Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 8: Ditto

When bored, I tend to become extra loud and extra talkative - the element of control lacking within me.

“So when the ice cream washed off, I told Bell that we should shrink your jacket and dye it pink, but then you stood me up like a garbage child. I was a tad bit offended, but that’s when my intrigue for you rose. I wanted to get to know you. Speaking of colors, my favorite is blue, like your eyes. Maggot told me that I’m too attached to you. I guess it’s because you’re different from everybody else and you spark the curiosity within me, but you know what they say about curiosity killing the rhinos etcetera. Speaking of Mason - what happened with you guys? So much tension. He’s like a fragile baby when you’re around. Speaking of babies, I don’t want any, ever. They are so noisy and dirty, almost as terrifying as old people, and-“

I stop talking abruptly when Jay takes one hand off the wheel for a split second and begins to poke me in the side, making me squirm on the spot. “Do you ever shut up?” he questions, distracted.

I flinch back into the car door and away from his hands probing at my ribs. “Jeez dude, at least take me on a date and buy me an island first before getting so touchy-feely,” I reprimand him.

“I’m just looking for an off button on you,” he replies and removes his hand from my ribs. “A stop button.”

“Well, you’ll never find one ’cause it broke a long time ago,” I reply in a sing-song voice, pumped up after that party.

“Clearly,” he says flatly. “Is there at least a pause button?”

I shake my head, “Nope.” I grin, “But there is a rewind button if you’re interested?”

“Hell no. What about a fast forward button?” he asks, focused on the empty road - expected at this ungodly hour of the morning. It’s one a.m.

“Doubtful,” I irritate him further. “There’s a replay button,” I add teasingly.

I wait for his reply, but it never comes and I know exactly why - he has given up.

He parks the car in nowhere particular as he gets out without so much as an explanation as to why we stopped near a gloomy forest.

He really is going to kill me. I’ve done it now. I have pushed him too far.

I sit still in the car, unmoving. If I’m to die then I’ll rather die here in this comfortable Gallardo than outside there in the cold. Bonus, that way he’ll have to drag my body into the woods. I’ll be annoying him even when I’m dead. Now that takes skill.

A loud knock on the car window jolts me upright. Jay’s annoyed expression comes into view as he motions for me to get out the car. I begin to panic and reach forward to lock the car from inside out with the central locking system.

He sees what I’ve done and sends me a cold glare before he takes his car keys out his front pocket and unlocks the car. I quickly press the lock button yet again. Jay presses the unlock button on his keys, and so it continues back and forth until he loses his patience. He finally grabs the door handle and swiftly yanks it open before I have time to lock the car.

I scream in terror as he reaches for me. On instinct, I ram my fist straight into his nose.

When the blood begins to pour from his nose, my actions wash over me. I just punched Jay Taylor in the face…and maybe broke his nose. I could have killed him, maybe. I am a very powerful being.

However, despite my force and brute strength that could possibly kill a man, Jay does not flinch or react at all. He simply gives me a look before reaching up to his nose and wiping some of the blood away with his fingertips.

“Oopsie,” I wince apologetically when he narrows his eyes at me in accusation.

He merely shakes his head at me, unfazed. He leans back against his car, tilting his head forward ever so slightly, applying pressure just below the bony part of his nose in order to stop the bleeding.

Judging by the way he handles himself, I’d say that he’s been punched in the face more than once.

The guilt sinks in soon after my act of crime.

I climb out the car and go to stand beside him, “I am so sorry, but that was an act of self-defense. I wasn’t thinking.”

“I am beginning to doubt that you ever think. If you did, then your thinking patterns need to be analyzed immediately for the sake of all life. Humanity doesn’t stand a chance against an outsider like you,” he grins, loosening up.

I roll my eyes, ignoring the blood stains on his white v-neck. I’m used to blood. I worked as a nurse last summer, except I got fired after slapping a football player because he gave me the wrong impression by asking me to check him out. Turns out, he really wanted me to check out some rib injury of his. Who knew?

Jay slaps my hand away from his face.

“You annoy me,” he comments.

“Ditto,” I agree and wink at him, “guess we do have chemistry after all.”

He scoffs loudly at this, disagreeing.

I reach up to hit him, but his hand unexpectedly catches my uninjured wrist in mid-air. He tugs me forward that I lose my footing and collide forward into him.

I curse him beneath my breath before scowling up at him, ready to give him a lecture on personal space, however, when I find those electric blue eyes already staring down at me, I find myself at a sudden loss for words.

His eyes, blue with a twinkle of silver, paints a picture of lightning flashing through the sky, just above the ocean.

“What?” he asks at seeing my dumbfounded expression, breaking me from my stupor. When I don’t answer, he releases me, slowly growing uncomfortable under my gaze. “What is it?” he repeats.

“Your eyes get me every time,” I confess in ease.

He exhales lightly before shaking his head at me, a faint smile gracing his lips, “You’re something weird.”

Well,” I pause, offended, racking my brain for insults to use on the spot, “y-your hair is ugly,” I retort back lamely.

“Nice one,” he claps his hands mockingly, “you’ve won this round,” he tells me, sarcastic.

“Your face is going to win this round when I’m done with you,” I mumble impulsively.

“That makes no sense,” Jay points out, bringing it to my attention.

“Your face makes no sense.”

“Really?” he quirks an eyebrow at me, unbelieving of my childish ways.

“Your face is really.”

“Hot?”

“Your face is really hot,” I blurt out without thinking.

“Why thank you,” he grins in satisfaction, giving my appearance a once-over, “you’re not too bad yourself,” he says before boldly walking off.

There is nothing more that I want than to wipe that smug smile off of his face.

I find myself standing alone beside his Gallardo and beside a dark forest. The only source of light is the plentiful stars and moonlit sky. The street lights are all off. A gentle, cool breeze stirs within the air and I find myself being transported into countless horror movies. It’s always the loners that end up dying first.

“Jay!” I shout atop my lungs. “Wait up!” I call as I hurry after him in the direction he went.

I sprint down the flattened path leading into the forest. He must come here often if he’s made a makeshift pathway. I blow out a breath of relief and stop at the end of the trail when Jay’s back comes into view.

He’s watching something intently.

I close the distance between us and join his side, only to take in the magnificent view.

“Wow,” I breathe out quietly, in awe of the black lake surrounded by mountains.

Absentmindedly, I take a step forward. My heart just about jumps out of my chest when I lose my footing. Fortunately, Jay is quick to push me back with the force of his right arm. “Watch your step,” he warns, staring down below.

I follow his gaze, only then realizing how high up we are. The lake is below us. We’re standing on a mountain top overlooking it. We’re on the banks of a cliff.

“A little late for the warning, don’t you think?” I retort carelessly as I peer over the steep cliff. If Jay hadn’t reacted so quickly then I would have fallen to my death - always a fun time.

“If it were late, you’d be dead,” he replies back solemnly, distracted by the view, true peace flooding his senses. “Be more grateful.”

I glance up at the sky before looking around, admiring the scenery. I let out a sigh of content as a comfortable beat of silence passes between us.

The wind soon begins to blow harder.

I glance up at Jay to see the breeze tossing his hair about in different directions, resulting in a messy look. I stifle my laughter because I am positive that my hair looks ten times worse, and besides, the messy hairdo suits him.

He blinks down at me, sharing a smile with me as if aware of what’s currently running through my mind.

So, Jay…” I break the serene atmosphere, “tell me every single thing about yourself. Don’t leave anything out.”

“We’re really doing this then?” he questions with a look of discontent.

“Sure are, JT,” I nod in confirmation.

He sighs, making his distaste in this little exchange obvious. I merely prod him on, pressing for some heart to heart stories.

“Well, first off, I hate it when you call me that,” he reminds me with a pointed stare.

I shrug innocently.

He mulls it over in his head, “Let’s see, I have two eyes, two ears, two hands, ten fingers-“

“Something I don’t know,” I cut him off with a frown.

“You might find this interesting,” he grins slyly, toying with me, “but I have ten toes too.”

“What a coincidence, me too!” I feign excitement and clap my hands. “We have so much in common!”

He stares blankly at me for a second before a grin filters over his features.

Jay,” I whine in persistence, sending him a flat look as I get serious, “c’mon, oblige me. Let me take delight in your life.”

He swallows back a smile as he humors me, “You sure have a way with words.” He then shakes his head, adamant, “But seriously, you don’t want to know me. I’m no good. Never have been.”

“That doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care. I’m a rotten apple too,” I reassure him, encouraging him to get on with it already.

“I somehow doubt that,” he says, serious, as if having contemplated on it before. He changes the subject, “Your socializing skills could do with some work. You skip right through small talk and dive straight into the deep stuff.”

I shrug, “Small talk has never been my forte.”

He sighs as if disheartened by something, “My story isn’t all that interesting anyway. Trust me.”

“Try me and I’ll trust you,” I challenge, stubborn.

He thinks it over before nodding, “Fine. I’ll vent to you, but only because you’re kind of a stranger. I’ll only agree to this be it we go our separate ways after.”

“Deal,” I lie.

Reluctant, he sucks in a sharp breath before running his free hand through his hair, opening up, “I live on my own.”

I nod, taken aback by his words already.

He hesitates before bravely going on, “I was given up by my parents the second I was born. I never met them, nor do I intend to ever meet them.”

It’s a lot to take in. Very unexpected.

“I was raised as an orphan. Later, I was adopted, but in the end, my foster family gave me up too. I went back to being an orphan. I only have dark memories of the orphanage. Eventually, I broke out when I turned eleven. I got involved in all the wrong crowds and ran with the wrong people. I practically lived on the streets and did things I regret,” he stops talking and shakes his head, “I really shouldn’t be telling you this. I’m just outlining a bad picture.”

“I already had a bad picture of you in mind, so go on,” I joke, trying to lighten the mood.

“I got out of that crowd the hard way. Nearly got myself killed. Luckily, I had and still have good acquaintances to help me along. At seventeen, I landed myself a job as a bartender because the owner is a friend of mine-“

“I thought friends are overrated,” I mimic his previous words.

“Friends are. A friend isn’t,” he corrects. “So that’s where I’m at right now,” he breathes out calmly, composing himself. “It’s a terrible story.”

I shake my head, “No. No, not at all. Quite the contrary actually,” I pause, “and now I sound like I just came out of the ‘Little Miss Muffet’ rhyme,” I murmur more to myself, but Jay hears anyway and blesses me with one of his rare chuckles.

He doesn’t waste his breath to ask of me the same, “What about you? What don’t I know about you, other than your name?”

“Oh yeah,” I laugh, “I forgot that you don’t even know my name.”

“I could always ask that friend of yours, but I won’t. I want to hear it from you and no one else. You will have to tell me your name eventually, Klutz, and I’ll be counting on it,” he says, overconfident as always.

”Well don’t. It’s not happening,” I tease.

“So I tell you my life story and I get nothing in return?” he asks with a frown. “What a way to play the game. I see how it is.”

“You get the privilege of me gracing you with my glorious presence,” I nudge him playfully.

“And I am truly humbled by your company,” he humors me yet again, “but I’d be more humbled if I knew your name.”

I shake my head.

He sighs. “Then you owe me your story, at least,” he bargains.

Well,” I begin, “what do you want to know?”

“Anything,” he shrugs. “Tell me about your family,” he suggests when I come up with nothing.

Of all the things he could have asked…

“I don’t really have one, not anymore. My mother died in a car accident when I was four. My father remarried three years later to a woman who seemed appropriate at first. Five years down the line and my dad divorced her and left me with her. He said he was done with us. She took me in, and though she hates me, I am forever in her debt. I’m a prisoner. That’s who I am,” I explain briefly, aware that he’s not the judgemental type.

“Someone once told me that your past is not what defines you,” he replies. “I live by that.”

He didn’t strike me as the far-reaching type.

I grin, in good spirits, “This is exactly why I’ve selected you to be my friend. You live in your own little world going against all the beliefs of society. You have your own realm and you’re the king of it. It’s refreshing to be around someone who doesn’t follow the ways of this world,” I admit, unashamed.

He sends me a heart-stopping smile, teasing me, “And because I’m awesome right?”

“Mhmm,” I press my lips into a thin line and nod along to his words.

“Don’t patronize me,” he chuckles, turning back to face the cliff and all its wonders.

Me? Patronize you? I’d never,” I joke, messing with him. I watch him and smile to myself, inquisitive to know more about him, “Do you come here often?”

That sounded like a pick-up line.

“Only when I feel lost,” he confesses, “so yeah, I guess I do.”

The one thing that I’ve come to admire about Jay is his honesty. He says it like it is.

“Don’t worry, it only happens to the best of us,” I wink, hoping to assure him that he’s not alone.

“Yeah?” he arches a brow at me in surprise.

I nod.

He stares at me for a second longer before breaking eye contact.

A thought occurs to me:

“We’re too young for all this sappy nonsense. Lighten up. It’s time we do something fun. What do you say we get out of here?” I ask, bouncing the question off of him, awaiting his response.

“Alright, but I just know that I’m gonna regret this, Anonymous,” he agrees, leading the way back to his car.

“You know it!” I exclaim in excitement as I skip after him. “You also love it?”

“Do I? Do I really?”

“Of course you do,” I chime, knocking him with my shoulder in a teasing manner before running ahead of him, my fear long since forgotten in his company. “Now let’s go get arrested!” I cheer, “Whoo!”

He just gives me a look as if to say that I have too much energy, “Can the arrest wait, ’cause I’m kind of hungry?”

“At three in the morning?”

“Yup.”

“Me too,” I admit, sheepish.

“Want some ice cream?” he asks, spinning around to face me, a carefree grin on his face. It’s as if he knows I can’t refuse.

“You bet I do! I’ll never say no to ice cream. Bubblegum flavor, aww yeah!” I fist pump the air, amped.

“Gross.”

“Your face is gross,” I retaliate, coming to bubblegum’s defense.

“Do you ever stop?”

“Do you ever start?”

“That depends on what you want me to start,” he winks suggestively as he passes me by.

I laugh, amused, “For now, nothing.”

“So there’s a ‘for now,’ meaning that one day you would want me to start something?” he tests the waters, stopping mid-step.

“Shut up, JT,” I deny it.

“What did I say about calling me that?” he crosses his arms over his chest in defiance.

“I don’t remember,” I lie and tap his chin lightly in mock thought.

“What did I say about boundaries?” he fires back at me, swatting my hand away.

“Don’t remember,” I lie.

“Do you have amnesia or something?”

“Wouldn’t remember.”

“You’re so infuriating.”

“Thank you. That’s sweet.”

Perplexed, he glances my way, “That wasn’t a compli….” he stops himself and changes course, admitting defeat, “you’re welcome.” He gives in, “You’re so damn welcome.”

“Don’t be petty, JT. It’s not an attractive look on you.”

And so we continue our banter as we walk side by side, a new friendship formed, out of the dark forest and into a lighter and much brighter world for the both of us - that light, as we soon discover, being the headlights of a car, a car that doesn’t see us in the night, a car that almost ends up killing us.

Gotta grab life by the horns.

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