Chapter 21: Forgive
1. taking the knife out of your own back and not using it for revenge against something or someone; the act of forgiving.
*Chloe’s Point of View*
“Chloe, it’s already Friday! What the hell are you still doing here?” Jamie’s bed felt a lot less comfortable after listening to her rant, the one about me not being home in days, for the fifteenth time. What I didn’t know how to explain to her was that it wasn’t my home. It was Asher’s and if he was there, I didn’t want to be. “You haven’t even told me what happened! What kind of cruel person does that? What kind of cruel best friend robs me of that?”
Assembling myself into a sitting position, I realized she was right. I should have at least told her what happened. I didn’t even know what happened. After the kiss, I sped out of the house like it was a jail cell. It might as well have been and I was unable to face the destructive acts I had done.
I didn’t plan on spending half my week billowing at my best friends, but as time passed and willpower faltered, I was too embarrassed to go back.
I screamed at Asher about kissing me. And then I kissed him. I felt beyond hypocritical.
Since Tuesday, I had set up camp over at Jamie’s, continuously putting off the story of why I was insistent on staying. Thankfully, we were still on Holiday break, meaning I didn’t have to face Asher at school... yet.
Cringing, I observed Jamie gradually twist from side to side in her desk chair, her elbow resting on the back as she awaited my sworn statement. I braced myself for being called stupid, though nothing she could say was as bad as what I’d told myself in the past couple of days.
“Hayden and I ran into Asher during our date. Asher was...” I laughed, but the sound was devoid of any humor. “Flirting with some coffee cart girl.”
The thought of Coffee Girl made me more than a little upset, but the emotion that was genuinely swelling inside me was jealousy, swirling under my skin until it had taken over every inch of my body.
“Hayden kissed me goodbye, and Asher kissed that stranger. We got home and he got pissed at me because he said I was too confusing. Like I’m the confusing one out of the two of us! He’s the one who gets jealous and possessive and then turns around and tells me he doesn’t even want to date me!” I fumed, but let my expression settle when I remembered my own fatal flaw. “He got irritated with me about kissing both him and Hayden. And I’m sure I furthered his anger by proceeding to kiss him right in the middle of our argument.”
I declined myself back onto the bed, clasping my hands over my eyes to hide my shame from the situation. It wasn’t going to work; I was sure Jamie could see it as openly as I could feel it.
“He pushed me off him and shut himself into his room,” I finished the story with that mortifying tidbit.
A second of awkward silence stretched between the two of us, the tranquil quiet sliced by the creaking pang from Jamie’s chair shifting.
She sighed. “Are you dumb or just oblivious?”
“Apparently both,” I grumbled.
The creaking chair reverberated the room as Jamie surged to her feet and, my eyes still covered, I felt the bed dip next to me. My bare leg, seeing I was still dolled up in Asher’s white shirt, twinged with pain as Jamie’s palm came into contact with it. The unexpected slap forced my hands from my face as my lips let out a startled gasp.
“He has feelings for you, C. He wouldn’t care if you were kissing Hayden if he didn’t. The same way you wouldn’t care if he was kissing Coffee-bitch if you didn’t like him.”
I pulled myself onto my elbows, my eyes ticking over the small clock on Jamie’s nightstand as I noticed we were dead set in the middle of the afternoon. I scowled at her terrible conclusion. “He does not like me, Jamie. In fact, he told me directly to my face that he didn't.”
Beyond not in the mood to hear Jamie’s influences, I let my eyes hit the back of my head when she dropped her bottom jaw to begin the convincing. I cut her off with, “I’ve basically thrown myself at him twice only to have him deny me both times.”
I swallowed my discomfort, remembering the first time he’d denied my advances the night his father showed up.
Jamie shook her head, her hand much more gently coming down to my thigh as she chuckled. “So what you’re saying is you desperately want to have sex with Asher?”
I frowned. “No. I am saying that Asher, who sleeps with anyone who blinks at him, desperately does not want to have sex with me.”
My best friend sighed. “Maybe he was just upset about how you kissed Hayden. I certainly wouldn’t want to have sex with Andy if his mind was on someone else.”
I threw my face into my palms. “My mind wasn’t even on Hayden! I was only thinking about Asher the whole time.”
With a knowing grin, Jamie spoke with rebellion. “Do you hear yourself speak? I swear you’re so close to getting it, but still so oblivious.”
I lifted my head, letting my eyebrows knit together. “What do you mean?”
“You. Do. Not. Feel. For. Hayden. The. Way. You. Feel. For. Asher,” she groaned after having to basically spell it out for me.
I clenched my teeth. “Hayden has been nothing but kind to me and yet you’re still trying to force me to like someone who I’m constantly screaming at. Why can’t you support the way I feel about Hayden?”
Jamie’s grin dropped into something skeptical and her expression was nowhere near understanding.
“Because I see the way you look at Asher.” Her head began to shake as her gaze fell into her lap. “And I see the way Asher looks at you.”
“El es un riesgo,” I scoffed. ”Un riesgo que no puedo pagar.”
Jamie huffed in frustration. “You know I hate when you do that. I got a D in that damn class. I can’t understand a word.”
“Asher’s a risk that I’m not willing to take,” I translated.
Her patience clearly lost, Jamie frowned. “If Asher’s not a risk worth taking, then what is?” We locked gazes, holding the contact. “You’re crazy about each other. It’s obvious to everyone except you.”
To cover my face, I pulled my elbows out from under me, smashing back into the bed and cracking both hands back onto my eyes for some sort of shelter from the storm known as Jamie MacEntire. “I’m not doing this with you right now. I just... God, give me a second.”
Shutting down to take my rightfully earned second, my confused best friend was back in my ear a moment later. “Give you a second? You don’t have a second!”
Remembering that phrase was a term between only Asher and me, I tugged my hands off my face and looked my best friend in the eye. “Oh my God, Jamie, what if he just needed a second? We were both so angry. Maybe, at that moment, he needed a second alone.”
Her eyes were saucers. “What are you talki-?”
Drawing myself from the bed, I grabbed the pants that I was stealing from Jamie and slid them up my legs. “Thanks, Jame, this was a lot of help.”
I heard her loud, overdramatic sigh as I made my way towards the bedroom door.
The sun was preheated to four-hundred and fifty degrees when I walked back and ten minutes after leaving Jamie’s house, I was basically mid-crawl, wishing I had begged her for a ride. Stomping up the driveway in four layers of sun-provoked sweat, my eyes fell on Asher and Prim.
Both clad in swimsuits, I didn’t know which I liked more: Prim’s ladybug one-piece or Asher shirtless. From the buckets of water, soap, and Prim sitting on the hood of Asher’s Chevelle, I assumed a car wash was in action.
Asher’s full laughter knotted my attention next. He held a hose, using it to pour water over his sister, her head leaning back as she mopped up the soft, rain-like effects. He seemed to be having as much fun as she was.
Awkwardly, and hideously sweaty, I made my way up to the car, that wide smile Asher had been sporting falling short when he spotted me. Prim, on the other hand, seemed delighted to have me in her line of sight. She slid off the slippery metallic, throwing her soaking wet arms around me.
“Chloe! I missed you so much! I was afraid you left forever,” she confessed.
My heart tightening with guilt and afraid I’d slammed a dent her week, I kneeled in front of her, holding her shoulders to attend the hug. “I’d never leave forever. I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye,” I apologized.
With a voice both delicate and troubled, neither pitches sounding very accepting, Asher cut in. “Prim, can you please get some more towels in the house?”
Her voice grew bubbly at the task and she let go of me to run inside. Standing, I took another step towards Asher, unable to ignore the feelings his blank face gave me.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” I blurted. He didn’t say anything or even move, leading me to continue. “You and I have a... bizarre relationship and I know sometimes I act like it’s something more. You’re my best friend. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t like to upset you.” I smiled, unable to hold the comment to myself, but remedied quickly. “I’m sorry... for how confusing I am. I don’t know how to act around you. I shouldn’t of-”
The apology that I really wasn’t sure where I was going with was hewed short when the hose in Asher’s hand hit the pavement and he enticed me into a hug.
“Don’t ever drop off the earth like that again, please. I was really worried.” His quick confession warmed every bone in my body.
I wrapped my arms around his middle and nodded, as grateful the argument had ended as I was worried he’d be disgusted by how sweaty I was. He pulled back, still gripping my shoulders as he looked me in the eye, an untroubled smile cushioning his lips. “And stop fuckin’ kissing me, you jerk.”
I laughed, shoving his shoulder backward with the tips of my fingers. “You kiss me more often than I kiss you.”
He stepped away, snapping the hose from the cement and taking it to his car, disbelief on his face.
“I cannot believe my ears.” He shook an incredulity finger in my direction. “You’re going to be a lawyer, you shouldn’t attack me for false accusations.”
I decided against telling him that was part of what certain lawyers did for a living.
“The majority of times we kissed, they were your fault. The first time you got dared to kiss me and you initiated it. The second time was New Years' and that was my fault. And the third time was Tuesday.” He ticked off each kiss on his fingers, speaking like I was a toddler.
Shaking my head, I bent against the wet car, uncaring to the fact it soaked my back. Anything was better than sweat. “Yeah? And what about drunk Asher on Christmas Eve?” I countered.
“Technically,” he replied with a smirk. “I can’t remember that one, so it didn’t happen.”
I scoffed, remembering every single moment of that kiss, every single detail, and wishing I didn’t. “Yeah, whatever. I won’t kiss you anymore, but you can’t kiss me anymore either.”
Holding out my hand in a pact, he grabbed it and muttered that we had a deal. As I drew my hand away from his, he flipped on the hose nozzle, spraying me right in my face with the frigid water. I screamed as I was covered head to toe, the white shirt clinging to me.
In an attempt to escape the water-themed horror movie I was now starring in, I spun around to circle the car. My killer, whose weapon of choice was a hose, followed after me, chasing me around the vehicle once until another victim caught his eye. Prim, with an armful of towels, squealed in delight as she witnessed the unsolicited water fight between us, dropping the warm, dry towels onto the ground so she could run around. Unlike me, when Asher sprayed his sister, she only welcomed the icy water, spinning in circles beneath it.
Asher had had enough time, and amusement, torturing us (me specifically) and turned the murder weapon, packed with below-zero-degree water, back to his car as he directed Prim to wipe it down with soap. The black chrome was covered in sudsy water in no time.
Watching the two siblings had brought back memories of my own, the recollections of each family car wash or game night front and center in my traitor of a brain. Though a small smile tipped my lips, the nauseating sensation that lined my stomach restricted in sickening bolts of disturb, each one reminding me I shouldn’t have been thinking back that far.
Just as I felt the meager recall was going to cause not only my legs to give out but also the breakfast I had eaten that morning, the hose lashed into my direction and train of thought, its bearer being my roommate.
“What are you thinking about?” Asher asked as he brought the hose off me and back to the car.
I scowled, though I was appreciative of his distractions, regardless of how freezing they were. “How you’re going to be a dead man if you keep spraying me with that hose, Ash.”
It wasn’t long after that the car was fresh and clean, as were the three of us. As we admired the beautiful car, I couldn’t help but inwardly enjoy the warmth and comfort my latest, dry shirt supplied me.
Dreamily sighing at the masterpiece that was his car, Asher twisted to face his sister and me. “Want to go out to eat?”
Letting out a wispy and hungry sigh, Prim climbed into the backseat of the clean car. I bobbed my head in agreement to his question, slapping the bottom of his hand, forcing the keys to bounce out of his palm. As they inclined into the air, I snatched them mid-flight, jumping into the driver’s seat.
Like a child who'd had his toy taken away, Asher whined, “Dolphin! Get out of my car. Out.”
I let out a laugh and patted the passenger seat next to me. “Come sit, we’ll go for a ride.”
“There is no way in hell you’re driving my car. Get out, Dol.”
Sixty seconds and many profanities later, Asher was falling into the passenger seat, slamming his door behind himself. Angry but transparently still worried about his baby, he aimed his eyes back to the door he had closed to check for any threatening marks he might have made. No apparent scratches in view, he looked at me. “This is never fucking happening again.”
I was grinning wide as I tore down the driveway, my ears picking up on Asher’s not-so-hidden gasps from the seat next to me. “It’s a car, Asher. Calm down.”
“It’s my baby, Dolphin! Slow down!”
“I’m going the speed limit. What is it about this thing?” My gazes drifting between the road and the interior, I couldn’t deny it was very nice and the way my roommate was reacting towards it, it was clear he lived and breathed for the car.
“It was the first thing I ever bought for myself with my own money,” he shared, gripping the middle console, panicked when I slowed at a red light. “I bought it cheap and it took me a whole summer to fix it up. It’s my only accomplishment. Do not hurt her.”
With a smile on my face, I glimpsed over at his frightened face, bringing my eyes back to the road before I gave him a heart attack. “Awe, that is so sweet.”
I brightened at how cute the story was. Asher groaned at how fast I was taking corners.
Getting past the deadly ten minutes of Asher’s alarmed voice in my ear, I pulled into a diner, picking the key from the ignition. Stepping from the vehicle, I helped Prim out of the car as Asher stood on the sidelines, holding out his hand.
“Give me my keys.” Instead of obeying him, I took the keys and shoved them down my shirt, hoping I could keep them long enough to drive us home. Asher only shook his head at my ploy. “If you think I won’t reach down your shirt and grab those, you have another thing coming.”
I rolled my eyes at his threat, but when he intimidatingly stepped towards me, I quickly sped into the modest restaurant. I slipped the keys into my back pocket after that, deciding not to risk it. The last thing I needed after Asher and my newly-agreed pact was his hand up my shirt.
As we sat in a booth awhile later, Asher slipped the keys into his pocket, undoubtedly happy he had them back in his possession.
I chuckled, shoving an apple slice off of Prim’s plate and into my mouth. “You’re such a baby.”
“I’m a baby?” Gaping at me, he flicked his eyes to Prim, pointing a trembling finger at me from across the table. “She’s calling me a baby! She’s the one who was carelessly driving my car.”
“Carelessly? Give me your keys again and I’ll show you carelessly.” He narrowed his eyes at my open palm and I felt the need to change the conversation before I was dragged into another lecture, kicking and screaming. “I can’t believe winter break ends in two days. I feel like we just started.”
Prim elicited an uncontrolled squeal at the thought of going back to her own school. “I love school! It’s so much fun! All we do is play with our friends and paint.”
“What school do you go to?” Asher asked, astounded by his sister’s activities.
My comment about how much fun her classes must be was cut short by the three, recognizable figures approaching the table. Surrounded by her two generous dependents, Olivia stood unwaveringly, her blonde strands pleasingly perfect, her pink lips puckering into a sneer.
After a quick glance at me, she looked to my roommate and was the first to vex us with her voice. “Oh, so this is what you’re doing while you’re ignoring my texts?”
Asher’s voice was oddly calm, but there was revulsion outpouring his face. “I do lots of things while I’m ignoring your texts, Olivia.”
Trying not to tempt the lion, I stared down at my half-eaten meal, gently picking at my anxious fingers.
Olivia’s eyes bored into his. “Meaning you do lots of people while you’re ignoring my texts.” She swung her eyes to me, lifting a shaped brow at my seated posture. “Or have you replaced them all and decided only to fuck your roomie?”
At her crude remark, Asher glanced to his sister and pulled out his wallet, sliding her a five-dollar bill and sending her off to a mini arcade in the corner. Prim had no problem taking her brother’s money and skipping away to play.
Like he was biting his tongue, Asher waited until his sister was across the restaurant to turn back to Olivia. “What the fuck is your problem? I’m not-”
Slamming her purse onto the table and shaking the plates from the force, Olivia set her hands on her hips. “I just think it’s funny that you’re suddenly an upstanding citizen.” With an emphasizing pan up and down my body, one that made what she was implying obvious, she sighed intolerably towards me. “You must have really made quite the impression on him.”
The muscle in my jaw ticking, I lost all accounts of sanity, each layer peeling from my head with every implication she made. I shook my head, ready to ignore my own advice and tempt the lion.
“You’re right, Olivia.” I flashed her a smile, unsure as to what the hell I thought was doing. “I really must have made quite the impression for him to drop your ass the moment he met me.”
Olivia’s face revealed a second of shock, followed by unwavering rage. Her tone dropped and she growled, “You’re a slut!”
I grinned as if she’d paid me a compliment. “A slut who cuddles up next to Asher every night.”
I had an almost undeniable urge to lift my plate from the table and break it in two with my face. I couldn’t believe I’d said that and from Asher’s wide eyes, it was clear he couldn’t believe I’d said that either. Though it was technically true, and many of my nights were innocently spent on the couch in Asher’s arms, the way I had said it made it sound anything but virtuous.
Olivia’s eyes were the size of tires, but that was nothing compared to Asher’s expression, mixed with one giant harmful blend of shock, worry, and oddly satisfaction. His expression helped me regain the courage to continue.
“So while you sit around and complain that it’s been a while since Asher’s needed you for sex, you can try to remind yourself that I’m the one who has his full attention.” I gave her one last smile, finishing it with, “I hope that clears up any confusion as to what he’s doing while he’s ignoring your texts.”
Surprised I didn’t get lacerated in the face by Olivia’s colorful claws, I was equally as shocked when she stomped out of the restaurant without another word. I slammed my eyes shut, my only indication that she had left being the bell I’d heard before the door slammed closed, causing the windows to tremble.
“Dol...” Asher leaned forward onto his elbows, his soft voice opening my eyes. “Watching you verbally punch Olivia in the face was hot, but you know she’s going to tell everyone we slept together, right?”
I winced, covering my face and slamming my elbows onto the wooden booth table. “I may as well have given her a sex tape!"
He chuckled, seemingly amused. After a momentary lapse of silence, I heard him sigh from the opposite side of the table. Fearing his expression, I connected my gaze with his.
He sighed a second time, this one sounding more melodramatic than the first, and muttered, “I can’t believe people are going to think we slept together and I didn’t even get to have sex with you.” He pushed himself up from the booth. “We could change that now if you’re feeling up to it.”
His joke managed to bring my despairing mood up a bit and I stood alongside him. “I fear that would make things worse," I commented, despite all I'd shared with Jamie about throwing myself at him just that morning.
Asher smiled. “We won’t know until we try it.” He glanced in Prim’s direction, waving her towards us before turning back to me and nudging my arm. “Stay calm, Dol. Monday will be a long day.”