The following Monday morning, he still turned up to pick me for school. I was amazed to hear the usual two honks from the driveway that had become a part of my morning routine. I ran to my window and looked down. He smiled at me as he leaned on the side of his car, hands inside his pocket. I almost smiled back.
I pulled back the curtain and bit my lower lip. As glad as I was that he might not be coming to pick me, I was also feeling a little out of spirit. Fighting and quarrelling with him every morning had become a good dose of energy booster to start off a day with. Sometimes, it felt like a part of his street boy confidence and strength was diffusing into me as we snap at each other.
But the bigger part of me didn’t want him here although it felt good at the same time. I had really learned to fear him. Despite his angelic looks, this guy on his part had proved to be the most dangerous person I’d ever known.
“Alana,” I heard dad as I walked down from my room.
“Yeah, dad.” I saw him by the door.
“That boy’s getting quite regular out here,” he stated.
“Umm.” I gulped. “He’s... Uh yeah, being nice.”
“Hmm.” He nodded. “Nothing else?”
“No!” I answered too quickly, “Nothing else. We’re just friends.”
Dad nodded again. “Okay. Be good in school.”
Then he hugged me as he always did in the morning. I hugged back. I thought that was all for the morning but....
Before I walked out dad called me once more and said, “I know who and what that boy is. You know what I mean?”
Oh no! That was not just saying. That was a warning.
I nodded and walked out, almost shaking and stumbling. I didn’t want to see dad going all detective and suspicious; at least not with me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take it.
David was with Xavier as always, chatting with amazing enthusiasm. At some point, I didn’t mind having the street-lord here. It made David happy. Never had I seen David as excited as whenever he was with Xavier, not even in East Port. Whenever we drive home together in his car, David would jibber the whole way about what happened in his school from the backseat. Xavier would ditch in jokes in the middle and make us laugh. They were becoming best friends.
Xavier is so full of surprises and it’s so hard to understand him. He’s funny and scary. He’s nice and annoying. It’s fun having him around and then again I’m sometimes left in the position of having panic attack. But I like the way he is with David. All the while, I couldn’t help wondering what kind of influence David is really getting from him. Both of them seem to be fine but hey, he’s a or the street-lord not to forget.
“Kay, David. We’re going,” I said when I reached them.
“Bye,” he said to Xavier.
“See you around,” Xavier replied and did the fist punch, that buddy-buddy thing.
David ran back inside the house. Dad was dropping him to school.
I noticed the small bruises on Xavier’s face. There was one small split just above his left eyebrow and few bruises around his cheekbones but nothing so bad as I expected, taking in consideration what a night it was. I raised an eyebrow. He shrugged it off coolly.
Xavier opened the door for me saying, “Your carriage awaits, ma’am.”
I rolled my eyes. “I thought you wouldn’t get out of prison for at least a Week or I hoped so.”
“I was allowed bail too early that I’m missing the prison bars right now.”
I snorted. “Why would they let you go early? They probably wanted you there for a lifetime.”
“Mongrel, you never learn, do you?” He smirked.
I raised my eyebrows.
“You see, it’s bad ticket for the daughters when their cop fathers hold up this dude for too long. You know what I mean?” He grinned like a toothpaste advertising model and winked flirtily.
I rolled my eyes again and went for my seat. I saw him smile as he went round the front again like always. I shook my head as I watched him thinking, ‘I really have no idea how I’m gonna deal with this narcissist blowing his own trumpet. He is too aware of his charm.’
“So the puppet drove you back that night?” He asked as he settled in.
“Hey, don’t you dare call him with that name!”
“Why not?” He face me straight and fixed his eyes on me demandingly.
“He’s my friend.”
“Is that all?”
He wasn’t looking funny. He wasn’t smirking. He was studying.
“Yes. That’s all,” I said and looked away.
Jacob and I were not a couple and I had no intention of blurting to Xavier that I was having a crush on Jacob.
He looked back front and started the car. That was when I heard him mumbled ‘good’ under his breath. I stole a glance his way as the car started to leave the driveway. The Lucifer smile appeared clear on the face. He looked pleased.
For quite sometime we were quiet until he initiated, “How long have you known that puppet?”
“I told you not to call him with that name.”
“If you don’t remember, I didn’t say I care.”
He stifled on his seat and the next thing that came out of his mouth stifled me more badly than what I did to him.
“You have a crush on him,” he stated.
Oxygen! Oxygen! Maybe Carbon dioxide will also work just fine.
He had literally crushed my airway. I stared at him wide eyed, horribly shocked.
“What? You think I wouldn’t know?” He asked easily as though it was dumb of me to have been shocked.
I wasn’t aware when I shook my head. None of my nerves were under my control. I guess, in that moment, my brain had left me for someone who can use him better. I was blushing, flushing, reddening in shock and astonishment.
How could he be so indiscreet to say that flat on my face!
“So answer. Since when have you been knowing him?” He asked again.
“Third grade,” I answered like a robot he was controlling or you could say like someone hypnotized by the almighty, all-knowing street-lord, Xavier Arquette.
“And you’ve liked him since?”
I began to nod but then, getting back my senses, I shook my head. He scoffed and let out a humorless chuckle. I saw his fist clench tighter on the steering wheel.
“How did you know each other?” I asked.
“Wake up, Mongrel. We’ve been living in the same town for years and who the fuck doesn’t know that doll face, Jacob Garfield. Half of the girls in town wants to sleep with him or maybe he has,” he spat the words like he would do when he spit bile.
I remained quiet; saddened.
“I’m just saying,” he quickly added, catching my uneasiness.
Jacob wouldn’t do that, I assured myself. But it still didn’t feel good hearing Xavier say that for the sake of just saying. I squirmed in my seat and twisted my lips sulkily.
“Why do you hate him so much, calling him with all those names?”
“I call him with whatever damned names I want. I don’t give a fuck,” he muttered and for the first time it seemed like we had switched souls.
Usually, it was me sulking and grumbling. His part was always smirking and laughing and teasing and what now... He couldn’t possibly be sulking. That was too funny but I was sure I heard him grumble.
What the heck is happening? Could he be beaten to the point of needing a psychiatrist in the prison last night?
Yet I retorted, “He’s one year ahead of us, Arquette. Pay some respect.”
“God! Jesus! Have mercy!” He slammed the steering wheel with his palms, took a nasty swerved around the bent that I was pushed against the window and he pulled over, tires screeching in protest.
“What the heck is wrong with you!” I shouted as I panted in fright, having seen my dear life flash before my eyes.
“You expect me to pay that nerdy fucker respect! All I see in him is that fat pussy, Garfield that lives on lasagna!!!” He just finished his exclamation.
And now to nerdy fucker and fat pussy. OMG!!! His Lordy pride was hurt. Such a pretty, petty boy.
Hell. I couldn’t believe what kind of a creature I had run into. He couldn’t even take a single sentence like that!
“What is seriously wrong with you?” I asked again, panting and lowering my tone but with the same fright and shock lingering.
He exhaled, squeezed his eyes shut, fell back on his seat and hit his head several times on it. I noticed that his hands were clutching the steering wheel way tighter. Then again he dropped his head down, glanced at me once but immediately averted his gaze as if I was his third grade teacher on whom he was having a crush on.
He chewed on his lower lip and finally breathed out something that was obviously pent up in his pride, “I like you, Alana. And I’m so fucking jealous of that puppet, that’s why.”
He said that just as I was swallowing and I choked all at once. My expression of shock was not like how the graceful women in movies do; where they gasp with drama, planting a hand to their chest. No. Not at all. I choked. I choked the ugliest choke in the history of mankind.
I mean, seriously, it felt so weird to hear Xavier say he like me. I had never been someone’s admire or crush, not ever. Well, except for that one incident when I first moved to East Port and my new neighbour, Jackson, a ten year old boy who probably had no idea what he was saying, said he thinks I’m kinda pretty (Note: he thinks, kinda).
Does that even count?
Anyway, most possibly, he has even forgotten I ever existed. They left town a week after I moved there. Such a short privilege of being someone’s kinda-crush. And now, here was Xavier Arquette, the most popular high school boy I’d ever known, saying he like me. How was I even supposed to believe that?!
I stared at him wide eyed.
He still didn’t face me. Instead, he dropped his head even lower and continued, “I got so fucking jealous that you went out with him and not with me. And I ended up beating Damien to pulp worst than I usually do and... you know what happened after that.”
A heavy heave of breath which I had been holding back as I listened to him in complete astonishment escaped from me.
His confession of adoration was totally out of the romantic world. He beat Damien to pulp?! Seriously. That was how he express his endearment. Wow. Way to go, Alana. And way more to come. Pray you survive.
I gaped at him open-mouth, trying to catch his words and make sure if I heard him right. He looked at me. Goosebumps rose all over my body as I met his unteasing, solemn gaze seeking into my eyes. Nothing was funny now.
Every single word that made out of his mouth reverberated in my head, knocking on every nerve just the way he knocked Damien the other night. Good that my nerves don’t have jaws.
“I really like you, Alana,” he said again.
Xavier Arquette said he like me and he looked like he meant it.
I felt my earlobes beginning to burn.