Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 6: Something Else

A week later…

I despise the cold.

It’s so cold, 20 degrees Fahrenheit to be specific. That’s Burnsville weather for you. Our winters are freezing.

I’d rather be in a desert dying of thirst. I’d rather pull a ‘Bear Grylls’ stunt and drink my own urine in order to survive the heat. I miss the sun. I miss the warmth.

You tend to really feel the icy weather when lying on the cool hood of a black SUV, Bell’s SUV, directly under the light snow falling.

It’s not as if I have the option to move - or so I do, but I am just so tired and lazy. The cold is putting me to sleep. It won’t be much longer before I hibernate out here in the wilderness that is the school’s front entrance.

Bell is going to get a mouthful from me when she gets out of her tutoring classes. Who wants to tutor people on a Friday afternoon? I told her to refuse, but she’s adamant on getting extra credit.

Then there’s me…flunking most subjects. My grandparents have already been called in seven times this year for my ‘lack of concentration’ issues.

I lazily place my earphones in and listen to some of my favorite tunes while waiting for the one who loves to take her time in all things. I nod my head to the beat and kick my legs back and forth, staring up at the white snowflakes floating in the air just above me. I temporarily blind myself in the process. My eyeballs are freezing over.

Should have worn shades…

“What is she doing now?”

I perk up when I vaguely hear Mason’s voice. The couple’s daily routine is to walk each other to their next classes, feed each other in the cafeteria, and follow each other around like lovesick puppies. I think their favorite routine is making Aqueela vomit on a daily basis.

I sit up to face them whilst swinging my legs and arms back and forth, creating a scene as passing some juniors laugh at me. However, I could care less. I don’t find happiness in the realm of society and its judgmental ways. I am happy with just one brilliant friend, except one that takes her sweet time, that is a big ’no-no’ for me.

“Earlier on, where did you go?” Bells questions, confused by my vampire abilities that I’ve told her I have a billion times already.

Time to punish her for causing me hypothermia...

I hop off of her car and begin to publicly dance right in front of her, still listening to ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’. “Where did you come from?” I chime the tune shamelessly.

“Tutoring. You know that already,” she eyes me skeptically, not catching on.

Bells is a slow one. In academics, she is a straight-A student, but in street-smarts, she’d fail no doubt.

Mason rolls his eyes, obviously having caught on.

I continue on parading in front of them like a lunatic whilst Bell blushes and tries to hide her embarrassed face. Her downfall is caring what the human race thinks. It is her only weakness - oh, and her boyfriend.

I sing at the top of my lungs, “Where did you come from? Where did you go? Where did you come from, Cotton Eyed Joe?” I nod my head to the beat and swing my hips as I spin in circles around the pair.

“Make it stop! Torture!” Mason complains, holding his hands up against his ears as if he cannot bear the sound.

I smirk in delight, well aware of the fact that I cannot sing to save my life - all the more reason to sing!

I decide to make it worse on him. I take a step forward and point a finger at him, “Where did you come from? Where did you go? Where did you come from, Cotton Eyed Joe?” I chorus in enthusiasm.

“And I’m the spawn of Satan? With a voice like that, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were my sibling,” he says casually and then blinks as he does a double take. “You spoke to me! After three weeks, you finally spoke to me!” he sputters in disbelief.

I don’t reply for he is sadly mistaken.

I glance at Bells and she reads my mind before explaining it to him, “Code 17 of 137 states clearly that if one is ignoring another party, singing is allowed and does not count as direct communication.”

Mason glances from Bells to me and I simply nod, confirming the statement.

I am surprised that he is so enthralled to have me talking to him again. Isn’t it supposed to be heaven when I stay silent? Those were once his words, now I am making him eat them for breakfast.

“Where do all these codes that you two always mention come from in any case? It drives me insane! How many freaking codes are there?!” he asks, annoyed.

“Over a thousand,” Bell answers casually. “It comes from the ‘Bequeela Book of Codes of Life’. It’s a mix of our names put together.”

A round of applause for Sherlock Holmes!

“Aqueela came up with the name. Bequeela for peculiar. Has a nice ring to it. Very catchy,” she adds.

I stop dancing to stifle a laugh.

Peculiar…Bequeela…too brilliant! Gets me every time. Such a classic. I take full credit in that one.

Mason scrunches up his nose in distaste at the name. “Original,” he murmurs, Bell’s hanging onto every word he says. “Can’t believe you two sat and came up with over a thousand codes. You both have way too much free time on your hands. Tell me, how do you get one party to stop ignoring the other party?”

“Code 1 of 1: Apologize. It falls hand in hand with Code 2: Forgiveness,” Bell informs the clueless moron.

Mason tears his gaze off of his girlfriend and brings his eyes to me.

I grin and wave innocently.

His eyes stray back to Bells again as he grumbles out unhappily, “Do I really have to? Is there no other way?” he asks, unwilling.

Bell narrows her blue-green eyes at him. He gives in. He always gives in for Bells and he will do it for the rest of his life, or so help me I’ll tear off his muscle tendons and then strangle him with them.

He sucks in a deep breath before slowly turning to face me with a look of contempt, “I’m…I-I…I am sorry.”

I cup a hand to my ear, prolonging this for as long as possible.

“Iamsorry,” he mutters quickly and quietly.

Bells gives him another glare as he repeats himself. This time, I secretly record his apology over my phone to blackmail him at a later stage.

Keep your friends close and keep your enemies on your phone.

“I am sorry, okay? I miss our hateful banter. Playful banter? Whatever. Either way, I miss it,” he, my nemesis, confesses.

I am touched by the sincerity in his voice. It’s almost as if he really meant it. I’ll give him props for skilled acting.

I smile up at him and carefully remove my earphones.

I take a run-up and pounce on him, hugging the life out of him…hopefully.

Bell laughs at her boyfriend’s reaction as he frowns from beneath my grip.

Mason pats my back awkwardly, clearly uncomfortable. That was my exact intention.

“I am glad I am forgiven. Did we really have to hug it out, though?” he asks, frustrated.

Bells is quick to shoot him a glower.

I laugh and release him. “Where did you come from?” I ask.

He sends me a flat expression in turn. I grin jovially and motion to him to sing the rest of the part. He shakes his head, adamant. I look to Bells who crosses her arms and gives Mason a reprimanding look.

“Where did you go?” he reluctantly sings, obeying his girl.

I burst into laughter along with Bells at hearing him sing. He is just as awful as me.

Embarrassed, he points an accusing finger at me, “I really hate you.”

“Not duly noted, Maggot-face!” I reply in a high-pitched, sing-song voice.

He throws his arm around my neck and brings me in for a playful noogie. “I never missed that nickname as much as I did in those three weeks. Welcome back, Leech!” he says through his own laughter as he rubs my hair with his knuckles, keeping his hold on me as I am forced under his right arm.

He finally lets go, leaving my hair static and wild, my beret almost falling off as a result. He changes the subject, “I have to know though, you finally get yourself a man and you snag up JT of all people. He hates humanity. How did you get that right?”

“I didn’t,” I answer, “haven’t seen him around for the past week. He’s barely ever at school and if he is then he is going out of his way to avoid me.”

“Don’t blame him,” Mason coughs from beside me teasingly.

“Oh, and for future reference, don’t call him JT. He will most likely murder you. Apparently, it is a boundary not to be crossed,” I warn.

Mason stares at me as if working something out in his head, “And let me guess, you crossed that boundary?”

A grin touches my lips as I throw a victorious fist to the air, “Hell yeah I did!”

“Of course you did,” Bell replies, her tone suggesting her boredom. “Why don’t you just give ice cream guy a chance? Jay isn’t your type.”

“What’s wrong with Jay?” I question, offended.

“More like what’s wrong with you,” Mason states, but then breathes out sharply when Bell elbows him in the ribs. “I mean, there is nothing wrong with you,” he corrects, tossing a glare in Bell’s direction as he rubs at his side.

“He’s an enigma,” Bell says, revealing her concern. “You don’t know anything about him. No one does. I don’t trust him.”

So because he keeps his life low-key he is untrustworthy? Sucky logic.

Irritated, I change the subject and turn to Mason, “I have been holding this in for a week now, but you are such a gigantic baby when it comes to Jay Taylor. You were practically shaking after that confrontation. Tell me, when you left did you run to the boy’s bathroom to cry?” I mock, tormenting him.

“Can I have the ‘we no speak’ Aqueela back, please? I preferred it that way,” he asks, refusing to talk about it.

I smile and shake my head at him. I am about to give another snarky reply when my phone rings, my ancient brick-sized phone. I never upgraded my phone when all of society did, simply because I prefer being unique…just like everybody else.

I answer without taking note of the caller I.D.

“Aqueela, we need to have a serious talk when you get home,” my stepmother tells me, her voice hinting at her disapproval. “Your lousy grandparents finally told me about your slipping grades. Get home soon.”

“Okay,” I reply softly, my hand beginning to tremble.

It was just a matter of time before they told her…

“That’s all you have to say for yourself?” she queries in anger.

“I love you,” I reply back sheepishly as I bravely end the call. I turn back to Bell and Mason who are both giving me sympathetic stares as if they know. I sigh, not able to bring myself to explain, “I better get going.”

I begin to walk away when a hand finds its way around my wrist and halts me in place.

I turn around yet again, expecting to find that it’s Bells causing an obstruction, but instead, I find that it’s Mason. “Yeah?”

He lowers himself so that he’s my level so that we can speak eye to eye. “Your mom?” he asks knowingly.

I nod wordlessly.

“Is she…” he trails off uneasily, “you know…sober?”

“Sounds like it,” I answer truthfully.

”You want me and Bells to come with anyway?” he offers, his rare sweet side surfacing. He only shows this side of himself to Bells, and once in a blue moon, to me.

I turn to Bell and see her nodding at me, reassuring me that she’d come too.

I shake my head, “No. I’ll be fine.”

“Please just be careful,” Bell insists. “Call me if you need anything.”

I nod with a grateful smile as Mason finally releases his grasp on my wrist.

“As much as it pains me to say this, I really don’t want to see you hurt again,” he retorts affectionately, sounding rather genuine. “The last time, you showed up with bruises,” he reminds me.

He falters and I hold back the memories of the ‘last time’ that he is recalling.

“Just don’t let her hurt you again,” he concludes, worry etched into his brown eyes.

I feign a smile as I run a hand through my hair, anxious, “Like I told you a million times before, I slipped and fell,” I lie to him.

Aqueela,” Mason strains knowingly, pressing for the truth, “come on.”

“I’ll be fine,” I reassure them with another lie, the both of them seemingly skeptical.

I shrug it off and begin my journey home on foot. I don’t own any form of transport, but fortunately, I live nearby.

At the last second, I decide to split and go for an ice cream instead. The thought is too tempting to pass up on.

“Klutz?” I hear a familiar voice as soon as I enter the ice cream store.

I turn around in surprise upon seeing him.

“Hey,” I greet, a ghost of a smile tracing my lips.

This is the first time that he has spotted me before I could make him out - must be a new record for him, that, and he seems to be in a particularly good mood today.

“Hi yourself,” he greets, chipper. “I’d say I am surprised to see you here, but then, I’m really not.”

“Same goes to you. Now if you’d excuse me,” I say, not in the mood for small talk. I brush him off and move passed him to the front desk to order. “Hey, Simo,” I attempt a smile despite my phone buzzing with numerous messages from my mom.

“Sprinkle want bubblegum?” he asks tenderly.

“Like you even need to ask, Simo,” is what I am about to say, but Jay beats me to it.

I close my mouth and turn to Jay with a genuine grin, impressed, “Getting to know me already, huh?”

“Can’t help it when you stalk me, now can I?” he returns the question.

“Guess not,” I grin, turning back to Simo, “One bubblegum ice cream, please. Make it on the house, Sims, ’cause I don’t got any cash on me.”

Simo shakes his head with a full-blown smile as he happily rejects my ‘on the house’ request.

“Aww, come on, Sims, you buy JT a new jacket, but you can’t give me one ice cream for free?” I question, hoping to persuade him on the matter.

He shakes his head again and points to Jay as an explanation, “Sprinkle mean with Jay. Simo buy Jay new jacket. Jay cool.”

I turn to Jay who happens to be smirking in victory. He grins when I pout and turn away from the counter.

I frown to myself and prepare to go home, but of course, I’m stopped.

“Wait up, Klutz!”

I spin around to face him only to see him slam a dollar or two on the counter before pushing it toward Simo. “Get her what she wants,” Jay tells him, motioning to me before sauntering off.

I walk quickly after him, forgetting about my ice cream altogether - a very rare occurrence in itself. I grab hold of his jacket and pull until he turns to face me with an annoyed expression coating his face, “What now? Need more money?”

I roll my eyes at his comment, “I don’t want nor need your stupid money. I am not some charity case,” I clarify, feeling a little on edge with his assumption.

“I know,” he states with nonchalance.

“Then why do me a favor?” I quiz.

“Why not?”

He always does that. He always turns the question back on me.

“You don’t even know me,” I point out the facts.

“You don’t know that,” he replies, stubbornly folding his arms across his chest.

“Why would you want to help me after I ruined your jacket, twice?” I ask, my interest piqued.

“Now technically you ruined two of my jackets, once. But hey,” he smirks, his blue eyes glimmering in amusement, “who’s counting?”

He makes an attempt to walk away again. He isn’t taking me seriously and I need an answer. I’m not used to people going out of their way for me.

“Why?” I half-yell, half-ask before he can exit the store.

He turns around to face me a second time, his expression serious, “Because I can tell when someone is having a sucky day, and contrary to popular belief, I don’t enjoy making their day any worse than it already is.”

Stunned, I fall speechless.

His trademark smirk takes me by surprise once again, “So shut up, sit down, and eat your free ice cream without questioning my motives,” he orders.

I don’t understand why people like Bells judge him. He’s not ‘Jay the Ripper’. From the little I’ve seen, he’s actually a marshmallow at heart, a melted marshmallow.

“How about you shut up, sit down, and eat a ‘not-so-free ice’ cream with me without having to question my motives?” I challenge him with a sly smirk of my own, purposely putting him on the spot.

His facial expression drops in disbelief at my sudden change in mood. He recovers with ease, “Sorry, but I was taught to not converse with strangers.”

I glare at him in turn. Is he really pretending that he doesn’t know me, again?

He notices my frustration and elaborates further, angling his head to the side with a lopsided smirk imprinted on his lips, “No name, no date.”

I shake my head, hiding a grin as I catch on, “Then no date it is.”

“So you are admitting that you asked me out on a date?” he arches a brow, taken aback by my boldness.

“Yup,” I nod, completely lying, “but you turned me down.” I analyze his face and take the liberty to add, “Keep in mind that I only ask once.”

“Oh?” he immediately takes me up on the challenge.

“Mhm,” I stand by what I’d said.

He grins, amused, before suddenly pulling me to him in one fluid movement. He keeps his blue eyes trained on me as he leans in, catching me off guard.

He chuckles at my reaction and my breath automatically hitches as a result of his unpredictable actions.

His lips move passed my mouth and to my ear before he whispers, “Then keep in mind that I only refuse once.”

I scoff and push him back, at a loss for words. His grin tells me that he’d been counting on that the entire time.

“It’s a pity that you only ask once or maybe things could have taken a different turn for us. Then again,” he winks, “maybe not.”

He leaves me hanging after that.

I’d be lying if I said that he hasn’t sparked my interest.

Jay Taylor, you are something else.

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