Pause (Book 1)

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BONUS Chapter - Jay ‘first’ meets Aqueela

I stare up at the ceiling in deep thought, lounging back in my seat as I make an attempt to get comfortable. My concentration is gone.

“JT?” Grey snaps his fingers in front of my face for the second time within a span of a few seconds, “What’s going on with you? You haven’t even had a single drink.” He points out the facts, glancing at my shot that I still have yet to touch.

I shrug, pulling my eyes away from the ceiling to meet his gaze, “Just have a lot on my mind.”

Grey doesn’t get the chance to say anything else. A girl, one I don’t know, takes her chances in striking up a conversation with me. I turn her down, lost to the thoughts taking charge in my head.

“You’re changing man,” Grey tells me, a little surprised that I turned the attractive brunette away. “First, you stop drinking. Now you’re turning away the female population, what next?” He jokes, trying to lighten the atmosphere. “Then again, you never are interested in anyone, except that one girl that you’re always going on about.”

“I’m just not feeling it anymore.” I answer him truthfully, aware that I’m not exactly much fun to be around right now.

Greg, my boss, sighs as if reading me, “I know that look all too well.” He adds with a calculating grin, pushing a shot glass my way. I don’t take the bait, refusing to touch it. “Mopey Jay is back to play.” He carefully motions to the shot glass as if telling me to let go and release some pent-up stress. I don’t budge. Drinking isn’t going to solve anything.

I send him a disgruntled look, annoyed at how well he and Grey know me. Greg is the only person that knows my entire story, Grey taking second place, and FeeBee a close third.

Grey chuckles in amusement before lighting up another cigarette, “Is this actually about that girl you’re hung up on?” Grey asks casually, curious.

I stiffen at reference to her, “No.” I argue, “And I’m not hung up on her. I barely know her.” I correct him, avoiding the subject.

“I’d say otherwise.” Grey smirks teasingly before saying, “If not her, then what is it?”

“It’s a about a lot of things man.” I reluctantly answer him, dragging myself back up so that I’m seated properly. “I’m just sick of it all. I’ve had enough. I’m done.”

“Got to be Mason Montry, your biological parents or your foster parents, which is it?” Greg asks knowingly. He’s known about all of my issues ever since he took me under his wing. He’s family to me. Grey and Greg are like brothers.

“Like I said, all of it.” I mutter, not in the mood to talk it out.

“Are they looking for you?” Grey takes the chance in asking me. He knows I hate it when he brings them into it. I’m done with them.

“You should know.” I narrow my eyes at him, “I cut them off completely. I’m not the one still in ties with them.” I remind him, my tone clipped. I’ve warned Grey time and time again about that gang, yet he’s destined to make the same mistakes I did. “They’re sick people that you don’t want to get involved with. It’s crowds I regret running alongside. They were the only people I had when I broke out the orphanage. I didn’t have others to turn to. It took me a long time to see that they were bad influences on my life. I don’t get why you still hang with them after knowing this.”

“For information, that’s it.” Grey answers sharply, “I’m not stupid. I won’t deal any or take for myself. I just like being a step ahead of everyone. That gang is my connection to everything.”

I sigh, well aware that I can’t change his mind once it’s made, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you. There will come a day when you slip up and they’ll do to you what they did me. They’ll turn on you in a single second. You need to pay the price when kicked out. I did.”

Greg nods along to what I’m saying, obviously agreeing with me, “Jay’s right. Nothing good can come from those people. Information is not worth it.” He pauses as if reminiscing back, “I remember the day I first met Jay in the alleyway.”

“Don’t remind me,” I yawn, not wanting to relive my dark days. If I could go back in time and correct my wrongs, I would. I did some stupid sh*t back then.

“You were just a kid, still so young. I was stunned to see a thirteen year old roaming the streets alone. You were barely conscious, stoned. They packed you with all sorts of drugs. You were addicted. You looked like hell. You weren’t even aware of your surroundings at that point. They made you believe that you needed them, only because you had no one and nothing else. You were weak, vulnerable, and they took advantage of that, exploiting you to their will.” Greg says, filling the blanks in for Grey. Grey doesn’t know the details. “I took this kid,” Greg grins at me in pride, his hand on my shoulder, “in that day and it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I don’t regret it, and I never will.”

“Good to know. Glad I’m such a joyful delight.” I retort, sarcastic. I’m grateful to Greg, I owe him everything (he’s been a mentor to me), but I’d rather not dwell on all my past failures. I’d like to think I’m better now. I’ve come a long way since then.

“Joyful my ass,” Grey laughs, blowing out a puff of smoke before placing the cigarette back to his mouth.

Greg glances back to Grey as he elaborates further, “Don’t be fooled, he was a handful. He refused to cooperate. He wanted nothing to do with me. He’d been so brainwashed by those people that he didn’t know what was right and wrong anymore. He was defiant and stubborn, traits he’s seemed to have kept. He didn’t want to give up the gang or the drugs. He was adamant that he belonged on the streets. He was temperamental and hard headed, fought me on everything. My patience wore thin and eventually I made him go cold turkey. It was a difficult task, but it was the only way to wean him off those damn drugs.”

“News to me.” Grey mumbles, taken aback that I’d been through all that rubbish.

“I convinced him to leave the gang, but he paid the price for it. He was only fourteen when he took the beating of his life. He was a mess when I found him. He could barely stand up straight. Blood everywhere.” Greg grits his teeth, faltering slightly, “Who the hell does that to a kid? They’re a disgrace to humanity.” Greg clenches his hands into fists as he thinks back to that day, a day I’d rather forget.

“Apparently luck has never been on my side,” I smirk, not needing their pity. I have my story, but I’m fine now. That part to my life is done with, chapter closed.

“Don’t downplay it, JT.” Grey shakes his head at me in concern, before putting out his cigarette on the ash tray.

“You know I hate that name.” I send him a fleeting glare. It was the name I was given when in the gang. They chose the nickname.

“Jay.” Grey corrects himself. “Sorry,” he actually apologizes, now understanding the full extent as to why I hate the name so much.

“Don’t be sorry,” I retort, “I was a kid then. If I ever see any of them now…” I trail off at the thought of violence. I don’t have a doubt in my mind that I’d want to get even. Forgiveness is not one of my strong suits. I can already feel a rise in my temper at the thought of giving them back what they dished out. It’s a strike in my fury, another drop in my mood.

“Don’t think like that,” Greg encourages, advising me as always, “you don’t need to prove yourself. That part is done. It’s over.”

“I told them to stay away.” Grey assures me, “They won’t be coming near you.”

“I couldn’t care less about them,” I reply, unfazed. “I just want out of this life here. There’s nothing keeping me here. I have nothing here. I have no future here.”

Greg and Grey both fall silent. They’ve always been ridiculously blunt with me and so truthful that it gets to the point where it’s actually difficult for me to hear. If they’re not talking, it can only mean that they’re in agreement with me.

“Where would you go?” Greg asks, making it apparent as to where he stands on this matter.

I shrug, beyond lost at this point, “Who cares? So long as it’s far away from here.”

After that, I went home and packed up everything.

“I don’t know Grey,” I sigh into the phone, “I’ll probably leave within the next hour or so…” I trail off upon seeing a pudgy kid pass me by with an ice-cream in hand. I could go for one of those right now. “I’ll call you back.” I tell him and hang up before he can ask anything more. I know he wants to say goodbye, but I need space right now. I need to clear my head. There’s just too much going on.

I enter the near by ice-cream store, astounded at how empty it is. Too focused on other things, I fail to watch where I’m going, my gaze cast downward. Some stupid, clumsy person turns too quickly and ends up bumping into me. She’s not entirely to blame seeing as my mind is elsewhere. Her blue colored ice-cream is knocked out of her hands and comes cascading down the front of my jacket.

As if this day can get any worse…

I avert my eyes from the floor and glance up to see who’s buying me a new jacket. I freeze when I see her face, my pulse automatically quickening as it slowly registers within me. My frown fades and the glare that I’d been ready to send her just a second ago falters. Speechless and completely caught off guard, I say nothing and look down yet again, lost in thought. I don’t have time for this, even if it is her.

She does all the talking, well shouting, for me, “Your eyes are the same color as bubblegum!”

My head snaps up upon hearing the excitement in her voice. I’m overcome by a foreign feeling in just the familiarity in her speaking to me again. The last time we spoke was years ago, not that she’d remember.

Still stunned and out of it, I manage to mumble a few incoherent words back to her on impulse, “Just great. Why do the klutzes always run into me?” I instantly regret my words the second they’re out. It’s too late to change course now, I might as well go with it, “And it just has to be all over my leather jacket.” I stupidly add, failing to hold her hazel gaze and instead offering her one of my best glares. I could have stopped there, but I didn’t, “Bubblegum out of all flavors? Really?” I ask, raising an eyebrow at her, choosing to be petty in spite of it not being out of character for me. “I hate bubblegum.” I mutter beneath my breath, shaking my head at her.

It’s not often I’m rude for no valid reason, but I’m having an off day. I don’t feel like myself anymore. Aqueela caught me on a bad day. Had it been any other day and I would have put in a whole lot more effort into talking to her. I would’ve gone out of my way for her…

I don’t care about the ice-cream on my jacket, I just have one thing on my brain, leaving. Everything else, it doesn’t matter.

I turn to walk away after that, but stop short when I hear her lash out at me, “And I hate you!”

I don’t need this right now. It could have been anyone, but it had to be her.

I curse to myself in a low whisper before slowly turning back around to face her. I send her a deadpanned glare. I’m not surprised when she doesn’t even flinch. Aqueela Lawson is known to have a rebellious streak in her.

I notice Bella Bensten whisper something to her, but I’m not really paying attention. My focus is drawn on Aqueela herself. The honey blonde hair and the big hazel eyes make for a deadly combination. It’s then that I realize I’m staring and quickly readjust, breaking out from all the current thoughts of her running through my mind.

“He just told me that he doesn’t like bubblegum and you want me to sit here and pretend like it’s not a felony?” Her voice, ringing in my ears, brings me back to the land of reality.

On instinct, I take a step forward. She stays put, her arms crossed over her chest as she glowers up at me fiercely as if I’m to blame for all of this. I want to be pissed off, but I can’t help but grin slightly at how tough she seems to think she is. It’s amusing, different to what I’m used to.

Now fully with the program, her presence having caught my attention, I straighten up and lean further into her, “It’s not a felony to hate bubblegum, but it is a felony to destroy someone else’s property, and that includes my jacket, as in my property.” I subtly threaten her, putting her back in her place. Had it been anyone else, I’d be a lot more irritated.

It’s not even a felony, but she doesn’t need to know that.

When she takes a step back from me, I instantly feel guilty. Again, she caught me on the wrong day. I cover it up with a smirk of amusement. Knowing that she’d leave very soon, I can’t help but subconsciously devise a strategy to see her again.

I take off my jacket and throw it her way, it accidentally landing on her face. I forgot that she can’t catch. From what I’ve seen, she hates sports.

“Clean it up Bubblegum Klutz and bring it to me tomorrow. Same place, same time.” I wink at her, taking a few steps back, waiting for her to remove the jacket so that I can see her one last time before I leave town.

She slides the jacket away from her face as her eyes flicker back to me, her gaze having sharpened immensely. She’s not impressed. I watch her brush a strand of her golden hair away from the jacket before her hazel eyes quickly find my own, her piercing stare holding me in place for a second longer than I had anticipated. She’s easy on the eyes, I’ll give her that one.

I recover quickly and grin, saluting her as I walk away.

My phone vibrates from within my pocket. I fish it out and answer, “What’s up, Grey?” I ask, a little too upbeat.

“You sound a lot more chipper than you just did a few minutes ago,” he notices immediately, now skeptical. I don’t say anything turn, not seeing a need to explain myself to him. He changes the subject, “Greg wants to say goodbye. When you planning on heading out?”

I don’t even think twice before answering him, “Not anytime soon.” I answer in conviction, my mind apparently made, “There’s been a change of plans.” I hang up on him a second time, knowing that I’ll pay for it later.

Now to unpack…

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