I shook my head. I refuse to allow him to see me in this state.
I step back and continue to shake my head.
Josh placed a hand on my bruised cheek, and I flinched slightly. Instead of forcing me to look at him, he whispered: “Hay Bug. Please.”
I hate it. How he would use this soft tone whenever he calls my nickname. Steadily, I lifted my head until my eyes caught his.
The frown on his face was apparent. “Who did this?”
I remove his hand. It hurts where he touches. “I started the fight.”
“I didn’t ask whether or not you started the fight.” I swallow when he lurks closer. “I asked who did this to you.”
“It matters to me.”
I look at him, “Why do you care?” I shouldn’t snap at him. Josh didn’t do anything wrong. He only asks because he cares.
“Hailey. I know you’re upset about the photos.” Of course, he saw the pictures. I’m betting my money that hoards of girls can’t wait to show him. “But, you need to calm down and understand that I ask because I care.”
“Why would you care? Because we’re friends?” I regretted each word that came out of my mouth. But I can’t seem to stop. “Where’s this friend of mine weeks ago when he left without a single word. Not one damn phone call. Not one single message.”
“Why did you go home? Who is Juliette?” I couldn’t handle it anymore. I need to know.
Josh sighed softly, “I told you. I went home because of a family emergency.”
“What kind of emergency?”
“I-” he exhaled, “I can’t tell you until we sort it out.”
I lick my dried lips and nod. “Right. Because I’m not family.” I step back again. “I’m only your best friend. And best friend, don’t keep secrets from each other, right?” Hypocrite.
I can see it. The pain was written all over his face. “I want to tell you.”
“But you can’t.” I look down towards the ground momentarily before facing him. “And that’s fine. I asked for independence, and you gave it to me. I was the one who-”
“Bothered you. It was all my fault. I shouldn’t-”
“Had tried to fly over there. It’s obvious that you wanted that space, so I was the one who-”
Josh grabbed my shoulders and shook. “Hailey!” He screams. “Stop this.” His hands grasp my face. “Stop doing this.” He pulled me into his arms. “Please, stop self-blaming.”
I dug my face into his chest. It felt warm. I miss this. “But it is my fault,” I muffled. I’m overreacting about everything, and I know it.
“It’s not. I should’ve called you, but I lost my phone. I asked Jada to get me a new one, and it took a while to transfer all the lost content. Then, one problem after another kept appearing. I don’t want to keep this from you. I really don’t.” Josh said it all so quickly, I thought he would faint from the lack of oxygen. He loosens his grip and looks at me. “But, I need you to understand that there is an issue in my family, and I can’t tell you until it’s fully resolved. Please, understand.”
“Is the problem with Juliette?”
“And it’s a complicated matter?”
He nods again.
“Is it because she’s pregnant with your child?” That’s the worst scenario I can come up with.
Out of the blue, Josh burst out laughing. It was uncontrollable, a pleasant sound I haven’t heard in a while. “No!” He screams. “No! Ew!” He wraps his arms around his body and shivers. “That question gave me goosebumps. Look.” He lays his arm in front of me to see.
A small crackle of laughter exits my mouth. “So, no?”
“No!” He shouted for the gazillion times. “Don’t ever say or even think that.”
I smile faintly, “Okay. I won’t ever think about that.”
“Jasmine was the one who kissed me. I didn’t kiss her. She violated me.” His confession somehow makes me want to laugh. Particularly with the look on his face. “So, thank you for defending my honor by fighting her.”
I burst out laughing and fell into Josh’s arms. He knew that wasn’t why I fought with Jasmine, but he also knew I needed a bit of a break in my life. And that was it. I did need that moment.
“Come on, the hero,” Josh said. “Let’s get your victory wound treated.” Josh pulled out a first aid kit and treated my wound. “Don’t allow those photos to bother you,” he said.
“This feeling isn’t something I allowed.” If I could, I would throw everything negative into the trash can. Mom says it’s an emotional time for me. How, one day, I will look back, and everything will seem insignificant. It doesn’t feel insignificant right now.
After Josh treated my wound, he placed the first aid kit on the edge of the bed. I crawled onto his lap, and he froze in surprise. “I miss you.”
Steadily, Josh wraps his arms around me. I inhale a fair amount of his scent. He still smells the same, like fresh laundry. “If you don’t mind me asking,” Josh said. “Why were you and Ricardo hugging in the hallway?”
“Oh, well, his m-” then the realization comes. It wouldn’t be right to tell Josh what Ricardo told me, right? He only told me because he knows I won’t spill the bean. After all, he knows a lot of my secrets. “I can’t tell you. It’s something personal.”
“Between you two?”
“It’s his family matter.”
“And you’re still upset that I won’t tell you about my family matter?”
I shook my head, “It’s okay. It’s your family matter. When you’re ready, you can tell me...or not tell me.” That was it. I need time to calm down and think logically. When I saw Josh, all the negative emotions seemingly rushed towards me. All the negativity I suppressed over the break. Plus, fighting with Jasmine helped. I wonder if this is the reason why guys would discuss with their fists. After a good punch, everything felt better.
Josh’s lips thinned, “You two seem to have gotten closer.”
I grab the tip of my hair and nod absentmindedly. “I guess it would seem that way.” When you’re blackmailing your roommate, you do somehow grow closer to them. Ricardo would tell me random things because he knows I’m too scared to talk about him, and I’m afraid he will spill my secrets. He doesn’t seem like the type, though. He looks like the type who will take revenge secretly.
Josh moved his hands slightly around my body. “You lost more weight.”
I stop twirling my hair. “I guess it would seem that way,” I repeated. I didn’t know what else to say.
Surprisingly, Josh flips me over, and the bed swallows me whole. He lifts my shirt and stops at my breasts. He stared at my hollow stomach and frowned. I’m used to it, Josh’s touches. It’s soft and warm. My body likes it. Then, he pulls it down and looks at me before his body drops. He’s heavy.
Ricardo enters the room. The sight didn’t even faze him. Josh didn’t make any movement to get off of me.
“Well, good for you,” Ricardo said. “I guess you don’t need me anymore.”
Josh tilts his head. “What?”
“What do you mean, what?”
“I mean, what do you mean by that?”
“That bionda doesn’t need me as her boyfriend.”
I gasp a bit too loudly. The memories of Ricardo offering to be my boyfriend resurface. Josh looks at me, “What does he mean by that?”
“No!” I screamed. I will not allow Josh to hear what Ricardo has to say. I made my move towards Ricardo. I need to get him out of here and have a quick chat. Josh wouldn’t allow it.
Josh pinned me down and covered my mouth. “Finish what you said.”
Ricardo lowers the water bottle and looks at me. Immediately, I shook my head. His gaze reverted towards Josh. “I offered to be her fake boyfriend.” Does he not understand what head-shaking means?
“Isn’t it obvious? To make the guy she likes jealous.” Ricardo looks at me and smirks.
I felt like I’m being interrogated. Ricardo stops by to grab a pair of new clothes, then leaves without another word. I know he can smell the trouble he brewed.
I clutch my legs together, my hands resting on top of my thighs. The desk chair hurts my boney bottom. I wish I brought an extra pillow for the chair. I peek up towards Josh to see him staring at me from across the room. I swirled in the chair and had my back facing him.
“A lot has happened since I was gone,” Josh said.
The temperature inside my body escalated, hotter than the lightbulb on the ceiling. I swallow aggressively and chuckle; my body refuses to face him. “Yeah. It does seem that way,” I said. I scratch my head. “But, it’s not a big deal or anything. I mean, he was just joking around.”
“Which part? About being your fake boyfriend or about how you like a guy?”
“Josh-” I stood up, and the chair swirled behind me. “Let’s go get good Chinese food. We need to celebrate our reunion.” I threw my jacket over my shoulders and swiftly twirled the scarf around my throat. Maybe, if I choke myself with it, I’ll pass out. I can’t stand it. He has been staring at me for a good hour. Every time I said something, he would simply stare.
Josh spun me and untwisted the scarf. My legs stumble slightly, and I fall into his arms. The thump thump inside my chest, echoes inside my ears. That look he gave made my body tremble, not in fear but something else. I feel hot. “Why him?”
“Why did you go to Ricardo about this?”
“I didn’t mean to. It just kind of happened.” The sweats covered my body. Does this mean Josh knows? He knew the guy I liked was him? That’s the reason why he stared at me for nearly an hour?
Josh’s lips thinned as he continued to stare at me. His arms tighten around my body, and my already skinny self feels like it’s about to be a crush at any moment. “How about me?”
“How about having me as your boyfriend?”