it’s not my fault. Plus, I’m still mad at him.

“Max, you are pushing me today.” I warn fiercely before pointing to Bells, “She’s the one who made him cry, not me. I would never hurt Simo. He’s a friend.”

Simo seems to brighten a little at my words, a faint smile gracing his lips, his eyes still wet from his tears. Max, on the other hand, seems stunned at my words as he turns to Bells for an explanation.

Bells offers a sheepish smile, seemingly ashamed of her previous actions, “I swear it was an accident and not at all intentional.”

I choose to back her up. Knowing how much she likes Max, she would not want him to think of her badly in any sort of way nor be humiliated in front of him. “It was all a misunderstanding.” I say, speaking my mind. Max raises a skeptical eyebrow, unconvinced. Sometimes he’s just too intelligent, when he wants to be that is. I sigh, knowing that I was going to have to take the fall for this one, for Bell’s sake. “I guess in a way I was partially the instigator.” I lie for the greater good. This way, I won’t tarnish Bells goody goody rep. Max expected it to be me in any case. It’s not like I lose anything. Bells would. She’d lose Max’s respect. Rather me.

“Called it!” Max says, clicking his fingers excitedly. “You’re always the trouble maker.”

Bells offers me a grateful smile in return. I nod, letting her know that we were good. I turn to Simo and offer him a comforting smile, “I’m sorry Sims. You going to be okay big guy?” I ask gently, feeling responsible in a twisted way.

Simo shakes his head, a cheeky yet mischievous smile forming on his lips, his frown having faded, his eyes glowing thoughtfully, evilly. Max takes his side, nothing short of expected. Max has a tendency to admire an underdog, hence how he befriended me to begin with. He has a soft spot for my kind…the outcasts.

Max agrees with Simo, “You’re going to have to do better than ‘sorry’ this time Aqueela. You made him cry.”

I grind my teeth, now furious with Simo for actually forgetting that it was Bell’s fault. He seems to think that it was in fact my fault. His memory is worse than that of a goldfish. Doofus! My big doofus!

I glance up at Simo from my seat, “How can I make it up to you Sims?” Simo rubs his hands together menacingly before pointing to his chubby cheek. “Huh?” I frown, furrowing my eyebrows. He points to his cheek again, this time puckering his lips and making a kissy face.

Oh no!

“Um…Aqueela? I think Simo wants a kiss.” Bell says, pointing out the obvious as always.

I swear, between Simo and Blubber I’ll never catch a break.

Max smirks at this, thoroughly enjoying this. Pure evil. “You better do what he asks Aqueela. You owe him. You made him cry.” Max emphasizes the last part, reminding me yet again of something I didn’t do.

Sure, Simo drives me insane. But fact of the matter is that he’s one of my closest friends. I would never dare make a friend of mine cry…at least not intentionally, especially not Simo. He’s special. I guess in a way I have a soft spot for him too.

I lean to my side and whisper in Bell’s ear, “You so owe me for this. Big time.” She stifles her laughter in response, but nods none the less, agreeing.

Between Max and Bells I’ve landed up with a date with Blubber and a kiss to Simo…worst friends ever!

I stand, grumbling curses beneath my breath in the process, and take hold of Simo’s face in between my hands. He just about has a heart attack at my actions and I can practically feel his heart racing. Someone is nervous…

I close my eyes and sigh mentally. “Wasting daylight here!” Max retorts loudly.

He won’t let this go.

I open my eyes to come face to face with Simo’s dark impatient yet innocent eyes, “You’re sly, you know that?” I say before quickly pecking him softly on the cheek and then pulling away immediately before I felt too sick.

Max claps his hands enthusiastically, delighted whilst Bells falls into a fit of giggles. I roll my eyes at the two of them before I hear a loud thump and feel the floors shake from the impact.

I turn back around to see Simo on the ground…unconscious.

Ah great!

“Nice going Aqueels. You killed him.” Max says bitterly, whilst ‘tsking’ me and shaking his head when he’s the one who made me kiss Simo on the cheek in the first place.

Before I can even insult him or say anything back, Bells is already ranting and raving, beside herself, completely on her own mission. “I got you covered Aqueels. Where, when and how are we going to get rid of the body? I can bury it for you. I’m prepared to get down and dirty for you girl. What is our cover story going to be? We need a valid alibi that will hold up. You should probably get rid of any evidence and-“

“Woah!” Max interrupts, cutting Bells off as he raises his hands defensively. “Chill out for a sec yo. He just fainted. Damn girl.” Max says, stunned to the core, as he stares at Bells incredulously.

Hahaha and here he thought his precious Bells was pure and innocent.

Wrong!

He doesn’t know her like I do.

“Oh.” is all Bells says, now embarrassed. She was simply following the Bequeela Code is all. We’ve been over this scenario before. Don’t judge.

“It should scare me how invested you two are in this. It should terrify me that you two are prepared for this kind of thing. But hey, call me physco, I find it hot for some reason.” Max adds with a charming grin directed at Bells.

I roll my eyes at how easily Bells gives and blushes red. I slap Max upside his head, “Would you just shut your mouth already?”

“Did I really just witness all that?” a familiar voice asks aloud.

I close my eyes tightly. Please no. Not now.

“Sup Jay. Grey.” Max greets and thus my theory is confirmed. It’s definitely him.

I force my eyes open to see Jay’s frown and Grey’s repulsed expression.

“Hey Max, how’s it going?” Jay greets, keeping his eyes on me all the while, still seemingly shocked at what he just saw. It’s as if he’s asking for an explanation. Grey, on the other hand, merely scowls at Max and me, clearly showing his disdain for us. He could at least try make it not so obvious that he hates us and cannot stand our guts. Ah well. I guess that’s grumpy Grey for you.

“Dude you missed it. Aqueela just planted one on Simo.” Max laughs as Bells stops laughing, shooting me a sympathetic glance. Yeah…this is all her fault.

“No, we saw it. All of it.” Jay states, his voice laced with the slightest tinge of irritation.

“I’ll never be able erase that image out of my head.” Grey comments as he shoves his way past me and takes a seat where I had been sitting across from Bells as if not having a care in the world.

Max must see my discomfort because he’s quick to fix his slip up, “On a brighter note…” he adds, before throwing both arms around Bells and and I, drawing us close to him, “My girls made up.”

I frown and push his arm off my shoulders before pointing an accusing finger at Bells and Max, “They made me do it!”

Jay frowns, arching a skeptical eyebrow, his eyes still focused on me, “You don’t owe me an explanation Aqueela.” he finally concludes and rather coldly might I add. “I mean…it’s just Simo. And we’re not…” he falters mid-sentence, not finishing.

Bell hears where this is going, as do I, as she raises her eyebrows in curiosity. Fortunately, she keeps her mouth shut and says nothing more on the topic to whatever it was Jay was implying. Instead, she changes the subject and motions to Grey sitting before her, “Aren’t you going to introduce us Aqueela?” she asks me politely and I shoot her a grateful smile for the nice save.

“Oh that’s Grey. He’s my best bud. We’re practically inseparable. He’s my Home-Slice.” I answer, moving over to Grey and leaning my elbows atop his head as he sits in my previous seat with a dark glare directed specifically at me.

“I swear Aqueela Lawson, one of these days I’m gonna-“

Jay cuts Grey off from finishing his obvious compliment directed at me, “Don’t. Leave it.” Jay warns sternly, the only one capable of reasoning with Grey and all his glorious evilness.

“Anyways…” I continue and gesture to Bells, “Grey this is my best friend Bells and Bells, as I’ve said, this is my best friend slash Homeboy Grey.”

Grey ignores my comment as he turns to Bells and nods his head, “Sup.”

Dude, you are so cool…

He thinks he’s the bloody epitome of ‘cool’.

“Hi.” Bells chirps, as friendly and charming as ever. I tell you that one has a way with socializing. “So I heard from the grapevine that you’re a track racer.” Bells comments, remembering the little I had mentioned about Grey earlier on when I was updating her on everything she’d missed out on.

Grey seems taken aback but shrugs none the less, “That I am.” he answers, playing nonchalant as always. Yet with Bells, I can already tell he’ll warm up to her before he does with me. He seems less hostile as it is. The proof is in the pudding.

“Do I want to even know who killed Simo?” a voice asks, one that I’ve grown to despise. “He’s suppose to be working a full shift today.” I turn to see Bex and Dylan entering and mentally sigh. I wish I could kick him out his own store. But I’m Aqueela Lawson…and I can do anything.

“Hey Dyl?” I ask in a friendly manner.

“Aqueela.” He greets, cold as ever. Oh how I remember the days where he use to obsess over me. The good ole days. Now he’s almost as horrible as Grey…almost…no one quite tops Grey.

“Do you mind closing the door from the other side?” I ask, more like demand.

It takes him a minute to register the meaning behind my words. If he’d closed the door from the other side, he’d be stuck outside the store. “Ha ha.” he replies sarcastically and rather bitterly.

I click my tongue playfully and high five Max as I turn to Dylan with a wink, “Almost had you.”

“Would you all shut up and give me a hand?” Jay asks, silencing us all as he struggles to get Simo up. “He’s damn heavy. He’s a hefty guy this.”

This is why I like Jay so much. He acts like he doesn’t give a shit about anyone, yet he’s always first on the scene to help a friend.

Max and Grey begin helping Jay get Simo to his feet while I turn to Dylan to cause some chaos. It’s the only way I know how to thrive.

“So how’s the two love sick puppies doing?” I ask with evil motive and intention as I glance between Dylan and Bex. “Have you two tried ‘The Naughty’ yet?” I ask, waggling my eyebrows playfully.

I watch in amusement as Bex turns bright red whilst Dylan gives me a lecture on privacy, “You can’t just ask a couple something like that Aqueela!”

I place my hands up in a surrendering motion as I take a defensive stance, “Jeeze, it was just a question. Why is your mind always in the gutter Dylan, you repulsive boy you?! I was talking about that new club that opened downtown you foolish imbecile. Gosh, someone just has sex on their minds.” I say, feigning disgust, even though my goal had been to embarrass the two of them from the start.

That one was for Benley!

“Oh…I-I…I thought that you meant…” Dylan stutters much to my entertainment.

I walk away, giving them room to breathe after that awkward bombshell I just dropped on the happy couple. That will teach them to mess with one of my good friends. I got your back Ben Ben!

I smile in the direction of Simo once I see that he’s awake and now sitting in a chair with a glass of water that Jay had given him. He’s pale, but hey he’s alive. I wink at him tentatively in a manner to suggest that I’m glad to see him still breathing, but of course Simo has to take it as a suggestive wink as he goes bright red in the face at the reminder.

Everyone turns to glower at me as if it was my fault. I open my mouth to defend myself when my cellphone begins ringing. I quickly turn away from the crowd and answers, noticing the caller I.D. , “What up Principal P?” I answer, enjoying myself thoroughly in the process. I am this man’s walking nightmare.

“Afternoon Miss Lawson. Oh, and as I’ve mentioned countless times before, please do refrain from using my first name. It’s just Principal Long to you.” he replies back in a rather professional tone as always.

The principal calls me on my cellphone every now and then. It’s a student care policy thing. What can I say? Principal P and I go way back…

“I thought we were on first name basis by now Peter.” I feign a dramatic sigh before continuing, “Nevertheless, what can I do for you today Mr P Long?”

Hahaha, Mr pee long, funny funny funny!

“I am going to cut this call short for your sake, mostly mine; you’re failing almost all your classes. By that I man mathematics and science, the two that will get you places. If you fail the end year examinations in those two subjects, you will fail the year and will have to repeat.” Principal Long informs me bluntly as I suck in a deep breath, trying to reassure myself that I could bounce back from such crap news.

But I can’t.

I exhale, trying to calm down but even my hands are now shaking. I try to joke to lighten the dim mood, “But wouldn’t you want me to repeat? That way you’d still get to see me and call me in for our usual chit chat when I apparently misbehave in class. Besides P, you’d miss the hell out of me. I’m your favourite student. By far.”

“To be quite frank, I’ve been waiting eagerly for your graduation day since your first week in my school when you sabotaged my office by placing polystyrene cups filled with water all along the exit. There was no place for me to step. I spent hours on end stuck in my own office. There’s not a chance that I’m going to let you fail your final year. You better pull your socks up. I’ve stepped in and assigned you a tutor for both subjects and you will improve before exam time. I refuse to see you again next year. You’ll put me in the ground early.” Principal P elaborates and explains in detail how badly my grades had dropped.

At the time, I didn’t care because I was preoccupied with my step mother, but now…now I’m flippen terrified of failing even though I’m not showing it.

“Who are my tutors?” I ask wearily, jokes aside.

“You’ll be pleased to know that I chose tutors from your usual friend group so as not to cause too much change since you defy change itself. Max Mills will be tutoring you in mathematics and Mason Montry will be tutoring you in science.”

The last eight words cause my world to stop spinning for a brief second, “Excuse me?” I ask, though sure that I’d heard correctly. “There must be someone else. I can’t work with Mason right now. It’s just…unacceptable.”

“You’re grades are on the line and Mr Montry is most suitable. Put aside conflicted emotions and just work with him. He’s a top student in science and he was all too eager to tutor you when everyone else I had originally asked declined the offer after hearing your name.”

Well now, that is just insulting…

“Including Mr Mills. But he agreed after much debate.”

Yup…I’m gonna kill Max. I’m gonna kill him.

“What about Bells Bensten? She can tutor me. She’s smart.” I suggest fervently.

“Bells Bensten resigned from the tutoring program about a week ago and on top of it, she doesn’t even take science.”

Damn…I forgot she dropped science!

“Why can’t Max just tutor me in science too?” I question, persistent on avoiding Mason at all costs.

Why did he even agree to tutor me?

Suddenly I’m reminded of his words…

“I’ve never given up on you Aqueela. I’m not about to start now.”

“Mr Mills is intelligent, yes, but he’s not a top achiever in science like he is in maths and you need the absolute best. Besides, Mr Mills will never agree to tutor you in two subjects. He says and I quote him now, ‘You lack intelligence and are impossible to smartify.”’

I’ll smartify his existence when I’m done with him! How dare he not mention any of this to me!

Then on impulse I ask something that I thought to never ask, “What if Jay Taylor agreed to help me improve my grade in science?”

There’s no pause from the other side of the line as a deep chuckle is to be heard, “You cannot possibly be serious. The last time Mr Taylor participated in anything was five years ago when he was still a junior who wasn’t so opinionated as he nowadays. However, everyone knows that he’s a wiz, top achiever and valedictorian in all things science related. I’ll tell you what, you get him to agree and we have ourselves a deal. Goodbye Miss Lawson.” P greets, before hanging up, leaving me frustrated and anxious about my future.

From the corner of my eye I see Jay making the effort to get Simo back to his normal childish self. Jay’s a good person. I know that. But how far can one push a good person? There is no way in hell he’ll agree to this. He doesn’t have the time. He has bills and rent to pay. He works two jobs and still needs to focus on his own school work. How can I be so selfish as to ask him to waste more time on me?

Jay happens to glance up in that moment and catches my eye, offering me a gentle smile, seemingly concerned. He leaves Simo with Max as he crosses over to me immediately, “You okay?” he asks softly, seeing right through me.

“Just peachy.” I lie, tainting myself with a smile. There’s no need to bother him any further.

He nods, “So listen…” he starts uncomfortably, slightly distracted as he lifts his arm to scratch the back of his neck nervously, “I’m racing tonight. Nothing serious. But I remembered that you like watching. So if you want…” he trails off, all of a sudden more reserved and shy, “you and Bella can tag along and come watch.”

I furrow my eyebrows, caught off guard by this side of him. I wasn’t expecting this. Jay is always confident and so sure of himself…but now he’s a spluttering gooey mess.

Jay must take my silence as his answer, “Only if you want.” he adds, adverting his blue shimmering eyes from mine as he glances down at the floor rather shyly, shifting in his spot anxiously.

“Wow.” I state, stunned. This has to be progress. “Usually I have to beg and plead for you to take my places, more often that not, stalk you. The tables have turned. Now you’re actually extending the invitation to me.”

Jay groans aloud before glancing back at me with those unfathomable pools of deep blue, “You don’t have to come.”

I shake my head at him furiously, “Oh no Mister. I’ll be there. You just try and stop me.” I grin slyly.

My words must please him because that smile he offers in return is breathtaking and absolutely worth seeing.

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