Jessica Thompson as That Girl

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XXVIII. Apologies

Jessica’s POV:

Day one of the autumn festival had been quite a feast. It makes me feel nauseous, just thinking about everything that had happened.

First, Krista is still together with Francis Weber. Is it fake? Is it real? I have no clue.

Then, Victoria had a mental meltdown.

Next, Jax rejected me in front of all his friends - not that I’m upset about that or anything.

Then, I caught Brody being butthurt over Krista and Francis.

Finally, I rejected Todd Barrett.

Okay, not reject, but I did tell him his feelings won’t be accepted.

I cringe at the memories between Todd and me. I cannot believe all the things I said without fully confirming his feelings. I assumed he had feelings for me because of all his reactions, but I could be wrong.

I hope it’s one big fat misunderstanding.

The image of Todd arrives in my mind.

“What’s wrong?” Krista asked me. She turned her body and laid half of it off of the bed. She’s sleeping over tonight so that we can go to the festival again tomorrow.

Should I tell her about what happened between Todd and me? I thought about it for a moment but quickly dismissed it. It’s better to keep what happened between Todd and me private.

I stop circling the chair and look at Krista. “Francis Weber?” Krista told me we would talk about it after the festival.

It seems hypocritical to ask her about Francis when she doesn’t know about Todd, but when I think about things clearly. Our situations aren’t the same. The public recognizes Francis as Krista’s boyfriend. Todd? Well, he’s my brother’s friend.

How am I supposed to bring up the topic anyways?

“Oh, by the way, I rejected Todd Barrett today. Yeah, I know he has a girlfriend, but I confronted him about emotions he didn’t fully confirm.”

It gives me a massive headache, just thinking about it.

“Oh,” Krista responds slowly. She turned to her stomach and scraped off the dirt underneath her nails. “We talked about things. You know, about Brody things.”

“Yes?”

“Francis confessed to me that he likes me.”

“Oh,” I responded. “That’s nice. Francis is a nice guy.” Well, maybe a bit manipulative.

Krista stares at me momentarily before her eyes widen. “You know!”

“Yes, I knew.”

“How?”

“I took a wild guess.”

“And you didn’t tell me?”

“Then, you would feel guilty for using him.” Krista stayed quiet and resumed fidgeting with her nails. “You’re feeling guilty, which is why you’re with him now, right?”

“N-No.” I can smell the hesitation a mile away.

“Then, do you like him?” Sometimes, it’s better to be straightforward.

Krista sat upward and held my pillow, “I don’t dislike him.”

“So, you don’t like him, and you don’t dislike him. Why are you together with him?” I may not be a professional, but people tend to be together when they like each other. Well, there are also other factors, such as mutual benefits. “Are you together with him because he’s rich?”

Krista threw the pillow on the ground, “Do I look like a goddamn gold digger?” I might have messed up.

“Oh-” I threw a fist on top of my palm, “Then, it must be the sex.” Brody is together with Victoria for it. Dad knocked up mom and stayed together with her. So, that must be it.

What a horrible conclusion.

Krista grabbed the other pillow and threw it down on the ground. “What!” She screams, “I’m still a virgin! What sex!” Her nostrils flared while she shot flames at me. That was a figurative statement.

I clasp my hands together, “He’s threatening you. Did he tell you he may kill your family and friends if you don’t become his?” I watch way too many tv shows.

She stood up and kicked both pillows. I only had two pillows on the bed, so she ran out of soft objects to throw. “Does this look like a damn Stockholm Syndrome tv show?” She whips her head towards me. “Why are all your guesses getting worse?”

I shrug, “Those are the best guesses I have. And if he is threatening you, can you play along until we figure out a plan? I don’t do well being tortured.” When I got cut by a knife, I cried like a baby.

“After all of this, you’re only thinking about yourself?”

I point a finger in the air, “I’m also thinking about your family and other friends.”

She grabbed the pillow and smacked me on the head. I fell onto the ground. With lightning speed, I crawled like a creepy spider towards the other pillow. Without another word, I smacked it back at her.

With gritted teeth and a cold stare, we both know it’s wartime.

Both of us slump onto the ground.

“Tired?” Krista grinned at me. I turned my head, the sweats rolled down both of our temples, and we stared weirdly at each other.

“No, I’m fine.” I huffed out a long breath. “I can go to war for forty-five more years.” Forty-five more years? I won’t last another forty-five second of pillow war.

She pokes my arm lightly, “Liar. Liar.”

I hurried away from her, and she scooted closer towards me. I rolled away, and she went after me. We continued that pattern until I hit a wall.

Her grin only widens, “Seems like you’re stuck between a wall and a hard place.”

I pinched her stomach, and she squealed loudly. I smirk, “Hard place? Please.”

Krista pouted, “No fair! I didn’t ask to be born this lazy!” She pounds her fists all over the floor. “No fair! No fair!”

I cannot believe she is throwing a fit about how lazy she is. “You could exercise,” I said.

She ignored me and continued her fit.

“Or...you can eat healthier.”

Her fit didn’t stop.

“Or...you can continue to blame the big guy upstairs tomorrow, and we can watch a movie while snacking?”

Krista stops and smiles, “Sounds like a good plan.” It must be nice to have selective hearing. She threw her arm and leg over my body. “You always come up with the best plan.” Her cheek runs against mine.

I nod, “Yes. Yes.”

Krista snuggled closer to me. Any closer, and we’ll merge. “I don’t know why I said yes to Francis Weber,” she muttered into my neck. “When I tried to talk to him about our fake relationship and how I don’t feel good continuing it. He, somehow, I don’t know what happened, but before I knew it, I told him it was okay to continue it.” Krista stood up, her hair wavering all around. “But, I clearly told him that I don’t have any emotions for him.”

I lean against the wall, “And his response?”

“He told me to give him a trial period.”

“Trial period?” What’s that?

“Yes. Three months. He said if he can’t change my mind in three months, he’ll give up.” Krista drops her head on my shoulder, “This is the first time I ever saw a guy look so desperate. He looks like he was about to cry if I said no.”

I opened my mouth but closed it. Somehow, I can imagine Francis smirking when he caught Krista. It’s a scary thought. “Ah, I see,” I respond. I wonder if Francis has enough power to make me disappear. No. No. What am I thinking? This is real life, not a drama show.

“But, after three months, we’re going to make a clean break,” Krista reassures both of us. She grabbed my arm, “Do you think I made a mistake? Maybe, I should’ve kicked him while he was on his knees.”

I cannot believe what I’m hearing. A guy actually went on his knees to beg a girl from not leaving. I mean, I saw it on tv shows before but this is the first time I’ve ever heard of it. “He went on his knees?”

Krista nods, “In public too!” She covers her face. “How am I supposed to kick away such a handsome face! I might as well grab a newly born kitten and throw it into a river!”

For some unknown reason, I can see it. Francis is like a cat, cute but sneaky. The thing about cats is that they play games too much, always thinking of different ways to attack their prey. If Francis were a cat, he would be a tiger.

I look at Krista.

And Krista would be a deer.

Always galloping freely underneath the blue sky.

“Are you okay?” Krista waves a hand in front of me.

“Y-Yeah. Why?”

“You’ve been zoning out for a good five minutes.”

“Oh,” I responded. “Sorry. I was just thinking about something.”

“What?”

“An animal documentary.”

“Okay.” Krista pats her thighs. “Enough about Francis and me. Let’s watch a movie.”

I nod, “Sounds good.”

“Alright. You pick a movie, and I’ll go downstairs to make some snacks.” I can tell Krista doesn’t want to talk about whatever it is between Francis and her anymore. And even if we talk about it. Nothing will change. She already gave her word to date Francis for three months. What’s the worst that can happen?

She can get eaten up.

I shiver at that thought.

A knock on the window caught my attention. My brows furrow together, and I stand up, making my way towards the sound. This is it. This is how I die tonight.

I unlocked the door and spread the glass a little bit. If there was a burglar, they picked the wrong room. I have nothing inside my room. If they want my laptop, they can have it. I’ll help them raid my bedroom as long as they leave me alone. If they wish to, I’ll show them Brody’s room too.

Survival of the smartest.

Then again, if I were smart, I wouldn’t have opened the window in the beginning. What excuse can I use? I’m a young, naive teenager who grew up in a quiet neighborhood. My danger senses are at an all-time low compared to a lot of other people.

“Jax?” I stared at the squatting young man in front of me. I had an idea it was him. He’s the only person who would hang outside my window, but after what happened last time inside my room and what happened at the autumn festival. I didn’t expect him to show up.

Jax took off his hood and grinned, “Sup Grinch.” I guess I’m demoted back into Grinch. I kind of like the nickname Chipmunk. It’s cute.

I turned around and rushed towards the door. I locked it and ran back. “What are you doing here?”

“What?” He scratches his head. “And here, I thought you would’ve been happier if I’m here.” He waves a twenty in the air.

I snatch the twenty in his hands with lightning speed. ”Hotel del Grinch is full today.”

“Full?”

“Yes. Full. Krista is sleeping over.”

“What? Then, why did you take my twenty?”

I folded the money and tucked it inside my pants. “Compensation. You hurt my feelings earlier.” In reality, I’m just greedy.

He has wealthy parents. He won’t miss a twenty here and there. Jax scoffs, “Fine. Whatever.” He turns around.

“Wait,” I said. “That’s it?”

He wobbled back towards me. “What did you expect?”

“I just unfairly took your twenty.”

Jax grins, “Oh? Are you begging me to stay tonight? Sorry Grinch, but I don’t share.”

Tonight is warmer than most autumn nights. It’s nice. “Are you here...to apologize?” I know it’s a foolish question because there’s no way the bad boy of the town would come all the way here to apologize.

It’s more likely that he wants to stay another night because of whatever happened tonight. He offered me the twenty. I snatched it without reason. And he’s too rich to even care about it. He’s probably just going to bribe his way into another bedroom tonight.

I suck in my lower lip slightly.

I don’t like it.

That thought.

“Think whatever you like,” he mumbles. “And use that twenty on whatever you want. I’m rich. I don’t care,” he said. Jax turns into a monkey and swings down the tree. He threw on his hood and walked away.

I held my chin against my palm, and without control, a smile made its appearance. “How cute.”

Someone raddled the doorknob then knocked on the wooden door. “Jess?” Krista shouts.

I unlocked the door and opened it. She wobbled into the room with snacks and drinks, “Why did you lock the door?”

I grabbed the drinks, “Oh, a habit.”

She sets the food on the bed, “When did you ever have that habit?”

I set the drinks on the nightstand. “Recently.” More than the past, I find myself locking the bedroom door unconsciously.

Krista grins, “Guess what juicy rumor I just read.”

I select a random movie from my laptop. “What?”

“Someone saw Jax Rocco leaving the autumn festival with Megan Miller.”

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