Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 4: Losing the Plot

“Oh for goodness sake, Simo, my name is Aqueela!” I yell out, truly exasperated with this ongoing battle between us.

He drains me of my energy. I don’t know how he holds down a job. If I were the manager, I’d fire him in a single heartbeat.

“Sprinkle!” he calls back, seemingly amused by my reactions.

“You good for nothing-“

“I love it when you talk dirty to me,” a voice cuts me off from finishing my sentence.

I spin around to see who it is, only to find that no one is behind me. It’s only when I cast my eyes downward that a chubby life form comes into view. Unfortunately, I recognize the kid.

“Pork Chop?” I question aloud, using my own creative nickname that I made up for him - I don’t know his real name.

“’Sup babe,” he gives a little nod like they do in the movies, “and the name’s Blubber…Blubber Bond.”

He didn’t even do it right.

I groan, “Oh for f-“

“Now now, no swearing in front of the children,” Bell intervenes from beside me.

I wasn’t even going to swear.

I sigh internally knowing that she’d eventually find me, and it just had to be here of all places. Now she’s going to want to talk it out and all that sappy stuff.

The fact of the matter is that I hate her boyfriend. She just has to deal with it because nothing on this planet will make me get along with him. He’s awful.

“I told you that if I ever saw this…” I trail off to point at the form of other life, “again, then I’d murder him. He wouldn’t give me his bubblegum ice cream. The little…” I falter off whilst muttering curse words beneath my breath, aggravated at Mason, Bells, Simo, and this random kid. “How’d you find me in any case?” I settle on asking her instead.

Bell raises her eyebrows and angles her head to the side as if in disbelief that I’d even ask. She twirls her finger around, motioning to the store that we’re currently standing in, “It was kind of a given, don’t you think?”

I nod, having now thought about it.

“Give me some credit, I know you better than you think,” she tells me. “When you’re upset, you either disappear and takes photos or stuff your face with bubblegum ice cream. I realized that you’d be done with the former, so thus, the latter - hence why I’m here,” she explains. “Besides, we need to talk about what happened earlier on. Mason and I got into an argument after you left.”

I sigh aloud in guilt, “I’m sorry, Bells. I never meant to let it slip that you were uncertain of where you stood with him in the beginning. I was just so angry and my mouth took over and spoke out of turn for me. It was on impulse,” I apologize, sincerely sorry.

Bells waves off the matter with the use of her left hand, her gold charm bracelet catching my eye. It matches my own. It’s our best friend bracelets, a reminder of how far we’ve come.

“No worries,” she assures me, “that’s already in the past. I was actually meaning you, as in talk about you and not Mas. I’m concerned,” she admits, revealing her perspective. “I’ve never seen you get so mad before. Well, I have, but not in a long time.”

“Mason’s rude,” I exclaim, hoping to get it through to her. She needs to understand where I’m coming from.

Bells nods, “I know. I’m sorry.”

I shrug carelessly and ask, “So we’re good then? ’Cause I could care less if Mason hates my guts, but I can’t bear the thought of us not being on the best of terms with each other.”

I ignore the fact that Blubber and Simo are blatantly eavesdropping on our entire conversation.

Bell hugs me, “Of course we are. We always are and always will be. Not even Mason can come between us. I hope you know that. You’re like a sister to me,” she confesses, warming my heart in the process upon hearing her say it.

I grin and step back, “You are an irreplaceable friend, Bells.”

She winks playfully, “I know.”

“Sprinkle!” Simo calls out from behind.

My calm demeanor leaves me as all self-control and self-reassurance fly out the window. Why can’t he just say my name correctly? I jump around to face him, irritation in my tone as I acknowledge him, “What? What is it now, Simo?”

Simo juts his thumb out to something behind me. I turn directly around, only to come face to face with bubblegum eyes himself. Just my luck. I’m bound to get it now.

Jay glances down at me with an expectant gaze. I’m sure he’s about to ask for his jacket back, but what I’m not expecting is for the next words to spring out of his mouth, “I’ll have anything except bubblegum. Surprise me.”

I freeze for a second as his words resonate with me. Shocked, I send him a dark glare, and this time, it’s not because of his bubblegum insult. I place my hands on my hips and frown up at him, “Excuse me?” I blurt out, wondering if I heard him right.

“I said I’ll have anything but bubblegum,” he repeats calmly.

I am so astonished by his request, so much so that I open my mouth in an attempt to speak, but fail, no words taking form. I end up opening and closing my mouth, stunned and offended. I realize I must look like an idiot - nothing new.

“The service here is just terrible,” I hear him mutter and all I can do is blink at him, astounded by his nerve. “Hello?!” he snaps and waves a hand in front of my face. “Can you help me or not?”

At first, I wasn’t sure if I heard correctly, but then he repeated himself and I knew that I’d heard right. Then, I thought maybe it is someone else who resembles him, but no one except Jay Taylor has such blue eyes, not even Mr. Manager.

It’s official, Jay’s forgotten who I am.

“Not!” I finally respond, unbelieving of him and his audacity.

“Jeez, then no tip for you,” he says under his breath as he turns to Simo for assistance instead.

“I don’t work here, you looney tune!” I shout at him, annoyed.

Jay turns around with a grin plastered on his face. He holds up his hands apologetically, “My mistake.”

Just before he turns to face Simo again, I see a devilish smirk slowly etching its way onto his lips.

I glance toward Bella to see that her expression mirrors mine. She’s confused too. She looks to me for answers, but I merely shrug, probably even more lost than her.

I glance back toward Jay only to see Simo holding his usual grin in place and Blubber stifling his laughter behind his chubby fist, almost as if they’re in on it too.

“What are you laughing at, Pork Chop?” I question, irritated - mostly because Jay forgot ever running into me. I guess I’ll never have to replace his jacket now…but honestly! Who forgets someone they met after a week? He barely talks to anyone, let alone meets new people, yet still, he manages to wipe me off his memory entirely.

“My name is Blubber!” the kid corrects me.

I raise an eyebrow at him skeptically.

“I’m serious,” he defends himself.

I stare at him curiously, and when he doesn’t budge, I realize that he’s telling the truth. It’s my turn to hold back my laughter. “Makes sense,” I giggle as I eye his form and link it to his name, “your parents knew what they were doing.”

I don’t care how much younger he is than me, but obviously Bell does because she gives me a disapproving glance.

“What?” I huff innocently.

I receive a ‘you-know-what’ stare in return.

I break under the pressure of her gaze, “C’mon, Bell, if he wants to bark with the big dogs, then he’s got to stop pissing with the puppies.”

Bell merely shakes her head, “You’ll never grow up.”

“Never,” I confirm her theory.

She laughs before her eyes widen at something. She stops laughing and motions over to Jay. At first, I think she’s trying to imply something, but then I realize that she’s telling me that Jay just pushed in front of me.

Simo was still busy taking my order.

First, Jay doesn’t pitch on our agreed time, then he mistakes me for a worker, and now he pushes in front of me. That’s three strikes against him. He’s out of here.

Acting on impulse alone, I forcefully shove Jay away from the counter to get back to the front of the line.

I instantly regret my actions. What I failed to notice before, was the strawberry ice cream he’d just been holding in his hands. I stiffen and watch in horror as it goes flying out of his grip before cascading down the front of his second leather jacket.

Uh-oh!

Jay falls silent as he turns to give me a murdering stare. I gulp, fearing what actions he may take next.

“At least, it’s strawberry flavored, this time. Maybe he’ll go easy on you,” Bell whispers in my ear, and not so silently either, breaking the tense mood thickening in the air.

I don’t take my eyes off Jay as I whisper back to her, audible enough for all nearby to hear, “Not really helping, and in case you didn’t know, everyone in this room can hear you, including the culprit,” I conclude and point to Jay, in spite of him being able to see and hear us.

“I’m not the culprit. You are…again,” he raises his tone in irritation, accidentally admitting that he does remember who I am.

My face brightens up in realization upon hearing his words as it quickly sinks in. “Uh-huh!” I yell in joy and point a finger in his face accusingly. “I knew it! I knew you remembered me.”

He scoffs, “Now how can I forget the person who ruined my previous jacket? And here you go again…” he motions down to his jacket as he shrugs it off of himself, revealing his defined torso underneath the tight V-Neck, “ruining my new jacket too.” He turns to Bells next as if planning on lecturing her as well, “And I think that it’s in your best interest to learn to whisper.”

I nod my head, agreeing with him, “Tell me about it. I know. I tell her that all the time. I even gave her intense whispering classes, but she’s just not an ace student…if you know what I me-“

“You’re the one to talk,” Jay interrupts me from continuing any further with my rant.

He doesn’t stop there. He continues on with his outburst, hopefully releasing all that hatred he’s been bottling up for so long. I end up zoning in and out of his lectures of me being a klutz and how I should be more careful and yada yada ya.

Instead, I tune into Blubber and the sentence he’d just directed at me, “So I’d like to know why you never called me after I gave you the ‘go for it’ sign,” he queries as he licks his sixth ice cream in a row within the span of ten to fifteen minutes.

I am confused for a brief moment until I remember back to when he gave me the ‘call me’ gesture on the day we first met - which just so happens to be a week ago…a week too short for my liking.

I’m about to tell the pork chop that even if I wanted to call him, the genius never gave me his number, but another voice cuts in, “Yeah, I too would like to know why you never called.”

Mr. Manager guy…

I turn around to be met by his blue eyes and velvet voice, “I was waiting eagerly for your call, but it never came.”

“I know,” I admit, recalling that I ripped the paper with his number on in half, “and I’ve had a hectic week stalking-” I catch myself in time, “studying, so I-“

“Are you even listening to me?” Jay questions aloud, clearly frustrated with my lack of response. He’s about to lose it all over again.

I turn back to Jay to answer him but get interrupted when I hear Simo’s nagging voice, “Sprinkle! Sprinkle! Sprinkle!”

“He’s calling you now? You ‘roped’ the manager of the store in? How’d you get that right? Now you probably get free ice creams all the time,” Blubber complains. “Oh, you devious creature you!” he finishes sourly.

“Simo is calling you. Stop being rude!” Bells informs me with much persistence, always the polite one among us.

“You got a kid and a manager calling you now?” Jay asks me, confused, as he tries to fit the pieces of the puzzle together.

I want to answer him when Simo himself decides to annoy me further, “Sprinkle! Sprinkle! Sprinkle! Sprinkle watch me do the ‘Tummy Tickle’!” he shakes his tummy and dances on the spot.

He is so random. I swear he just does this to get a rise out of me.

Sprinkle? Your name is Sprinkle?” Jay questions, puzzled yet still fuming.

I shake my head. “He just calls me that,” I explain, now feeling overwhelmed.

“Stop ignoring ‘blue eyes’. He wants to know why you haven’t called him, and quite frankly, so do I,” Bell adds amongst all the commotion, not doing anything to help simmer all this chaos down.

“You’re leading the worker, the kid, and the manager on, all at once?” Jay prods, seemingly repulsed at his own assumptions. He’s unimpressed with my apparent ‘playgirl’ ways.

Simmer down, simmer down…

“Wait, you’re dating my employee, Simo?” the ridiculously hot manager guy asks me upon hearing Jay’s words.

I begin to lose the plot whilst trying to answer everyone’s questions. They’re all talking at once and coming up with their own theories and conclusions before I can even correct them.

It all becomes a big blur as everyone continues arguing with one another:

“Sprinkle! Tummy tickle!”

“Put that blubber away, Simo. It’s inappropriate. I’ll lose clients.”

“I heard my name.”

“No!” Simo insists stubbornly, “Sprinkle must do the ‘Tummy Tickle’!”

“Aqueels, just talk to him already!”

“Why haven’t you called me, goddess?”

“You’re too young. I’d like to know why she has yet to call me.”

“Sprinkle tinkle tummy tickle!”

“You’re all insane.”

The last comment clearly belonged to Jay seeing as he is the only one storming out the store muttering colorful words under his breath.

Can I really blame him this time?

No, no I cannot.

I follow suit and walk out after him, in dire need of fresh air.

I look around for him and spot him holding his jacket over his arm as he crosses the street.

I check both sides of the road, and when I see that it’s more or less busy, I decide to run over in any case.

A car honks at me as it slams on brakes, swerving slightly, and just missing me in the process. The woman in the car holds up her hands in exasperation. By the way her mouth is moving so quickly, I’m pretty certain that she’s cursing me. I’m just thankful that there’s a frame of glass and metal separating me from her…oh, and that I’m still alive.

Fortunately, the racket and commotion I just caused (the cars all honking at me as I take my time in making my way across the street) manages to capture Jay’s attention. I take my chances in approaching him whilst he’s distracted.

Upon seeing me he sighs aloud and shakes his head. “What do you want? I don’t have any more jackets for you to ruin,” he says sarcastically, having cooled down slightly, and I mean that literally and figuratively seeing as strawberry ice cream is seen as quite refreshing at times.

“You didn’t pitch. I waited an hour for you,” I remind him of our deal, the one I didn’t agree to, and ignore his weak insults.

“That’s because it was my old leather jacket. I had it replaced with the new one that you just messed strawberry ice cream on,” he informs me in nonchalance as if it’s no big deal.

My eyes widen and my mouth falls slightly agape at the news, “Then why did you tell me to wash it if you had another jacket the entire time?!”

“I figured it would keep you busy. Plus, you did me a favor. I was looking for a way to ridden myself of the old jacket,” he shrugs as if I did not spend three forsaken hours on his previous jacket.

I eye his new jacket lying over his right arm, and before he can even see it coming, I snatch it off his arm. “I’ll see to it that this one becomes clean too,” I retaliate.

He scoffs and reaches forward to retrieve it, “I don’t think so.” I step back just in time before he can get his hands on it.

He gives me a narrowed glare and steps forward again just as I step back. I grin when he frowns in irritation, “Finders keepers.”

“Yeah, exactly. Not finders stealers. Give,” he orders, but before he can say anything more I’m already running across the bustling street yet again, making my grand escape.

“Finders keepers will be finders weepers!” he calls after me.

He stays where he is because he himself isn’t as spontaneous and courageous as I am. I’m not the least bit surprised that he doesn’t even try to follow after me.

This way, I can give him back his pink leather jacket that Bells and I decorated with glitzy, girly stuff.

He hasn’t won this. Yes, he was a step ahead of me then, but now I am ten ahead of him. Now he has no jackets and he’s relying on me for one - a pink one that is.

I’ll keep this new jacket to myself until further notice. It may just come in handy later on.


“So you’re really doing this then? No persuasion can convince you otherwise?” Bells asks, hesitant, as we raid the school hallways with Mason in tow.

I nod, “It’s going down. It’s what was originally planned until he decided to screw up our original plans. This is his punishment for messing with me,” I say adamantly, holding up the bright pink jacket in my hands.

“But it won’t work because this time he didn’t even ask for his jacket back,” Bell reminds me.

I ignore her, even though she is probably right.

I stop short when I see dark hair and bubblegum eyes himself wandering out the school entrance. He is skipping again, just as I had expected. He has some sort of silent and sly rebellious streak in him. It’s invigorating.

I salute Bells, my way of telling her not to wait up. I’m tempted to wave goodbye to Mason but decide against it as I start pushing my way through the crowds of people in the busy hallways in order to reach Jay.

“Jay!” I call out to him in the hopes of stopping him, or, at least, slowing him down.

Not surprisingly, he turns around to see who is calling him. When he sees that it’s me he picks up in his speed and paces faster as if to avoid me.

I will not allow him to get away. Not today. Today I am determined, today I get my glorious and well-deserved victory.

My persistence in pursuing him is proven as I sprint toward him, closing off all the distance hurriedly. Upon finally reaching him, I grab his arm and force him to stop.

He’s about to speak, but I take it as my opportunity to get even as I throw the pink jacket over his face, “Cleaned your jacket for you!” I chirp excitedly after having won this battle for sure.

He lifts the tiny pink jacket off of his face, “Thanks. It looks…” he pauses dramatically as if to deliberately keep me in suspense, a smirk sliding onto his lips, “spectacular.”

I glance up at him, puzzled. He should be yelling right about now. This is not the reaction I was anticipating from him.

It’s only then that I see why he isn’t bothered or concerned like I had expected him to be. “How many leather jackets do you freaken own?!” I ask incredulously as I notice his arms and shoulders covered by yet another black, leather jacket.

“Enough for you to ruin. That guy, Simo, saw how you stuffed up my jacket and so he went on about how ‘Sprinkle’ has no manners. I couldn’t agree with him any more than I already do,” he grins in a carefree manner and adds, “pretty cool guy that.”

“Why do you say that?” I quiz.

“He gave me some cash out the profits without your boy toy manager seeing. Bought myself a new jacket, one that won’t get ruined by the likes of you. So thanks for the jacket cleaning,” he smirks down at me, “but you keep it. Clearly, it was made for you,” he winks, knocking shoulders with me as he passes me by, leaving me bewildered and perplexed by how unpredictable he is.

It seems I’ve managed to lose the plot yet again.

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