I Need You To Hate Me

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25. CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT

People come, people go and that’s just a way of life. They almost always leave something behind, either it be a valuable lesson or a certain memory that will cross your mind when you think of them.

But what if you don’t want that person to leave yet – how can you make them stay?

The answer is simple. You don’t.

I haven’t seen Ace since the day he shattered the mirror all over the bathroom floor. That was on Friday and after I cleaned his hand up, we fell asleep in his room.

Sleep. Such a simple thing really, you close your eyes and you disappear into your most vulnerable state. Some people have dreams, others have nightmares, but the best kind of sleep is the ones filled with nothingness.

Sleep is also something that I haven’t been getting these last few days. My usual few hours a night have turned into two hours if I am lucky. It is for the most part my fault, I make myself stay up until I’m sure that my mind is so tired that it can’t think of any ways to torture me. However, sometimes it still finds a way.

My nightmares are always based around the same thing, the car accident. And even in my nightmares, I still can’t save her. I can’t do anything to change the sequence of events – all I can do is watch it unfold in front of me.

One hour, that’s how long it took for the rescue team to get me out of the car. One hour may not seem like a long time but when you’re crushed in a vehicle and counting the seconds, it feels like days.

One hour, I had to sit and watch my mother deteriorate into a vegetable. She wasn’t responding but her heart was still beating. They declared her brain dead at the scene but still took her to the hospital and a few days later forced my dad to make the horrible decision of whether to take her off life support.

Do I wish it was me instead of her?

Every damn day.

“You can’t change the past,” Brody’s voice startles me. I didn’t hear him come up behind me, I’m too consumed in cutting the strawberries or in my own ominous thoughts.

His bloodshot, blue eyes scan over the café as if adjusting to the light. Did he just wake up? Is there even a bed behind the narrow green door?

“Pardon?” I ask because this must be a coincidence. He certainly couldn’t know what I was just thinking about.

“It’s a waste of time and energy to analyse the past. To try put pieces back together, to justify what could have happened when in reality, there’s nothing you do can do to turn back the clock,” he tells me, and I can I feel my mouth gaping open.

I can’t speak because it’s impossible for him to read minds. It’s impossible, right?!

“Living in the past only fucks up the present,” he adds, running a hand through his dishevelled hair and I swallow hard.

“Have you been reading your horoscope again?” Mia asks him and shakes her head as if this is normal – but I guess it is normal for him.

Brody shrugs his shoulders casually as if that didn’t just happen and asks Mia if they need anything from the grocery store.

I’m too consumed by what Brody said to realise that Ace is here. So, when I turn around to find Lexi climbing on top of him at the table, it’s really a slap to the face.

Five days it’s been since I last seen him. No calls, no texts. Nothing. It’s not a surprise, maybe just a disappointment. Although I knew it would eventually go back to this, I didn’t think it would be so soon and out of nowhere. I could have asked Zach or Liv where Ace was, but I didn’t – if he wanted me to know he would have told me.

“Get the fuck off me,” I hear Ace grumble, but Lexi doesn’t move.

My face must be saying it all because Mia’s doe eyes are instantly on Lexi. “Let me,” Mia says, taking the milkshake out of my hand and going towards the table. She turns around, her pink bangs bouncing on the sides and flashes me a wicked smile.

Before I even realise what is happening, Mia places the milkshake down on the table, but it accidently slips from her hand and the thick substance goes over Lexi and Ace.

“I am so sorry,” Mia says in the most unapologetic way while holding back a smile. She doesn’t stay any longer than necessary or offer to clean up the mess.

I’m wide-eyed and lost for words. I grab the closest thing to me which is a dish towel and attempt to make myself busy, wiping the already clean counter.

“You bitch!” Lexi exclaims, immediately jumping off Ace. “You did that on purpose! Did you see that guys??” Lexi turns to look at Ace, Theo and Josh. Theo and Josh look too scared to say anything, instead they slowly shrug their shoulders and don’t make eye contact with her.

Ace on the other hand doesn’t even pay attention to Lexi. He stands up, wiping the small amount of milkshake residue that splattered on his shirt and walks towards the door. He turns his head in my direction and I stupidly meet his gaze; a small smile escapes his lips, but it’s gone before I can make anything of it and so is he.

Are we back to the non-speaking terms again and does that mean our plans for Saturday are over? I can’t help but wonder who he wanted me to meet and it would be a lie if I said I wasn’t excited to get a glimpse into his life. But the thing with Ace is, I never know where I stand and it’s getting tiring to play along.

Lexi doesn’t waste a second, grabbing a few napkins and dabbing her see through white top which had pink, strawberry stains on it. She mutters something under her breath when they get worse and rushes towards the door after Ace.

I get an uneasy feeling at the thought Lexi and Ace together, but I have no right to. We aren’t together, I’m not his girlfriend – far from it. I feel bad for Lexi, but she brings it onto herself. The way Ace treats her is horrible but the fact that she keeps running after him and throwing herself at him shows more about her self-worth than his.

The clearest explanation that I can come up with is that she’s in love with him and I can only wonder how she got to that point. Is he different to her behind closed doors like he is with me? The thought only makes me feel sick, but I don’t discard it because that’s the only thing that makes sense.

Theo calls me over when I finish up, “Hey, chill with us. Feels like I haven’t seen you since…”

“Since class yesterday?” I laugh but slide into the booth where Ace had been sitting before.

My fingers play with the plastic straw that’s on the table, “Ace and Lexi…” I begin, not knowing what I want to say, but wanting to understand how deep their relationship goes and hoping that curiosity won’t actually kill the cat.

“Are not together,” Josh tells me, and my eyes travel to his.

Theo doesn’t think too much of it and begins rambling.

“They’ve known each other for years; they were each other’s firsts. Lexi is in love with Ace, but he’s made it clear that he wants nothing serious even though they act like they’re together most of the time,” Theo explains.

“They aren’t together, they are friends,” Josh clarifies, I almost scoff. There’s that word again.

Friends. Of course.

“Friends that fuck each other every day,” Theo says mindlessly while shoving a chip into his mouth and Josh elbows him in the ribs.

Theo grumbles and furrows his eyebrows, “What the fuck, Evans?”

“They don’t anymore,” Josh adds looking at me intensely and I begin to think that Josh knows something.

“No wonder Lexi is so bitchy lately, she hasn’t been getting any,” Theo says. “But I’m sure they will get it on again, Ace always goes back to her. Might be something to do with the fact that she hasn’t slept with anyone but him that turns hi –”

Josh must have kicked Theo under the table because Theo’s head snaps to Josh and he coughs, “What’s your problem? I almost choked on my food.”

Josh stares at Theo as if trying to communicate telepathically but Theo is clueless and keeps shoving chips into his mouth.

“I should get going, I have studying to do,” I say. I do need to study but I also need some fresh air.

Josh and Theo both offer to walk me home, but I decline, it’s not that far and the neighbourhood is extremely safe.

Knowing more about Lexi and Ace doesn’t bring me any sort of serenity whatsoever and I almost wish that I didn’t bring it up. I need to stop thinking about him and focus on college – that’s what I’m here for, not a boy that can’t make up his mind. I know he’s not just a boy because he’s the only person that makes me feel something other than emptiness. And something tells me that I won’t be able stay away even though I’ll do my best to try.

I walk through the front door just in time to see Lexi walking out of Ace’s bedroom looking a little too pleased with herself. She notices me and her smile gets wider like a kid waking up on Christmas morning. She runs a hand dramatically through her hair as if to fix it, all the while keeping her eyes on me.

I keep my expression neutral and even manage to force a smile, “Hey Lexi.”

She looks at me confused like she was expecting a different reaction and trust me, I’m doing my best to keep it together. My eyes run down her body and my heart clenches when I notice that she’s wearing Ace’s shirt.

I guess old habits do indeed, die hard.

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