A Bad Girl's Love

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Chapter 12: Shawn

I sit down in this night club/bar thinking about Amaya and how much I want to hold her hand which is nothing out of the norm. I desperately want to make it clear that she’s my girl as I wrap my arms around her and never let go, but now, dammit I knew I shouldn’t have gone to that apartment. I should’ve just pussed out of going like I was planning, but Xavier wouldn’t have let that happen either way. He would’ve been real quick to get her over to our house which I knew good and damn well he wasn’t lying about when he said it.

Xavier has his ways of getting what he wants when he’s really determined, hell it’s something we have in common. I just wish it’d work with Amaya already, or that he wasn’t able to predict me so well when it came to her.

So maybe I couldn’t have stopped going over to her apartment, but I could’ve- should’ve worked harder on not kissing her or letting things progress in the ways that they did. Now I’m sitting here basically regretting my actions when I told Amaya not to say that we shouldn’t have done it.

I don’t regret what just happened, I only regret that I’m allowing myself to be pushed away. She knows what she wants in both ways, me, and wanting to protect me in the best way she thinks she can which is pushing and shoving me away from her. Then I’m thinking back to Cody’s words from the day she broke up with me, “If you find yourself or her in a position where you get closer and end up in something that’s just sexual or not how it’s supposed to be… don’t do it to yourself,” which is easier said than done. All I know is that this does hurt a whole hell of a lot more than I was feeling over the past few weeks.

There’s just so much I want for her, with her. I want to be able to kiss her up until her legs turn to jelly and she can’t stand anymore. I want to kiss down her neck, leaving love bite after love bite as she shivers into me like she always does when I do it. I’ve always thought it was adorable how her body can react to me even when she doesn’t want to make it known.

I love when that gorgeous smile appears on her face when she sees me coming over and I want to be the only one to ever place it on her face. She has specific smiles for certain people, and that smile, well that smile belongs to me. It honestly breaks my heart to see that she hasn’t been smiling at me like that anymore, except for when I’m dreaming of her.

A secret between me and Charlie is that I’m almost always asking her about Amaya’s day. I just need to know that she’s fine even when I’m not around, so maybe that might be snooping or whatever, but I call it watching out for someone I love. I could give a damn about what others have to say about it anyway.

I’m hopelessly in love with a girl that I don’t know if I can ever fully have, but that’s not going to stop me from thinking about her and the times that she used to constantly make it known that she loved me. That she was in love with me and wanted to be with me until the day one of us left this world.

I want to go back to having the good ache in my chest and not the one that I feel I can’t bare much longer. I want to go back to what I felt about half an hour ago when she jumped into my arms and threw her lips on my own making it known that yes, she did still want me and showing me that sometimes she can’t contain herself either.

I want to go back to when I had her up against that wall and she had her hands all through my hair, probably making me look rough as hell as I’m sitting here now. I honestly couldn’t tell since I haven’t looked in a mirror yet.

I miss the feeling of her hand in my own as we walk down the school halls so everyone was able to see that she’s mine and that I’m hers. I made it very clear that I’m the only one that can have her and she used to do the same when other girls would try with me.

I remember a few times we’d be in school and I’d just be talking to some girls that would start conversations with me, each time she saw she’d walk up to me and run her hands through my hair before kissing me. I wasn’t opposed to it or anything, it was actually cute that she got jealous when I was around other girls though I’ve always made it clear that she’s the only one I’ve got my eyes on.

I want to ask her to marry me, but I can’t in the scenario that we’ve managed to get in. We should be in a fully committed relationship before I do it, even when I have this ring burning a hole in my pocket. It truly is beautiful, but I know it would look that much better on her ring finger which would make things officially official with us. She would be my girl and it’d be reason enough for men to steer clear because she’s taken.

But now she doesn’t want to have a future with me. She doesn’t want to be the mother to any more of my children even though we’ve talked about possibly having another when we were out of high school and about a year or two into college. Aaron’s the only connection she wants to have with me for now, and even still, that’s not enough for me. It’ll never be enough.

Not when I’ve been wanting to propose to her and had it all planned out. Hell, I even asked Jonah for permission since he’s like a brother to me and their dad isn’t really in the picture like that.

I was first going to take her on a date that would start at Dylan’s restaurant where we went on our first real date since the place has always meant a lot to us and our friends. When we went there everything just felt right.

If she were to get cold I would take off whatever jacket I’m wearing and securely wrap her up in it. I would also wrap my arms around her as she rests her head on my shoulder. I’d be secretly soaking in the amazing smell that is ocean breeze since I know that’s the body wash she uses the majority of the time. When we finished at the restaurant we would head to the car and I’ll open up the door for her.

She’ll smile up at me with that smile that’s just for me before getting in. I’ll go to the driver’s side after I close the door for her. The moment I’m in, I’ll take her hand in my own as we drive in a comfortable silence to our spot before she’d ask me where we were going. All I would say is that its a surprise.

The moment we arrived I would get her out of the car and wrap my arm around her waist as we walked. When we get to where we usually sit, I’ll place a gentle kiss on her lips and then we’ll stare up at the sky full of stars that create just enough light to make our faces glow so we can see each other.

She would say that the stars are beautiful like she always does when we look at the stars, I’ll counter that off with ‘they aren’t as beautiful as you’, which is cliche as hell, but it’s always been what I said to her because it’s true. That would be the moment I’d ask her to spend the rest of her life with me along with saying some other things before she’d say yes. Before I get the chance to cover the distance between us, she’d do it and this kiss would be more breathtaking than each and every single one of our kisses combined.

That would be when we start living the rest of our lives as once again a happy family. Aaron’s gonna have at least two siblings, maybe a brother and a sister. If that were the case, both he and his brother will be the overprotective brothers that would always have her back when I’m not able to. She’ll act as though she hates it when she secretly appreciates that they love her enough to be there even when she doesn’t know she needs their help.

I can’t help but wonder how that daughter could look like. Maybe she would have my hair and Amaya’s alluring mischievous eyes or the opposite. Or she could look like a miniature Amaya with all the attitude that comes with that? I swear a kid with Amaya’s attitude would be the death of me, especially if their mother is giving me some too.

That’s the funny thing about Amaya’s attitude. When she gives me it, I can’t say anything about it because one, I’m attracted to it even if I want to deny it, and two, because she’ll knock my ass into place with more attitude. If we have a kid give me some attitude I honestly think it’s kinda funny and cute at the same time. I’ll only stop them if I think it’s getting rude and it’s not in a joking manner anymore… or if Amaya makes me stop it.

Now two questions almost always come to mind when I think of any future children Amaya and I might possibly have: what might they be like? Are they even going to still happen?

Then I’m hit and knocked hard and fast by reality. When Amaya and I were together we didn’t use any form of protection. It’s known that three out of four times that you have unprotected sex that the person ends up pregnant, I’m pretty sure that we haven’t really been thinking much about that when we’ve been together.

I don’t want to doom another child to go through what Aaron’s going through right now. What if I just got Amaya pregnant? I mean, I’m not opposed to having another child, I would actually love to have another child and love and hold them as they know that I’ll always be there for them. I want nothing more than to have that, but not under these circumstances.

All of these unanswered questions are running through my head as I bring my hands to my hair and lightly tug. It’s like I’m being attacked by the air and I know what that means, a panic attack is coming, but I can’t have one while I’m in this place surrounded by strangers. I want to be normal for once.

So, for now, I’m not going to think about how I might’ve just impregnated Amaya, I’m going to try not to think at all. Not about the pain and self-loathing that’s consuming my entire being because I see myself as nothing but pathetic right now.

For the moment I want to be able to forget that I’m in love with my best friend. I want to be able to look at people without seeing pity in their eyes when they look at me. Every time I get looked at that way it pushes me further and further from the line of sanity.

I want to forget that I don’t think I want or can just be her friend when I see her as nothing less than the woman of my dreams. She’s the one I want to be with until death does us part. My ride or die. If she wants to just be friends, then I can’t have a relationship with her, not fully anyway which is something that I’m really starting to put together.

I look around the night club to some of the people on the dance floor that are grinding against each other, some undoubtedly not knowing the person against them. Then there are the people that don’t give a damn about the attention from someone else and just wanted to dance by themselves.

Even sitting here I can hear all the noises around me but yet nothing at all which I don’t believe to make any sense. I watch the blinding flashing lights that keep changing colors on the people around me faces, but I’m not here for that aspect, or even the part of you not being able to hear much from the people around you. Nope, I’m here for the hardcore, numbing liquor.

My head turns as I take in others who are sitting with drinks in their hands, some watching the dance floor like I just was, their eyes unreadable, while others focus themselves on the people in their laps kissing them like there’s no tomorrow. I try to ignore the uncomfortable feeling that fills my existence when I notice a few hands going to so many of the women’s’ asses as though the people have forgotten that there are others around them.

I know that with the right person that could very well be true.

I turn back to the bar, taking in all the choices while shaking my head at the major hangover that I know I’m going to have in the morning. “Excuse me,” I call to the bartender. I wonder why there’s only one here with all these people. “Can I get three shots of whiskey, seven jello shots, and five surprise shots since I could really care less?” I ask while resting my chin in the palm of my hand.

I watch as his eyes widen in shock. “Damn, you either want to torture yourself with that terrible ass headache that’ll come rolling in or to forget something. If you’re trying to forget something it’s not going to work,” he says while getting started on my requested shots. “What’s up with you?”

The bartender places down my three shots of whiskey first, my seven jello shots coming soon after. Last up was the shots of surprise that I’m kinda on the queasy side about drinking because I have no clue what I’m gonna end up putting in my body, but that doesn’t mean I’m not about to do them. The man looks to me with concern written all over his face and I can see why.

This is a lot of alcohol and he doesn’t know if my body is capable of keeping these drinks in my system, but I do, I’ve got a strong body and will be fine. I’m not about to get alcohol poisoning from this.

I take down the three shots of whiskey first before shaking my head at the burning sensation that is now coursing through my throat. Damn, that’s not the cheap shit either. Works too good. It feels like I’m on fire from the inside out, but I don’t care.

None of it burns as much as what Amaya’s putting me through right now, and the goal is to forget, at least for tonight.

For the night I want to forget how good it felt to finally have my arms around her again. The great feeling of her lips being on my own once again. Her hands running through my hair and tugging on my curls as we… fucking hell.

“It’s my girl,” I sigh out, “she dumped me and I thought it was because this other chick who had a crush- well actually more of an obsession with me, decided it was okay to just kiss me. I- I was frozen from the shock of it all and just stood there, thinking of how she would’ve reacted.” I don’t go on but instead, shake my head at the whole situation. The bartender does the same, making his sandy hair fall into his light brown eyes.

“I’m sorry, that’s real tough.” I nod, I would know.

“But that wasn’t the problem or the reason she broke up with me though I wish it was. If she broke up with me over some kiss I know I could change things, I also know that something would’ve landed on me rather have there be nothing I can do,” I stop before taking one of the jello shots. “She broke up with me because she’s scared something will happen to me if we’re together.” The bartender raises an eyebrow. “Her stepdad has managed to make quite a few enemies and her family was dragged into all of it, she wants me nowhere near the shit.”

“So she broke up with you to protect you?” he asks, trying to get a grasp of the situation. I nod while downing yet another shot. “Well that makes things even harder; when a woman is determined, there’s nothing you can do to change her mind, especially when it comes to protecting those that she loves.”

“Trust me, that statement hasn’t ever been as true as it is when applied to my girl. She’s different from everyone else. She treats me like I’m meant something, unlike the other girls who don’t even know me, she doesn’t want just one thing from me. She hasn’t ever asked anything of me that I haven’t offered up to her a million times over. Then I look at all the girls that claim to want me when they don’t consider a damn thing of what I feel.

“But Amaya has never been that way. Our story began with her denying her feelings for me for too many years until one day we both finally came clear to each other. It doesn’t help that we’ve known each other since kindergarten and that she’s my first and only love,” I say before throwing my head back to take two more shots.

I honestly don’t know why I’m saying anything to this man that is a complete stranger to me, but I know that he’s here for me to get all this shit off my chest to as he’s listening. I just feel so comfortable saying my problems with him too, and maybe that’s because I can see that he has to be in his twenties which is close enough to my age for him to be able to understand some of this.

“Slow down on the drinks, you don’t want to pass out here.” I nod in gratitude.

The alcohol is already starting to get to my head and that’s what I need. It’s time for me to forget the pain of being in love with her and not being able to hold her in my arms. I can’t even tuck our son into bed every night because of what’s going on in our relationship which sure as hell isn’t fair to him.

“If passing out keeps me from thinking about her for now, then I guess I’m alright with that. This whole situation is going to screw up my relationship with our boy too, I can just feel it. Even though he’s just four, that kid has always been able to tell when something is wrong.” My voice sounds nowhere near as broken as I feel on the inside and I’m glad about that much.

I look to the name tag on his dark navy blue long-sleeved shirt to see what his name is. Aaron, how ironic is that?

“That makes everything worse, huh? Adding your son to the mix when he can understand that something is up between his mommy and daddy. Then more questions than you could ever imagine start roaring in from all different angles,” his voice fills with pain before he pours himself a small glass of vodka and chugs the whole thing down. He doesn’t even seem affected by it.

Seems like he’s speaking from experience.

“It really does. I’m going from seeing him on a day to day basis to now getting a daily phone call and the weekends with him. It’s not fair and totally blows,” I say before downing one of the mystery shots he had given me. Not bad, not bad at all.

“Don’t let that shit change your relationship with your son. I was once him. My parents were constantly fighting since my dad was always out and would never give her a direct answer of where he was going. Mom had suspected him to be cheating though it wasn’t true, my dad was far too in love with her to cheat.

“Dad was caught up in this mess that he couldn’t get out of alive and so my family was going to suffer for it. I was going to suffer the most. To stop all that from happening he gave himself up, he ended up telling the people he was once running with that they could do whatever they wanted to him as long as his family was kept untouched,” Aaron says before making himself yet another drink and chugging it down. I can tell he’s using the alcohol to keep his nerves in control.

“Your dad was in a gang?”

“Mhm, just like that girl of yours and-” My eyes go wide. Who the hell is this man?

“How the hell would you know that?” I ask a bit scared while I begin to stand from my barstool, ready to leave. Aaron grips my forearm, effectively stopping me from going somewhere, but not hurting me in any way. “She’s not involved in gangs any-”

“I know, and neither is my family. Now sit down and let me explain.” I do as told before he releases my arm and begins to roll up his left shirt sleeve to reveal a red Viper. What can I say, I know my snakes. “I’m trying to warn you and this is very important. I saw my dad a month ago since he was granted one more time by the Vipers to see his family. He used his last time to give me some information on the Panthers that he had overheard where they were holding him. He knew he was going to die either way and so he wanted to reveal something that could make a change.

“The Vipers-”

“Who the hell is ‘the Vipers’ anyway?” I ask, interrupting him from whatever he was going to say. Aaron takes a deep breath before having another drink.

“Your girlfriend’s ex-rival gang. Now listen closely because I’m only saying the once, they have an informant on the inside of the Panthers who gives the Vipers any information that is deemed important. They know that Derrick is out along with Jonah and Amaya who were once their biggest threats so they aren’t going to do anything with the Panthers or anyone else for now.” How much has Amaya not been telling me?

“The Panthers have a plan though, and it involves that little agreement shit that Derek came up with to get everyone out.” I shake my head. They can’t be trying to pull them back in. Please don’t tell me that’s what he’s about to say. “They found a loop around it and you’re the centerpiece because you were never mentioned when they made the deal.

“They can’t try using me against her, I wouldn’t-”

“-have a choice, Harper. They know who you are and what you mean to Amaya, they were keeping an eye on you. They’ll use anything and everything against you and them. I’m warning you to give yourself the chance to always be on alert, never let your guard down. I also don’t believe Amaya’s going to be much help to you during all this,” Aaron voice becomes a bit lower at the end. “You need to keep yourself and your family the same. If something happens to you all hell could end up breaking lose that could cause a lot of shit to go wrong and end up with a lot of people harmed. You are the thing keeping all of this together.”

“So you’re warning me to stop that, no alternative motive?”

“I never once said that; there are many reasons that I’m warning you right now. First off, you aren’t a bad person that doesn’t deserve to get killed or seriously injured in the ways that a gangster could hurt you. You also have a child that needs you. Another reason being that my final promise to my dad was to keep you from dying and keeping things between the Panthers and Vipers on the decent side.” Aaron takes in a deep breath and blows it out.

“Me doing this now could end up with me losing my life, but I always keep my promises, and as I said before, no other kid needs to go through what I did growing up,” he says while taking two of my shots without even asking permission as he once again, doesn’t have a reaction to any of the alcohol.

“You know I’m paying for that, right?” I ask before Aaron shakes his head and slaps the air.

“Nonsense, this is on the house. You’ve got a lot going on at the moment and this is the least I can do.”

“Thank you,” he nods, “so question, is your name really Aaron or are you on some of that undercover type of shit right now?” Aaron laughs before a smile appears, revealing a pair of dimples. I take in his face and realize that he has a few freckles peppering his nose and his cheeks.

“Yeah, my name’s Aaron, why?”

“That’s my son’s name.” He nods before taking yet another shot. “So um, were you a Viper or just your dad?” Aaron’s breathing goes uneven before his smile disappears, all signs of joy that were once there now disappearing. Good job, Shawn. Good job, and great choice of small talk, you dumbass!

“I wasn’t ever a Viper though I was almost initiated when I was just ten against my will. They ended up kidnapping me when my dad had refused to bring me to them himself,” he sighs out at the end. “That tattooed that Viper on me after I was beaten unconscious since I kept yelling out that I wanted to go home. Those bastards decided to wake me up right before they branded me with a KM on my chest,” Aaron says before pulling the collar of his shirt down just a bit to reveal the KM on his right peck.

I fight the urge to reach out and touch it as I let out a wince; he shakes his head at the memories that are most likely rushing through his head. He takes yet another shot before looking back to me with his eyes revealing all the pain he’s once been through. That same exact look that I’ve seen on both Amaya and Jonah’s faces when Derrick would beat them for even the smallest of things.

Sometimes their eyes would have this blankness to them that wouldn’t go away no matter how much we all tried. They would flinch whenever someone raised a hand to them for even a high five. And all the scenarios I’ve run through in my head we never as ruthless as what had really happened to them. I can only imagine that’s how things were with him, if not a bit worse than what they’ve been put through.

“What does KM mean?”

“They’re initials, Knox Malone, he’s the gang leader of the Vipers. Whever he gives you an order, you follow it and ask no questions. That’s why I was branded actually, to prove a point to my father.” I nod slowly but don’t say anything as I’ve got a feeling he’s not done. “Those were the easy parts of it all and I was about to begin the hard parts which are the final two.”

“What are the final two parts?” My voice now giving away how anxious I’m beginning to feel. My palms are getting a bit sweaty and this didn’t even happen to me.

“The final two parts is where they test your survival skills.” Aaron swallows a lump in his throat before every part of his body freezes except for his mouth. His light brown eyes now becoming glassy like he’s about to cry. “Test one is them locking you in a room with five Vipers, the snakes I mean, with some rope, a backpack with two granola bars, one cyanide pill that if you took you were considered too much of a coward, and finally some water. If you could survive twenty-four hours you continued forward to the final part which is where they all beat down on you, and if you couldn’t, well then you’re already dead.” He bites down on his bottom lip while looking around him, kinda like a lost kid who has been through hell and back and just wants their old life back. Like Jonah and Amaya used to look.

“D-Did you get to the Viper test?” Aaron nods while taking another shot.

“I was halfway through actually, I had thought about using the cyanide a few times but Dad has always told me that I’m a survivor. Our family is full of survivors. That made me want to make it through, to prove that no matter what you force me through I’m gonna keep going, that I wasn’t like the other kids. Dad showed up to get me in the middle though and he put an end to everything. He was even the one to catch the vipers back so he could bring me down.

“It’s because of my dad that I think I could’ve survived even if he hadn’t showed up at that point and I had to do the full amount of time. Dad started training me when I was eight along with telling me what I would have to endure with what tools. I hated it at the time, but I’m glad he taught me what he did when he did.

“I remembered everything that he told me in that moment. I used the rope to pull myself up to the ceiling since there was a series of metal bars up there that I knew could support my weight and gave me enough space to lay down on. I had a time limit since the snakes were already coming towards me, but Dad used to always time me when I was going through the simulations at home, so I was quick enough to not get bitten.

“I was prepared for everything because it’s exactly what my father did to survive, he already warned me that getting up there wouldn’t be the hardest part, it’d be sitting there and listening to the snakes as they hissed. All those snakes were starved for weeks so that they’d be extra hungry and want nothing more than to get to you.” I notice his hands ball into fists on the counter. “Dad told me to never fall asleep. Not even for a few minutes because that risked me falling off which really fucked with my head. Not only wasn’t I allowed to see my family, but I wasn’t allowed to go to the dream world and be with them then. I only wanted three things in that moment. To survive. To get back to my family. And finally, if I had to die, I wanted it to be quick and almost painless.” I close my eyes and think about what he had to go through along with what Jonah and Amaya had to go through and the same question always came to mind.

How the hell could someone do that to them, they were just kids. Even if they weren’t kids, nobody deserves that shit.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize. I’m still alive and that’s what matters. Kids that went through what me and your girlfriend have don’t want apologies. In the end, none of them changes what happened. We just want to get away from our past and not have people looking at us like we’re damaged, but as a human being. Just because things were rougher on us doesn’t mean we want people constantly paying attention to just the sad parts. All we want is to be normal, which is sometimes easier said than done,” he tells me before I nod. Amaya’s told me that a couple of times, and never once have I looked at her with pity. We both hate that shit.

“I don’t think either of you is damaged, far from it actually.”

“Oh really?” he asks with a raised eyebrow as he leans onto the counter; I nod to him with a small smile. “Not even after I told you my story?” I once again nod. “You’re a rare breed, Harper, a rare breed indeed, and you should stay that way.”

“I think you, Amaya, and Jonah are strong for what has happened with you guys. You never let it knock you down, harden you up to change who you are, well actually she kinda did at school, but none of it has ever stopped you from doing the right thing. There might be some relapses every now and then,” I think about Amaya beating Bethany up in the school hallways, “but for the most part, it doesn’t happen. I see the two of you more as heroes that damaged, that’s the reason I call her Wonder Woman.” Aaron lets out a drunken laugh and I can’t exactly tell if it’s because the alcohol is finally starting to have an affect on him or what.

“Wonder Woman, eh?” I nod with a soft smile.

“She’s gone through a hell of a lot and never once let it stop her from overcoming whatever has been in her path. I admire it really, hell, she doesn’t know it, but sometimes I wish I was like that without being put through what she has of course. I mean, she’s always protecting those that she cares about. Wonder Woman just seemed to fit her.”

“Charming,” Aaron says now smiling again. “You a comic fanatic?”

“Not as much as I could be.” Definitely not as much as Aaron, which actually gives me and idea for one of his Christmas presents. “I just give my respects to the storylines and the creators of them.”

“Ah, so you’re an ex-comic fanatic. My boyfriend used to be that way, though I think he’s diving back into all of it.”

“Amaya used to have a thing for Dick Grayson, she said she only had a thing for him because of me, but I don’t know how true I think that is.” I laugh once again before he does too. For just a second, I forget that we’re sitting around talking in a night club full of people dancing, screaming out the words to songs that the DJ plays, and drinking off to the side.

The pain of the night I just had shared with Amaya and how she had pushed me away is now slowly but surely fleeting.

“I totally get that, Ricky told me that if he ever ran into Grant Gustin and found out that he was a bit ‘saucy’ in his own words, that he was going to pursue. I wasn’t even mad if I’m being honest. We agreed that if he could do that I could do the same with Tom Holland or the guy that plays Jordan in All-American.” I feel myself start choking as I think about how almost every girl has at least the smallest feeling for Tom Holland, including Amaya.

She doesn’t even think I saw her reaction to him when we saw Spider-Man Homecoming, but I’m well-aware that she was biting down on her lip and squirming around in that movie theater seat. I wanted to say something because I want to be the one giving her that reaction, not some movie star that is too decent looking for the damn role but portrays Spider-Man better than every other live action one. That had me a little… uncomfortable, but I couldn’t say anything because the simple fact is, the two of us weren’t in a relationship.

“I respect that, I really do.”

“What isn’t there to respect, even a straight man can see that those two have looks and some pretty good personalities.” I don’t nod or say anything. I can think it, but I most certainly won’t be admitting it out loud.

“Does your boyfriend ever drive yo insane?” Aaron makes an mhm noise.

“I don’t think you can ever be in a real relationship without having that person do something that makes you crazy, but crazy isn’t a bad thing. They can make your head go all over the place, just as love in general is able to do, but we can’t be afraid of taking a chance. Shoot your shot and see where it gets you, even with all that crazy,” he says while starting to clear away all the empty shot glasses.

“Ugh, you sound like my brother.” Aaron chuckles while rolling his sleeve down when he realizes the red Viper was revealed for anyone to see.

“Your brother’s smart.”

“I know.” That’s what makes listening to what he has to say that much harder. “Can I ask you a question that you totally don’t have to answer?” He nods while now giving me his undivided attention. “Have you ever once thought of leaving Ricky to keep him safe?”

“A thousand times at least, tried a few times too, but never once did he allow me to go. Each time he’d wrap his arms around me, place a kiss on my lips and whisper, ‘I love you too much to let you go’ in my ear along with, ‘whatever you’re going through I’m gonna be right there beside you going through it too’. Ricky has always been hell-bent on keeping me,” he says while a small smile appears on his face. “He’s tracked me down a few times too when he figured out that I was gone and not planning on coming back.”

“That’s beautiful,” I gasp out.

“Yeah, it is isn’t it, but before I used to get angry at him for it. Never once did he seem to have a reaction to what I said when it meant me leaving him behind, even when I was begging him to let me go so he’d be safe, but it never worked. He never cared that I was angry, he’d just hold me close and swear that he wasn’t going to let me go like that.” Aaron makes himself a shirley temple before taking a sip. “I still get scared of things going wrong, but each time I remember that he would never let go of me, so it wasn’t worth trying to push him away. I know that I would die to protect him before ever letting someone lay their hands on him, the scary part comes when I’m gone and there’s nobody left to put their life on the line to keep him alive.”

“I shouldn’t have let her go,” I say in a small voice while now staring down at my hands.

“That’s not why I told you what I said, Shawn. Just sit and think about the words that left my mouth for a minute.” He stands there waiting for me to say something while slowly drinking that shirley temple, but I just sit there thinking. “Damn, you’re so slow.” I give him a look. “I said what I said to show you that just because we might push you away, doesn’t mean we’re going to do it forever.

“If you’re persistent enough, making your love for her always known, then one day she’s going to realize that leaving won’t change a damn thing. Not when you’re constantly chasing and never leave her corner. That, Shawn, was my point.” I nod to him before running a hand through my hair.

“That’s gonna be hard when she’s always pushing at me.”

“I was always pushing at Ricky too, but he never let it stop him, so don’t let her stubbornness stop you either or you’re both going to end up regretting it. Get your happy ending with your girl.” I want that more than anything.

“Thank you.”

“No need to thank me, as you said, we’re only trying to do the right thing.” I look around the night club once again, noticing that there’s far more people in here than when I had originally entered. The dance floor consistently becoming more and more full.

My eyes move to the stage where the DJ was at before I notice a grey Fender Stratocaster Squier with a painted on skull. It’s like I can’t tear my eyes away from it, and I know that I’m rusty, but that doesn’t make me want to hold it any less nor does it make me want to play it any less either.

“I see you like Chancella,” Aaron says before I turn towards him, “that’s what I named her a few years back when I first got her. I can see you’ve got good taste when it comes to musical beauties.”

“Yeah,” I say. Something along the lines of that. “Can I play her?”

It’s a big deal when you ask someone to use their guitar, especially when you know it means enough to them that they ended up naming it. Hell I named my guitar back home Santana since it’s Amaya number and whenever I couldn’t get her off my mind, I’d play one of our songs or would make a song about her which is something that nobody can know about. The point is that I love my guitar even if she’s been a bit neglected.

“Depends, do you know how to play?” I nod to him. I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t know. “Alright, you can go ahead and play.” I thank him before heading to the stage, to get there I need to go through the dancle floor which is already gonna be a pain. I twist and turn on the dance floor to get through with brushing up against anyone.

Not even thirty seconds of me being on the stage everyone stops dancing and is just watching me with bewhilderment painted on each of their faces with all the flashing colorful lights. I take the guitar off the stand and make sure the guitar strap is secure around my neck before grabbing an aux cord from off the ground that was already connected to an amp.

I plug the aux cord into the guitar before flipping the switch on the amp to turn it on, a small buzz comes from it for a few seconds but stops. I go back to standing fully, my left hand now holding the neck of the guitar as my right hand removes a black pick from between the strings.

I take in a few deep breaths. I’ve never once played in front of anyone besides Amaya, the boys, and Mom. My heart begins to pound in my chest as I just allow myself to calm my breathing before bringing my mouth two or so inches away from the mic that stands in front of me. I’ve only sang in front of people at that party weeks ago.

This club is full of complete strangers that I’ve never once seen before and might never see again. That’s what made it so easy to sing at that party we were at, but this place is closer to home. I could possibly run into them again. For just tonight though, that’s not going to stop me. Not even going to slow me down.

I strum each of the strings to make sure the guitar is in tune before playing the opening riff to Adventure of a Lifetime by Coldplay which was uncomfortable as hell with this cast on, but it doesn’t slow me down. I’m not trying to change the tempo of the song right now. It has to be the right way, no other way.

This song used to be Mom’s favorite Coldplay song but recently she’s just been listening to Sky Full of Stars and Fix You on a repeat, which aren’t bad songs, they just aren’t some of my favorites at the moment. They used to be all I listened to, then things just changed with me.

It’s funny though since Xavier’s been venturing off into the world of Yellow, Paradise, and Something Just Like This, which is yet another Coldplay song that I guess I’m alright with but am not loving. When it first came out it was an enjoyable song to listen to, but then it was over-played and now it kinda gets me peeved listening to it if I’m being completely honest with myself.

I find myself getting lost in the sound of people cheering for me as they start dancing just a bit, their eyes refusing to be torn away from me as they do so. This time I’m not uncomfortable because I know that they’re enjoying the music I’m letting out, whether it be my guitar playing or singing. I sway to the beat of the song too as I allow myself to feel it and express myself differently than I have in a long time.

Everything that isn’t being on stage and playing my ass off just dissipates, becoming smaller and smaller as the music pumps through my veins, coursing through my blood.

By the time I’m finished with the song people are yelling out these requests for me to play and I stand there, soaking it in. I feel so calm here, like there’s not a single thing to worry about. “Tears for Fears!” I hear someone yell out and I already know what’s coming next. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World!” I am very much okay with singing that song.

That song has always meant a lot to Mom and after Dad left a few years ago I was caught in my feelings with that song. To me that song was important because it was the truth for me. I wanted to rule the world so that maybe I could understand everything going on around me because I would have the view points of so many people rather than just the people that were willing to explain things. If I ruled the world they’d have to explain to me if I asked just a simple question.

If I were to be able to rule the world, then maybe I could’ve been able to stop Dad’s infidelities. Maybe I could’ve stopped Mom from crying herself to sleep every night for years because of what he had done. All I used to want was for her to go back to being happy and always having a real smile instead of one that she would plaster on her face to try and make me and Xavier believe that she was okay.

“Everybody Want to Rule the World, coming up,” I say into the mic before moving away just a bit so I can clear my throat. I close my eyes as I step forward once again and begin to play the guitar adaptation that I found of the song on YouTube. I used to wait until Mom was at work before I’d practice playing that song and never stopped even when I was becoming frustrated.

I played it for her on her birthday a few months after Dad had left and now each year I’ve continued to play it for her. Each year it has been placing a smile on her face and with everything that Mom has done for me, my brother, our friends… all I want is for her to never stop smiling. To always be happy and never let anything push her too much. It’s always part of my birthday wish along with everyone else I care about.

Once I finish playing the song even more requests come roaring in so I keep playing each of the songs that I know, even the ones that are more on the slower side than in the partying type of mood that they were once in. When I finish playing the sixth song I decide that now is a good time to let the DJ go back to what he’s being paid to do.

“Thank you for listening to me play, but I’m gonna let the DJ go back to his job,” I say before beginning to put the stage back to the way it was before I had come up. I make sure the guitar is secure on its stand and ignore the requests for me to play an original song with a soft smile playing on my lips. That felt really good to do.

When I’m about to step off of the stage dollar bills get thrown at me, my eyes go wide as I bend down to pick them up. I thought I was decent, not good enough to make money. I walk off the stage with smile becoming a bit bigger as I wave goodbye at the people that I was just playing for. I head back over to the bar.

“I see you got yourself a pretty penny.” I nod slowly as I stare at the money in my hands. I count the cash before feeling myself freeze. Holy shit. That’s the quickest cash I’ve ever made in my life.

“I-I can’t keep this,” I say the moment the amount settles in.

“You were great up there, any money that you just received was earned and you should keep it. They gave it to you because they thought that you deserveed it, not because they had to,” Aaron says before handing me a glass beer bottle. “You owned that stage, so sit here and take the shit in.”

“Well thank you, but six songs isn’t worth $350.”

“They are when you’re good enough, and you, are good enough,” Aaron says before walking over the cash register and hands $50 over to me. “You should actually be getting more if you ask me, and since this is my bar, I’m giving you that. Feel free to come back and play like that any time. I don’t think Reggie would mine.” Is he talking about the DJ, I’m guessing since I kinda took his job for a bit up there.

“Aaron, I can’t-”

“You can and will take the money, now quit fighting it because I already have your information and I can personally deliever that money to your house. Now get whatever the hell you want or spent it on your kid’s heart’s desires, I don’t care, but keep the money, alright?” I slowly nod my head before drinking just a bit more of my beer. I shove the cash in my pocket once I place it back down.

“So you own this place?”

“Yep, I have for just about three years. Worked my ass off for it.”

“And you know that I’m not of the legal drinking age?” Aaron nods once again. “Then why exactly haven’t you stopped me from drinking?”

“Because the legal drinking age is bullshit.” I laugh at him as he shakes his head. “I’m being serious. Why is it that in America you’re able to fight and die for your country in war at 18 years of age, but you can’t legally have a drink? That’s ridiculous and stupid if you ask me, and I don’t give a damn if it’s the law. It’s a stupid one.”

“I completely agree,” I say before another swig of my beer.

“Yup, so you enjoy your drinks and don’t drink home.”

“Don’t mind if I do.”

I get comfortable where I am, keeping up a good conversation with Aaron before this girl with long brown hair walks up to me. She has a bit too much makeup on her face with some red eyeshadow to match her bright red lips. Her hands rest on the counter as she now leans into it, probably trying to make her ass look a bit bigger but I’m not looking, there’s just one girl I’m checking out.

“You’re a pretty talented man, I wonder what some of your other talents are,” she says with a soft smile. I narrow my eyes just a bit as her hand slides over to grab my hand. Now here is a girl standing here trying to use me for one thing. Why? Doesn’t she have enough self-respect? “My name’s Talia.”

“Shawn,” I introduce myself, trying not to be rude.

“I like your name. Shawn…” she trails off before partly biting down on her lip. I said I wanted to forget, not make a mistake. Aaron watches my movement or rather lack of them but doesn’t say a word.

“I have to go,” I say before putting in the pin to my phone, 1062000 which is Amaya’s birthday. ‘Hey Mom, I need a ride home, please don’t be mad, but I’m at the Rupture night club.’ I put my phone away as I don’t want to wait for the bad parts that I know are gonna come from my asking Mom for a ride.

“So soon?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t think you have to go.”

“I have a girl,” I say before Talia takes a look around. She takes a step closer to me; her lips coming to my ear.

“I don’t see her, and if you did, she’s dumb for letting you come here alone and having a performance like that.” I push her away from me to place some distance between us. Even if I were looking for a distraction she wouldn’t be it, she’s too ready to throw herself at me, I want a girl to be straight forward with what she wants, but have enough to respect for themselves to not do what she’s doing.

“She’s at home with our child.” At least I’d think Aaron’s home by now.

“Well she doesn’t have to know anything that you don’t want her to know.” I shake my head before standing up from my seat a little too fast, feeling my head spin. You’re kidding me right? Now the alcohol decides to get this much into my system, really?

“I don’t want you. I want her. Please go find yourself someone else before I have to get mean.” Talia huffs off out before walking away with her hips swaying like it makes her look more attractive; I shiver. Only Amaya’s sway is the right sway.

“Good staying strong.”

“She’s not might type either way, and I only have one girl that I want.” Aaron reaches out to give me a fist bump before I do the same. “My mom’s gonna be livid when she gets here.” He nods to me.

“That just means she loves you.”

“I know she does, but that doesn’t mean I want to get yelled at for drinking and getting just a bit drunk,” Aaron laughs at me before patting me on the back. “You’re lucky you aren’t still living with your mom.”

“Eh, sometimes I’m lucky, sometimes I’m not. You start to really miss them when they aren’t around, and just because you start living with the person you’re in a relationship with doesn’t mean you get away with more shit. That’s the biggest lie, they’ll hold other things against you.” I know exactly what those other things are and can I just say that that’s major damn facts. “Good luck, Harper, and remember everything I’ve said to you.”

“I will.”

“Good, now give me your phone.” I raise a questioning eyebrow to him. “I’m going to give you my phone number in case some shit starts happening. If you need I can always help you get out of a situation, even if it involves what I said about the Panthers.” I hand him my phone.

“But what if something happens to you? What about Ricky?”

“Don’t worry about us, we’ve been through a hell of a lot, keeping you safe isn’t gonna end up with me getting harmed. If the Vipers get wind of what I’m doing, they’ll do what they can to make sure my mission is complete,” he says while placing his number into my phone along with taking a picture on himself just in case I don’t remember things in the morning.

He hands me my phone back. “Thank you.”

“No problem, and Shawn?” I tilt my head to the side. “Tell the people you really trust about what is happening, they’ll help you if I can’t get there in time.” I nod slowly before saying goodbye and heading outside to wait for Mom.

Not even a minute after I show up outside Mom’s pulling up right in front of me and Xavier’s hopping out of the car before shaking his head.

“You’re so fucked,” he whispers before holding his hand out for my car keys. I dig into my pocket to get my keys; I hand them over. He goes over to the parking space that my car was at and hops inside.

I look to Mom’s car and see her rolling the window down with her face looking a bit angr but I can tell the moment I’m in the car she’s gonna reveal just how angry she is. “Get in the car, Shawn.” I bow my head as I enter the car and pull on my seatbelt.

“Hey Mo-” Mom glares at me.

“Don’t you ‘Hey Mom’ me, Shawn Matthew,” her voice is low as she shakes her head. “How could you be so damn stupid to leave the house just to get drunk off your ass? You have never been so irresponsible before. Did you stop to think about what this could do to your family?” Mom’s voice turns angry.

“First off, I didn’t just leave the house to get drunk off my ass, I-”

“-better watch your tone. Now you best tread carefully.”

“I didn’t leave the house to just get drunk, Mom. I went to see Amaya, I had to talk to her and try to make things right between us,” I choke out while bringing my hand to my temples; I rub them. My head’s killing me. “All I’ve been able to think about is her and those sexy grey eyes. I dream of kissing her.” Tears prick at my eyes before I wipe them away. I can’t cry, and dammit I’ve said too much to her.

“What’s wrong with you two?” she asks, now changing her tone.

“Nothing,” I mumble out while leaning against the passenger door. I place my head in my hands before feeling her hand on my shoulder.

“Say something, you know you’re already going to be grounded from the drinking, you can’t get worse,” I let out a groan as my tears finally begin to fall. Mom places a hand under my chin to turn my face towards her own, she takes a long and deep look into my eyes. “Honey, what happened?” she asks softly.

“I thought I fucked up with her, but I was wrong. It wasn’t me, but I couldn’t change anything. I came here after her house because I wanted to forget more than anything. I want to forget the feel of her hands running through my hair as she tugs on it til I’m lost in the feel of her. I want to forget the feeling of her being in my arms when I fall asleep along with her head being on my chest.

“I want to forget the feeling of being in love with the woman that can take my breath away with everything she does without even trying. But most importantly, I want to forget what happened between us tonight, at least for now,” I sigh at the end before she wipes away my tears. I rest my head on her shoulder; she places a kiss on my forehead.

“I can’t make it better if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.”

“It’s a long story,” I sigh out.

“We’ve got time.”

“I-I thought it was because of Bethany Santiago. I was talking to some girls that had walked up to me, just trying to be nice. Then Bethany came out of this classroom and kissed me out of nowhere, but I didn’t do anything because I was shocked. I couldn’t move. Amaya came out of the same room that Bethany had come from and pulled her off of me. I could see how hurt she was before she said that we shouldn’t have gotten back together, that the two of us always get hurt.” With each word that left my mouth I could feel the bile rising up in my chest before I open the car door to empty out the contents of my stomach.

My tears stream down my cheeks as my head begins to spin more and more. All I ate today was a small bowl of cereal.

“She doesn’t mean that.” I force myself to lean back in my seat and close the car door once again.

She reaches into the backseat of her car to get me a water bottle. “I think she is right about it though, Mom, but the kiss isn’t our problem. Amaya said there was no problem between us in the first place, she left because she doesn’t want to watch me get hurt but in return she’s hurting me worse than it would to get physically beaten.” I sigh while looking down at my lap.

“She loves you and wants to keep her safe. I know it’s frustrating, but-”

“That would be an understatement, Mom. I want to be pissed off at her for it, but I love her too much. I find some truth in her words though, and I hate it. I hurt her a few times, she’s hurt me many times. Someone is always getting hurt when we’re together. Maybe it’s best for us to stop trying,” I allow my pain to speak through my words. Each of Aaron’s words now leaving me from now as I find myself wanting to get something from my mom. She’s always been able to say the right thing.

“You know good and damn well that’s not happening. You’ve been in love with each other for so damn long that I don’t think it’s possible for either of you to let go of the relationship. You’ll both see. Me, your father, and Rachael figured it all out decently quick. It’s a wonder you guys didn’t get it quicker.” Mom gives me a one over after the world leave her mouth.

“That doesn’t mean anything,” I say quickly. Oh, but it does.

“No? How about this, I know that after your break-up the last time the two of you were still ‘messing’ around. Whether it be going to her house on the day of your would-be-anniversary, making out ing your bedroom,” Mom looks away from me, “sophomore prom…”

“How the hell do you know about sophomore prom?” I shriek out as my heart starts to rapidly pound at my chest.

“Oh please, when I came home I found the two of you alond and I knew you each still had feelings for each other. Not to forget that I saw the twigs and grass in each of your hair. I was a teenager once before, don’t think you’re the only one that has done something like that… especially not with your father,” she whispers the last part at the end. My face scrunches up. I really didn’t need her to say that last part.

“Nasty,” I whisper while twisting uncomfortably.

“Oh shut up,” she says before I chuckle.

“Hey Mom, I- I know it’s none of my business, but you and Dad aren’t, you know, right?” Mom shakes her head while now staring forward.

“Me and your father are not involved with each other, nor will we ever be involved with each other again. I’m not putting myself, you, or your brother back through what you had to when the two of us were in a relationship.” I look down. “I want you to know that I’m happy with that choice, Shawn. You don’t have to be worried about me. It’s my job to be worried.”

“I know, Mom, but-”

“No buts, Shawn. I mean it. Alright?” I nod to her. “Now back to you.”

“There’s a lot of things that I haven’t told you yet that everyone knows,” she looks to me expectantly. “I was planning on asking her to marry me,” Mom gasps before I reach into my pants pocket to pull out a black velvet box that holds the ring that I want nothing more than to give to Amaya. “I’ve had this for the past month and a half, I had it all planned out too.”

“Honey, I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through, but that doesn’t mean you should turn to alcohol. It might seem like your best friend now, just know that it’s going to end up doing more harm than good for you further down the road.”

“I know that, no matter how much I drink Amaya’s going to be my best friend. She’s my biggest heartache, but then I get the best feeling in my world when I get her back into my arms.” Kinda like how I felt earlier tonight. “I told her months ago that if there was a time where she hated me again that I wouldn’t leave. I’d fight for her and Aaron until my dying moments, I just hope she doesn’t forget that much.” My voice gets small.

“You should try speaking to her.”

“You don’t think I have? It’s one of the only things that I’ve tried to do, but she’s been avoiding me like the plague. I went over to her house earlier in the week when Aaron was sick, when he fell asleep Amaya and I got to talking, but I don’t think that’s going to make much of a change. Then today, well today I tried to talk to her and let’s just say you were right about one thing, we can’t not be messing around.” Mom looks to me before rubbing her temples.

“The two of you…”

“Mhm.”

“Damn, I need a drink,” she says while now pulling onto the road to drive us in the direction of home. “What have you eaten for the day?” I don’t say a word before she shakes her head and changes the course of the car. “Looks like we’re going to Dylan’s restaurant.”

“I don’t want to eat.”

“I could care less, you need to eat and starving yourself isn’t going to change any of the things you’ve been through. Not to mention that with the alcohol in your system you’re going to get the munchies.” She takes a deep breath; I do too. “You know things aren’t always going to be like this, they’ll clear up in a bit.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“One, you’re Aaron’s father and he needs you around. Everyone can see that much. Two, the both of you don’t know how to not talk to each other even with things being the way they are now.”

“What if this time is different from the last and I just don’t get the chance to receive my happily ever after with her. Then I miss Aaron so damn much, I want to be able to tuck him in at night again… but I can’t.” I feel myself clenching and unclenching my fists on my lap. “Mom there’s something else I have to tell you…”

“Well go on.”

“You’re going to be pissed.”

“Try me.”

“There might be a possible chance that I got Amaya pregnant, leaning more on the side of did than did not.” The moment the words left my mouth she slams on the brakes and pulls over, giving me a look to explain. “This time around we might not have used protection as much as we should’ve.”

“How many times?”

“Uh, four maybe,” I say while playing with my hands. She only looks to me with a look I’ve yet to recognize. “What? I’m sorry that we didn’t have enough time for getting the damn thing. I mean, I love Aaron with my whole existance, but when he would come into the room we’d barely be able to even kiss each other.

“We both have needs, especially me, and I’m simply saying that my body needs to be touched sometimes and it can’t always be by myself. It never feels as good once you’ve had-” Mom throws a hand over my mouth.

“Shawn, do me a favor and shut up. I don’t need to hear about any of your sexual history.”

“Well I don’t know about that one, half of the things we’ve done should definitely go on record,” I half-joke. “Damn I need to go back to my daily innuendos that she would bring in, everything she does that makes my heart skip a beat. There is so much that she does that makes me want her in a way of her being an addiction.” My voice becomes that much softer.

“Honey, you’ve managed to fall hard, and I can promise you that things are going to work out for you.”

“What makes you so sure?” Mom takes a deep breath while staring ahead at the road.

“I know what a doomed relationship looks like, yours is something different, inspirational even. Everyone can see the way the two of you look at each other, and never once have you guys really, truly separated. Now tell me when was the first time you realized your feelings for her.” It’s a soft demand but a demand nonetheless.

“When we were ten. I realized when you brought Xavier and I to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, I couldn’t take my mind off of her. I was scared that she wasn’t going to be alright when we came back so I was constantly calling her, but it never stopped my worry, not in the slightest. I just wanted her back beside me which made me realize that I never want to be without her.” Mom hands me a kind smile.

“Did Grandma think you and Dad could make it?”

“No way in hell, she told me to get out of the relationship. She said Ryan was only a player and that even though he might be sweet that he would eventually break me. I, however, didn’t listen to her and I’m glad, your father might have broken my heart more times than I can count, but he also gave me you and your brother. That’s something that I could never regret,” Mom says before glancing over to me.

“I don’t regret any of the pain I went through either,” I admit before she nods. “I might hate the pain but she has always made the pain worth going through. I can’t imagine what my life world be like if I didn’t have her or Aaron.”

“Welcome to the world of being in love with someone.”

I don’t say anything until we show up to Dylan’s restaurant and she’s about to get out of the car. My hand reaches out to grab her so she can’t get out of the car. Her eyes go to me as they fill with curiosity.

“Are you mad at me?” My voice becomes small as she places a kiss on the top of my head.

“I’m not exactly happy about this situation, but anger isn’t going to make much of a change, you aren’t off the hook though. You’re getting grounded for two weeks for the drinking.” Less than I thought I would get. “Now give me that fake ID, you aren’t using it again.” I sigh before reaching into my pocket and pulling out the ID, but my cash falls out too.

“Here,” I say while handing the ID over. She takes it without sparing my cash a second glance. I move to hand her a twenty but she pushes it away.

“I can handle your food.”

“I can also handle it, I just made $400.”

“You spend that on something else, I’m not taking money from my own child over some food that’s gonna cost like $10. You hold onto your money, alright?” I nod before she gets out of the car and goes into the restaurant.

“Alright Panthers, you guys are coming for me, huh?” I shake my head. “If you’re coming, I need to handle a few things first,” I whisper out while staring ahead at the windshield. “God, I hope I don’t die.”

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