Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 32: Degenerate

“Wow!” Bell exclaims from beside me as she eyes the dusty track ahead of us, “This is so exciting! Is this even legal?” I shake my head in reply, “Even more exciting.”

I chuckle, “Trust you to find something illegal absolutely amazing.”

Bells grins in response, “What can I say?” she winks teasingly, “I’m a bad ass.”

I roll my eyes and shove her away playfully, “I know. You made a grown man cry. You don’t get any more bad ass than that.” I remind her, referring to Simo and his little meltdown earlier.

She frowns at me at bringing it up again, knowing that I was never going to let her live it down, “For the hundredth time, I never meant to do that.”

I shrug, “Still happened. Facts are facts.”

“You’re still mean.” Bells points out as she narrows her blue-green eyes at me tauntingly.

I nod, agreeing, “Yeah…but at least I don’t make people cry.”

I’m enjoying milking this. It’s not often where Bells messes up. It’s usually the other way round.

“I’m leaving.” she pouts, feigning sadness, before going back in the direction where we last saw Max, Grey and Jay go.

I, on the other hand, go wandering off on my own.

What can I say?

Exploring is fun.

I glance around the busy track area. Tonight must be somewhat of a serious race. Jay doesn’t seem too bothered about it though. Must be because he’s confident that he’ll win.

I’m disrupted from my thoughts when I see a blue GT come swerving in like a mad man. This should be interesting considering the driver is a crazy person. I watch intently as the winner of the current race steps out their GT. My eyes widen all the more when the person takes off the racing helmet only to reveal a female beneath all the insaneness. And she had won her race.

Yeah baby!!! Insert the female independence!

She smirks, as victor, at the losers only crossing the finish line now. Arrogant hmmm? I like her. Thus, I must befriend her.

I push past the crowds surrounding her and praising her, making my way right to the front where I see her in an argument with second place. “You f**king cheated Ems!” Second place roars.

She merely giggles in reply as if mocking him, “Said second place you f**king amateur.”

I have to hold back my own laughter. Yup…we’re going to get along really well.

Second place shakes his head, pissed off, before retreating with the crowd following after him to get the full story.

“Well hello there ‘First Place’.” I greet, moving in to see the famous red head street racer up close. I put out my hand in greeting, “I’m Aqueela and you’re goddamn cool.”

She doesn’t bother shaking my hand as a sly smirk curves her lips, “Ah, so you’re JT’s girl then?” she asks with raised eyebrows, expectant of my answer. I wonder where she even heard that from.

I furrow my eyebrows in thought and eventually decide to just go with it, “Yeah.” I reply happily, dropping my hand, “Yeah I am.” I lie, not really giving a damn. That’s what you get for making assumptions. “But how did you know that?” I question, prodding for an answer.

“Grey may have mentioned that you’re psychotic.” she shrugs as she places her red helmet beneath her left arm.

Of course Grey did that.

I frown and tap my chin in thought, “Still doesn’t explain how you knew who I was.”

She laughs at this much to my surprise, “Believe me…” she trails off with a genuine smile, “It does. Grey’s statement gave you away immediately. Think back to how you just introduced yourself to me.”

I snap my fingers in realization, “I thought it was normal enough.” I sigh, pouting at failing in being unweird. It’s a word now.

She chuckles, “It wasn’t.” she informs me, not sugar coating it at all.

“How do you know Grey and JT -I mean Jay?” I change the subject, accepting that I’ll never be quite normal and that’s fine.

“I don’t know Jay personally. He doesn’t talk much. But he’s reigning champion around here, a legend in the making, a celebrity if you will. He’s got quite the history. If you race here, it’s impossible not to have heard about him. As for Grey…well we go way back. He’s somewhat of a friend of mine.” red head explains, answering most of my questions.

That definitely sounds like Jay. He’s always been the silent mysterious type. That’s until you piss him off and really get to know him.

“Mhmmm. Interesting.” I say as I process this all, “I wasn’t aware that Grey had any friends. Forgive me for being rude, he just doesn’t seem like the friend type. He said so himself. Him and Jay have this thing that friends are overrated.”

The girl before me laughs aloud at this, “So they’re both still going on about that then?” I raise both my eyebrows, beyond lost. “Jay and Grey like to think that they don’t need anyone but themselves and they try to convince us all of the same thing. To them I say denial!” I grin at this. Yeah, we’re going to get along alright. She’s quick to add, “Oh and by the way we don’t shake hands around here. It’s kinda weird. Anyways, I’m Emma.”

“Sure sure ‘First Place’.” I remark, “So who was that stupid prick accusing you of cheating?”

Emma flashes me a playful grin, “That stupid prick would be my one and only older brother, Landon.”

“Oops. Sorry I didn’t know ‘Second Place’ was your-“

She laughs, waving off the matter, “It’s chill. He is a stupid prick, but ey at the end of the day, I love him. We share blood after all.” I nod, completely understanding. I considered Troy to be my brother even though I know I’m only fooling myself. “He’s just mad because I beat him again, the deadbeat.”

Before I even get the chance to reply, a dark as night black Gallardo revs it’s engine loudly, as if calling for attention. It does a few doughnuts, kicking up dust, as it finally comes to a spinning halt directly in front of us.

I notice Emma stiffen beside me as she sighs, “F**k. I thought he wasn’t attending tonight.”

Who?

A guy with shiny blonde hair in a tight navy blue v-neck outlining his torso steps out of the car. He takes a second or two to admire the scenery, by that I mean how skilled he parked his car, as if proud of himself and his own doings. Arrogance is practically dripping off him like sweat on a blazing hot day. His dark eyes immediately settle on Emma and blaze up like a wild fire as a slick smirk dominates his features until it’s the only thing I can focus on.

Dammit he’s good! And he hasn’t even said a word yet.

“Emma, what a delight to see you again.” he breaks the silence in a thick British accent as he lifts his chin proudly and stares Emma down, unmoved and oh so confident in his place.

“Xavier.” Emma mutters, sending off waves of discomfort.

Oh boy she does not like this Xavier guy. That, or she’s madly in love with him. Who knows? I’ve never really been a good judge of character. Just look at my friends as evidence. Most are delinquents, rebels, complete idiots or simply…to put it lightly…insane.

His smirk transforms into a kilowatt grin at Emma’s anxious tone. His dark eyes rake her from bottom to top shamelessly and I mentally cringe in disgust.

Could he perhaps be the father of Blubber?

Nah, he’s way too young…

“You’re looking lovely on this fine evening.” He retorts suavely in charm, running a hand through his golden spiky hair. Most females would swoon at this point. However, I already think he’s a dipwad.

But flip! He’s so smooth. He’s slick. He’s a studmuffin.

Emma doesn’t answer, barely hiding her blush, keeping her glare concentrated on Xavier. I’m forced to watch this silence and staring go on between the two right up until the point that I decide I’ve had just about enough.

“Okay!” I raise my voice and cough loudly to get their attention, “I’m sorry to break this dark deep emo bizarre silence shiznit, but Emma who the hell is this moronic dipwad standing before us?”

Xavier’s eyes leave Emma and flickers over to me as if seeing me for the first time only now, “Who the hell is she?” he questions in that deep smooth voice.

“Hey hey hey budddy!” I reprimand, “I asked Ems who you were first. Wait your turn!”

Emma’s attention snaps back onto me as if suddenly remembering that I’m still here, “This is Xavier Walter, JT’s racing rival.” she introduces and then turns to Xavier before motioning to me, “And that’s Aqueela, Jay Taylor’s girl.”

Jay has a rival other than me?! How dare he not inform me of this?!

Xavier seems stunned at the answer as he ponders over what Emma has just said. “JT has a girlfriend? Since when?”

Ah crap! He’s onto me! Act fast!

“Since none of your business ‘Pretty British Boy’!” I narrow my eyes at him threateningly, warning him, hoping he’d back off.

He raises both eyebrows in amusement at my words, “Oooh feisty are we?” he smirks arrogantly, before turning to Emma, “JT never brings anyone other than himself to the tracks. So what is she doing here?”

He’s going to figure me out!

I don’t give Emma a chance to speak as I talk over her answer, “The real question is what are you still doing here. Go back to your homeland British Boy! America is taken!”

Xavier glances back my way, puzzled, as if trying to work something out. And then it must hit him because he begins to grin cheekily. He refers his next question directly to Emma, “She the psychotic one?” he asks, nodding my way.

Stupid Grey! Imma gonna kill him.

Emma nods, still tense.

“Hey!” I raise my fist, “I’m not bloody psychotic. Grey is just a dumb stupid head!”

“Yeah and I’m not hot as hell.” he replies sarcastically, rather obnoxious too.

I shrug, “Hey, you said it, not me.”

He glares at me for that one, “Stupid and dumb have the same definition.” he corrects me, trying to cover up his shame at my last comment.

“True, but hot and you so don’t.” I grin up at him through my eyelashes jovially, batting my eyes innocently as if I didn’t just insult him.

“What are you implying?” he asks, his suave voice dying as his temper begins to rise.

“What are you? Stupid? I’m saying you’re fugly.” I retort rudely, ignoring his furious deadpanned glares as I turn to Emma and salute her, “Well this was fun, but I should probably go find Jay now. Tell ‘Second Place’ I say hi and that we’re going to have a little chat about how to treat his sister.”

But before I can go, a hand laces itself around my wrist and clasps down hard, “Wait a second Sweetheart, I’ve barely gotten to know you and if you are Jay’s girl then you are most definitely worth knowing.”

“Meep meep meep, that’s all I hear.” I say and pull out a tongue at him before ripping my arm out of his clutches, “Unhand me you fiend!”

“Emma!” a voice calls and we all turn to see that it’s Landon, ‘Second Place,’ and he sounds anything but happy.

“Check you all later. The brother awaits.” Emma sees this too and doesn’t wait another second before sprinting away from us and toward her brother, leaving me alone with British Boy.

“And then there were two.” a voice whispers in my ear and I turn to find Xavier abnormally close.

I step away and pull a face at him, “Why are you still here you Looney Tune?! Go away.”

“What you say we both get out of here, Gorgeous?” he suggest flirtatiously and I suddenly realize what he’s doing. He obviously has a thing with Emma, so he’d only flirt with me if he were trying to throw Jay off his game, seeing as he thinks Jay and I are an item.

I know I’m not the smartest, but damn, give me some credit.

I nod, agreeing, “Okay.” Xavier doesn’t seem surprised that I had agreed. He’s so confident and self assured that the possibility of me rejecting his offer never crossed his thick skull. He smirks in delight, convinced that I’d sold Jay out just like that. I start walking away from him.

“Wait! Where are you going?!” he shouts frantically after me, perplexed.

“I’m getting out of here. Except, I’m going this way and you can go that way.” I say, pointing to the furthest corner away from me, “That way we’re both getting out of here just like you said, just not together nor in the same direction.” I wink, more than satisfied when a frown forms on his lips.

He grabs my upper arm and pulls me to a halt, “I don’t think so, Kitten.”

“Don’t you dare ‘Kitten’ me Mister!” I hiss, now annoyed and I don’t get annoyed easily.

“Stop harassing the psychopath you f**king idiot.”

I turn in Xavier’s grip with a massive smile when I see that someone came to save me, “Grey!” I squeal excitedly, relieved that I didn’t have to get my hands dirty via kicking this British Boy’s ass and punching his face in.

But Grey? Can’t ever say that I was expecting him to be the one to rescue me? Not that I needed to be rescued. I had it under control.

Grey doesn’t bother replying back to me as he sends Xavier a warning look. Xavier backs off and releases me, saying nothing as he glares at Grey.

Uh…the benefits of watching rivalry.

“You stay away from her dipsh*t.” Grey threatens Xavier before grabbing hold of my hand and dragging me after him, defending my honour.

This must be the first time Grey has touched any part of me willingly. Ha! I knew he secretly loved me!

“That’s right!” I yell after Xavier, “Stay away from me. You’re just lucky that Grey came or you’d be ten feet under. You’re just lucky that I have so much self-control or you’d be female by now. And go back home already Xavier! Earth is full!”

Xavier merely winks at me before walking away.

I keep yelling rants at Xavier, even after he’s long gone out of my sight. I’m sure with my voice he’s still able to hear everything I’m saying. Apparently Grey can hear me to seeing as he’s blocking his ears with one hand whilst dragging me roughly to Jay, Max and Bells with the other hand.

“Look who I found terrorizing the city again.” Grey remarks casually as he lets go of me and shoves me right into Jay who catches me and steadies me gently.

I ignore Grey and keep shouting, “I will destroy you and your shiny hair too! Then the mother ship will never be able to locate you.”

“What is she going on about now?” Jay asks Grey, as he turns me around in his arms to face him.

“Who the f**k ever knows? I had to endure this the whole way back from Xavier.” Grey answers, shrugging casually.

Jay releases me and stiffens in his stance, “Xavier’s here?”

I stop ranting as I stand beside Jay, “Yeah and he’s a real ass hat.”

Jay frowns, “Did he say anything to you?” I blink up at Jay, confused by his question. Of course the idiot spoke to me. “Let me rephrase that. Did he hurt you in any way?”

I shake my head, “But I would have hurt him had Grey not swooped in like some angelic princess in order to save me.”

“Can you not put it like that?! And call me a princess again and just see what happens. I dare you.” Grey threatens in a low dangerous voice, his eyes narrowing in on me in warning.

“Woah, tough guy. Ease up.” I tease, “Fact of the matter is that you saved lil ‘ol me’, which means that by default you care somewhat about me, making us somewhat friends. Admit it Grey, I’m growing on you. You like me. You luuuvvve me even.” I sing, flashing Grey an award winning smirk as I hold my arms up in front of him for a hug.

“Piss off Lawson.” he mutters, pushing me away before I could hug him.

“Aaaah come on Grey, bring it in. Come here you angelic son of a gun! You know you can’t resist a hug from your fiance.” I wink at him teasingly as I step forward to hug him. “You saved me which means you must like me a little. You saved me. You saved me! You saved me! Grey saved me! Grey saved me! You saved me!-“

Grey’s quick to cut me off.

“He was hitting on you and grabbing you all over. Obviously I had to step in. I would have done it for anyone else too. Contrary to popular belief, I can be a respectful when required. So let’s get this straight, I helped you because I’m a nice person and not because I like you in any possible remote way. I still hate your guts. We’ll never be friends. You piss me off.” Grey elaborates, explaining himself and boring me to death in the process.

Nice person Oog’s big stinky foot.

Did he really just use himself and the word ‘nice’ in the same sentence? Cause woah…I have a much different perspective.

“So said Jay and look at us now…” I say as I stand on my tippy toes and wrap an arm around Jay’s neck, pulling him down to my height, referring to when Jay use to say that I piss him off, “We’re practically married.”

Jay rolls his eyes at me before removing me off of him, “No we’re not. Not even close.” Max catches my eye and mouths ‘denial’ before winking at me reassuringly. I offer him a warm smile in return and nod profusely, agreeing.

Jay’s eyes visibly widen when it hits him, “Wait, he was hitting on you?”

No one answers him.

“Jay went soft for you.” Grey grumbles, expressing his distaste for it, “I don’t get it. Why you? You’re so stuffed up in head.”

“You act like they’re going out.” Bells points out, speaking up.

Grey shrugs, “They might as well be.”

What’s that suppose to mean?

“We would be, but Jay has commitment issues.” I joke, knowing deep down that that was not the case. He’d explained the real reason and I sort of understood his fear of ever getting serious with someone.

It hurts if they leave in the end…

Jay falls silent and gives me a dead panned stare, “We spoke about that. I do not have commitment issues.” he reminds me and I smile up at him, patting him on his chest, “I know.” I say sincerely, “I’m just messing with you JayJay.”

Max raises a skeptical eyebrow as he watches Jay and I carefully, processing all this new information before saying, “I don’t get you two. You both obviously want each other and you both know it, so what the hell is stopping you two from getting it on already? Gosh! Even I’m getting impatient. Just f**king make out already.”

I scoff, trying to hide my blush at his words, “You’re the one to talk Maxipad.” I say, referring to his stand still with Bells because he’s too much of a wuss to make a move. I can’t even look at Jay right now, but when I sneak a glance I find him oddly quiet, adverting his eyes to anywhere but me.

Looking at Max I suddenly remember something and fortunately I change the subject quickly, “So Principal Pee Long tells me that you refused to tutor me and only agreed after much debate.” I say nonchalantly, ready to strangle Max.

“Stop calling him Pee Long, Aqueela.” Bells reprimands, sensing what I did there.

I ignore Bells and narrow my eyes onto Max.

Max’s eyes widen at this as he coughs awkwardly, “Well would you look at the time…” he trails off thoughtfully, “I better get going and-“

“You don’t even have a watch. How would you know what the time is?” I question, staring him down with immense concentration as he shuffles about nervously.

“And the last race of the evening will begin shortly. Racers please report to your chosen racing vehicles.” a voice comes booming through an intercom.

Jay doesn’t say anything more as he and Grey walk away, preparing for their race. He didn’t even look at me. Maybe he felt just as uncomfortable with Max’s words as I did.

As soon as Grey and Jay are out of sight I immediately turn to Max and whack him hard upside the head that the sound echoes, “Why’d you have to go and say that Max?!”

“Ouch!” he whines like a big pansy baby. He rubs his head with a pained expression before frowning at me, “What the heck Aqueela?! You knocked in my brains!”

“That’s what you get. And I can’t knock in something you don’t have!” I then point an accusing finger at a frightened Bells, “You’re next!” I warn as Bells steps back with her hands raised, genuinely afraid, even though she didn’t do anything.

Max gives me a pointed frown, feigning irritation, “Classy Aqueela, real classy.”

I shoot him a look which results in him quickly stepping back as if expecting me to attack. I hold back a smile as I motion for him and Bells to follow, “C’mon, let’s go see Jay cream all those suckers.”

And right I was.

Jay won, again.

“He won again!” I scream loudly and breathlessly as Jay’s red Gallardo is the first to cross the finish line.

“My ears.” Max complains as Bells slaps a hand over my loud mouth.

I clap my hands enthusiastically as I chant Jay’s name, jumping up and down in the process. Next time I’m bringing banners with his name on and maybe a T-shirt with his face imprinted on and then I’ll never take it off.

As soon as Jay steps out the car, I’m already sprinting my way to him after knocking Max over by mistake…okay so it was on purpose. That’s what he gets for refusing to tutor me!

“Jay! You did it! You won! Again!” I shout as I leap and gallop to him, immediately throwing my arms around him on impulse after he’d taken off his red racing helmet. “I’ve never been more proud of you!”

I feel him stiffen beneath me for a second as he processes it all, his mind still reeling on the race he’d just won.

Then his arms suddenly materialize beside me as he hugs me back tightly, happy himself as he chuckles into my shoulder, “Jeeze Aqueela, you sound like a typical mother.”

I push him back and slap him on the arm playfully, “Oh shut up! I can’t help that I’m ecstatic for you! Well done!” I congratulate him, not sure if anyone ever did.

Jay glances coyly down at me, offering me a heart stopping smile, “Thanks.” he says genuinely as if surprised and a little touched that I’d said well done.

“Oh break it up you two! My eyes!” Max whines as he and Bells reunite with us.

“Couldn’t agree more.”

We all turn at that slick voice to see Xavier himself breaking up our little fun fest. He’d just come in, making him second place.

“Ah great.” I yawn, bored, “It’s the ass hat British Boy.”

Bells takes in his appearance before she steps beside me, whispering in my ear, “Woaha, he’s quite the looker.”

Like I’ve said before, boy crazed Bells can’t whisper to save her life.

We all hear her.

Max tenses in his spot at Bells words register in his head. He scowls in Xavier’s direction. I’m a little surprised since Max is suppose to be the friendly one from us. I’d never seen him instantly dislike someone without first giving them a reasonable chance, which brings me to the conclusion, Max really really really likes Bells, more so than I first realized.

Xavier raises an amused eyebrow in Bells direction as he takes in her appearance. I can just see by that little smirk of his that he likes what he sees. Of course he does. It’s Bells. Everyone likes what they see when they look at her. She’s beautiful. Mason had to get used to the constant staring his girlfriend received and now Max will have to get use to it too.

“Why thank you, Princess.” Xavier replies smoothly, “You’re quite the looker yourself. I almost dropped dead with such rare radiant beauty,” Xavier says, keeping his eyes trained on Bells who now blushes at his words like a bumbling idiot.

Bells never blushes. Never. She’s use to the attention. This is shocking. Xavier is real slick if he can even get Bells to blush.

Poor Maxi! My widdle Maxi is gonna get his big heart broken.

I won’t allow it!

“Degenerate.” I cough loudly in Xavier’s direction.

Xavier’s hears my comment, his head snapping in my direction as he glares at me darkly, “What’s your problem with me, Kitten?”

“Your mere existence.” I answer bluntly as Jay begins chuckling softly from beside me. “And call me ‘Kitten’ one more time and the claws will really come out.”

“Don’t call her ‘Kitten’.” Jay remarks a few seconds later, seemingly pissed off.

“I’ll do what I like.” Xavier comments, “Just because she’s your girl doesn’t mean she’s not an individual.”

Jay raises both eyebrows at this, “My girl?”

Oh crap!

I quickly nudge Jay hard in the ribs, causing him to cough, but needing him to play along or Xavier will never let me live this down.

Xavier nods in reply of Jay’s question.

“Right right, my girlfriend.” Jay confirms and then sends me a glower when Xavier isn’t looking, meaning that we’d discuss this later.

“She’s just with you because you win every time.” Xavier states. I almost laugh at this. As if. He just met me and he’s already pegged me as those girls who are only with a guy because they’re reigning victor.

Jay shakes his head, giving Xavier a sympathetic stare, “I know I beat you every time, but don’t rub it in for yourself buddy. It’s gonna sting.”

I giggle at this, finding it amusing. Xavier is so stupid. He just admitted that he never wins. I decide to speak up, “I’m with Jay because I like him, you pig headed, arrogant, extraterrestrial being!”

“And you’ll like me more when I win the championships.” Xavier winks suggestively at me.

I stick a finger down my throat in reply and fake gag. But then I see how tense Jay is and it makes me wonder if Jay is really buying this. Did he really think that I would leave him if he ever lost to Xavier? I’m not that shallow.

“You stay away from her.” Jay warns, still tense as he curls his hands into fists.

I’m offended that Jay would think so low of me.

“You can win and still I will won’t even give you a second glance.” I stand my ground, trying to reassure Jay in the process. But he doesn’t believe me. I can sense it.

Xavier shrugs carelessly, “We’ll see Kitten.” he blows me a kiss before turning to Jay yet again, “Keep your girl close because soon she’ll be running up to embrace me when I beat you at the championships.”

I snort and cross my arms, “As if.”

Jay says nothing back to Xavier as if Xavier is just not worth the waste of oxygen.

Xavier then turns to Bells, “It was lovely meeting you…uh…your name escapes me?” he says sweetly in a charming voice.

Bells giggles and blushes as she helps him, “Bella Bensten.”

“Don’t give him your name you twit!” I hiss at her, “Now he’s going to search you up in the phone book and stalk you!”

It’s happened with her before…

Bells and Xavier both ignore me as Xavier continues on with his not so subtle flirting, “Well it was lovely meeting you…Bella.” Her name rolls of his lips like honey in an almost seductive voice.

I watch in horror as Xavier plants a kiss on her hand before waltzing off in Emma’s direction, probably to piss the next lot of people off.

I hate him!

I turn to Bells with a frown, my hands on my hips, “What the hell was that? Bashful Bells?”

Bells doesn’t answer, still staring after Xavier.

So I act on instincts and hit her through the face, snapping her out of it.

“Owe!” she yelps, rubbing her red cheek where my hand has now been imprinted into her skin.

“I told you that you were next! Now stop swooning!” I reprimand her. To be fair, she really did deserve that slap for all that she’s put me through lately. I’d say that we’re almost even now.

“But he’s so charming.” she pouts longingly.

Max pulls a face at this. “Charming my ass.” he mutters angrily. “I’m going home.”

Bells turns her head to face Max for the first time since Xavier has been here, “Already? Why?” she furrows her eyebrows in confusion, holding onto his upper arm as if pleading with him to stay.

Max was Bell’s ride home.

Max doesn’t say anything. But he wouldn’t. He adores Bells to much, even if it means letting her walk all over him like some doormat.

But I always have my friend’s back.

“Because you’re kind of being a bitch and quite frankly, an airhead.” I say bluntly, forwardly, not caring if I offended her.

She’s been crossing the line lately.

Now it’s my turn.

Max shoots me a grateful smile for intervening.

I pull Bells aside as she glares at me, hurt. “Max likes you. You Dumbo dummie! You just stand and flirt with Xavier in front of Max. That’s a slut move. You’re better than that. You better let Max take you home and make up for it. Or else.”

Bells nods, still not happy with me as she and Max say their goodbyes before leaving.

“Trouble in paradise?” Grey asks, as he finally meets up with us.

He came in third, just after Xavier, but he’d been speaking to Landon and Emma.

“Nah.” I wave my hand, brushing it off, “Bells is just being bitchy.”

“Did I ask you?” Grey narrows his dark eyes onto me, implying that he’d only asked Jay.

I shrug, use to his meanness, “The real question is do I care?”

Grey growls in a menacing voice as he takes a step toward me, “You better care Lawson.”

Jay intervenes as he yanks Grey away from me, “Stop fighting you imbeciles.”

“Grey’s just mad because he only came third.” I laugh aloud, mocking him, but only because he was rude first. “What were you doing? Pit stop? Road trip? Sunday stroll?” I laugh again, pressing Grey’s buttons and getting under his skin.

“You better watch your back, Lawson.” Grey threatens me, not impressed with my insults.

“And you better watch your front uh …” I trail off in search, lost, as I turn to Jay, “What’s Grey’s surname?”

“Ferret.” Jay answers.

“Wait? Like Grey Ferret?” I question aloud and then begin laughing all the more. “And I thought Pee Long was funny. Grey Ferret! Gah! Classic!” I laugh, rubbing at my eyes watering from all the laughter.

Grey’s Right eyes twitches in irritation, “Should have drove her over.” I hear him mutter to himself.

“Knock it off Aqueela.” Jay says, seeing that I’m pushing Grey a little too far.

I ignore Jay, turning back to Grey, “Yo Ferret, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

“I hate you so much.” Grey states, fury in his grey eyes.

“You keep telling yourself that, Third Place.” I retort playfully before Jay shoves me aside to get me to shut up.

So after rubbing it in Grey’s face that Jay’s better than him for at least an hour later, I got tired and bored.

Grey went off to go speak to Emma and probably threaten Xavier again.

Jay sees my yawn and takes me to his car, suggesting we head home.

“Jay, you’re not worried that I’d go to Xavier if he won, right?” I ask, sensing his distress about that situation.

He keeps his eyes trained on the road ahead, “Nah.”

Cause that’s a convincing answer!

He’s quick to change the subject, “You’ve been feisty tonight. First Xavier, then Max, then Xavier again, then Bells and then Grey. Jeez, you haven’t let up.”

I don’t answer, too tired.

Jay continues on cautiously, “Aqueela, you have to stop telling people that you’re my girlfriend.”

“I refuse.” I yawn again, tired.

He sighs at this, but says nothing further.

Jay pulls into his driveway before we get out and drag ourselves home, well to his house anyways.

“Hey Jay?” I question tiredly from within the TV room as I flop face down into my pink and blue blotchy couch.

“Mhmm?” he asks, yawning himself as he comes to sit on the couch across from me.

“I need a physics tutor.” I decide to just come out with it.

Screw Mason and his stupid antics! I don’t need him.

“Then you should get one.”

“But where to find someone brilliant in physics…mhmmm…any ideas?”

“Dunno.”

“I really need one though.”

“That’s nice.” he mumbles sleepily.

“Not really.” I state, “I’m failing.”

“Right. Right. Not nice. Got it.” he closes his eyes for a moment, at least I thought it would be for a moment until I hear his breathing deepen significantly.

He just fell asleep on me.

I sigh to myself, getting up and fetching the duvet off his bed. I go back downstairs and put it over him.

How can I ask him to tutor me when he’s so busy as it is?

I glance at his sleeping form one last time before I turn to leave and that’s when I see it.

There on the coffee desk in the corner, the one I never bothered to ever look at, lies a single photograph, one I instantly recognize.

I pick it up and my eyes land on the picture of a man I hadn’t seen in years, my father.

He’s wearing a suit and and seems to be quite wealthy judging from his respected stance, attire and body language. He looks different, but he’s still the same. His eyes use to be filled with warmth, but now they seem cold, lifeless, empty. He’s starting to go grey and a deep frown is set in place.

I can’t help but match the frown he has on in the picture. I asked Jay to help me find him. But I don’t understand. Why hadn’t Jay showed me this yet? It dates back to a week ago. Why hasn’t Jay told me that he found my father?

I furrow my eyebrows, turning over the photograph to see a short message written on the back. The writing is messy, barely visible and resembles scribbles, the kind of writing doctors and smart people all seem to have, the kind of writing that everyone at school knew belonged to our physics valedictorian…Jay’s handwriting. He’s always been famous for his crappy writing. No one understands how teachers are even able to mark his tests.

I read it eagerly after that.

‘Stopping search on father. Aqueela must never know of his location. She must never know him. I’ll tell her that he’s untraceable. Don’t contact me anymore. We’re done here.’

There’s an address on the side and I realize that Jay was going to still mail this photograph back to his connection source before I saw it.

He’s been lying to my face all this time when I trusted him with something important to me. He broke my trust and that…that really pisses me off.

So when I see an incoming call from Mason, I don’t hesitate in answering my cell, “What?” I huff into the phone rudely, taking out my fury on him.

“Uh hey.” He answers meekly. “So I’m surmising that you know about your tutoring program by now.”

“Your surmising is correct.” I answer glumly.

I hear him inhale nervously from the other side, “So you want to meet up tomorrow so that we can start?”

I glance at Jay hesitantly to find him still asleep. He’s not going to help me. He doesn’t have time. Plus, he owes me an explanation because I’m infuriated with him right now.

“No.” I answer blatantly, “Now leave me alone.” I answer stubbornly, preparing to hang up on him.

But I know I’m not being fair here. He didn’t do anything.

I hear him swallow and there’s a brief second of silence between us before I hear him take a gentle tone, “Aqueela, please. I’m trying to help you. I don’t want you to fail. I swear it isn’t a ploy of mine or anything. It’s just a friend helping out a friend.”

“That coming from you of all people. I think I’d rather fail.” I hiss, not in control of my mood right now.

“You and I both know that you’re lying. But fine…” he groans, “Have it your way.”

He’s about to hang up when I realize that he has a point.

I have to pass.

I need him.

“Mason wait.” I breathe out sharply, his attention peeked. I can almost feel him smiling through the phone. “I’ll allow it.” I say, making it clear to him that we were only going to do this on my terms.

He chuckles softly, “You’ll allow it huh? Well, I’ll swing by your place at ten tomorrow. Just give me an address. I still don’t know where you live.”

I give him Jay’s address before adding in, “Oh and by the way, I’m living with Jay now so kay cool bye.” I say hurriedly before hanging up on him, knowing he would protest or ask questions.

Jay’s going to have a fit when he finds Mason in his house.

Fortunately, I thrive in these kinds of situations.

Most times, anyways.

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