I Need You To Hate Me

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22. CLARITY

One hour. One whole hour Asher and I don’t say a word to each other. For some people that would be awkward, for Asher it’s normal. I kind of like that about him, he likes to think things over before talking about them – “keeps me from being irrational in the heat of the moment” he once told me after our first fight.

I call my dad, he seems too calm about the fact that he had a heart-attack. He assures me he’s fine but his voice says otherwise, I know he always downplays these situations. And even if he’s fine, I need to see it for myself.

“Cals you shouldn’t worry about me,” he says but I tell him I’ll be at the hospital in about an hour.

“You and Ace?” Asher hums five minutes after I end the call. “I don’t like it,” he finally says, keeping his eyes on the road.

I turn slowly to look at him. His face is blank and his hands are gripping the steering wheel a little too tightly.

“It’s not your business, Ash,” I tell him and his head snaps at me.

“Something about him isn’t right, I can feel it,” Asher tells me and I roll my eyes.

“You don’t know him,” I say.

“And you do?” he asks me.

My eyes travel back to the road and I watch the scenery unravel before my eyes. Green meadows with trees as far as I can see. It’s beautiful, really. The road is long but narrow and stretches for miles and if I wind my window down, it will feel like I’m flying.

That’s the feeling I get when I’m with Ace. I feel like I’m flying, floating in the reality of just me and him.

But I only know the him that’s with me. It scares me that I might not know him at all and how quickly he might change his mind about us. Us. What were we again? Me and you? What the fuck does that even mean, Ace?

He has secrets, a past, and even though I don’t care what he did or what he thinks he did that made him think he’s a bad person – I can’t help but question the unknown.

“I’m getting to know him,” I tell Asher. He shakes his head and scoffs.

We don’t speak the rest of the way and I see Asher looking over at me every few minutes like he wants to tell me something but doesn’t.

We pull up at the front of an old hospital building and I get out. The air hear is visibly different, thick and harder to breathe. Has it always been like this? I don’t quite remember.

Asher tells me he’ll find a parking spot and meet me inside. I nod and walk inside, putting one foot in front of the other. Would my dad look like he just had a heart attack? But what did those people even look like?

I tell the nurse at the front desk who I am, “Floor seven, room twenty five,” she tells me. I take the lift and prepare myself for the worst, so much so, that when I see my dad I am shocked.

He looks exactly the same. His light chocolate brown hair is cut short and his hazel eyes light up when he sees me at the door.

“Cals, I told you didn’t need to come,” he tells me. I ignore him.

Rob, Asher’s dad is sitting next to the bed in the hospital chair. He gets up and gives me a small hug, “I’ll give you two some privacy, I’ll go find Asher.” I nod.

“What happened?” I ask him.

“It’s nothing, Cals. I didn’t even know that I was having a heart attack. I was at work and I felt a tightness in my chest but that’s all. It was one of the guys that was adamant that I go to the hospital to get it checked out. Turns out, it’s a heart attack,” he tells me.

“Honestly, I’m fine,” he assures me when he seems my concerned face.

“I’d like to stay home for a little bit,” I finally say. Just to make sure everything is okay.

“You don’t need to do that, you should get back to college. You don’t want to miss anything,” he says and once again I roll my eyes.

“A few days won’t kill me and anyway, I’m ahead in my classes,” I explain.

It takes a little more convincing but he finally agrees. I don’t how long I sit with my dad, just talking, it feels like hours. The doctor comes in and tells us that he wants to keep my dad overnight just to keep an eye on him. If everything goes well then he can come home tomorrow.

I get ready to stay the night at the hospital but my dad looks at me like I am crazy. He tells me to go home and get some rest. I don’t want to leave him but he doesn’t want to hear it. Sighing in defeat, I tell him I’ll be back in the morning.

I drive my old mazda back to my dad’s house. My house. I know the roads like the back of my hand, I’ve lived here for eighteen years. I drive past the park that mom and dad used to take me for picnics when I was little. It looks the same but the unfamiliarity that rushes over me is strange.

I pull up to the small four bedroom house, it’s a lot smaller than the house I was living at now. Only one-storey with a white picket fence but it was enough for the three of us. This house holds so many memories and is the main reason my dad hasn’t sold it. I doubt he ever will.

When I get to the wooden front door I see my phone light up. Instantly, as if on cue, my heart speeds up – I don’t recognise the number but I somehow know it’s him.

“Hi,” I breathe into the phone.

“Calla,” he says in a low voice and it feels like my heart drops down there. Why do I have the sudden urge to jump his bones? Ugh, stupid hormones.

“How are you? Is everything okay with your dad?” he asks.

“Yeah, my dad is doing good,” I tell him relieved. I explain what happened and Ace listens, telling me that everything will be okay and I believe him.

When there’s nothing else to say about my dad, Ace asks, “Did that fucking idiot try anything with you?”

“No, I think you’ve made yourself clear,” I laugh.

“Good.”

The phone goes quiet and I want to ask him something, “Ace…”

“Hmm?”

“Are you… you know, still seeing Lexi?” I squeeze my eyes shut.

“Seeing Lexi?” he asks, I can almost feel the stupid smile on his mouth. “What do you mean seeing Lexi?”

“Like you know…doing things that you did with her before?” I bite the inside of my cheek. I want to know where I stand with Ace so I don’t feel like an idiot.

“What things have I done with Lexi, Calla?” he persists. I can imagine he would be smirking right now, asshole.

“Umm I don’t know… uhh don’t worry, forget I said anything,” I tell him, I’m not playing Ace’s game.

The phone goes silent for a moment and I begin to think he hung up. I close the front door and place my back against it, leaning my head back too.

“Calla?”

“Mm?”

“I don’t want to see anyone else but you.”

I can’t stop the smile that etches its way onto my lips. He says all the right things sometimes but how long will it last before everything changes again? It feels too good to be true.

When I get off the phone with Ace, I take a shower only to realise that I didn’t pack any underwear. How did I forget underwear? I browse my old drawers only to find everything lacy. There’s a reason why I didn’t take them with me, they are so uncomfortable. I don’t even remember why I bought them in the first place. However, it’s all I had right now.

I scroll through Instagram on my phone something I usually never do. All my photos are from two years ago, I haven’t posted anything recently. My feed is filled with people from my high school – my ex-best friends, the popular girls at the school.

It should be no surprise that I was one of them, I was the cheer captain after all – isn’t it how it works?

I go into my phone camera and turn it towards me, wondering how the hell someone can take a sexy photo and post it online for the whole world to see. That would never be me.

I lay down on my back and take a picture, the red lacey underwear and bra being the centre of attention. My face is barely in it, only my bottom lip which I was mindlessly biting in mid photo.

I run my hands through my wet hair and go to delete the photo. Even though it makes me feel good about myself, I just can’t imagine someone seeing it by accident.

I press the delete button but since my hands are wet, it somehow calibrates to send. Shit. No, not send. I tap my index finger on the back button but somehow it ends up sending the photo to the most recent number.

Ace.

Fuck.

My face turns red, I can’t breathe. No no no. This can’t be happening.

My phone rings, I know it’s him without checking the caller ID and I don’t answer. I can’t. I’m so embarrassed. I throw the phone to the other side of the room, hoping the ringing it will stop and it does, only for a moment. Enough for me to read the short text message that almost places me into cardiac arrest.

Pick up the phone, Calla. Now.

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