Chapter 4: Win
1. to be successful in a contest, conflict, or bet; a victory for one or more parties.
*Chloe’s Point of View*
As I relaxed in the passenger seat of Jamie’s bright yellow Corolla, I flipped the sun visor down, trying to readjust my messy ponytail in the mirror. No matter how many times I tightened, loosened, shimmied, and shook the thing, it remained disorderly. I made myself cringe, ripping the hair tie out and shaking my hair loose.
Stopped at a red light, Jamie took the opportunity to look my way with a grin I couldn’t understand and shook her head slightly at me as the light flashed green.
“What?” I frowned as she stepped gently on the gas. “What’s that look for?”
A smirk lifted the corner of her mouth and her amusement was on display for all to see. “Are you worried the ponytail won’t be perfect enough for Asher’s eyes?”
“Unless Asher desperately wants to see me drenched in sweat after we run around the track then I don’t think I’m trying very hard to perfect myself for his gaze,” I scoffed, stuffing the hair back into the hair tie, suddenly uncaring as to what it looked like.
Jamie let out a giggle that soothed the air as we peeled into the school parking lot and she put her car into park. “Obviously Asher wants to see you drenched in sweat, just not from running a lap.”
I cringed. “Gross.”
She cracked her car door open, brightening as she disgustingly joked, “He wants to make you sore in ways other than running,”
“Please stop,” I muttered, wincing as I stepped out of the warm car.
So, on the brisk, quite freezing morning in early December, I regretfully stood in shorts, feeling the breeze of the San Francisco air hit my legs one vapor of wind at a time. I relaxed on the track, waiting for my opponent to race me for a bet that I was suddenly wondering why I had agreed to.
Though confident winning wouldn’t be a problem for me, I did have a problem standing on the track in fifty-degree weather with gym shorts on. I felt the light drizzle of sprinkling rain and sighed, praying against a downfall.
Not only was my competitor late, but he had also challenged me to an easy win. I took track three years in a row; I went to state. Asher would have an easier time convincing me to have dinner with him again than winning this race. Though I probably shouldn’t give him any ideas.
Stretching along the side of the track, my hand was seized into someone else’s, the unknown grasper causing a scream to exit my mouth. Immediately swung, rather roughly, I was pressed against a solid figure that I was sure could only have been a wall.
Opening my eyes, I found myself inclined backward with Asher leaning over me, leaving me dazed and confused as to how I had gone from being entirely alone on the track to dancing over the course of milliseconds. Asher’s smile was dominant as he held me from tumbling down onto the rubber granules of the track field.
“I love it when you fall for me,” he sneered from above.
Shaking my head, the one filled with some very unangelic thoughts, I went with my better judgment and set both my hands on his chest, pushing him off and away from me.
My competitor stepped back, joining in on the laughs that Andy and Jamie were producing a few feet away. As Andy moved his hips in a far too inappropriate way for a school environment, my best friend was mildly amused, holding her stomach as she continued letting out joyful giggles.
Asher grinned, his voice drawing my attention back to him. “You ready for me to kick your ass?”
“Get ready to kiss it instead.” I dug my fingers into my own hips, inwardly deprecating my comment as Asher’s gaze fell from my eyes downward.
He licked his lip, drawing his teeth down to it a second later. “Sure, if that’s what you want.”
I threw my hands up in defeat, hating myself for submitting so fast, frustrated that I’d somehow managed to twirl my own head. I signaled Jamie to indicate it was time to start this waste-of-time race. She and Andy simultaneously yanked out their phones as timers, waving at Asher and me to get into a runner’s position.
“READY.” I was.
“SET.” Bring it on.
“GO!” I dashed down the track like an Olympic champion at the start of a gun. I was in a full sprint and the memories of my days as a runner hit me in one giant wave of nostalgia. It felt incredible to run again. It was an accident that I had become a runner in the first place.
At fourteen years old, I injured my leg badly in the accident. A thick piece of metal had managed its way into my thigh and the doctors were afraid the muscle tissue would never heal. Luckily, it did, and with only minimal surgery.
Against many doctors’ recommendations, I began my own healing process, attempting to exercise by running around my block early each morning. Not only was it a good way to work out my torn leg but it was helpful on the nights I couldn’t sleep, which ended up being all of them. It was more than a hobby for me; it was therapy.
The pounding noise of my feet against the ground matched the throbbing heart in my chest as I tried to put my solemn memories behind me. As my feet kissed the track, I suddenly wished I hadn’t fallen out of the sport the year before.
My breathing was rapid as I increased how fast I was going. My feet hitting the track, each blow on the bottom of my foot sent a shockwave to my brain, repeating the word “faster” to me. Somehow, despite the cold wind, my skin felt sticky and suffocated, and the rubber pounded so hard underneath me that it almost hurt. My lungs heaved like the air was acidic and, though I knew I was pushing myself too hard, I couldn’t stop.
My running was anything but graceful and I didn’t even want to imagine what I looked like, covered with sweat.
I could see Jamie and Andy yards ahead. Jamie was waving at me, Andy was staring at her.
I abruptly wondered how far my competitor was behind me. Before I could begin to look around, Asher had stepped in line with me, and the two of us were neck in neck as we ran. Somehow I spoke through my quaky breathing.
“Did I ever mention that I did track and field?” I asked in a moment where I didn’t feel my lungs collapsing.
He succeeded in laughing at my comment as his eyes alighted with a challenge. “Did I ever mention that I did too?”
And at that moment, he passed me, tossing me a wink as he did. I wasn’t sure what I was more struck by — that he wasn’t a perspiring mess or that he had gotten by me. Each one of his strides was worth at least two of mine and, without even breaking a sweat, he crossed the finish line mere seconds before me.
“Fuck yeah!” Asher yelled with his hands in the air, overwhelmed with the triumph of winning. Andy cheered just as loud as his friend, high-fiving him along the track. Instead of consoling me over my loss, Jamie brightened like the sun peeking through the clouds, equally as excited as the two guys.
Meanwhile, I was bent over, two seconds away from dry heaving up the breakfast I’d recently eaten. I didn’t, thankfully. Instead, I stood up and sighed. I hadn’t run at that speed since my sophomore year. And I didn’t even win this time.
I scowled at my new roommate, watching him run along the edge of the track and give high-fives to imaginary fans who, in his head, were all cheering for him. Asher sped over to me, casually patting my back, almost causing me to actually heave this time around.
“You were so, so, so, so close. But not close enough.” His tone was brimmed with mockery. Oh, who was I kidding? His voice was packed with mockery.
I set my hands on my hips, overly aware of the sweat dripping from my temple down my cheek, and took a deep breath.
“Oh, muérdeme!” I huffed, unsure as to if it was out of distress or exhaustion.
Jamie chuckled at my use of the Spanish language, something I only did when I was upset. My mom was Colombian and always regretted never learning the language in her household, which led to her forcing me and my brother into every Spanish-speaking class she could find. That backfired for her; I only spoke in it when in a bad mood so she couldn’t understand what I was saying.
My best friend turned to Asher with a grin. “Mhh, she’s mad at you.”
Asher dropped a brow in my direction and I shrugged, answering his silent question with, “You know my mom's Colombian, right?”
“I did not. Care to translate?” he questioned, his lip twitching with amusement.
“I said, bite me!” I snapped, but he only smiled.
“Just tell me where Dol.” Winking, he mirrored my position, setting his hands onto his own hips, breathing heavily as if he’d finally registered how far we’d run.
A bead of sweat broke free of his skin and he wiped it with the back of his hand, before glancing down at his white T-shirt that was beginning to gather moisture. I watched a grin spread over his face as his fingers caught the bottom of his shirt and he ripped it over his head before I had time to ask myself why I was being mentally tortured by his bare skin.
I nearly swallowed my tongue as he asked, “You ready to move in with me, Roomie?”
Aware of my body’s rising temperature and the drool begging to pool out of my mouth, I made a conscious effort not to look anywhere but Asher’s eyes as he threw his shirt over his shoulder.
“Absolutely not!” I exclaimed.
“Too bad.” With little effort, he plucked me from the track, tossing me over his sweaty naked shoulder, right on top of the damp shirt. I screamed, my feet missing the pressure of the ground beneath them, and began pounding my hands against the hard muscles on his back.
“Put. Me. Down! Put me down! Asher!”
Instead of dropping me like I continuously begged, he ran down the stairs away from the track field and towards the pool.
Standing on the edge, he grinned. “You seem a little sweaty. Wanna go for a dip?”
“Asher, don’t-” He gave me no time to finish my threatening sentence, jumping into the deep end of the school’s swimming pool. The heated water wrapped around my body, and so did his strong arms, pulling me to the surface, but not before I’d managed to take a big inhale of pool water.
Holding my waist, a soaking wet Asher held me close to him as I coughed, trying to clear the pool from my already-out-of-air lungs. I had my legs wrapped around his mid-section, one hand on his shoulder and another across my face, making sure I got my breathing under control.
*Asher’s Point of View*
I leaped into the pool with Chloe, understandably guilty when she came up coughing like it was going out of style. I was nearing an apology, trying to configure a sentence that wasn’t, “Sorry I nearly killed you again,” but any sentence at all spun out of my brain activity the moment her legs wrapped around my waist in an attempt to keep herself up and out of the water. Unsure of where to lay my hands on her, I set them on her hips, holding her to my chest until she could catch her breath.
Her hand was ironed against my bare shoulder and I tried to memorize the way her skin felt against mine.
Air maintained, Chloe took a deep breath, staring into the water like that was the only way she’d be able to control her coughing. I took her in while she was distracted.
She was drenched, as was I after stupidly dunking us both in the pool. Her ponytail was a mess and certain lucky strands of her hair stuck to her neck and face. Her shorts and t-shirt clung to every inch of her body that they covered and I was having a hard time preserving any pure thoughts I’d had about her before we’d jumped into the pool.
It was the first time I’d been able to see her without some sort of loose clothing, and I realized it was not just her face that was hot. She had small defined curves, perfect tits, and legs that seemed to go on for miles.
I hoped she didn’t notice my unmanageable gawking, although I didn’t think she could fault me for being human.
She blinked, still staring into the water and breathing heavily. I tried to say something to rid the silence between us, but all I could seem to think about was leaning in and sucking on her bottom lip. Her previous comments about our blossoming friendship were beginning to slip from my memory.
I couldn’t recall what would be wrong about pressing my lips to her neck. I couldn’t think about anything except how good her legs felt wrapped around me, and I wished more than anything else at that moment that both the pool and our clothes were not there.
I thought about how hot it would be to yank her from the pool and fuck her on the cement beside it, adding indecent exposure to my very minor criminal record.
I shook my head, hoping to rid the impure thoughts that were taking over every inch of my brain. When Chloe finally peeked up at me innocently from under her long lashes, the number of dishonorable thoughts tripled.
“Why are you staring at me like that?” she asked, her face turning beet red as she caught me.
I stumbled for an excuse, all while picturing her naked. What the fuck was wrong with me?
“You’re soaking wet,” I muttered quickly, and instantly thought, No shit, Sherlock.
A smile spread across her beautiful face and the fear that she knew what I was actually thinking dispersed as she said, “That tends to happen when one is dropped into a pool. Thanks for almost killing me by the way. That’s the second time I’ve almost died in your occupancy.”
She giggled, and I smothered the sudden urge to have her legs wrapped around my head.
I gnawed gently onto my bottom lip, eyes widening. “I think these are signs that I’m terribly bad for you.”
“Yeah.” She shrugged. “Probably.”
All inappropriate thoughts scattered when she smiled brightly, jumped out from my arms, and splashed me directly in the face. I found myself laughing as she swam away.