One Murder For Another

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Chapter 20

“A break?” Asher repeated, his hands resting awkwardly in his lap. “You want to take a break” he repeated the words once more, slowly this time, as if he were still trying to comprehend but kept falling short of a logical explanation.

“Baby” he sighed, “Baby whe-where is this coming from?”

Of course it seemed to come out of the blue for Asher, but the time she had spent away from her friends, the less time she had spent with Asher, the more things seemed to fall into perspective for her until she realized that without them she didn’t even know who she was. Mina hadn’t felt as free as she had been at the fall festival in years, and she never wanted to let go of that feeling again, it was empowering. Khalil made her feel empowered.

“Did I- Did I like...do something wrong or-”

“No.” Mina shook her head, reaching over to her boyfriends lap and grabbing one of his soft hands into her own. The guilt that she was feeling at this moment was unmatched, and while part of her break with Asher did have to do with the fact that she needed to find her own person, she couldn’t deny that a tall skinny long-haired boy might have influenced her decision as well. She couldn’t stop thinking about their trip to the fall festival over the weekend, and the more she kept reliving the experience, the more she kept blushing, thoughts of his hands wrapped tightly around her fluttering to the forefront of her thoughts. It was a different kind of fire, a different kind of desire she had never felt before.

“No of course you didn’t do anything wrong.”

It just wasn’t fair for her to pretend like her feelings for Khalil were nonexistent, it wasn’t fair for either of them, though she very well couldn’t tell him that. She would never hear the end of it.

“I just-” she broke off with a sigh, trying to formulate her words before she stumbled over herself and said something she wasn’t supposed to. “We’ve been dating since-”

“Forever.” he interjected and Mina gave him a small pitiful smile that he returned.

“Forever, exactly. And- and I can’t see myself without you-”

“I can’t see myself without you either Mina I-” He cut her off with vigor, and Mina was doing a terrible job to hide the distinct guilt that was heavily written across her face. He was making it so hard, but she knew that at the end of the day this conversation was one that needed to be had.

“No” she shook her head, pulling her hand from his tightening grip . “No Asher, that’s-thats not a good thing. My entire life revolves around you and my family and-and this school. I mean I don’t even know who I am without any of those things.”

“None of us really no who we are-”

“No stop, you’re missing the point.” she spoke slowly now, keeping eye contact to make sure he was understanding the words falling from her lips. “Everything in my life has been laid out for me. I mean our entire relationship was a result of happenstance.”

“What?” he shook his head in disbelief. “So-so your’re saying that our entire relationship was a-a lie?” He seemed to become extremely defensive in that moment.

“I’m saying it’s not a coincidence that after your dad’s rival law firm showed up that we started dating.” Mina let out an internal groan at the wave of sadness that washed over his features at her words, but saying what she had known to be true since the beginning of their relationship felt freeing, and she didn’t regret anything.

“Look, I don’t regret going out with you Asher or any of the time that we spent together, but I also don’t regret saying we need a break. I-I need to find me.”

“So-” his voice was choked as he spoke and he had to stop and start again. “So this is like a- like a permanent thing”

Mina nodded her head slowly. “For now but, who knows, we could always find our way back to one another. And it’s not like its the end of the world or anything. I mean we can still be friends.”

“Of course we can.” he attempted a weak smile. “I don’t think I could live in a world without you Mina Joyce.” She returned him with a small shy small and a short peck to the cheek, before she pushed open the door to his car and found her way silently into the crowd of students trekking into the double doors of Palm Valley Prep. She wasn’t sure if she was supposed to feel guilty or not, but the only feeling she could muster at the moment was relief, relief and reminiscence and suddenly she was reliving the events of the fall festival all over again.

It’s not like she hadn’t wanted to kiss him, she had wanted to so badly, her body craved his touch, folding into him in a way that was much scarier than the way she and Asher interacted. She lost control with him and she loved every second of it and she had to bite the inside of her cheeks to subdue her excitement as she pranced into homeroom with a sly smile playing on the edges of her lips, but it quickly fell at the sight of the empty desk beside hers.

She slid into her own chair, a newfound sense of disappointment washing over her figure in waves as she eyed the empty plastic chair beside her in awe. Khalil didn’t miss class.

She swiftly pulled her phone from the side pocket of her backpack, scrolling through her lists of contacts until she landed on Khalil’s name, a picture they had taken at the carnival staring back at her. Her fingers moved over the keyboard smoothly, typing out a short “Where are you?“, but just before her thumb could tap the send button, a familiar giggle sent her eyes shooting straight up, roaming around the bustling room until they locked onto the culprit of the noise.

It was Noah.

She was standing in the middle of the doorway leaned in close with another student, a boy student. They were chatting away feverishly, Noah’s shoulders dancing every few seconds with another short laugh, but Mina didn’t recognize the boy that had now caught her best friend’s attention. He was tall, curly ash brown hair curtaining the sharp features of his face, and Mina wasn’t sure how she had missed his presence before. As if reading her mind, the boy looked up, immediately locking eyes with Mina, and she was surprised by the sharp grey tones of his eyes. He looked intimidating from a distance but the soft smile he greeted her with seemed to melt the impenetrable exterior around him, but Mina’s eyes quickly fell away at the sight of Noah intense glare from beside him.

Her eyes dropped back down to the lit phone screen in front of her as she forced herself not to watch Noah and her new friend out of her peripheral, but the need to know who the statue of a boy was overwhelmed her until she couldn’t resist anymore. Leaning over in her desk, she tapped the shoulder of the quiet boy sat in the pair of desks next to hers. His head was buried in a textbook and heaps of paper as he scribbled away frantically on an unseen sheet of paper.

“Hey” she took care to keep her voice low. “Hey, do you know who that boy is? The one talking to Noah?” But nothing could have prepared her for the answer he returned her with.

“Yeah. That’s Beau Connely.” he stated matter-of-factly.

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