14. JUST FRIENDS
“Is there a certain plumber that you guys use?” I ask Liv, coming down the stairs. The upstairs shower is leaking and the water pressure feels like someone’s peeing on you. It will take me at least two hours to wash my hair.
“Already called him, he won’t be here until Tuesday,” she tells me and my eyes widen, it’s Friday. “We’ll have to use the one in Ace’s room,” she adds.
“His hot water is broken,” I tell her, looks like we’ll be having cold showers for a while.
“Hmm it was fine half an hour ago?” She says while spreading butter on her toast. Oh, I guess he fixed it.
Liv and I have been spending a lot more time together, it’s so easy to fall into a routine of familiarity.
I take out a punnet of strawberries from the fridge and close the door, turning around.
Ace is in front of me, like right in front of me. My nose is almost touching his tanned chest and he smells so good… he must have just had a shower because his body is glistening with droplets.
“Good morning,” he says, his husky voice drawing my eyes up to his perfect mouth. I wonder how many girls he’s kissed and what it did to them to feel his lips against theirs. I want him to –
Oh my god. Stop.
I look up through my lashes, meeting his piercing eyes. I can feel my cheeks burning. “Good morning, Ace,” I say but it comes up barely a whisper. My lips feel dry, I run my tongue over them.
Ace coughs and quickly clears his throat, I use this moment to move away from him. There is too much tension between us. Why does he have to stand so close to me.
He picks up his shirt off the bench and puts it on, quickly walking out the door without saying anything else.
“You and Ace, huh?” Liv asks me, placing the butter knife in the dishwasher.
“Hmm?” I quickly look over to her and she has the accusation eyes, “No, no, we’re just uh getting along – like friends,” I ramble, getting a glass of water.
“I don’t look like that at my friends,” she says raising her eyebrow and I groan, taking a sip.
“I wasn’t talking about you, but now that you mention it…” she sits on the stool across from me, placing her elbows on the counter and her head in her hands. “Are you and Ace…you know?” she wiggles her eyebrows, “Fucking?”
I spit my water, almost choking on it.
“Liv!” I shoot her a wide-eyed look.
“I’ll take that as a no,” she chuckles, taking a bite of her toast.
“Definitely a no,” I agree but I gulp loudly, unable to take the thought out of my head.
Friday’s are usually slow, I only have one lecture and no work. I don’t like not having anything to do, I like to keep my mind occupied. If I let it roam freely, I find it pulling me towards the past that I can’t change no matter how hard I want to.
When Theo asks me if I want to hang out, I instantly agree. It’s always light and fun with Theo, he is always happy and people like that give off a certain energy.
“What’s the story between you and Josh?” I ask and Theo raises an eyebrow, “You know, since you two are always bickering like old women.”
We went out for a coffee and are now in his room. He laughs, the sound bouncing off the walls and filling the air, “Josh’s dad is my dad,” he says and I form an ‘o’ with my mouth. I knew they are close but I didn’t realise how close.
“Josh’s dad, my dad cheated on his wife — Josh’s mom — with my mom,” he explains. “It’s really messed up.”
“Somehow messed up things seem to bring something good with them too,” I say. The universe had a funny way of bringing people together.
Theo nods almost to himself, “You’re right,” he says jumping on the bed and I let out a small squeal. Surprisingly, Theo begins to tickle me and I can’t breathe; I’m laughing and telling him to stop but he doesn’t.
“What’s that noise?” I ask Theo in between laughter and catching my breath.
“The beginning of a frat party,” Theo says sheepishly, supporting his weight on his elbows.
“Oh no, I’m not staying for that,” I quickly sit up.
Theo pouts and places his hand on his chest, “Come on, please. Liv will be here and that weird girl is coming too I think,” Theo says.
I cock my eyebrow, “Mia?” Theo nods and I roll my eyes, “She’s not weird.”
“She is a little,” Theo says and I narrow my eyes at him. Mia isn’t weird, people are just quick to judge.
“I don’t know, you know I’m not really into parties or drinking,” I tell him and he gives me another pleading look. “Fine, I guess I can stay for a little.”
Shortly, the music is blaring and people begin showing up. Theo drags me downstairs and fills up a red cup with water, passing it to me.
“Thanks,” I laugh.
“I’ll be right back,” Theo tells me and walks off towards the back door. I stand at the kitchen, shifting my weight from one foot to another, scanning the room for anyone I might know.
I walk outside when the music gets louder, hoping to escape this place before anyone notices I’m gone. I’d rather be alone in my room than here. My eyes instantly land on Ace; he is leaning against a tree with Lexi and a few other people that I don’t recognise. I watch the way Lexi’s hand trails up his arm and she laughs too much at what he’s saying.
When Ace sees me, I walk back inside the house. My heart is racing through my chest and I don’t want to admit that seeing him and Lexi together made me feel a certain way – when before, it didn’t.
I push past a few people and stand in the hallway trying to calm my breathing. I feel a hand around my waist and instantly recognise it as his. I spin around, facing him. I don’t want him to touch me after he’s been touching Lexi. I don’t want to be just one of his many girls. But you’re not even one of his girls, you’re just friends. I shake his hand off me and cross my arms.
He sighs and turns around, about to walk away. I’m extremely confused, it’s like he wanted to say something but changed his mind. It’s like he wanted me to see him with Lexi — I don’t understand.
“You’re unbelievable,” I say.
He turns around abruptly making me take a step back. His eyes darken and I can sense he is angry or frustrated. It’s the same look that he gave me when we first met.
“What’s unbelievable is that you think I’m a good person,” he tells me, placing his hands on the wall; either side of me. He leans even closer towards me, my heart accelerates, “I’m not good for you, Calla,” he tells me but all I can think about is how good he makes me feel and how jealous I felt when I saw him and Lexi together.