Four: "You have a weird family."
Monday morning, I lunge out of bed and rush to the shower. I get out, put on my uniform and descend down the stairs for breakfast. As I get to the kitchen, I get out a croissant from the wooden cabinet and I began stuffing it in the mouth as I rush to the bus that almost left me behind.
At school, just as I get off the bus, my essence is stolen from me as a strong body picks me up with effortlessness. The wind gets knocked out of me by the sudden force. Maintaining my breath, I try to stay calm. Abruptly, I was pulled to a halt and the blindfolds come off. I recognise my surroundings. I was in the basement of the school, also called as the boiler room. The stench of steam and walls chipping off was dense creeping into every inch of my skin.
I take out my phone and began to text Diane of my newfound predicament. I hear the accustomed sound of Tracy’s heels on the ground, lifting my head up, I found myself glaring at the she-devil. If I were a bomb, I would have exploded by now. The nerve of this menace. Behind her was Nathan, he was six foot four inches and was in the basketball team, complete douchebag, I must say. He was probably one of Tracy’s mindless henchmen.
I glare at her without breaking eye contact and scoff, “What do you want now?”
She smirks and breaks the intense tension, “The list, did you start it?” It had been hardly a day, I knew that she only did this whole set up to scare me. Guess she did remember although she was ceiling drunk yesterday.
It did frighten me when I was blindfolded, but the minute I saw her face, it all went away.
It’s like getting kidnapped and when the blindfolds come off, you see Scrappy-Doo standing with a gun in his hands. You get mixed feelings whether to be afraid of the gun or punch Scrappy Doo’s annoying little face. I mean the tiny dog is supposed to be cute not threaten Scooby-Doo.
With that comparison in mind, I began fake laughing, “Listen to me Tracy, I don’t take orders from anyone, especially not from you.”
The smug look on her face widens, “You haven’t read it, have you?” She chuckles declamatory, “You probably would have killed me.” True, I didn’t read it cause I didn’t give a shit and it’s cause I didn’t think she would stoop low enough to blackmail me. But I’ve known to be wrong. However, last night, I did watch the CD that Tracy gave me. It had all aspects of me setting the school on fire.
Tracy clears her throat, reeling me back from my thoughts, “Why didn’t you read it? You have to finish it by a month or I’ll do the same thing I did to your best friends--”
“Don’t you dare,” I said audaciously. “Whatever, fine. Don’t you dare hurt any of them.” My shoulders fall involuntarily, “Fine, you win. Those last words probably struck a chord because she grins from ear to ear in happiness.
As much as it kills me to admit, having Tracy as an enemy is one of the worst decisions a person can make. It puts you on edge to know the things she is capable of. Tracy is one of those people who know a lot of unorthodox people, and she has them on her fingertips to do her dirty work.
She unlocks the boiler room door and heads out without another with Nathan hot on her trail, like a lost puppy.
I barely sat through Economics, luckily for me I was sitting next to Zoey who happens to be entertaining. She whispers through her plastered perplexed facial expression, “Why weren’t you near Luke’s car in the morning? Did something happen?”
I lean forward and reply softly, “Yeah well, you know the note I threw yesterday in the bin?” She nods reminiscing, “Yeah well, Tracy blindfolded me, trying to blackmail me as well.”
Zoey widens her light blue eyes in astonishment, “What.” Her voice comes out louder than she expects, so she clamps her mouth shut.
Mrs Carter raises an eyebrow at Zoey, “What seems to be so surprising Zoey? Public limited companies or public corporations?”
“No,” Zoey replies, darting her eyes across the class, “Actually it’s the cockroach on the floor over there.” The class jumps and chaos erupts.
Idiots. It’s a cockroach, not Darth Vader.
During recess, Chase decided to join me, Diane, Alexie, Jake, Jack and Zoey. I wasn’t paying attention to their conversation about llamas. If you’re curious as to how that conversation went, it was really just a discussion of whether alpacas and llamas were related. Chase also wondered whether alpacas spit when they’re angry like llamas, which earned him a slap on the shoulder from Diane.
My mind drifted off to other places of interest. I was curious about what Tracy would’ve given me that she went low enough to blackmail me. Then I went back to the incident that happened two years ago--
“Ashley? Are you okay?” Chase inquires. I look up at the tall, lanky guy in front of me with ruffled jet black hair.
I smile, “Yeah, no worries.” He smiles in return and looks back at the people around the table.
Diane clears her throat, “Ash, come with me?” I nod in befuddlement and we get up. When we got away from the table, Diane stops and turns to me, “I heard rumours that Nathan and Tracy beat you up in the boiler room? I know it’s not true and I was wondering what actually-”
I cut her off and explain what actually happened about the note and the blackmail.
Diane knew things, not like the mean girl clique, but she definitely knew more people than the rest of us. A quality that I definitely could not obtain, and in a sense, appreciated.
School ended in a breeze, it was just one of those days when time seemed to fly miraculously. Jake offered me a ride at lunch and agreed. As I exit the school, I see Jake waving his hand in the air, a wide grin resting on his lips. I grin at the idiot and walk to him, securing the backpack on my shoulder.
We slide inside into the warm interior of his Audi, and he roars the engine to life. There was a lingering silence, but it was comfortable. Jake was fumbling with his fingers as it laid on the wheel. I narrow my eyes at his nervous state. “Jake, you alright?”
Jake nods with a shrug, “Yeah but Ashley, you need to know that I can protect you.”
“Where’s this coming from?” I ask, shifting in my seat to look at him, biting his lip.
Jake breathes slowly, “About the note, you don’t need to do it cause she’s blackmailing you.”
I roll my shoulders, “Doesn’t matter, what’s the worst she would’ve told me to do?”
Jake nods in agreement, a smile coming back to his face, “I’m doing it with you, alright?”
I knit my eyebrows together, “I can take care of--”
“Ashley.” Jake says my name in determination, “I’m doing it with you.”
I roll my eyes, “Okay then, Mr Grumpy Pants.”
Jake shakes his head in amusement, “What am I going to do with you?”
I snicker, “Do you really want me to answer that?”
We both chuckle and slowly reside until we reach my place. I didn’t need to invite Jake in cause he just followed me right in.
I grabbed some coffee leftovers from Starbucks and sipped on it while Jake ate some chips which were on the countertop. Ricky was watching Dora the explorer with Sam and seemed astonishingly absorbed in the television.
I squint my eyes at Ricky then five Jake a perplexed expression to which he reciprocates. I walk to where Ricky was seated, and discreetly stand in front of the television, blocking his view. “Ash!” He says loudly, and very pissed. He pulls out his hand and yanks me down to the seat between him and Sam.
I roll my eyes at his usual, rather weird, phase and glimpse to see Jake was occupied on his phone. I turn to Sam and she quickly looks away from the book she was reading, “Ashie, tell bro to change the channel.”
“But you know this idiot won’t listen,” I state and my point gets proven when he doesn’t glare at me for the insult. “See?”
Sam pouts, jotting her bottom lip and her big brown eyes widen, “Please?”
“But I--” I grunt and poke Ricky several times, placing Sam on my lap and whisper her to make her puppy dog eyes again. We give each other smirks before I whack Ricky on the back.
His head shoots to me, “What?” His voice laced with irritation and annoyance.
Sam taps her bigger brother lightly and he looks at her big brown puppy dog eyes. Ricky groans, “Sam, don’t do that face on me.” He sighs, “Fine already.” He tosses her the remote and gets up, heading to the door. He turns briskly, “Ash, don’t leave the house until I get back.”
“Where are you going?” I ask as Sam changes to discovery channel. Yeah, I know, weird. She’s ten years old and watches the Discovery Channel when my twenty-four-year-old cousin brother watches Dora the fucking explorer.
“Out with the boys.” He shrugs, and points, “Don’t leave her alone, understand?”
“Sure,” I roll my shoulders again, “But, are you sure you don’t want Dora to go with you?”
He cuts his brown eyes at me, “Don’t mock me.” Without another word, he disappears through the front door.
“You have a weird family,” Jake says with a laugh, he was standing next to me right now.
I nod in agreement, don’t we all.
I drag Jake’s arm with me as I bolt up the stairs, seeing that Sam was indulged in Discovery Channel. We enter my room and Jake plops himself on the bed, leaning on the headrest, quirking his eyebrows as I scavenged my room. “What are you looking for?”
“The note,” I say and pace to my dustbin, turning it over. The contents made a noise as it smashes to the floor. I find a vibrant pink envelop and sit next to Jake on the bed, his hand behind me. “Okay, let’s do this.”
Jake’s hand goes over mine and I knit my eyebrows together looking up to him. His voice coated with concern, “We’re doing whatever is on it, together. Deal?”
“Maybe,” I say and start to rip the pink envelope off.
His hand grips onto my wrist and he holds. “Ash.”
“Alright, fine,” I say, the curiosity of the contents engulfing me. Jake’s hand moves off mine, and I rip the paper in half, pulling out a crystal white letter paper. I clear my throat as I read the first point, actually, the only point scribbled on the paper. “Drugs from Philippe? And there’s an address.”
Jake leans forward and takes the paper in his hands, “What the hell, this isn’t some damn movie.”
We sit in silence, reading the contents of the paper over and over again. Jake rolls off my bed, dropping the paper on the ground. He walks to the door and says firmly, with the most serious expression he can muster. “We’re going out, get dressed.”
“Ja--” He slams the door on my face, and I flinch back. “Okay then.” I throw on some brown jeggings, a white jumper and a chocolate beanie. I descend down the stairs and find Jake crouched over, talking to Samantha. The door flung open and Ricky rolls in, engaged in a conversation. He doesn’t take any notice of anyone and stomps up the stairs, angrily shouting on the phone.
Sam was grinning from ear to ear, regardless, as Jake seemed to show her some of, in my opinion, cliche magic tricks. The smile remains on my face but I clear my throat, “Come on Mr. I’m-going-to-make-my-best-friend-happy.”
He narrows his eyes at me and turns his attention back to Sam, “Hey beautiful, I have to cheer up your grumpy cousin sister, we’ll come back and play okay?”
Sam shakes his head up and down vigorously, pouting, “Aw, okay.” She glimpses at me and back to Jake, “She is grumpy huh?”
“Hey!” I cross my arms, “I heard that.”
Sam runs up the stairs, “I love you too Ashie.”
I roll my eyes and sigh. Jake walks to me, his jacket in his hand as he sports a v neck shirt. “Let’s go beau- best friend.”
I turn my head to him and narrow my eyebrows, “Uh, yeah, where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise.” He says with a grin.
I nudge him, “Oh please, since when do you do surprises?”
Jake nods, swinging a hand over my shoulder, “Good to know, you know me.”