The Art of Fields

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Twelve: "Dinner?"

On the way there, Diane received a phone call from her mother inviting us over for dinner. Lucas drove us there in over ten minutes. We tried calling Alexie and Jack but since they weren’t picking up, we gave in.

The engine shuts off as Lucas pros in the driveway of Diane’s abode. The temperature was dropping and I could feel the goosebumps on my skin. Once we got out of the car, we rush into the Peterson household breathing in the warmth.

I pull my sleeves closer and walk to the fireplace, pulling my hands out for its comfort. Unable to feel cosy, I decided to borrow one of Diane’s oversized sweaters. After she agrees to lend me one, I sprint up the stairs taking two steps at a time.

I hum softly but quickly stop when I hear hushed whispering from inside. I peek in through the small spacing between the door and the hinge, getting a better look.

I see three familiar heads inside, Diane, Jake and Zoey.

“Don’t.” I hear Jake say nervously, “She’ll worry too much and I just earned her trust back.”

There’s silence until Diane states frustrated, “I can’t do that, Jake.”

“Please.” Jake repeats, “It’s over now, Ashley will be safe.”

I hit the stand behind me, causing a rumbling noise as the vase tips. I place it back easily but I notice the three of them stop talking. Adrenaline pumps through my veins so I look around for the easiest exit. I find a bathroom and run towards it, shutting the door.

My mind swirled with thoughts that were eating me alive. It swerved to places and depths of my memory that I wished I had forgotten but it was fresh and clear.

Last year, Jake was shot. If you recall, that’s the reason I almost shat myself when I heard he was in the hospital again. He was wandering around in the shanty area of our city and was beaten to a pulp because he wasn’t even in his right senses. He was drunk. If he didn’t call Chase just before he blanked out, he would’ve lost too much blood, and he would have died.

Jake was a big fan of fighting clubs and the only place it existed was in those shanty areas of the city. He would sometimes fight in them too, for the fun of it. When he came to school one day, looking like he was trampled over by an elephant stampede, I made him promise he won’t go again. But, guess who did?

I wasn’t sure if I was either mad at him when I saw his skin pale but fresh with bruises from head to toe. I mean, it killed me but seriously, he promised me. There was a point where he avoided me thinking I would, at some point, yell at him. If only he knew I was more disappointed than angry.

I walk out of the bathroom and take long-lasting breaths to calm myself down, dismounting the steps. Everyone was down at this point. I enter the dining room, plastering a smile on my face to everyone. Plopping on the seat between Emily and Chase, with Jake in front of me. Avoiding eye contact, I stuff my mouth with food. Maybe it wasn’t what I was thinking, but I really didn’t want to deal with that at the moment.

Unintentionally, I was stabbing my peas which gained the attention of the people around the table. Mr Peterson scrunches his nose in confusion, “Ashley, are you alright?”

I widen my eyes, bringing my face to him, “Of course, I just have this really bad project to do when I get home, kind of short on time really.” I place the fork back on the plate and grin before patting my mouth with the napkin, “I should get going, I’ll see you guys later. Thanks for dinner, Mr and Mrs Peterson.”

I raise from the table and exit quicker than I imagined since no one said anything. I decided to walk home even after Lucas asked if I needed a ride. The tonic and crisp of the evening air would do me some good, in clearing up some thoughts.

I felt a hand on my shoulder after five minutes of walking, and I elbow the person behind me in a haste. I hear a soft groan, turning around, I widen my eyes feeling guilty. “Shit, sorry.”

Jake nods, shaking it off, “What happened?”

“Well.” I say, knitting my eyebrows together, “You surprised me so I--”

“Not that.” He huffs and tucks his hand in his pocket, which he usually does when he’s nervous. “Dinner, what happened?”

I choke a cynical laugh, “Don’t worry about it.” I say, walking forward feeling him following me. “Besides, I’m the one who’s going to worry anyway, right?”

“What are you--”

I cross my eyes, mustering the best ‘don’t bullshit me’ face. “Is there anything you want to tell me?”

Jake’s eyes glint in slight guilt and realisation, “You heard--”

“Is there anything you want to tell me, Jake?” I repeat, my temper already losing itself. He opens his mouth several times, contemplating his next moves. “Okay, I’ll see you later.” I bid goodbye and continue my walk home, but this time, I don’t hear any footsteps behind me.

〰▪〰

I was twisting my pen, trying to balance it on my fingers as soft rock played in my head. I was looking blankly at the whiteboard but I drained out any form of noise or voice form anyone around me, so much so that I didn’t even know Tracy was sitting next to me for the whole french class.

I was confused whether or not to be angry at Zoey and Diane for not telling me but I guess in the end, it wasn’t their secret to tell. “Ashley Kendrick, how was the deal?” Tracy says, reeling me out my pointless thoughts, a dubious grin on her lips.

Jake turns from in front of us, “Tracy, go be a cunt somewhere else.”

“Jake,” I say, through grinding teeth. Not wanting to be in the presence of two people who have pissed me off recently. “I got this.” His eyes flash hurt before he whisks his head back to the front. My eyes focus on Tracy, “Why the fuck are you sitting next to me?”

Tracy flings a hand over my shoulder, “Frenemies got to stick together, don’t they?”

“Handoff.” I say, venomously. Her hands move away and her light blue eyes roll to the back of her hollow head.

I ignore her for the rest of the period, giving the tiniest bit of attention to her whenever she tried to irk me with small malicious words.

“Hunter was pretty hot.” She says, smirking and I flinch. Her smirk grows as she sees my uneasiness.

“Fuck you,” I reply. The bell chimes and I grab the books from my table and head out without another glance or word to the she-devil.

“Ashley.” Jake says patiently, “Let me explain.”

“I gave you a chance.” I say, rolling my shoulders, “And you didn’t say anything.” I remove the hand he had on my back and leave the classroom. It took a lot of energy for me to move his hand which was sending tingles down my back almost making my knees too weak to stand.

Whilst walking in the hallway, I avoid conversations with Diane and Zoey as well, in case I rage out on them. In my mind, I still don’t think they’re doing anything wrong but have a huge feeling, I would regret yelling at them if I see them.

If my day could get worse any than it was, it was just getting worse. Meet Drake Washington, absolute charmer, class clown and, I can’t stress this enough, total man-slut.

I’m on Drake’s ‘too sleep with’ list for a long time now. And for some fucked up reason, whenever I say no to the man-slut, he turns it into a maybe and eventually into a yes. I can’t stand the guy’s presence unless we’re I’m a class and he does the only thing he’s good at, being unintentionally funny.

“Ashley!” He chimes with a wide grin across his face, walking to me. I stop and huff, looking at him with my best bored faces. “Aw girl, why do you have to be like that?”

“Cause.” I say, crossing my arms, “You’re Drake.”

He grins even wider, pulling his hands out in some form of glory, “The one and only. Tonight?”

“Geez,” I sigh and grip onto his shoulders, “It’s never going to happen, Drake. Like ever.”

The next part may seem a little bit out of a movie for all I know but it’s what happened.

Right after I stated the blunt truth to Drake, I catch sight of Jake behind Drake. His eyes hollow but his eyebrows raised in suspicion. Jake knows how much I hate Drake, it clearly was confusing that I was talking to him for so long.

“Unless,” I say without thinking, my mind wondering to Jake.

Drake’s eyebrows raise in surprise, “Unless?”

“Dinner.”

“Dinner?” He chuckles, “Oh c’mon, Ashley, you know me by now. I don’t do dates.”

I nod with a firm smile, “Oh yeah.” I turn on my heel but get grabbed on my wrist.

“Tonight, eight.” He says with a huge smile, “Happy?”

“Maybe.”

What am I doing?

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