Destructively Oblivious

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Chapter 22: Fine

fine

/fīn/

adverb

1. feeling satisfied or pleased; doing well; used especially after growing from a traumatic or upsetting situation.

______________________________________

*Chloe’s Point of View*

At what I’m sure was no later than five-thirty in the morning, I strolled into the tile-floored bathroom, flipping on the light and admiring myself in the stainless mirror. If admired meant cringed, then yeah, I admired the hell out of myself.

Avoiding my own gaze, my eyes instantly traveled to my hair in a ponytail. Strands and knots went in various directions and I pulled the band out, hoping it might tame the mane. It didn’t, but it made the rat's nest that was my head completely unbearable.

I would have to shower. There was no way I could go out with Hayden later today looking like this. It would be our fourth date in as many days. Much to my roommate’s blatant dismay, I had been out with Hayden every day this weekend.

On Friday, after having lunch with Asher and Prim, Hayden took me out to dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant and impressed me with the minuscule amount of Italian he knew. He kissed me kindly on the porch when he’d brought me home before Asher opened the door and shooed him away from the house.

On Saturday, he took me to the movie theaters and we laughed at a rom-com that I knew Asher would have hated, which was why I made sure to come home and tell him all about the plot, which he didn’t appreciate. We followed the movies with a bicycle ride in the park on Sunday. Tonight, he was apparently taking me to a painting class.

Knowing I had to distract myself before I ripped my ruthless hair out strand by strand, I forced my hand to grab the toothpaste and spread it along my brush, dabbing it under the running water. Brush in mouth, I moved towards the door to shut it. Unfortunately, a yawning teenager struggled tiredly through the doorjamb before I could. Blinking hard to adjust to the bathroom lighting, Asher scanned my bedhead and turned towards the sink.

He smirked. “Nice hair.”

“Get out,” I grumbled through the muffled toothbrush in my mouth.

Grasping a toothbrush from the counter, he squeezed a messy amount of paste on the tiny, blue brush, dropping a brow at me through the mirror. “No can do, Dol. I’ve gotta brush my teeth.”

I held up my own toothbrush. “I got here first.” My tone conveyed the Duh I didn’t say out loud.

“I got here second. I’m glad we’ve established when we each entered the bathroom. Let me brush.” He tossed the toothbrush in his mouth, scrubbing away against my commands.

“Use the bathroom downstairs!” I sputtered.

He rolled his eyes. “You use the bathroom downstairs.”

Brushing angrily, taking my annoyance towards my roommate out on my teeth, I shoved him out of the way of the sink. “I can’t use that bathroom. I need to shower and it doesn’t have one. I have a date after school, Asher.”

“I do too, Dolphin.” Gently, he slid the side of his hip against mine, drawing me away from the sink to lean over it. I paused, my toothbrush stationed in my mouth.

“You have a date?” I asked. To appear unimpressed by his confession, I pushed and pulled on my toothbrush casually, not focusing on the act in the least.

He let his brush settle between his top and bottom molars as he murmured, “Don’t sound so surprised.” Seeing the look on my face, he stated the answer to the question I hadn’t yet asked. “It’s with the girl from the coffee cart. We’re going to dinner.”

I nodded once, trying to hide my instant disappointment, and moved back towards the sink. Hip to hip, Asher and I brushed in silence for what could have won an award for the most awkward minute ever. Finally, to rid the tension the length of the Pacific Ocean, I shoved his arm carefully, a silent indication for the word “Move.”

Unfortunately, he and I being the two most uncoordinated people on the planet leaned over the sink at the same time to rid our mouths of toothpaste, resulting in Asher spitting a revolting mixture of two minutes worth of brushing into my hair.

“Asher!” Less gently than the few times before, I shoved the laughing boy away from me, watching him toss his clean brush onto the counter. “That’s so gross!”

I bent over the sink and slammed on the water in an attempt to get the toothpaste out, but to no avail. Shifting, I twisted on the shower faucet. As I waited for it to get hot, I flipped him off.

“Feisty.” He chuckled. “It’s just a little toothpaste, it's not that bad."

“It's your saliva!” I made sure to point to the paste on the strands.

His eyebrows bunched together, false thought surfing his expression as he took what I was saying into consideration, stating, “I’d say there’s a good chance you’re used to that.”

I clenched my teeth together, arms crossed and hair coated. “Get. Out.”

With large eyes, his mouth gaped open, he appeared almost offended by my words. “Are you trying to tell me we’re not showering together?”

Dragging a towel off the rack, I twisted and turned it into a tightwad, smacking it in his direction. Finally, the painful tactic did its job, fear of the uncomfortable burn causing him to sprint from the small room. I slammed the door behind him.

Jackass.

______________________________________

The incident on Friday caused by my giant mouth made Monday quite... a day. Unfortunately, I had shamefully made a smug comment towards Olivia and her posse, implying that I was keeping Asher busy with more than just friendship.

Olivia, like the drama-addict she was, let the rumor spread like wildfire. It wasn’t long before the entire school thought Asher and I were doing some pretty unpure acts in the home we shared. No matter how many times we swore it wasn’t true, nobody believed us.

With freshly washed hair (that took ten minutes to get Asher’s toothpaste out of) and my typical jeans, I looked as I usually did. Noting the number of surprised stares and jealous glowers I’d received, you’d think I was wearing a sign that said: “I slept with Asher Freed.”

By the time I had left my class and was making my way to the lunchroom, I had already been stopped three times to be asked about my personal life. Twenty feet away from the safety of the cafeteria, I was halted a fourth time.

Jane, the lanky brunette from my APES class, strode up next to me. Hoping she’d get the implied hint and go away, I continued on my path to the cafeteria without acknowledging her.

She gasped when she was by my side. “Chloe! Between you and me, is the rumor true?”

Though I did spend much of my class time chatting with Jane and I knew she was a sweet girl, I couldn’t deny being asked had knocked her down a few pegs.

I stopped in my tracks, abruptly spinning to face her, watching as she took a step back from my sudden jolt. I tried to disguise my deadly irritation with my most patient voice, which took a remarkable amount of effort. “No, it isn’t.”

Turning back to the lunchroom doors, now only ten feet away, the sound of Jane interviewing me had moved my feet faster than before. “Are you su-?”

Impatience surmounted through me, tightening my chest and knocking her down a few more pegs. Maybe a few hundred. Less sweet, I rolled my eyes. “Jane, I think I’d know.”

Finally, at that damn cafeteria, I swung the door open, eager to lose her when I walked in. Sending her the smallest wave, I quickened my pace over to my table, tossing my bag next to me and slamming myself onto the bench seat.

Asher gently leaned his shoulder onto mine to snag my attention. “You okay?”

“No."

Jamie grabbed one of my hands in both of hers from across the table, seemingly insistent on remedying my problems. “I’m sorry, C. Don’t listen to them,” she consoled.

Setting my forehead onto the table, I groaned, “Kind of hard when everyone’s talking.”

Blake’s voice from the other end of the table joined the cafeteria noise, the sound filled with a touch of humor that brought my mood from upset to irritated in mere seconds. “The rumors not true, right?”

Flicking my head up from the table, I shot him a scathing glare, five seconds away from tossing an apple at his giant head.

Reading my mind, Asher pulled the hard red fruit off his tray and chucked it at him across the table. It hit Blake right in the cheekbone, the contact sending his head flying back. He hissed in pain and grabbed his cheek to rectify the painful bruise forming.

“Ow, asshole,” he barked, dryly.

Staring down at his tray that now lacked an apple, Asher’s jaw worked violently beneath his skin. Kicking a glance at his angry face, I narrowed my eyes at Blake, mild warning hopefully evident in my tone. “Fuck off, Blake.”

He placed his elbow on the table and rested his chin on his palm, massaging the swollen cheekbone with his fingers. “My bad, are we not joking about this?” he questioned, his ignorance pissing me off.

Andy, seemingly just as fed up with his friend as I was, shoved his shoulder in unmissable annoyance. Blake’s eyes expanded.

He exclaimed, “Sorry! Everyone is talking about it. I don’t know what the big deal is. Who cares if you two had sex? It’s about time.”

Jamie’s eyes narrowed homicidally. “Blake!”

“What?” Blake picked up the apple that had targeted him and took a bite. “All I’m saying is everyone should focus their attention elsewhere.”

Ending his sentence with a head shake, he nodded past Asher and my shoulder. Me and the guy I was rumored to have slept with twisted to stare at what he was gesturing at, which happened to be a good chunk of the cafeteria gazing over at our table. When the large crowd of people who found interest in our lunchtime watched us turn around, they spun fast, continuing their regular conversations like they weren’t intruding moments before.

Letting out another equally pained groan, I let my head fall against the table again. I’d never had this much attention on me in my life, especially for something so personal. Something so personal that didn’t even happen.

Mumbling something about his locker, Asher stood from the bench, striding towards the cafeteria doors. With a distressed look on my face, I brought my eyes back to Jamie. “Why does everyone care so much?”

When her shoulders had risen and fallen in confusion, Andy held a finger in the air. “They’ve been waiting for it.”

Jamie shook her head. “Waiting for what?”

Andy swung an arm over his girlfriend’s shoulder, twirling a strand of her blonde hair in his fingers as he spoke in my direction. “The day you and Asher proclaimed yourself as not only besties but roommates, the schools been waiting for you two to sleep together. They’ve made bets.” He noticed my mouth gape open and sent me a slight grin. “I’ve made like eighty bucks.”

I slammed my hands onto the bench, my jaw hitting the table in astonishment. “You’re making money off my misery?”

Andy blew air out his nose, visibly considering the mistake he'd made by telling me this information. His response didn’t make it to my ears because of the loud, fast footsteps of someone behind me. I turned, staring into the eyes of a somewhat out-of-breath Danny.

“Guys! Fuck, hold on.” Setting his hands on his hips, he inhaled deeply. “I need to work out more, holy shit.”

Blake scoffed at his friend and I spun to face him, noting his cheek was as red as the apple that nailed him. His brows furrowed. “What do you need, Dan?”

Danny swallowed, his eyes broad. “Some idiot decided today was the day to mess with Ash and I’m pretty sure that idiot’s about to die.”

Whipping around, my eyes widened, my voice instantaneous. “What happened?!”

Danny shouldered in the direction of the door. “I don’t know, it happened so fast. I ran into Asher outside, Rob said something, and he went off.”

I cringed upon hearing the name of the person who had angered Asher. Rob, who was the type of person people couldn’t stand, didn’t have much of a filter when it came to saying anything. I couldn’t begin to imagine what he’d said to Asher.

Blake stood, finally removing his hand from his cheekbone to slam his items into his backpack, ready to watch the massacre that was playing outside the door. “What did Rob say?”

Danny’s anxious eyes flickered down towards me and, rubbing my throbbing headache that was getting more painful with each passing event, I stood, asking, “What did he say about me?”

With a sigh that did nothing to ready me, Danny restated Rob’s disgusting comments. “He asked Asher to pass you along to him whenever he was done with you. Said that he’s been trying to get in between your legs since Sophomore year.”

I winced. I knew the comments had to have been about me, but I hadn’t expected that level of crudeness, especially to Asher’s face. Noticing my fallen expression, Danny finished it with, “I didn’t even blink before that douchebag was on the floor.”

I didn’t respond to Danny, instead turning and making my way outside. Eyeing the large crowd that I assumed Asher was in the middle of, I shoved through it.

Students were in a tight bunch, but I managed to squeeze my way into the audience as Asher pushed Rob onto the ground an apparent second time. The moment fleeting, Rob’s body slammed the concrete with impact, the blood from his already pouring nose intensifying.

As confidence replaced sanity, as it seemed to be doing much more of lately, I found myself jumping in front of Rob. Every cell in my body rebelled as I came face to face with Asher, but I placed my hand up in front of him, a way that, to me, ensured he wouldn’t trounce the guy behind me. Not acknowledging my presence, Asher kept his narrowed, fierce eyes on Rob behind me, like some sort of animal advancing its prey.

“Stop it!” I yelled. He didn’t make the slightest of efforts to remove his gaze from the guy on the floor. “Asher, goddammit! Look at me.”

His glower lingering on the victim, his head tilted and his eyes swung to mine. “Dol, get out of the way.” His voice electrocuted the air, the hostility in it stabbing my ears.

I rolled my shoulders back, taking on a much straighter posture, appearing more self-assured than I felt as I uttered the word, “No.”

“Why the fuck don’t you ever listen to me?” Asher advanced forward as his voice rose, neither of which moved me from my position. I stirred my hand in front of his chest, clarifying he knew it was there to stop him from his battering. His eyes slid from mine down to the appendage, only a few inches from him, and he stopped moving.

Rob emanated a laugh saturated in pain from his seat on the rough cement behind me. “It looks like Asher Freed actually does have a soft spot. You must have a few tricks up your sleeve to bring it out of him, Doll.”

Like it was some kind of comedy club, chuckles broke out from one end of the mass to the other, students finding humor in the hilarious statement. Asher grunted, taking another alarming step forward, allowing my fingertips to graze his stomach. As if my hand was an electric fence that only operated on Asher, he froze right as it landed on him. Asher wouldn’t go past my hand — that was what I was counting on.

Hand glued onto the predator’s abdomen, I twisted to mull my eyes over Rob. “Shut up, asshole.”

Asher started to speak. “He-”

I flipped back to my roommate, ripping him from his sentence and aiming a finger at his face. “You shut up too. What the hell are you gaining from this? Take a second and think about what you’re doing.”

Asher watched me with evil eyes, receiving the same look back from me. If he thought I’d give up and step out from between him and the bleeding teen on the floor, he had another thing coming.

A reluctant sigh made its way past his lips a few seconds later and the tenseness of his body fell as he relaxed. I hadn’t realized until then, but I had also let out a weary exhale. I watched Asher step away from my hand, silently surrendering from the fight, not only with Rob but with me. Still burning off the confidence, I turned to the crowd of students who had found satisfaction in watching this dispute play out.

“Is there something any of you need? Get out of here.” My tone cracked through the crowd. The mob began to back away gradually, but not nearly as fast as I wanted them to. “Fuck off!” I yelled when no one had left.

After a half-second, they scurried away, eye rolls, whispers, and laughter in the mix as they dispersed.

The courtyard was soon empty as the students made their way into classes, leaving Asher and me with each other. Unbeknownst to me, Rob was there too, his painful shuffle on the ground pulling my attention.

He rested on the cement, clearing the blood from his nose and shaking his head. “Asher, I never thought you’d become such a pussy. Especially not for some chick.”

Dipping his tongue to his lip, Asher laughed quite bitterly, pushing his eyes to mine for permission. “Let me kick him. Just once.”

My hand still on his stomach, I shook my head at his plea and turned back at Rob. “What is your problem? Do you have a death wish?”

Putting his hands up in defense, he muttered, “No, I just think it’s shocking that all it took was you opening your legs to get Asher to change his ways.”

Most definitely at my wit's end, I whipped around to face him. I wasn’t going to hit him, but Asher pitched forward and wrapped his hand around my bicep to ensure I wouldn’t.

Towards Rob, I snarked, “Yeah, and all it’ll take is my foot up your ass to send you to a hospital. Get out of here before I actually let Asher put you in a coma.”

I took a step towards him and he crawled backward, standing and taking off in the opposite direction.

Flipping back around towards the smug predator, I watched his eyes follow the boy behind me. “Nice one,” he commended.

“What the hell was that, Asher? You know you’re not supposed to-”

While the eye-roll towards my annoyance was present, so was the guilt, his shoulders sinking. “I know and I’m sorry. He said-”

"I know." I sighed. With too much sympathy toward him, I hoisted my shoulders, granting a mixture between a laugh and a sigh to leave my lungs. “Just don’t do it again. I think you’re fighting nature is rubbing off on me.”

Recoiling away from my response, Asher shook his head. “I hope not.”

Instead of clarifying that I was only kidding, I drifted into Asher’s arms, coiling him into a hug. Sometimes, they were more helpful than one would think.

Asher readily took it, enveloping his arms around me and resting his cheek on my head. Letting a few content seconds fade past, I drew back insignificantly from the hug to look at him, my gaze descending on his warm toffee irises.

His hands were snug on my waist, and we held each other close, our gazes not straying away as silence descended between us. His body was so familiar to me — the way it felt, the smell of his homely cologne, even the beat of his heart against me. It was too silent, we were too alone, his eyes were too telling.

I felt both relief and disappointment when the sound of someone behind us tore me away from the eye contact and the hug.

Turning my back on Asher, I faced a confused Hayden, his brows scrunched laboriously, his stance hesitant. “Hey, I’ve been looking all over for you,” he offered, guarded.

Presently stepping a good half-foot away from Asher, I was more than aware Hayden had probably heard a good amount of the rumors spreading from one end of the school to the other. “You have?”

The doubt in his eyes fading, he moved closer, the glances between Asher and me lessening. “I wanted to check up on you and make sure you were okay after everything I’ve heard around school — the rumors and all.”

“You don’t... believe them?” Surprised, I was equally grateful he didn’t believe the crass lies.

With a breathy laugh, Hayden’s eyes did a once-over on my roommate behind me, sinking on me. “You and Asher? Of course not. I believe you when you say you’re just friends. Plus, I don’t think your standards would ever be that... low.”

The insult wasn’t directed at me, but it did take a considerable amount of effort not to flip around and apologize to Asher for Hayden’s remark. Even if I had planned on it, Hayden didn’t allow me enough time, following it with, “Are we still on for tonight?”

I nodded, accepting his next request that had something to do with walking me to my class period. Directing back to Asher, I threw my arms around his shoulders. Stiffening for a moment like he'd expected me to swing at him, he softened into the hug, staring into my eyes for the second time when I pulled away.

“Please go to class and stay out of fights. I’ll see you when I get home later tonight, okay?” He nodded, a small grin curving his lips. I gently bounced my fist against his shoulder. “Have fun on your date.”

Hoping that date was the most boring one he’d ever been on, I pushed off him, allowing Hayden to take my hand in his and escort me to my classroom.

______________________________________

Sitting on an uncomfortable stool next to my date for the evening, a paintbrush was in my hand, a canvas in front of it. Though the night had been perfect from start to present, the thought of Asher’s date happening somewhere in another part of town had pulled my thoughts an uncountable amount of times.

I moved my brush over the canvas; my mind seemed to be directing my hand without me. The tinged-blue artwork came out exactly how I’d imagined it, ardent and unforgettable, precisely like what it was based off.

Hayden’s painting on the other hand... well... let’s just say he should keep his day job.

Glimpsing toward the colors, I wrinkled my nose at the sight, trying to decipher whether or not it was abstract. He laughed when he noticed my dolphin painting, the waves of the ocean skidding around the sea mammal as it glided through the water. “Wow, it’s clear I need to take my art lessons from you.”

“No! I like your...” My voice was barely audible as the sentence I was trying to say faded into nothing.

“It’s a butterfly. Or, it was supposed to be.” I stood from my wooden stool to admire the picture from Hayden’s perspective, and he jutted his chin upwards to look at me. “Can you help me?”

Nodding at his request for help, I attempted to spin away from him and grab my stool. My spinning was cut short when he seized my hand, dragging me onto his lap. Resting his chin on my shoulder, he handed me his dirty paintbrush and winded his arm around my middle. Sending a minuscule smile at the action, I gazed up at the mixtures of browns and greens, hoping for the best outcome.

Unfortunately, those browns and greens weren’t exactly the most salvageable. The vase/gorilla/waterfall/lamp/human/butterfly type shape made it quite difficult to know what he had wanted the end result to be. If he had gotten a grade in the seminar, he probably would have gotten his very first F. But it was cute to watch him try.

The date ended when we stepped foot on the porch. The thoughts of Asher dispersed the longer I was around Hayden and, by the time I was sticking my key into the front door, the uneasy feelings from the day were gone. Swinging the door open, my laugh died off my lips, my happy mood coming to a screeching stop, and the uncomfortable feelings returning.

Hayden and I stood in the doorway watching my roommate and his date on the entry room couch, locking lips. I felt like my heart had evaporated into a mist of red as I watched him kiss that stupid coffee girl for the second time.

Tugging away from her, Asher studied me like he had been caught in the act of doing something terrible, which he hadn’t. The girl at his side, not as shocked as her makeout-buddy was that I was standing there, wrapped herself around him closer than saran-wrap, and just as transparent.

Shifting away from the pair, I stared at Hayden, driving one big-huge-gigantic smile onto my face. “I had a really, really great time.”

Instantly overlooking the make-out session in front of us, Hayden beamed. “Me too! I’ll call you later, okay?”

Snapping my teeth to my lip, I smiled and gave him another nod, luring him into a hug.

He came in to peck my lips, maintaining the posture for a long second, the tip of his tongue carefully drawing a line along the inner edge of my mouth. Though uncomfortable with the position I was put in, I pressed against Hayden, giving the kiss what little energy I had left for the evening.

Grinning like a child with candy as we pulled apart, he lifted his hand in a gesture, stepping from the house. Shutting the door behind him, I faced the two Love Birds, attentive to Asher’s disappointed face. He had no reason to be and neither did I.

“Are you okay?” I had attempted for a smug question, knowing the kiss had bothered him and wanting to irk him even more. Regrettably, the words came out sounding far too guilty, more like an indirect apology than a complacent statement.

“I’m fine,” Asher answered, deflated.

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