Destructively Oblivious

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Chapter 27: Haunted

haunt·ed

/ˈhôn(t)əd/

adjective

1. a scary place that is regularly visited or habited by a ghost or frightening beings.

______________________________________

*Asher’s Point of View*

I awoke the next morning, blinking several times to adjust to the new day. I momentarily winced at the idea of peeling myself out of bed, but I hastily remembered Dol was waiting for me downstairs and had probably already made coffee, which made the action of waking up much easier. I hoisted myself off the mattress, determined, glancing at my nightstand before stepping from my room. The clock read a quarter to six.

Ten minutes earlier than yesterday, I thought.

I was very aware of the fact I was beginning to wake up earlier and earlier lately. I wasn't going to sleep any sooner in the night, and I knew my newly-broken bad habit was the fault of Chloe, who made getting up before the sun rose look appealing. It was strange, but on the days I slept less and greeted Dol in the kitchen, I always felt much more awake.

I moved down the stairs, seeing Finn before anything else. He was staring out the front window, ensuring that the neighborhood was still there. Unfortunately, the puppy sat alone downstairs, and I frowned when I didn’t see Dol in the kitchen, leaning against the counter as she waited for me to come to see her. That and there was no coffee.

Craving two things, and not having either in my possession, I thoughtfully argued which I wanted more. That debate lasted three seconds and the result was me standing outside of Dol’s bedroom door and, barely grasping the knob in time to turn it, I sauntered into her room.

Dol jumped at the sound of her door unexpectantly opening, flipping around to identify the culprit who’d do something like that, not that there was much competition.

“Christ, Ash. Scare the hell out of me, why don’t you?” My answer to her inquiry was delayed a few seconds, my eyes unproudly browsing down the display of her in jeans, lacking the shirt aspect of the outfit.

My eyes skidded down her body in a moment that was moving too fast, unable to relocate my gaze as she directed away from me and back to her closet in her quest for a top. When she had eventually managed to find one, she took the black shirt and turned to me, utterly unaffected by her exposure. Like I’ve previously said, fucked-up relationship.

The shirt still in hand, she crossed her arms over her bra-covered chest, accidentally pushing her breasts closer together. I forced myself to look away.

“Do you know how to knock?” she questioned.

Finally able to move my mouth, I took advantage of that by smirking. “You’re one to talk. I’m pretty sure you’re the one that drools over me half the time.”

“Are you sure you’re not mixing us up?” She giggled, indicating that I wipe the imaginary drool from my lips. I shook my head at her, watching her finally put on that damn shirt.

Pushing the door open a little farther, I leaned against the jamb. “Did Jamie tell you what we’re doing tonight?”

“She called me and said, ‘It’s Halloween! Get ready!’ and then hung up.” She grabbed the strap of her backpack from the floor, pulling it to her bed, and threw some random colored notebooks inside. “I might have believed her enthusiasm if it wasn’t mid-January.”

“It’s a Halloween festival tonight. They’re promoting some stupid scary movie or something. You have to wear a costume.”

Pausing in packing the necessities for school, she craned her neck to pleat an eyebrow at me. “And what if I don’t want to go?”

With nothing left to do but smile, I did, flipping to leave the room. “It’s a good thing I didn’t ask.”

______________________________________

*Chloe’s Point of View*

“Chloe, why are you such a hardass? Just come with us!”

Andy, with a pack of multi-colored candies in hand, chucked a skittle at my head, his expression packed with unchecked impatience. It bounced off my cheek and onto the floor and I watched that little red confection skit a few feet away from the table.

It got to escape this conversation, I thought, it was lucky.

I twisted away from the successful skittle and back to my pushy friend group who were trying to peer pressure me into going to a kid’s Halloween festival. “I’m not in the mood. I don’t really feel like dressing up.”

I hadn’t slept extremely well the night before. Thankfully, there was no nightmare that accompanied me through the night, but sometimes there didn’t have to be for me to wake up randomly. It was one of the many cons of having the most inconvenient sleep schedule.

Jamie’s face dropped for the hundredth time as she listened to my numerous excuses. Asher only grinned, dipping his shoulder onto mine to nudge me lightly. “Come on, Dol. It’ll be fun.”

“Don’t you get scared of all that shit? We watched one scary movie and you were practically on my lap by the end.”

Blake let out a loud laugh from the opposite side of the table. “That’s because Asher’s a pussy.”

Surrendering his hands up in admittance, Asher’s gaze never left mine. “Yep, and if you come, I’ll give you an all-access pass to tease me the whole time.”

With a tiny smile and a sigh just as small, my eyes ticked over each of my friends, pondering Asher’s offer. “As tempting as that sounds, I don’t see myself having that much fun.”

I forced myself from the bench, venturing to walk towards the cafeteria lunch counters, my inner child shouting something about needing apple juice. Halfway to my juice consolation prize, a hand on my arm halted me, spinning me around.

“Dol, wait.” Asher marked down on me, his grip still courteously on my arm. “Please come with us. We’ll go do a bunch of shit that will most definitely scare the hell out of me and it’ll be fun. Please?”

He sent one last half-smile as he came to the end of his sentence, the dimple on his cheek nearly argument enough. His warm smile was damaging my self-control as we watched each other with faint expressions.

My eyes uncontrollably moved over his face, taking in the look he was giving me; the easygoingness of his eyes, the look of determination. My uncertainty for the night was fading and was swiftly being replaced with the desire to watch Asher flinch at every child dressed as a monster.

I imagined I looked more or less convinced because his shoulders relaxed as he teased, "Come on, what are you going to do? Hang out with my mom and Prim all night?"

Seizing my bottom lip between my teeth, I agreed. “I’ll go. But only if your offer to make fun of you still stands.”

The grasp on my arm lessened and eventually his hand disconnected from me entirely, but the echo of it throbbed for the touch to return. “Of course.”

“Can I go get my drink now?”

“Oh, I’ll get that for you.” After a head tilt towards the food counter, he breezed by me. He didn’t stop walking when he flipped around, two fingers on his head as he saluted me, asking, “Apple juice, right?”

I tugged open my mouth to ask him how in the world he knew the juice I had been craving, but he had already twisted away from me.

“You’re way too predictable,” he threw over his shoulder, still wandering away.

A diminutive smile following my eye roll, I made my way back to the table.

______________________________________

Costumes, decorations, and some eerie music supplied every corner of the Halloween-themed carnival. Seeming to have lost the rest of our friends when they ran off in the direction of something spooky, Asher and I sat at a picnic table, the night lit only by torches, lanterns, and frightening lights.

In disapproval, Asher — who was wearing a skeleton shirt as a creative costume — was shaking his head at me, scraping out the last of the guts from his pumpkin as sighed melodramatically. “Remember when I said to dress as something hot? I even gave you some awesome options.”

Granting him an undeniable eye roll, I thought back on his ‘awesome options'. Sexy cat, sexy nurse, sexy superhero, sexy bride...

“Asher, you’re lucky I even agreed to wear this.” My gaze roamed down to my own outfit: A lazy zombie who threw on recklessly hacked up sweatpants, white paint, and a tub of SFX blood. “I think my outfit is super hot.”

His brows tended together as he gave my outfit one appalled glance, heading back to his pumpkin guts. “Yeah, nothin’ sexier than pasty white skin and blood,” he commented.

I inattentively took a sip from my soda while I listened to his distasteful tangent, half paying attention, the other half considering the many ways I could decorate my pumpkin.

He scowled. “You just look like Danny if he got attacked by a rabid animal.”

At that image, I snorted. Unfortunately, the soda had yet to leave my mouth and instead, made its way up and out my nose. Still exulting in humor, I was trying to laugh and breathe at the same time, which wasn’t working out well. Diet Coke was burning my nostrils along with my throat, and Asher weakening in deep laughter across from me was not helping.

The soda spread all over the table, my pumpkin, and my lap, and when I was finally able to control myself, breathing normally and all, I realized what I had done. Pulling my sleeve over my hand, I attempted to clean my mess, but all I could focus on was the teenager doing nothing to stifle his amusement.

“Stop laughing and help me clean, you asshole,” I hissed, noticing the attention I was incurring from passing people dressed as everything from Spongebob to a toilet.

Seeing my haste, he clutched a thick stack of napkins from the end of the table and, still chuckling, worked to help me clean the drink. He noted my anxious glances and let himself smile as he told me, “Stop worrying about how many people are looking at you. It’s no big deal. You just spilled a little Diet Coke.”

“Yeah, out my nose!”

He wrinkled his face at the damp napkin in his hands, tossing it a few feet away from him and into a garbage can.

“Who cares? It was funny. Laugh at yourself. I sure love to laugh at you.” Upon obtaining my dirty look, the jackass rotated away from me and over to the additional tables surrounding us. Pointing a sharp finger at me, his lips quirked up in a cheerful smile. “Soda came out of her nose, everyone! Just wanted to let you know. I hope it brings the same amount of joy to your night as it has to mine,” he blurted, drawing each person’s attention.

Embarrassment hurdled from my face and a sputtering sound exited past my lips. While I promptly sat through the humiliation, I flung a soda-soaked napkin toward the predecessor of my mortification. It hit him, falling into his lap, and a cringe cast his face as quick as crimson had cast mine.

“Gross!” he exclaimed.

The dispute over nose-soda was clipped short by the sound of footsteps advancing, and Asher and my bickering both ceased at the same time as we shifted to greet whoever had arrived.

It was an unrecognizable boy, his hair wispy and black, the smile he was directing at me, full and bright. “Hey, I heard soda came out your nose and I wanted to make sure you were okay. I’m Will.”

Firing a glare towards the jackass, I looked back at the boy. “Chloe. And yes, I’m okay, thank you for asking.”

It didn’t take a specialist to know he was going to ask me for my number, but the question ricocheted when Asher reached across the table and sheltered my hand in his. My eyes neglected to remember Will’s existence and fell onto our interlocked fingers. The affectionate temperature of Asher’s hand in mine made me weak. That and the fact soda was still drying in my nasal cavity.

“I’m sorry, she’s my girlfriend,” he announced, giving my hand a gentle squeeze.

My gaze snapped from our hands to his eyes, ignoring that they were still glued on the teenager, and grumbled, “What?”

An agitated Will then withdrew his question, sending both of us an apology instead, and left the tableside. Against my better judgment, I snatched my hand away from Asher’s, granting him a bothered glower. “Was that necessary?”

“Yes.” He didn’t seem to mind that my hand was no longer in his, and he brought both of them back to his pumpkin to begin carving. “I don’t think he’s your type.”

“Good eye. I hate cute boys who ask for my number.” I scowled, my words drowning in sarcasm.

He rolled his eyes. "He was creepy."

I frowned, asking, "How?"

He shrugged, before squinting, looking past me. He stared over my shoulder for a moment, then mumbled, “Uh, don’t turn around, but some guy is staring at you.”

I instantly turned around to spot who he was talking about.

Asher scoffed from behind me. “Good to know your listening skills haven’t improved.”

When my eyes landed on the man only a few feet away, they brightened in recognition and I found myself standing. He smiled as our eyes met as if he'd only just now realized it really was me. He excused himself from the people he was with as he took a few steps towards me and wrapped me in a life-squeezing hug as I exclaimed, “John!”

“Chloe! How have you been?”

I told him, simultaneously taking in his costume. Underneath whatever the hell he was wearing, which I think was a very ill-kempt clown costume, was a man whose presence I hadn't been graced with in almost a year.

His light-brown hair littered his head, his face, which had zero reminiscences of clown on it, looked essentially the exact same. After answering his question, I grabbed his clown-themed shirt sleeve and dragged him towards my table.

Asher seemed disoriented as I brought the stranger over to him, but smiled when John offered his hand, taking it.

“Asher, this is John. My stepdad,” I introduced.

“Almost stepdad,” John corrected, holding a finger up to me in challenging defiance.

“Basically stepdad,” I corrected again. I sat down in my seat, offering him one on the bench beside me. He grinned, glimpsing at Asher for the confirmation that he was allowed to remain at the table. My roommate nodded briskly, gesturing to the seat as I said, “John, this is Asher. He’s my best friend.”

“Best friend?” John questioned. “What happened to Jamie?”

“Asher’s the one best friend who agreed to carve pumpkins with me," I answered, dejected.

Agreed.” Asher threw finger air quotes around the word. “More like was dragged here kicking and screaming against my will.”

John chuckled at my best friend. I ignored him, glancing up over his head and browsing the crowd. “Jamie’s here, I’m sure you’ll see her.”

John laughed aloud this time, joining me in brisking over the large groups of teenagers, adults, and children. “Let me guess, I’m looking out for some type of animal.”

“She’s a bunny this year.” Having enough with one topic, I switched over to another, my curiosity urging me to ask the question I’d been wondering about since I'd spotted him. “What are you doing here? I thought you were still in New York.”

“That’s what I was going to tell you,” he started with a smile, following it with, “I moved back here last week. It’s much more convenient and I was no longer needed in the office down there.”

I congratulated him, a giddy feeling rising, and remembered how he had had to move all the way to New York City for his job, taking with him the engagement ring he gave my mom a year prior and any dream of him actually being my stepdad. I guess my mom didn’t like the long-distance... and was unwilling to move with him.

He nodded, glancing back over at Asher, who was restlessly dwindling his knife into his pumpkin. “So, how did you two meet?”

While I was too busy trying to think of ways I could coincidentally get my mom and John in the same room so they could fall in love all over again, Asher hurled me a nervous glance and belatedly answered the inquiry. “Oh, uh, she’s staying with my family while Janette’s away.”

John gave a slight head nod, nudging my shoulder. “Ah, yeah, she’s in Utah, right?”

Asher told him yes as I bunched my eyebrows. “How did you know that?”

“Oh...” He gave himself one good knee slap, clicking his tongue. “I guess I’m no good at secrets, huh? I called your mom the second I got back and asked her to coffee.” When he didn’t say anything more, I leaned my head in and awaited an ending. His face split from a grin to a full-blown smile. “We’re going out when she gets back.”

I pulled him into a hug right after that, satisfied. After a few more minutes of talking about things that weren’t as exciting as him and my mom, he went back to his own group of co-workers. I grinned at Asher, still feeling giddy. “So yeah, that’s my mom’s ex-fiance/future husband.”

“I'm relieved because when you went and hugged him, I thought he was your sugar daddy.” Asher found his joke hilarious and, as he let out the jubilant sound, I pitched a pumpkin seed at him. He didn’t seem to find that funny, picking up a handful of the guts that came out of his pumpkin and tossing it directly at my face.

“You’re such an asshole.” I peeled the orange, gushy mess off of myself and set it onto the table, jutting my head in a specific direction. “Just for that, you have to take me into the haunted house.”

“In your dreams, Dolphin.”

“Come on!” I whined, reaching over the table to grab his hand. “You not only threw pumpkin on me, but you scared off that boy.”

“Oh, you mean creepy Will? Yeah, I owe you for that one.” His voice was nowhere near genuine, although I still didn't understand how the boy was creepy.

“Please?” I threw on my puppy eyes, pouting out my bottom lip.

Asher wanted none of that. He used his hand, the one that wasn’t captured by mine, and covered his eyes. I stood and made my way around the table, collapsing myself right onto his lap. I had confused myself with the act, unaware as to why I had done such a thing, but it had made him uncover his eyes in an attempt to understand what I was doing, and I threw on the dangerously effective puppy eyes again. “Please!”

After a couple seconds of giving me the coldest glare known to mankind, his face softened, and he blew out a long breath, grumbling, “The things I do for you.”

Squealing in excitement, I stood, my hand never leaving his, and pulled him out of his seat. “Come on! You’re going to have so much fun.”

He didn’t seem the least bit excited, merely rolling his eyes all the way back into his head as he muttered, “Bite me.”

I turned, tossing him a wink. “Just tell me where.”

______________________________________

*Asher’s Point of View*

We stepped inside of the chilled, darkened hallway of the haunted house and I was basically right on Dol’s heels. I was sure she could hear my frightened heavy breathing in her ear.

Everywhere I turned was a new decoration — elementary ones. Classic cobwebs and spiders from party city, the fake plastic hands, some blood splattered on the walls. Even dolls hanging from the ceiling. The decor didn’t bother Chloe in the slightest, but even knowing they are fake, I swallowed like we were in some type of horror movie.

We strolled around a corner, and a scary sound echoed from the speakers above. In fear alone, I stepped up behind her and achingly gripped her waist. She hissed out a breath, lightly elbowing him in the rib cage to indicate I had scared her. I muttered an apology as we entered a room that was set up with a dining table.

I scanned the interior. The giant table covered in fake body parts, a chandelier looming over our heads, intense paintings hanging from the walls. I heard the people in front of us scream from the next room and mentally prepared myself for whatever was in there.

I studied Dolphin as we exited the dining room, observing how calm she appeared in a situation like this. My eyes landed on her hand and, as curiosity overcame me, I took a step beside her and allowed my hand to graze hers slightly when I did. She didn’t give me more than a brief look for doing so and I felt somewhat more confident pulling her fingers into my grasp.

I followed close by her as we turned into the hallway, our hands still scarcely attached. Hearing the slight sound of something in front of us, and feeling Dol tense beside me, I didn’t have time to register anything more because of some asshole in a cheap Micheal Myers mask who decided to taint my haunted house experience even more by jumping out from virtually nowhere in front of us.

Taking a step back, I yanked Dol with me right as I felt a hand on my shoulder. Embarrassingly, I screamed and twisted rapidly, trying to run in the opposite direction. My escape plan failed miserably because of Dol right behind me, and I stumbled into her, knocking us both to the floor.

She fell to her back, and I luckily managed to catch myself, putting my hands on either side of her head to keep from crushing her. I might not have fallen on her, but the crash was staggering, and we would both definitely feel it in the morning.

As I opened my mouth to apologize for almost squashing her, I noticed the silent laughter that was escaping her body, tears of euphoria gathering in her eyes. Letting out a breath of relief that she wasn’t hurt nor angry, I watched as she continued to find lots of humor in the situation.

I didn’t exactly find it funny seeing I was laying on the floor of a haunted house, but admiring Dol in such a carefree state brought a smile to my face.

*Chloe’s Point of View*

“You scream like a little girl,” was all I managed to say, gasping for air. Between Asher’s endless fear, us both falling, and my overwhelming embarrassment from being right underneath him, I had to laugh.

A stern look reigned over his face at my comment and he dropped his head. Finally able to get my laughs under control, my hands cupped his face, forcing his eyes to meet mine as I apologized. “I’m sorry, I’m kidding. I like little girls.”

Sending an ominous look my way, the corners of his lips turned up. “You might want to reword that.”

I scowled at his bad joke. “I absolutely hate you. And you do scream like a little girl.”

Chuckling, his eyes met mine again, this time holding the gaze. The two scary actors had exited, leaving him and me alone in the dark hall. I was still cupping his face, my thumb gently grazing his soft cheek while my reserved eyes scoured his face, and I couldn’t help but admire how good he looked on top of me. Though not the most romantic setting, I was a single second away from raising my face and kissing him.

I had the self-control of a toddler.

With self-will as limited as mine, Asher’s face inched closer, and his lips grazed my own, placing a light kiss. A warm, familiar feeling ran through my body as my eyes closed and he sucked on my bottom lip, allowing a quiet moan to escape my mouth.

Releasing my lip, he slipped his tongue into my mouth, caressing mine, and I arched my back at the contact. One hand holding himself up, he placed his other on the small of my back, pressing himself closer.

I knitted one of my hands through his hair, my fingers ravishing the strands I loved. I ran my other down his back, studying the defined muscles and lines. His hand that had settled on the small of my back seemed as interested in me as mine were with him, and it drifted out from underneath me, swaying from my hip up to grip the side of my face.

The screams of other people in the previous room caught my ear and I pulled apart from the kiss, turning my head to listen. Asher took that as an invitation, trailing kisses from my jawline down my neck. A soft noise escaped my lips from his warm mouth and the feather-light kisses he was leaving on me, but the intimate moment was destroyed when we saw a group of people running into the room.

Obviously not expecting a show in the middle of the haunted house, they stopped running and stared at us in disbelief as I placed both my hands on Asher’s chest to push him off me. He obliged, sitting up quickly and we both stood up. Sending one last horrified glance towards the people who had just walked in, I grabbed Asher’s hand and rushed out.

Fortunately, the haunted house ended as soon as we turned the last corner and we ran out the door, instantly greeted by our friends who were walking towards the food court opposite of us. I ripped my hand out from Asher’s, making eye contact with a smiling Andy.

“Where have you two been?” he asked.

Asher shrugged, throwing on a nonchalant expression. “The haunted house, duh.” He jerked his thumb back towards the door we just ran out of.

Danny grinned, indicating towards us and our heavy breathing. “What did you guys do? Sprint through it?”

Our friends laughed, turning to leave the area, and Asher and I followed suit, sending each other an awkward side glance as I bit my loose tongue to avoid finally asking him what the hell he and I were doing and what he wanted from me. We could only pretend our friendship and, what we did within it, was normal for so long.

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