Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 50: The Meetup

“Run run as fast as you can Mr Gingerbread Man!” I chime tauntingly, humming and singing to myself in content as I make my gingerbread man biscuit run along the arm of the pink and blue couch in fear.

I come up from behind like a wild beast and glare down at my small biscuit man, “You can run, but you can’t hide.” I growl menacingly before reaching down and stuffing the poor defenseless gingerbread man into my mouth.

I chomp down on him greedily - merciless - as if been starved for years. Upon my last swallow, I let out an evil cackle at murdering Mr Gingerbread Man - the very bane of my existence.

“Does she always play with her food like a four year old before devouring it like a sociopath?” I hear a voice ask from somewhere in front of me.

My head snaps up to see Jay and Grey both staring at me like I belong in an asylum.

“Yeah, pretty much.” Jay answers Grey with a small smile on his face at the thought.

“See. This is exactly why I didn’t want to come.” Grey, as usual, complains.

I awkwardly cough and clear my voice, forcing on a smile, “Hey guys.” I wave sheepishly, embarrassed at their staring, “Sorry you had to see that gruesome sight. Things got bloody - violent, if you will.”

“Why do I have to go? I’m nineteen, I’m not even in school anymore.” Grey turns back to Jay, brushing my presence off completely.

Ever since we told all our friends - and Grey - about attending the football game, Grey’s been whining, trying to worm his way out of it. But Jay is forcing him because I’m forcing Jay and Jay doesn’t want to bear the football game alone. True bromance.

“Benley’s the same age as you and he’s going.” I say, motioning to Benley just as he enters the TV room and greets us with an acknowledging nod.

We’re using Jay’s house - as always - as a central meeting point before we all head out to the game.

“That’s ’cause you said there’d be hot chicks ’round.” Benley adds, earning me a flat look from Grey seeing as Grey isn’t a natural flirt like ‘Mr Boyband’ over here.

Bells follows in after Benley with Slobber in her arms. She loves my pup and keeps hogging my baby; it’s bad enough fighting with Jay over my Yorkie.

“Now if only there were more ‘lookers’ - ‘eye candy’ - like Miss Bensten over here.” Benley grins charmingly at Bells, sending her playful yet flirtatious wink.

We all know he’s only joking. He’s still hung up on Bex, his Ex and Dylan’s current girlfriend. Speaking of which, we didn’t invite those two for Benley’s sake - also, I don’t like them.

“Oh Benley.” Bells sighs teasingly before offering him a sympathetic pat on the back, “We really need to find you a girlfriend.”

“I concur.” I agree with Bells, before adding in my input as I glance at my best friend, “Benley’s turning into an exact replica of Xavier - Jay’s competition in racing.”

We didn’t invite the racing group - consisting of Emma, her brother Landon and Xavier - either. Those three wouldn’t be caught dead at a school football match. They’re too school for cool.

“He’s no competition. I can take him any day.” Jay mutters, unhappy at the reference to Xavier. Those two really hate each other.

“I second that.” Grey defends Jay, the both of them taking their racing way too seriously.

I roll my eyes at the them and their testosterone before turning back to Bells with an excited grin, “If you’re here, it means Troy’s here too, right?”

Bells nods, “Yeah. His flight landed in town early this morning. He’s pretty ‘amped’ to be back.”

Troy had moved to Rome for his modelling career that was about to take off. He’s been gone for several months. He’s now back in town as he takes a break from it all.

I raise an eyebrow as I look around, “Speaking of which, where is your bro and your ‘boytoy’?” I ask, referring to Troy and Max respectively - those two being very similar in personalities.

Bells open her mouth to answer, but is cut off when we all hear two very high pitched girly screams coming from the dining room - my question thereby answered.

Jay and I both rush to the dining room to see what all the screams are about, only to find Troy and Max standing squashed on a one-seater couch as they both hold onto each other as if fearful for their lives.

It’s then that I see they’re screaming over a hairy Tarantula on the floor before them. These two put the Drama Club at school to shame. I thought someone was dying.

Jay must see the Tarantula too as he sighs aloud at the reoccurring sight, “I’ll go get Oog.”

Third time this week!

Troy and Max (still both holding each other and jumping up and down in fear) are so terrified over a single spider, that they don’t even notice me.

Troy doesn’t hesitate to play the ‘every man for himself’ card as he shoves Max right off the couch - off their only safety - and onto the floor right beside the Tarantula.

“You kill it!” Troy shouts to Max in his familiar girly voice.

Max lets out an unsuspecting girly screech followed by a squeak at getting close to the spider, “No you!”

Max shakes his head at Troy before quickly attempting to get back onto the couch with Troy - except, Troy being selfish Troy, holds his palm to Max’s head, fighting against Max. He tries to push Max back down to the floor, leaving Max half on the couch, half off, struggling against Troy for his life.

“Eat him! Kill him! His life is insignificant in comparison to mine!” Troy yelps at the spider, pointing at Max, as if the spider could actually comprehend what he is demanding.

I shake my head at the ridiculousness of it all, not able to hold back my laughter at the two any longer, alerting them both of my presence.

Troy’s head snaps up at the sound of my laughter, his blue-green eyes - resembling that of his sister’s - lighting up with joy at meeting my amused gaze. He still looks like the same old Troy - hot and conceited. His kilowatt, arrogant smirk etches it’s way onto his lips as offers me a sheepish wave, “Pipsqueak! We meet again!” He exclaims, directing his greeting to me specifically.

He always greets me with that phrase, it’s just his thing.

I grin, waving back at him from the small distance between me and the couch he and Max are taking refuge on. “Welcome home Troy Story.” I say, overjoyed to see him again. He’s like the brother I never had.

Unfortunately for Troy, Max seizes the open opportunity that comes with Troy’s distraction and pushes Troy right off the couch.

Troy falls and lands face first into the carpet. His landing rattles the Tarantula as it jumps and it ends up jumping right onto Troy’s joy and pride - his face.

Troy shouts loudly as a result, “Get it off! Get it off! Aqueela save me!” Troy begs, pleading, half his face covered by the gigantic spider.

I would’ve tried to help him (actually, knowing me, I probably wouldn’t have) had I not been rolling on the floor - literally - laughing my head off at his reaction.

Jay returns, stepping over me with Oog in toe.

Jay frowns at Oog after first killing valuable time for Troy and Max by first scolding Oog as if this is the norm around here, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you countless of times to stop leaving your spiders all around my house.”

Oog sulks and bows his head, submitting to Jay’s authority, as he waddles his way (taking his sweet time just to spite Jay) over to Troy.

Oog grabs Troy’s face in his grubby little hands before carefully removing the Tarantula off startled Troy’s face.

Jay gently helps me back up to my feet as I come out of my laughing fit.

Oog offers me a naughty grin and Jay a scowl as he passes by us in his tribesman costume and paint, the Tarantula in his hands.

I blow out a breath of relief once Oog and his pet spider are out of the house.

Troy, on the other hand, is at a complete loss for words. He’s stays still, rooted in his position, his eyes fixated on me for some kind of explanation as to what just happened to him.

I watch him, barely holding back a smile, as he blinks down at me - clueless. “I’m not going to even ask.”

Troy has never met most of the people in this house, including Oog, but at least he’s aware at how things go in my life - wild and insane.

“Why is Oog wearing tribal paint all over his face and why is he wearing a dress?” Max asks as he scampers off the couch, not at all embarrassed or ashamed of himself - not that he ever is.

I wave off the mater carelessly with a laid back shrug as if it’s nothing, “He’s going through that ’tribal phase’ that all kids go through at some point or another. Oh and it’s not a dress, it’s a tribesman outfit from Peru.” I explain as Max makes his way toward me.

Max holds up a finger to me, “One, Oog is a grown man, an insane grown man - but a grown man nonetheless. Stop being under the impression that he’s a kid.” Max clarifies before holding up another finger to my face, “Two, I know of the ’Bad-boy phase’ - the phase that Jay seems to be stuck in for life - “

“I can hear you.” Jay mutters, narrowing his blue eyes at Max.

Max continues on as if not having been interrupted, “The ’Gothic phase‘ and all the others, but never in my life have I heard of the ’tribal phase’.”

“Whatever. He’s family now, that’s all that matters.” I defend my odd relationship with Oog against Max’s attacks. I love that little guy, hell I love all my friends. They’re the only family I got.

Max is suddenly shoved right out of my face before I’m lifted off the ground and pulled into a warm embrace.

Troy

“Squirt! I’ve actually missed you.” Troy spins me around before planting me back onto the floor and pulling back with a broad smile.

“That makes only one of us.” Grey grumbles as he, Bells and Benley enter the dining room too.

I glare at Grey before introducing Troy to Benley and Grey. Troy already knows Max and Jay.

I turn back to Troy, “I see your hair is still perfectly quaffed, putting Malibu Barbie to shame.” I tease him, aware that he’s always been big on his appearance.

“Yeah.” Troy nods, a wild grin on his face, “Ramos is the man.”

I cringe at hearing the name ‘Ramos’. That guy hates me, maybe even more so than Grey. He’s Troy and Bell’s personal hairdresser and he always refers to me as ‘Split Ends’.

“You really expect me to babysit a tribesman with a ton of Tarantulas?” Greg asks as he enters the room where all of us have gathered. “He can turn cannibal at any time.” Greg - A.K.A: Boss Man - brings the possible fact to light.

I’m leaving Oog, Slobber and Gland (he insisted on staying with Oog - his best bud) under the supervision of Greg (the only sane one from us all) and Jam (because he’s friends with Greg, Oog and Gland).

Jam and Greg are going to have their hands full babysitting Oog whilst we are all away at the football stadium. Slobber, on the other hand, is an angel. He won’t give any hassles.

“Hola Flower!” Jam calls from the back door, not entering the house because he’s covered in Tarantulas from head to toe. He’s so chill and laid back, it doesn’t even faze him.

“Hi Jam.” I wave at him, “Please don’t come inside.” I ask of him politely.

He nods, doing ‘the wave’ with his Tarantula covered arms - before heading back to Oog’s tree house.

“My baby girl Eela!” Gland also enters the house to greet me before he and Greg join Jam, Oog and Slobber up in Oog’s tree house.

“Things sure have got interesting around here.” Troy remarks casually, not bothering for details. He knows I lead a ‘unique’ life.

“I know, I know, I’m an enigma.” I joke. Grey snorts, disagreeing. I ignore him.

“I’m a personal PA.” Troy says, “At least as a part time job while I’m here.”

I furrow my eyes in confusion at his words as Bells quickly corrects her brother, “Just ‘PA’ you idiot. The way you said it - personal PA - makes it to be personal personal assistant.”

Troy narrows his eyes on his sister, “You piss me off.”

“Ditto brother, ditto.” Bells says in response.

“Ah.” Benley pipes up, recognition flashing through his brown eyes, “Definitely siblings.”

“Puts your hands together in the air ’cause Blubber is in the house yo!” Blubber shouts at the top of his lungs as he and Simo make a dramatic entrance. “Literally, ’cause you know, I’m actually in the house.”

Simo greets everyone - his cheery self as usual - but when he reaches Jay and I, he merely glares at us before walking past without so much as a ‘hello’.

He’s still mad at Jay and I for dating.

Blubber’s reaction is even worse. He calls us out for it in front of everyone - well he calls me out for it seeing as he idolizes Jay. In his eyes, Jay can do no wrong.

Blubber scowls at me, “Well well well, if it isn’t ’let me have CoolGuyJay all to myself and hog his coolness from everyone else’.”

I yawn, “That’s a really long name I have there.” I string him along for the fun of it.

Apparently it’s my fault Jay asked me out.

“Shut up you…you…you damn goddess you! I don’t want to see you.” Blubber tries to insult me, but fails.

“That will be difficult considering I invited you.” I retort back, enjoying this way too much. “You do realize that I’m not dating by myself. It takes two to tango. You should be angry at Jay too.”

Blubber’s mouth falls agape as if he’s shocked by my words, “How dare you?! CoolGuyJay can do no wrong. Don’t try pin the blame on him. You obviously seduced him into this ‘boyfriend-girlfriend’ concept.”

It’s my turn for my mouth to fall agape. “I did not!”

Suuuure you didn’t.” Max chimes, adding a blaze to the fire, stabbing the bear with the stick.

“Shut up Max!” I bark at him as he pretends to zip his mouth shut.

“You so did.” Jay adds with a cunning smirk, clearly having fun with this.

Blubber nods sympathetically at Jay, “I wouldn’t be able to resist her either. I want you to know that I don’t blame you for any of this. It’s all her fault. I’m not mad, just very disappointed.” Blubber says before turning his attention back to me, continuing on with his rant, “Besides, with your ego, I’m sure you can manage to date yourself. I would not be surprised if you were in a serious relationship with yourself.”

“Oh snap!” Bells winces for me.

Grey shrugs as if weighing out the idea of me dating myself in his head, “I could see that happening. Most likely probable.”

“Oh no he din’t!” Troy says in a ‘diva-like’ voice as he waves his fingers in front of his face with attitude before clicking them.

I glance at Jay for backup, shocked by the nerve of this pudgy kid. He merely grins and winks at me, enjoying the fact that he doesn’t have to take any of the blame for this. He can just sit back and watch this play out.

Blubber opens his mouth to continue when Troy interrupts him, “I’m going to stop you right there buddy.” Troy says to him before turning to look at all of us, “Let’s be honest here, I’d date myself if I could and let’s face it, given the chance, everyone in this room would date me too. I’m perfection at it’s best.”

I roll my eyes at Troy’s usual arrogance. Only he’d say something like that.

There’s low mutters, murmurs, whispers and disgruntles among us all as a result of Troy’s self-conceitedness.

“Hell no!” Bells fake gags.

“Don’t swing that way.” Benley pitches in.

“You’re such an idiot. You can’t get perfection at your best because perfection can not be improved,” is what I end up saying.

“Can I leave yet?” Grey asks to no one in particular, obviously not a fan of Troy at all. It’s expected seeing as he hates Max and I too. Troy’s similar to us, except, he’s more stupid. “I really want to go home.” Grey concludes wistfully as if longing to leave - probably to see his precious Nancy.

“Maybe.” Simo comments. Troy’s grin drops at Simo’s open answer. The rest of us all look at Simo, suspicious and shocked by his word.

Troy’s grin returns full force, “Called it. This man has exceptional taste.” He says smugly at having one fan. It’s not an accomplishment really seeing as Simo is everyone’s fan - well except for mine as of lately.

“It’s one person and he said ‘maybe’ and he barely comprehends our discussions. Don’t get ahead of yourself you egoistical bastard.” Bells puts her brother in his place, quickly squashing his ego. He needs it be quashed every once in a while seeing as it continuously grows back like a fungus.

I tug Bells back, giving her look, “Let him have this, just once. I feel like he needs it more than any of us here.”

Bells sighs but agrees reluctantly, “Yes brother, they all want to date you, but are too shy to admit it in front of you.”

Troy shakes his head with a wolfish grin, “Knew it.” He says over confidently to himself, “I’m irresistible.”

I slap my forehead at his genuine stupidity.

“Anyway.” Bells says loudly, pulling us all from our thoughts, “We should probably go. The game is about to start.”

“Ooooh!” I clap my hands giddily, excited, “Road trip!”

Grey rolls his eyes at my unnecessary enthusiasm, “Your school is literally in walking distance from Jay’s place, thus, you cannot classify it as a road trip.”

I blink up at Grey innocently, “You talk a lot.”

Grey’s mouth falls slightly agape at my profound statement. He scowls at me as he crosses his arms over his chest, defiant and ever when defending himself, “You breathe a lot.”

I grin at having lost, faking a bow, “You got me.” I confess, giving him this one. I am feeling rather generous today.

Grey raises an eyebrow, shocked, as he fixates his grey eyes on me solely in disbelief, “What? Really?” He asks, dumbfounded. “Do you actually have nothing left to say? Am I actually getting the last say for once? Have I actually won?”

Okay, jeez, don’t make yourself look pathetic by seeming so stunned about it. Take it, you won. You beat me.” I nod at him, beaming as I confirm it.

He needs this, especially after what I still have planned for him at the football game. I pulled a few strings and arranged a lil’ somethin’ somethin’ for him. Needless to say, he will despise me greatly for it. Therefore, in the meantime, I’ll let him have this win.

Grey merely grins in response, his head held high in pride as his entire grumpy mood changes completely to a ‘happy-go-lucky’ one. Oh how he’s loving the taste of his rare victory right now.

“Okay, call me OCD, but we need to arrange this. Whose all driving?” Bells asks to no one in particular.

“Obviously me. I like my car. I like my driving. I don’t like any of your cars. I don’t like any of your driving.” Grey answers Bells rudely - nothing new - obviously dismissing Jay from the equation or else he wouldn’t have said any of that.

I like Grey’s car, but I don’t like him. In his face!

We need more drivers.

I glance Jay’s way, the other racer, to see him already dangling his car keys knowingly in front of my face with a wink directed my way.

“Shotgun riding front seat in which ever car I go!” Troy shouts aloud as he makes a break for the front door to which Max, Blubber and Simo follow, all four trying to push and squeeze through the front door at the same time.

“Anyone can drive with me so long as it’s not Lawson, Max or Troy.” Grey says before shoving all four - Troy, Max, Simo and Blubber - out the door with one forceful push.

All four of them topple over each other and fall to the ground. As a result, Jay sends a glare filled with daggers to Grey, “Thanks. Now I’m stuck driving the dull crayons.”

Grey smirks and shrugs, “Life is f**king tough, isn’t it?”

After much debate and arguing (thirty-eight minutes of it to be precise), we agreed that Benley, Simo and Blubber would ride with Grey (Benley up front with Grey, Blubber and Simo barely fitting in at the back). The rest of would go with Jay - me in the front whilst Bells Troy and Max share the back.

Troy tried to fight me for the front seat, but Jay defended me and said that as his girlfriend, I should be up front with him. Still, initially, it wasn’t enough to persuade nor convince Troy. He was insistent on sitting in the front…that is until I told him that Bells and Max could get freaky at the back without him knowing it. After that, Troy was in the back in a flash, sitting right in the middle in order to separate his sister from her boyfriend.

That being said, we’re finally on our way.

“We’re in the cool car. Grey’s car is the lame one.” I add to the busy conversation in the car as Jay tries to remain focused on the road.

“Agreed.” Max pipes in with a raised fist in the air.

“Let me guess, this is the cool car ’cause I’m in it, right?” Troy asks, barely suppressing a smirk.

This guy!

No one answers, the car falling into silence.

Troy takes the opportunity to grin to himself before stretching his legs out - his shoes just reaching the handbrake between Jay and I - and placing his arms behind his head. “Man, I, am awesome. Practically brilliant in everything I do.”

I look back to Max in response of Troy’s arrogant statement. Max nods at me and we both end up grinning as I start the ‘classic Aqueela-Max mess around’ that simply infuriates Bells and drives Jay insane.

“Please Troy, anything you can do, I can do better than you.” I challenge Troy with the inside joke between Max and me.

“Huh?” Troy retorts, unaware of what I’d just started.

I hear Bells groan from behind me and Jay sigh from beside me - the both of them very aware of what’s coming.

“Not this again.” Bells whines in protest.

Max joins in, “No way Aqueela, anything you can do, I can do better than you.”

“What’s going on?” Troy asks, now skeptical as he exchanges a look with his sister, confused.

“Nah uh! Anything you can do, I can do better than you!” I sing along with Max who also belches out the lyrics.

We continue on pestering Troy as Max and I mouth the lyrics ‘anything you can do, I can do better than you’ in his face. Bells mouths back to us to ‘stop’. In turn, Jay mouths to Max and I to ‘shut the hell up’. The mouthing continues on for a while until Troy is left utterly lost by it all.

“What is going on?” Troy starts softly before he begins to panic, his tone raising as he sees us all still mounting things to one another, “Can you guys hear me? Am I going deaf? Can you all hear what I’m saying right now-“

“Uh huh! Anything you can do Troy, we can do better than you!” Max chimes as I hum along with him, the both of us cutting Troy off and reassuring him in the process that he is in actual fact not deaf.

Troy tries to reply, but every time he makes an attempt in speaking back, Max and I sing the lyrics right over him repetitively, thoroughly pissing him off.

“Hey guys-” Troy attempts in speaking before we cut him off.

“Anything you can do, we can do better than you!” Max and I taunt him in unison, waiting for him to try to speak so we can cut him off again.

“Wait listen-“

“Anything you can do, we can do better than you!”

“Check this-“

“Anything you can do, we can do better than you!”

“Hold on-“

“Anything you can do, we can do better than you!”

“Please-“

“Anything you can do, we can do better than you!”

“For fu-“

“Anything you can do, we can do better than you!”

“You just had to get them started.” Jay mutters to Troy, frustrated.

Max ignores Jay as he looks my way, “Hey Aqueela?”

“Yeah Max?” I ask knowingly, feigning innocence.

“Anything you can do, I can do better than you.” Max teases lightly before doing it with Troy who happens to fall for it again like the ‘stupido’ he is.

“Hey Jay?” Max tries it on Jay.

“Cut it out. Not falling for it.” Jay states casually.

Max pouts before turning to face his girlfriend’s way, “Hey Bells?”

Bells glances at Jay through the rear-view mirror as if seeking permission from him, “Can I hit them? I really want to hit them.” Bells says to Jay, “First my boyfriend hates my best friend, then my boyfriend loves my best friend. Now, now my new boyfriend is best friends with my best friend. I can’t keep up anymore. This is getting overrated.”

Max and I are one in the same. It can’t be helped.

“I think now’s a good a time as any to say that I absolutely…” Troy pauses dramatically mid-sentence, keeping us all in suspense for a second or two before he continues on, “Adore myself.”

We all groan in unison. He’d kept us waiting only to hear that.

“I am a legend.” Troy remarks, despite the clear visual that none of us care.

We.” I correct Troy, “We are legends.”

“Right. Whatever.” Troy nods, reluctantly agreeing. He hates sharing the spotlight.

“Well, self-proclaimed legends…” Jay emphasizes the last part to please us, “We’re here, thank heaven above.”

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