Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 37: I Want You

“Aqueela, are you sure this is a good idea?” Bell asks again, restraining herself from overpowering my decision with her usual bossiness intact.

“Probably not. When am I sure of anything?” I answer truthfully, lounging back in the seat in much comfort whilst Bells crosses the room back and forth in doubt. The worry pot.

There’s suddenly a knock at the door that manages to give Bell’s a fright and that’s only judging by how high she just jumped into the air.

Bell’s blue green eyes find me, “You look who it is. I refuse. This was all your idea.” She commands.

And welcome panicky Bells who loses all of her cool.

I grin at her, reassuring her that I got it, “Chillax a little Bella Bells.” I say to her before opening the slot in the door and not the door itself. Through the slot I can only see the eyes of the person on the other side and same applies to the person outside the room. “Who is it?” I ask.

“Me.” Max answers.

“Who is ‘me’?” I say just to piss him off a bit. I’m a sadist like that.

“I will slap you child.” Max answers coolly.

“I’m sorry I don’t know an ‘I will slap you child’. Your name is not on the list of VIP members, thus you cannot enter. You are invalid and not accounted for. Goodbye,” I shut the slot back closed so that I don’t have to see Max’s eyes from the other side of the door.

Here’s a little secret, there is no list.

Bells look at me with a frown, “Was that Max?”

I shrug, “Could be. Could very well be. Could most definitely be.”

Bells rolls her eyes at me having got the answer, “Let him in before he gets caught out there.”

There’s more knocking this time and it sounds as if Max is banging so hard on the door that his knuckles could be bleeding.

I open the slot in the door again, “Who is it?” I chime with a little hum for tune.

“Aqueela!” He hisses, annoyed.

“It can’t be Aqueela because I’m Aqueela. Nice try Rascal. Now, what’s the secret password?” I question him.

“You run this room like some bloody cult! Since when was there a password? I feel like I’m in the ‘Godfathers’. I will probably enter to see the room painted black and all of you dressed in white robes or something.” Max raises his tone, growing impatient by the second. “Now hurry up before a teacher sees me! I don’t want another bloody detention.”

Am I that predictable? Or is it because Max is practically me?

I quickly close the slot and turn to Bells with a ‘how did he know’ look. Bells just gives me her famous flat look, “Take off the white robe Aqueela and put away the black paint. We’re not running some evil cult here.”

I sigh but remove my white cloak anyways. At least I hadn’t painted the room black yet. I open the slot again and get back to Max, “I don’t believe that’s the password young man.”

“Let me in or else you die.” Max threatens. He’s a little intimidating this time and I use the word ‘intimidating’ very loosely.

I give in and unbolt the door, allowing Max entrance to the teacher’s lounge that I had secretly taken over with the help of my good friend Bells. She’s a wizard with a bobby pin and a locked door. I love dragging her into these kind of rebellious situations. She tends to stress and I find it rather amusing.

Max shoves me out of his way, angered. I ignore his sulking and quickly bolt the door shut again. Wouldn’t want a teacher to walk in and see that there is no longer a teacher’s lounge. It’s now officially Aqueela’s lounge.

“I brought milkshakes for you and I.” Max says to Bells as he hands her a vanilla milkshake knowing fully well that she likes the flavor vanilla. Bells pecks his cheek in thanks.

I notice that he only brought two milkshakes. I know he already drank his on the way here like the pig he is so the remaining milkshake must be mine. But he’s not offering it to me and it’s bubblegum flavored. I have to have it and I have to have it now. Then again, it could be Max’s too seeing as his favorite flavor is also bubblegum.

I pout, “What about me?”

Max shrugs, “What about you? Didn’t you have one on your date with Blubber?” He smirks, enjoying teasing me about that still.

Okay so I guess I deserve this treatment. I was asking for it after all.

Note to self: Make sure Max doesn’t have milkshake before teasing him relentlessly.

I stood Blubber up. He was not very happy. But it led to him meeting a girl his age so I say to him that he is very welcome.

I grab the bubblegum milkshake right out Max’s hands and begin to slurp it madly.

“Hey!” Max yells, “That’s mine!”

“It’s mine now so shut up!” I retort back teasingly. This is what he gets for not buying me one. I shall drink his for his punishment.

Max pouts with a dejected expression, knowing full well that he can say goodbye to his milkshake, “Why must you always shut me up?” He whines like a little baby.

“Why must you always breathe?” I turn the question back on him, “Who knows? I don’t have all the answers.”

“Aqueela!” He protests, “You’re so mean.” He crosses his arms over his chest and stomps his foot, genuinely upset with me. Bells stifles her own giggles at his childish rant and temper tantrum.

“Aqueela give it back to him.” Bells backs him up.

I glance from her to Max and give in, but only because Bells asked me to. I shove the milkshake back into Max’s hands, “Here! Have it! Drown in it!”

Max and Bells both crack into laughter at my words.

I would have joined in the laughter had someone not knocked on the door. I open the slot to reveal the evil beady eyes that can only belong to Melinda, Queen Bee, herself. I just don’t understand how Bells is even friends with her. She’s a snooty stuck up snob.

“Lawson, let me in. I heard about the secret student meeting. I’m here to join the strike against school work.” Melinda insists in her nasal like voice. Man, I did not miss her during spring break.

I turn to Bells with a fierce look, “How did Malibu Barbie find out about this meeting? Did you invite her?”

Bells gives me a sheepish look before bolting past me and opening the door for Melinda and all her other cronies to join.

Melinda barges in like some royal duchess, completely pushing me out of her way. I grit my teeth in anger as her, a few cheerleaders and some jocks enter the room like they own the place when I already called dibs on the lounge. It should be mine since I arranged it all. I shut the door back closed after them. Of course the popular kids would want in on this.

I tried to get Jay and Mason to join the strike against too much homework and school work in general, but they both refused. Mason refused because he knew Bells would be here, otherwise he’d be here like the rebel we all know he is. Jay refused because he’s secretly a nerdy goody two shoes and also because he’s still pretending to hate my guts.

Thus, I went to my own cronies slash amateur rookies, Bells and Max. Max joined in all too happily, but Bells was hesitant. I had to manipulate her like always and con her into lending me a hand. And as usual, she regrets it. Doesn’t she ever learn that I’m just trouble? I’m a walking disaster and I take pride in it.

Melinda steps into my line of vision with a fiery goal in her eyes to insult and humiliate me in front of her crowd. I can tell she’s ready to pick a fight with me, “Listen here Drowned Rat, perhaps if you put as much effort into your schoolwork as you do with your little rebel projects then you’d actually be passing your final year.”

True. But I just don’t have the motivation for school like I do for my so called ‘rebel projects’.

So I assume it’s got out that I’m failing. Wonderful! Rumors about me and truths about me spread around like a wild fire.

“I suppose.” I subtly agree calmly, “And perhaps if you put more effort into your schoolwork than screwing jocks you’d…” I trail off purposely, “Never mind…you’d still be failing either way.”

I know she’s failing too. She has no ground to stand on. The audacity of this cave woman I tell you! She’s a hypocrite.

Melinda snarls at me before moving to Bells and handing her a pink girly envelope that reeks of perfume, “You’re invited to my pool party on Fri. Be there Babes. It ain’t no party if Bella Bensten isn’t there. Holler boys if you all agree.” The jocks howl in agreement. Melinda controls them. I even notice the one who Jay punched, Laiken, to be among us. If I’m so weird to him then why is he even here? What I really don’t understand is how Mason is best friends with him. It’s why Mason didn’t defend me that day. He didn’t want to go against his best friend yet he was willing to go against me, the girl he claims to love. Ah huh, yeah right.

Max tugs Bells back to him, “My girlfriend.” Max emphasizes to the jocks, shooting glares their way. Someone’s sure got possessive.

Melinda acknowledges him, handing him an invite too, “Seeing as your with Bells, my home girl, you can come too.”

Max grins in delight at this, “Really?” He asks in glee as if unbelieving. Melinda nods, seemingly unsatisfied that Max has to come along seeing as he isn’t one of the ‘populars’. Max continues, “I’ve never got invited to a lame party before.” Max concludes in sarcasm as Melinda’s jaw practically sweeps the floor. He goes on to rip his invite into little shards of paper before pouring it all over Melinda. I watch in amusement as the paper flutters around her, landing in her hair and what not. “Dance monkey! Dance!” Max insists.

I snicker at this. Hence why I put up with Max. He’s the best.

Melinda scoffs and flays her hands about to get the paper off her. “Jazz hands! There it is!” Max exclaims excitedly before flaying his hands around too, mocking her.

Max is a keeper. Bells better take good care of him. They’re perfect for each other. Max can teach Bells to loosen up once in a while and allow her to get her feet off the ground of reality and fly. Bells can teach Max some ground rules and prevent him from flying to high and getting lost in the clouds of dreams.

Melinda shakes it off and turns to me with a boastful grin, “You, on the other hand, are not invited to my pool party.”

I smirk, “It’s cool. I didn’t really feel up to whale watching in any case.”

Max high fives me for that one whilst Bells shoots the both of us a look for our appalling behavior. Max and I say at the same time, “She started it!” We both defend ourselves against Melinda’s ruthless attacks as Max and I point to her simultaneously.

“Yeah but she can’t help it.” Bells lets slip by my mistake and then quickly covers her mouth as if realizing her mistake. She’s quick to recover and pull herself out of the grave she just dug, “She can’t help that’s she’s so damn cool.”

Melinda, being an idiot, nods, agreeing, “Exactly! Thank you Bella! You get mwa Chicka.”

Sometimes I get the heebie-jeebies because I’m embarrassed for her. How on earth does Bells put up with such a complete moron? Tolerance, patience…it’s not enough for this mental case.

Max comes to stand beside me before whispering loudly in my ear, “It amazes me how stupid some people are.”

“Melinda can’t amaze me anymore. I automatically expect stupid from her as soon as she’s in a nearby radius.” I whisper back.

“I heard that!” Melinda snaps at me.

I look back to Max, “Some people are just so nosy these days and nasally if you catch my drift.” I refer back to Melinda’s nasal infected voice. It drives me up the wall. “I mean nails on a chalk board would sound better.”

“You’re such a freak Aqueela and your hair is fugly.” Melinda hisses at me with her lame comeback.

“Yeah well, at least I don’t look like a scientific experiment gone horribly wrong or the end result of a Muppet that has been raped by a lizard.” I diss her back, not at all annoyed, enjoying our silly banter. I can handle her. She, on the other hand, looks beyond ready to kill me here and now right where I stand. If Mr P Long finds me in here, he will no doubt murder me too. I have a lot of people waiting to kill me. I should draw up a short list of candidates.

Laiken laughs at Melinda’s expense. She shoots him a look. He’s quick to shut up. “Sorry.” He coughs, placing his hands up in defense.

I don’t get why people take orders from this airhead!

Melinda scowls at me with so much hatred and bitterness, “You will regret saying that Lawson.”

I laugh aloud at this, “You say that every time and never do I regret it. Don’t threaten me Melinda, not if you can’t beat me at your own game. Remember, you started this war.” I remind her to years ago when Mason first bullied me and she took his side.

“Okay, High Maintenance, you’ve had your fun.” Max says to me, tugging me away from Melinda before I can really hurt her.

“This is so wrong. We should be in class.” Bells speaks up, voicing her concern.

“Oh relax Mother Theresa.” I tease, “Strikes are legal. We’re striking against too much school work.”

“You don’t even do any school work so why do you even care?” Laiken addresses me in a sour tone. He really dislikes me for some reason. Before I can answer, he’s already on to the next insult, “I don’t get why my best friend fell for you. I don’t know what Jay and Mason see in you.”

“Me either. I don’t have x-ray vision.” I reply, biting back a grin when he glares at me for being a smart ass.

“Jay Taylor is a stand up guy.” One of the other jocks comments.

Yes, he is.

I ignore him and continue with our mission, “Everyone stop what you’re doing and gather around.”

Max coughs awkwardly, “First off, none of us are doing anything and we’re all already gathered around, but okay.”

I ignore Max too, “If we’re going to pull this off, we need to establish some ground rules and boundaries and guard rails and-“

“Get on with it!” Laiken snaps rudely.

“Rule one, snitches will get stitches and stitches are real bitches.” Everyone nods, agreeing with me for once on that one. “Secondly, you will all be required and expected to refer to me as your Master or Sensei and to this lounge as Lawson’s Lounge. Do I make myself clear?” I ask fiercely, pretending to be a Sargent from within the army.

This time they all grumble out disagreements and complaints. I’ll have to work on them.

“No way am I calling you Master.” Laiken folds his arms across his chest, purposely flexing his muscles as if proud.

I roll my eyes at him, “You’re such a nuisance and seeing as you are, you will be our divergent in our contingency plan if something is to go wrong. That would be quite the conundrum.”

Laiken closes his eyes and shakes his head as if ashamed of me and embarrassed for me, “You did not just say that word.” He says and I already know to which word he’s referring to. “No one says that anymore.”

I hold back a smile, “You called it bro. I so said it. Conundrum. Conundrum! Co-nun-drum!” I repeat purposely aloud in his ear just to annoy him. He shoves me away. Bell steadies me to prevent me from falling like the klutz we all know I am. “Rude!” I mutter loudly.

Laiken scoffs, “Sorry if I need some warning before you shout directly into my face.”

“How’s your nose Lai?” I ask, referring to the fact that Jay had punched him for his little stunt he pulled last week in Chem class.

Laiken shuts up at that, glowering at me. He’s sulking now. Big baby.

“Hey! Who’s in here?!” a voice calls from outside Lawson’s Lounge. Judging by the deep voice, it’s most definitely a teacher.

“Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t!” Bells, goody two shoes, begins to panic. “I’m going to juvies!”

I hit her upside the head, “No you’re not!” I whisper shout before shoving my elbow into Laiken’s side, “You’re up Divergent. Put up your best accent and succeed or else I will throw you to the wolves. You’re our scapegoat.”

Laiken sighs before putting on a deeper voice than usual, changing up his usual pitch and tone, “The room’s preoccupied. Private meeting taking place.”

The person from the other side clears his throat, “Oh sorry. Excuse my interruption.”

“It’s cool yo. Now piss off - I mean uh…um…I need to piss-” Laiken chokes.

I hit my forehead in frustration. It’s overs now. This is why you don’t let a jock do a human’s job. They’re good for nothing.

“Open up here immediately. I know you’re students in there. You’re not authorized or permitted into the teacher’s lounge. It’s forbidden.” I can now hear that it’s my P.E. coach, Mr Freeden, through his angered voice. He hates me, especially because I am ridiculously lazy when it comes to physical exercise, plus I bunk his lessons often.

Was the teacher’s lounge.” I correct under my breath but somehow he hears me with his sharp hearing.

“Lawson! That you in there!” He shouts, banging on the door now. “Open up right this instant!” He doesn’t even seem surprised that it’s me. C’mon! I’m not always getting into trouble…much.

“Can’t do that Sir. With all due respect, I’m busy striking and cannot be interrupted at this time. Perhaps if you book an open slot in my time schedule then I could fit you in next millennium-“

“Open the door!” He cuts off my excuse ramblings.

I sigh and open the door much to everyone’s alarm. Mr Freeden barges in and glances around at all of us, “You should all be in class!” He roars, his gaze unwavering when it lands on me, the sole leader of this operation.

“No can do Sir. This is a strike slash protest and for now, it’s non-violent, unless you want it to be a catastrophe I suggest you leave us be. It’s legal to strike and we’re all striking against the mental abuse of children in this school. We get way too much work and homework. When do we get to be kids and just live? This school is like a prison and I’m tired of it. All we ask is that the teachers lessen up the work load. We have rights. It’s a free country. I’m fighting for liberation from stress. I want justice!” I give my unprepared speech to him.

This all started today in English class. Some student didn’t listen to Mrs Paige so she took it out on all of us and gave us ten five thousand word essays due in the next two days. It’s unfair. When we complained, she got more peeved and made it six thousand words. It irks me when teachers take advantage over us. This wouldn’t be the first time a teacher screws us over. So of course I spoke around, sent the message out that I was going to protest against it all. More people are still bound to join in. I’m expecting many still to join in. I’m not stopping until Mrs Paige apologizes and stops the essays due.

Teachers can be jerks. Some are great. Others just want to kill us all. They’re suppose to want to help learners, not destroy them. Teachers are hard on us a lot of the time despite the circumstances of the anxious kid, the kid with no parent’s, the kid who cuts as a result of depression, the kid who starves herself because people mock her weight, the kid who gets bullied, etcetera. Why not get to know us before ruin us?

School is suppose to be the constant in our lives, our safe haven, not a hell hole we long to escape.

Mr Freeden blinks, as if shocked that I could be intelligent if necessary. When I look around, the cheerleaders and jocks too seem astounded that I am capable of using such big words.


“I will not stand for another rebellious uprising of yours Miss Lawson. But I will say that you are one hell of a leader. I don’t know how you do it, but you always manage to rope in so many people to follow your cause. Principal Long will be hearing about this, in the meantime, get out the teacher’s lounge.” Mr Freeden threatens us, me specifically.

Laiken, Melinda and Bells are look to me for guidance, wondering in which direction I would lead them next. They all look worried now that we’d been caught.

But Max, he grins at me and winks, already knowing that I have Plan B all the way through to Z. No one can play me. I’m no fool. I own this school.

I pick at my nails, not meeting his eye just yet, “Oh Mr Freeden, I was really hoping you’d comply. Now you’re forcing me to take extreme measures.” I say, finally glancing up at him as he meets my eye. “I wonder would Principal Long would say if he were to find out that you’re sleeping with Mrs Paige.”

Mr Freeden’s spine stiffens at this and I know I’ve got his attention.

“The rules of employees state that no relationships among colleagues is allowed. It results in immediate disciplinary protocol. You’d both have to be let go.” For emphasis, I sigh aloud, “How I’d hate for that to happen.” I blackmail him, thoroughly enjoying seeing a teacher squirm for once. I remember when he’d fail me on the spot just because I tripped once during hurdles. He didn’t fail the guy who tripped several times more than me. Mr Freeden has always had it in for me.

“Are you blackmailing a superior?” Mr Freeden asks. You’d think he got it by now.

I shrug, “I don’t know. Would you like to find out, Sir?”

“As you were.” Mr Freeden gives in with a frown after much hesitance. He knows he has no ground to stand on right now. I cornered him. I won.

I turn back to my followers to see them all stunned. “What?” This is the norm for me. I always pull things like this to get my point across to authority. They won’t listen to reason otherwise.

“You are so devious and cunning. I gotta say, you’re growing on me.” Laiken confesses aloud.

“Fungus style.” I wink at him playfully, letting bygones be bygones. Grudges just ain’t worth my time. Laiken chuckles, offering me a small smile. I think I just won him over.

“How did you know that he’s been seeing Mrs Paige?” Melinda asks, skeptical and a little impressed, but doing her best to hide it.

Max and I had been doing a little stalking to try dig up dirt on all the teachers in case of something like this happening. Bells was too busy at a nails parlor to join.

I think back to yesterday at her question.

“Do we really have to dress so dark? I feel like I’m going to a funeral.” Max had complained, “And are these spy goggles slash night vision goggles really necessary?”

It was ‘Mission Impossible’ and we have to play the part of true spies.

“It’s an alleged precaution Max.” I had explained, using the word ‘allegedly’ a lot because I was striving for the cool conman, bad ass spy appeal.

We had been spying on Mr Freeden that afternoon as he taught his last P.E. lesson of the day. We had to watch him as if he were a fascinating specimen just for a cover story. Max decided to pretend we were on National Geographic channel, “To the outsider he is performing a mating ritual to attract a mate of his desire when really he is merely eating.” Mr Freeden was chowing a sandwich like a pig which just egged Max on. “Eating is a method needed in order to survive, a rare fact that not many know and mating is needed to reproduce evil spawns just like this hideous beast feasting-“

“Indeed Sherlocks!”

Max and I had jumped up in panic only to see that Jay had been towering over us with his arms crossed over his chest and a victorious smirk on his face. He’d been listening in the entire time.

“How did you find us alleged Transporter Kid?” I had asked, shocked that he could see us despite our camouflage and spy outfits.

“You guys are wearing black in the middle of the day. Plus, the bush you two are hiding behind is dead. There is no leaves to provide you two with any cover. We can all literally see you two miles away.” Jay had motioned to the rest of his P.E. class, including Mr Freeden, all watching us with perplexed expressions. “Want to tell me what the hell you two are doing here in my P.E. class?” Jay had interrogated us.

Max and I had both shook our heads in unison, gulping in terror.

Jay turned his dead panned gaze on me and I gave in under the pressure, “I need alleged dirt on Mr Freeden for that alleged project I told you about which you allegedly refused to be part of. So we’re allegedly spying on him and all the other alleged teachers.”

“Stop saying the word ‘alleged’. It doesn’t make you a conman or a spy. You two are such idiots. I’ll help you out just this once.” Jay had replied, “Mr Freeden is sleeping with Mrs Paige. There you go. Mission Impossible over. You two can retire from the spy agency now.” Jay had told Max and I seeing as we’d failed to get our own info.

I glance back at Melinda and shake off her question, “Natural skill.” I lie, noticing Max’s grin from the corner of my eye. He and I are the only ones who know that Jay gave us the dirt seeing as he knows everything about everyone somehow. He’s very perceptive, not at all oblivious to what goes on around him.

“Uh uh. Yeah right-” I slap a hand over Bell’s mouth before she gives my genius away.

“Let’s get moving. We have a strike to start people.” I talk over Bells just as the school bell rings, signalling lunch time. I motion to the others, “Come on! Everyone will be in the cafeteria. We’ll start there. Gather more to join. Laiken and Melinda will be the faces of our project seeing as everyone likes you two. Make magic a reality.”

Everyone’s off to get more people to join my cause when Jay suddenly happens to walk past the teacher’s lounge. He stops and walks back to the room upon seeing me inside. “Aqueela? You still going through with this?” I nod. “You’re already on Principal Long’s bad side. Why make it a billion times worse? Haven’t you given him enough heart attacks throughout the years as is? You’re going to get expelled for this. Call it off.”

“No can do Jay Jay. I’m busy so if you don’t mind-“

“I thought you were better than this.” Jay states firmly, telling me his expectations of me, not that I was aware he had any for me.

“I am. Most times. Sometimes. Rarely. Once in a blue moon.” I mumble sheepishly under his high expectations he holds just for me. It’s intimidating.

“This kind of behaviour is a reflection of your character. I hope you know that. You’re failing science and math and now you pull a stunt like this. What are you expecting to happen? You’re not going to accomplish anything.” Jay says bluntly, making a lot of sense if I see things the way he sees it.

I yawn, “Lovely. Slow death from your lectures. Worst kind of torture.” I’m only being stubborn because I know he’s right. I can’t afford to stuff.

“Call. It. Off. ” Jay repeats slowly before heading out to his usual place by our tree.

Why does he always get the last say and leave me to consider my actions a second time? However, he’s right. I have to call this thing off before I end up repeating a year.

I end up trying to stop it for a full hour straight, but to no avail. The strike isn’t in my control anymore. Melinda and Laiken and all the followers they wrangled, refuse to back down.

I march straight to Principal Long’s office and take a seat before him. I snuck past his secretary so he hadn’t been notified of my presence just yet. He’s busy on his computer. I cough to draw his attention and it works.

He peers at me from behind his computer before sitting up straight. His smile fades and his expression contorts to one of agony, at least it seems like it. He groans upon seeing me, “Miss Lawson, to what do I owe the pleasure?” He inquires sarcastically.

I bite my lip, nervous to explain it all. But I go ahead and say all I have to say within a couple minutes. “So you see, I started it so that Mrs Paige would take back all those essays. It’s unfair and unjust to punish us just because she’s having a rubbish day. I had good intentions initially. I wasn’t thinking of just myself, but the class as a whole and all other students subjected to unfair treatment.”

The only thing I leave out is the people who were originally involved from the start. No way am I ratting out my friends. Bells would curl up and die if ever faced with detention.

Principal Long nods, sighing, “I’ll handle it. I’m surprised you came to me with this. I was expecting you to withhold such information. I appreciate you doing the right thing for once. However, you are suspended as punishment for the next week.” My face falls at that. “Look on the bright side, it will give you more time to work on improving your grades.”

I smile at P Long, “Always the optimistic type huh Pete?”

Principal Long shakes his head at me, “I’m way too lenient with you Aqueela.” He uses my first name seeing as I’d done the same with him. I don’t like much staff here at school, but Principal Long is one man I do respect whole heartily.

“Why is that Sir?” I ask, jumping back to formalities.

He taps his chin with his pen in hand as if thinking, “It’s because despite your habit of always causing trouble, you truly are a student with much potential. I’ve seen it in you. Aqueela, you’re a good student, intelligent too, just lazy. I see such a bright future for you if you just work for it. I know your circumstances at home have been rusty, but you always survive. You persevere. No one but yourself can hold you back. You’re a leader Lawson, a true leader.”

I fall speechless at his compliment. It’s not often someone compliments me. It’s a lot to take in. I’m not use to anyone caring about me, at least not in a parental way. His words mean more to me than he’ll ever know.

I don’t act like it, but I value Principal Long’s opinion on me.

Yet it’s just a dagger to the heart because I’m reminded that my own father could not care less about me or my future.

“You might find your father Aqueela, but you’ll never find your dad. You’re looking for someone who just doesn’t exist, not any more.”

Grey you bloody idiot! Your words have stuck with me after all!

“Where’ve you been? It’s already eleven PM. You just vanished after Long stopped your strike.” Jay says to me as I stagger into the living room to where Jay is standing. I feel unsteady, my balance way off and my vision blurry. Jay notices instantly, “Are you drunk right now?” He questions with a raised eyebrow as I stumble my way to him.

I drink when down. I’m not perfect as some like to think I am. I have my flaws. I’m also a lightweight. One drink and I’m wasted.

“Jay.” I murmur, “I’m not feeling well.” I manage to get out before collapsing straight into his chest. I feel his arms shoot out to my waist in order to steady me. He leads me to the couch and forces me to sit down. “Wait here. I’ll get you some Advil to sober you up.” He pauses, “Actually I’ll give you that when your headache starts.”

“What headache?” I hiccup, my gaze transfixed on solely him.

“Don’t worry about that now.” Jay says as he sits down beside me, “Why Aqueela are you such an idiot?” He murmurs to himself, loud enough for me to hear. Jay offers me a look, “Want to tell me why you’re drunk?”

I pout at his question, not wanting to relive what I’d just been through, “Nope.” I shake my head, popping the ‘p’, mirroring a child’s expression.

Jay sighs but drops the subject nevertheless, “I heard from the grapevine that you’ve been suspended for the next week. Is it true?” I nod, swallowing. “Hey, at least it’s not expulsion. Principal P has a soft spot for you. It’s a good thing you took my advice and went to see him before he found out another way.”

“Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets? That’s one of the mysteries of life I tell you.” I say absentmindedly, randomly, not thinking straight.

Jay furrows his eyebrows at me in concern. “You are beyond drunk.” He states.

“But am I? Am I really?” I question him, puzzled. Jay’s gaze travels down the length of my body as he takes in my entire appearance and studies me with the utmost of worry. I click my fingers in front of his face to capture his attention again, “Hey hey hey Mister Jay-Jay, my eyes are up here.” I point to my face.

Jay’s blue eyes meet mine at my request, “Oh don’t I know it.” He smirks playfully before grabbing my index finger and moving it to just below my eye, “You were pointing at your nose.” He elaborates his actions as he releases my hand again. “Your eyes are here.” He corrects me, still looking at me.

“Stop staring!” I whine as I fidget under his gaze.

Jay chuckles in amusement at my reaction, “Why? Does it make you feel uncomfortable?” He prods, inquisitive, as he leans in unconsciously. “Is it because you’re attracted to me, Aqueela?” He asks blatantly with a cheeky smirk.

I frown at him as I subtly shift away from him, “Are you flirting with me?” I ask out right, flushing a deep shade of red.

Jay adverts his eyes for a second as if weighing the pros and cons of answering honestly. His eyes soon find mine again. There’s a glint of determination in his blue depths, a small smile tugging at his perfect lips, “And if I said yes?” He asks, implying that he is indeed flirting with me.

“I’d ask why you still are staring.” I retort back, trying to change the subject.

Jay’s expression changes to one of seriousness again as he focuses his eyes directly on me, “I’m just concerned because you’re just not looking all too well…” He trails off upon seeing my flat look and offended expression. He quickly tries to save himself, “No!” He quickly says before recovering, “I didn’t mean it like that. You always look beau - ” He catches himself, “You always look fine to me. You just seem lethargic today is what I was trying to say.”

I watch him carefully for a while, suddenly feeling drowsy.

Jay inspects me too as if trying to work something out. “Why do you like me?” He blurts out unexpectedly.

“What?” I breathe out tiredly.

“Why do you like me Aqueela? I just want to know for myself.” He explains, his eyes unmoving from me as he patiently waits for my answer.

I let out a yawn in reply and stretch, “Why don’t you save that question for sober Aqueela?” I suggest, “She’ll answer it the right way.”

“Because she’d most likely slap me for even bringing it up.” Jay explains to me as if I’m a two year old.

“Mhmm.” I nod, not catching any of that, “So tell me Jay-Jay, was kissing me really mind blowing?” I ask with a sly grin.

I catch him off guard. “You’re even more pushy when drunk.” Jay mutters beneath his breath. His blue eyes widen considerably at my question as he contemplates how to answer. Eventually he does. “Yes Aqueela. Yes it was.” He answers truthfully. He inclines his head closer to me, “And I want nothing more than to kiss you again.” Jay admits, his hand reaching up to stroke the stray strands of my hair out of my face. Just that single touch of his has me blushing, tingles running down my spine at the immediate connection between us.

Though he pulls away all too suddenly, “But I can’t.” He confesses as a thought plagues his mind. He seems to be fighting an internal battle.

What isn’t he telling me?

“Why?” I ask, smiling for no particular reason.

He offers me a warm smile in return, “Just because. That’s a question for sober Aqueela to ask me in any case.”

My smile falters at this before vanishing completely. Jay notices and offers me another truth in return, “I’m only going to say this because I know you won’t remember any of this by morning, but I did do it for you.” I don’t have to think twice to know what he’s talking about. Back in Chem class.

I raise both eyebrows, lost, “Why tell me this now?”

“Because you will forget. You won’t remember any of it.” He explains before continuing, “To the world you be but one, but to one you might be the world. For me, that’s always been you. You’re my world.” He says softly and tenderly, still keeping his eyes locked on my own yet restraining himself from touching me again. “You’re transcendent.” He whispers, his cool breath fanning my face at our close proximity.

Jay waits for me to say something back, something important, but for the life of me I have no words as my last remaining brain cell dies. I can feel that I’m still tipsy and my eyelids are growing heavier by the second.

Jay, perceptive, sees this, “Please say something before you fall asleep on me.” He pleads, desperate to hear what I have to say back to all of that.

”I think you’re perfect.’ is what I want to say.

My eyes begin to close on their own accord as sleep deprived me kicks in, “You smell so good Jay.” I mumble, breathing and lingering in his natural scent and cologne as my head drops against his hard chest on its own accord. I can hear his heart beat thumping loudly, quickly. I rub my head as I push myself further into his warmth to rest, ”Owie. Now I have no skull, or bones.” I quote Olaf from Frozen rather sleepily.

Still, I manage to hear Jay’s last words before I’m out cold completely, “You asked me what I wanted to say that day. I was going to say that I don’t want space Aqueela. I want you. I always have. But that would’ve been a gigantic mistake. I can’t be with you. Thank you for stopping me from saying it.”

And after, that headache starts as if triggered by the hurtful words said.

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