15. BAD THINGS
“You keep saying that but you’re also the one who just came after me,” I tell him. “Why don’t you just stay away?”
“Do you think it’s that easy? You drive me fucking insane,” he says exasperated and runs a hand through his dark hair.
“I know the feeling,” I say sarcastically but he doesn’t smile. I bite my lip, almost drawing blood. He’s not in a good mood.
“Fuck,” he curses, “do you have any idea what you do to me? What that does to me?” He stares at my mouth. I’m confused, he can’t be implying what I think he is — he was just with Lexi. I don’t say anything but I know I’m blushing.
“You can’t say things like that to me,” I tell him even though I want him to.
“Why?” he asks and I swear I can see a small smirk forming but I can’t be a hundred percent sure.
“Because…because you were just with Lexi.”
Because we’re just friends.
“Do you want me to stay away from Lexi?”
“No, I just—,” I don’t know what to say. What do I want?
“Come with me,” he tells me.
“Where?” I ask but he doesn’t reply.
He takes my hand and I stupidly follow him. The house is now filled with even more people and we have to push past everyone. Well, I have to — people make way for Ace.
I walk past a guy with a bald like cut and he licks his lips. Gross. Before I realise what’s happening, my hand slips out of Ace’s and the bald guy is groping me, “Where you off to, sexy?” He whispers in my ear and I want to throw up.
My knee collides with his crotch and he stumbles over in pain, “Feisty,” he says before reaching for me again. I don’t have time to blink, when Ace punches him, once, twice, three times.
“Enough,” I say but he keeps going. A crowd is gathering around the fight and there’s blood everywhere. Where the hell is Theo?
“Ace, stop!” I yell and when his hand retracts to punch him again, I place my hand on his arm.
He looks at me, his eyes are black — hungry for blood and it scares me. However, they soften when he realises it’s me and he stops, his arms going limp. He’s still angry, I can tell but I don’t know what at.
He grabs my hand and gently pushes my body in front of his. His chest faintly touching my back, and even though I’m in front – he’s in control.
“Ace, what was that? I can take care of myself, you didn’t need to almost kill the guy,” I spin around when we’re finally outside away from everyone.
“Don’t start, Calla.”
“Don’t start? Don’t start what?!” I ask annoyed.
“Hungry?” He asks, ignoring me completely and I narrow my eyes at him. I’m about to tell him no but my stomach grumbles. Traitor.
“We’ll get something to eat,” he says and takes my hand, the gesture becoming too comfortable. Our hands fit together perfectly, like they are made for each other. I can get used to this and that makes me terrified.
We are walking through a field and I’m wondering where he’s taking me to eat. I haven’t gone this way before, it must be a shortcut to the town.
“Why do you think you’re a bad person?” I ask. His fingers tighten around mine and I can sense this is not a question he wants to answer.
There’s a big pause and I begin to think he’s not going to answer me.
“I’ve done bad things,” he finally says.
“Haven’t we all?”
It’s quiet for a moment again and I can almost hear both of our hearts racing in unison.
“No, Calla. Not like this,” he stops and faces me. His lips set into a hard line. His eyes have too much pain and anger; towards who? Himself?
He opens his mouth like he wants to say something but then he closes it and I can see it’s hard for him to talk about his past. I understand — I understand what it is like to not want to talk about your past. I understand what it’s like to blame yourself for something. Because if it wasn’t for me, my mother would still be alive.
I don’t have time to think what I’m doing before reaching out and tracing his cheekbones with my fingers. His skin is hot and his eyes meet mine, “Ace, we all do bad things. But they don’t make us bad people.”
He doesn’t say anything for a moment and the silence between us speaks a thousand words, “And sometimes the worst things that we do, lead us to the best things that happen to us,” I add, remembering the conversation with Theo.
Ace reaches for my hand, the one that’s still on his cheek. He wraps his fingers through it and brings it to his lips. Breathe — I remind myself. You need air to live.
The faint brush of his lips against my fingers send a shiver through me. It’s gone as quickly as it comes and I’m left wondering if it was even real or part of my imagination.
Ace chooses a small pizza shop and opens the door for me, placing his hand on my lower back when I walk in. There aren’t many people inside and he leads me to a seat near the window.
“Do you like fighting?” I ask him after we order food. I bite my straw and look up at Ace.
He laughs but it doesn’t reach his eyes, I don’t like it, “No.”
“But you do it almost every weekend,” I say, trying to understand him — trying to get to know him because something keeps pushing me towards him. Pulling us together.
“I need the money,” he tells me and I realise he must make a lot from one fight. I remember how many people were betting with multiple hundred dollar bills at his last fight. But why does he need that much money?
It’s like he knows I’m going to ask why because he instantly changes the subject to something lighter, “Majoring in English literature?”
“How did you know?” I ask and he shrugs like it’s so obvious. “Do you read other books? You know apart from biographies?” I ask. I don’t know why I keep bringing up him reading biographies. Maybe it’s because you know the person much better if you know what they read and why.
“If you only read what everyone else does, you can only think what everyone else is thinking,” he says but it doesn’t answer my question. Why does he have to be like this? Vague with his answers, almost discarding my questions but nevertheless, still providing an answer.
Our food comes and we eat in silence, or I eat and he watches me. We walk to the house, his hand intertwined with mine. It scares me how much I like spending time with Ace. He makes me nervous but at the same time I feel excited when I’m around him.
“Uh, can I use your shower? The upstairs one is broken,” I ask when we get inside and he nods.
I go upstairs and get my towel and a change of clothes before going to his room. His bathroom is huge, especially his shower. It could probably fit five people in there comfortably. I pick up the body wash that’s on the shower floor, smelling it. It smells like him.
I come out, wearing his hoodie. I don’t know why I put it on, I wonder what he’s going to say or do — my heart races at the last part. What do I want him to do to me? Oh my god, no.
He’s standing in his wardrobe, taking his shirt off. As if he senses my presence, he turns around and his eyes scan me. I don’t move, he takes a step towards me and my heart quickens.
The way he looks at me is intense, almost too intense. I want to tear my gaze away but I can’t. I’m stuck, frozen in his existence.
I want him closer.
The sound of his phone ringing startles us both and he tears his eyes away from me. He takes it out looking at the caller ID. I can’t see who it is but his face instantly stills. He walks towards the back door and slides it open. He makes sure to close it but not before I hear him saying, “Hey baby, is everything okay?”
I stand there frozen. Feeling stupid. So fucking stupid.
He comes back in after a few minutes, I wait for an explanation but he doesn’t give one. He doesn’t owe me one — he doesn’t owe me anything.
“Sorry, I have to go,” he says, picking up his keys off the night stand and walking out.