11. THE ILLEGAL HOBBY
It’s been more than a week since I had spoken to Ace. He went back to keeping his distance from me after the bonfire. I guess it was better that way, less drama.
For the majority, my life has gone back to normal and so have my emotions. I find that with Ace, everything is heightened, he makes me feel insane. It’s too hard to keep up and I don’t need that, I have just begun to feel sane again.
However, I’m not planning to fail a major assignment. On Monday, before class, I had put a sticky note on his door with a question, ′Why biographies?’. All his books were some kind of biography and I could never quite get into one myself.
He wasn’t in the class with me and Theo — so I was surprised to get home and find a sticky note on my door. An answer to my question, for some reason I didn’t expect to get one. ′Everyone who writes them finds the good out of every seemingly bad situation.′
It’s an interesting way of perceiving things.
I got an answer to every sticky note I placed on his door, one every day. He didn’t ask me anything, probably didn’t care. It didn’t bother me — I’m not exactly ecstatic about revealing my life story and it’s not my problem if he fails his assignment.
“What’s going on with Ace and Lexi?” I ask Liv keeping my voice casual. I’m in the kitchen reading a book and Liv just came down.
But there is no casual with Liv because as soon as I mention his name her head turns to me.
“For research purposes, we’re doing this assignment thing,” I quickly add, fiddling with my bookmark, knowing truly well that I’m not going to be including Ace’s relationship status in my college assignment. Liv knows this too because her lips turn into a wry smile.
“They’re just friends,” Liv says, watching my expression.
“You know with benefits, hmm.. what else do they call it? Fuck buddies?” Liv tells me, she is trying to get out a reaction to see if something is going on between Ace and me. There is nothing going on.
“Got it,” I say, keeping my expression neutral, “Does Ace have many of these friends?”
“A few, Lexi is just the regular one,” she tells me and I grimace. Liv raises her eyebrow.
Is that what Ace thought we were going to be? Friends with benefits?
I don’t think so.
“You going to include that in your assignment?” she smirks.
“Uh maybe not,” I let out an awkward laugh.
“Are you busy tonight? Want to come with us to the club? Theo and Josh are coming too,” Liv invites me.
I don’t feel like spending a Saturday night with my book, no matter how good it is. I haven’t been anywhere but here, the cafe and on campus since the bonfire more than a week ago.
My thoughts instantly go to Ace and I hope he isn’t going to be there. Liv didn’t mention him coming and I don’t want to ask any more about him and yield questions from Liv, “I’ll get ready.”
I change into denim wash jeans and a white off the shoulder sweater and quickly put a little makeup on so I look at least half alive. I’m still in my room when I hear bickering; Josh and Theo must be here.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what Liv meant by ‘club’ but this isn’t what I had been expecting. What would you think if someone asked you to come to a club? I mean a possibly-illegal underground fighting club wouldn’t be the first thing that crosses your mind — but here I am.
I look around and there are only a few people our age, everyone seems much older and they all have a drink in their hands. I don’t know why we are here, is this what they do for fun? I instantly regret this decision.
“I thought I told you not to bring her,” Ace says coming towards us — with of course, Lexi at his side.
“Ace, relax, she’s fine,” Theo says, throwing an arm around me in defense. Ace’s eyes darken and they shoot from me to Theo.
“Fuck! I can’t do this with her here.”
I’m so tired of this. One day he’s fine with me and the next he makes it an issue.
“Why don’t you leave then?” I ask, not understanding what he is talking about and frankly, not giving a shit anymore.
He laughs but it doesn’t reach his eyes, “I can’t fucking leave, Calla. It’s my fight.”
Great, I just embarrassed myself. Why didn’t anyone tell me this? I look at Liv and she shrugs her shoulders innocently in a way that says ‘I thought you knew’.
“Is this even legal?” I ask Ace, even though I am a hundred percent sure that it’s not.
“Sure, if that makes you sleep at night,” Ace replies and his eyes set on Liv. He’s pissed off, but when isn’t he?
If my dad knew that I was here, participating in illegal activity... let’s just say he would not be impressed. I could picture him ordering a whole SWAT team to shut this place down.
I hear Ace’s name being called and he turns around to follow the sound before turning to face me.
“Just stay out of trouble,” he tells me and for a second his voice softens. Our eyes meet and I’m suddenly nervous, he’s looking at me like he knows all my secrets and I know nothing about him —well except that he is a lawbreaking asshole. That should sum it up.
“You brought her here, make sure she doesn’t leave your sight,” he tells Theo before walking away. Why does he care what happens to me all of a sudden?
Lexi rolls her eyes at me and stands next to Josh. I honestly don’t know what to say to her. Sorry, your friend that you’re fucking has problems? That won’t go down too well so I look at her, trying to apologise through my eye contact even though I don’t know what I should be apologising for. She sneers and faces away. Great — I don’t need another person hating me.
“Alright alright,” a voice booms through the crowd and everyone goes quiet. “You all know the deal so let’s start off by introducing our first competitor,” the voice sounds familiar my eyes instantly scan the crowd for it.
I can’t believe what I am seeing. It’s the college Chancellor, this just gets better and better. I turn to Theo, “That’s the school -,” I begin.
“Shh,” he says looking around making sure no one heard me. “His name is Dean and I don’t think he wants everyone knowing his day job.”
I wonder why.
When I see Ace’s opponent step into the ring, my stomach sinks. The man looks twice the age and size of Ace. I don’t know why but I am suddenly anxious and my heartbeat quickens. Does Ace have a death wish?
I glance at Liv, then Zach, they both look relaxed and calm. I mean Ace is an asshole but I didn’t think that his best friends would want to see him end up in a hospital. Or worse.
However, when the fight starts, I realise that age and size don’t have anything to do with your skills. Ace is in his element. The man is attempting to throw punches, but Ace dodges every single one of them, jumping on the balls of his feet. I can’t stop staring at him, the way his body tenses showing all his muscles is almost unholy. It’s like he knows I’m checking him out because his eyes land on mine and he smirks.
The crowd grows restless, catcalling and shouting. Ace notices this and he finally throws his first punch forcing the man to stumble back into the ropes. He doesn’t have the time to recover before Ace follows through with another and another. It’s obvious who the crowd favourite is when the words of encouragement spill, yelling at Ace to ‘finish him’.
I want to look away, there’s so much blood but I can’t. It’s like someone is holding my eyes open and forcing me to watch. Ace doesn’t stop until Dean, who I assume is the referee, pulls him off the slumped body.
Suddenly, the crowd erupts into cheers and I am getting pushed and shoved in every direction. I turn to look around for Theo or anyone. Shit. There are hundreds of people here and I try to stand on my tiptoes.
“I had a feeling I would see you here,” a voice to my right says and I turn around to find Logan leaning on the wall with hands in his pockets. I don’t know how I recognise him, the last time I saw him it had been pitch black.
“Your boyfriend is quite the fighter, hmm?” he asks.
“Ace is not my boyfriend.”
I shake my head and purse my lips together. The same feeling as last time washes over me, it tells me to get the hell away from him.
“Well if that’s the case, how about we get out of here then?” He stands upright and moves closer to me.
My breathing accelerates. He doesn’t look like the type to take no for an answer so I quickly race through ideas in my head. He takes another step forward and I take a step back, into something hard. A hand wraps around my waist and pulls me closer, I know it’s him and I can feel the heat rising through my body.
“Logan, get the fuck away from her.”
“We were just talking,” Logan shrugs and looks from Ace to me. I don’t dare to look at Ace but I know the way his jaw would be ticking in anger right now.
“Next time, don’t even look at her.”
Ace turns away and pulls me with him before Logan has the chance to say anything. I’m thankful for Ace but also frustrated. What if I actually wanted to talk to Logan? Who does Ace think he is, I think we need to have a serious conversation. I shrug him off me and spot Theo and Josh heading towards us, along with the others.
Once we all make it outside, I sigh in relief. I didn’t realise I had been on edge for the last hour.
Ace’s bike is on the other side of the road and I wonder how I missed it when we came here. Lexi is already on it, obviously eager to get home and celebrate his win. I shudder and hope they don’t come back to his room.
However, that thought is quickly erased when a much bigger problem hits me. It’s dark and I didn’t drive here. I can’t be a passenger in the car when it’s dark. I don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to come.
I look at the car and then I see Ace watching me — he knows I fucked up. He’s waiting for me to come up with an excuse. I could ask to drive but I feel like that’s weird and would prompt more questions than I was ready for.
“Hey Liv,” I say and everyone turns to face me. I clear my throat, “I don’t think I’m feeling too well, I might just walk to the house. You know, the fresh air will make me feel better, I think,” I ramble not knowing what rubbish is coming out of my mouth. I see Ace’s lips twitch into a small smile.
“Are you insane?” Theo says chuckling, “It will take you hours and we’re not going to let you walk at night by yourself.”
Ace is in the middle of the road, between the car and his bike — lucky it’s a quiet street. He turns to Lexi, who seems to be in an annoyed mood already.
“Get off,” Ace tells her.
“Zach and Liv can take you home, Calla is coming with me,” Ace says casually and my mouth gapes open along with everyone else’s.