I Need You To Hate Me

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31. SPEED OF LIGHT

It’s easy to get lost in an idealistic daze when it’s just me and Ace. Time passes by almost at the speed of light and I’m left wondering if any of it was even real. The saying don’t judge a book by its cover is undeniably true, especially with Ace. When we met, I had no idea there would be this side to him and I’m glad I stayed to find out.

I don’t know what to call it, the thing that is happening between us. I like it though; it feels fragile and intense at the same time but good. So good.

“Hey, did you think about that camping trip?” Asher asks me, snapping me out of my thoughts.

“Shit,” I jump almost spilling the hot cup of tea that I’m carrying. He always seems to appear out of nowhere and most of the time it’s when I’m working. It’s like he thinks this is the perfect opportunity to have a conversation. Doesn’t he know what a phone is, instead of showing up to the place I work at?

“Sorry,” he apologises for startling me and cocks his head to one side as if waiting for an answer. I walk to the table in the corner and place the tea in front of a middle-aged woman with glasses. She’s is one of the regulars, she comes in most afternoons.

“Thank you, dear,” she says and gives me a thin smile.

“Hmm…” I hum considering my options, while I walk back to the counter while Asher is still waiting for an answer while following me.

Ace is sitting on the other side of the café with Josh, Lexi and one of her blonde friends. My eyes travel to him and he’s not in a pleased mood, his attention is on Asher. A little bit hypocritical considering the girl he used to fuck on a regular basis is right in front of him but that’s just Ace.

I try to catch his eye to give him a smile but he’s staring at an oblivious Asher like he’s trying to make him drop dead with his mind.

I heard Liv, Zach and Theo talking about the camping trip the other day but I’m not sure if they decided to go or not. It’s for Halloween and I’m not sure about a camping trip that’s filled with very intoxicated college students in the middle of nowhere. What could even remotely go wrong?

“Come on Cals, it’ll be fun,” Asher tells me and he gives me puppy eyes. They don’t work on me, anymore. They used to. Asher never used to act like this, even when we were together. He would always cancel plans that we made to go hang out at parties with his friends, I’m not sure why the sudden change now?

I reach for my water bottle and take a sip.

“Yeah Cals, it’ll be fun,” Mia mimics Asher in a small voice behind me and I hold back a smile. I’m not sure if Asher heard that and if he did, he’s not reacting to it.

Mia and I have grown closer and we spent a lot of time together during work so evidently, I told her about Asher. She is adamant on the fact that he still has feelings for me, but I don’t want to think about that. I made it clear to him that nothing is going to happen between us, he would be an idiot to think otherwise.

I try to think of a reason why I can’t come on this camping trip but before I can say anything, I see Ace and Lexi walk out of the café together and my chest tightens. Relax, I tell myself. They’re just friends and that means Asher and I could be friends too.

“Okay sure, only if you come,” I turn around and tell Mia, making sure she can see my pleading eyes. I don’t want Asher getting any ideas if I agreed to come on this camping trip with him so the only way to combat that is to bring someone else. Plus, didn’t Mia say he was cute or something?

“I – I...” Mia stutters when I put her on the spot and I take the opportunity.

“Perfect, that’s sorted. You should get more people to come with us,” I look back at Asher and he doesn’t look to pleased, almost as if he was hoping it would be just us two.

“Uh yeah, sure,” he says in a flat tone and I give him a warm smile. His eyes light up and he smiles back at me.

“I thought you and Ace are together?” Mia asks me when Asher is out of hearing distance, she obviously saw him leave with Lexi.

“We’re not together like that… and anyway, him and Lexi are friends,” I tell her not even understanding what I’m saying myself.

“But you two had sex two days ago in the middle of the lake?”

“Shhh,” I say looking around, making sure no one heard that.

“I’m just trying to understand,” she shrugs her shoulders and continues making the coffee orders.

There is nothing to understand, we are just spending time together, not putting labels on anything because that’s when everything gets complicated.

“You hungry? Come have dinner with us,” Brody says when we’re closing up, not looking at me as he scribbles something in his notepad, his broad shoulders tensing up when he can’t think of a word.

I look at Mia and she looks just as confused as I do.

“Sure,” I tell Brody and he nods, almost to himself before heading out.

Mia and I close up the store and walk towards her house, “You know, camping isn’t really my thing,” she tells me, her boots clicking on the concrete beneath our feet.

I shoot her a look of worry, “Does it look like it’s my thing? I don’t even have a tent.”

She laughs, “Don’t worry, I’m sure Brody will have one of those.”

When we walk through the front door, it smells delicious. I didn’t realise Brody would be making dinner when I agreed to come.

He serves the pasta into bowls in front of us and glances at me. His piercing blue eyes feel like they are looking into my freaking soul and I instantly drop my gaze to the food.

“The monsters that live in your mind really do exist. They just have the face of a human,” he tells me when I have a full mouth of pasta in my mouth and I almost choke on it.

“Brody! Did you just invite her so you can scare her? There’s a reason why I can’t bring any friends over here,” she says rubbing her forehead in frustration. “You can’t say things like that.”

Brody shrugs and goes back to taking notes down in his notepad while occasionally stabbing the pasta with his fork.

We walk into Mia’s room after dinner and it’s extremely spacious. Her bed is up against the wall and a desk next to it. The rest of her room barely has anything even though there is enough space to have a whole gathering. I guess she likes the minimalistic look.

“So… has Brody always been like this?” I ask Mia. It can only go two way with Brody and neither of the options is something anyone would consider normal. Some things he says, it’s like he can see right through you and the other things, I doubt anyone knows what he’s talking about.

“No, he was in an accident a couple of years ago and he suffers long-term memory loss,” she tells me. “It changed him.”

“An accident?”

“Yeah, I don’t really know what happenes and Brody doesn’t remember much, if anything at all. My family isn’t close with him, so they never really bothered to find out what happened.”

“What was he like before the accident?”

“Much different. The opposite actually. He used to be involved with drugs and gangs, hence why my family cut all connections but he’s a completely different person now, as you can see.”

I nod in agreement. I couldn’t imagine Brody being involved with anything like that but once again you should never judge a book by its cover.

“Did you draw these?” I ask amazed, looking down at the detailed sketches.

“Uh yeah, they aren’t the best..”

“Not the best? They’re incredible,” I tell her.

“I’ve always wanted to be a tattoo artist, but I don’t know… I don’t feel like my work is good enough to be on someone’s skin forever,” she says, sitting down on her bed.

I sit next to her and lean my back against the wall, “You’re not giving yourself enough credit. They really are amazing,” I tell her, looking back to the drawings.

I freeze when she leans in and places her lips to mine.

I can’t move. What the hell is happening?

Her lips are soft and move against mine for no more than five seconds. “Hmm,” she sighs when she pulls away and I stare at her wide-eyed.

“Mia?”

“Sorry, I needed to try something.”

“Try something?” I question her, not angry but extremely confused.

“I’m trying to figure out something,”

“And um… did that help you figure it out?”

“Not really, but it was… nice,” she says and begins drawing on a new page like nothing happened. I’ve never had a girl kiss me before and it felt a little weird. Definitely not something that should happen again. However, it’s almost instantly forgotten and I’m consumed by watching Mia draw.

Ace is in the kitchen when I get home around eleven and his eyes shoot up to me when I walk through the front door.

Suddenly, I’m not sure how to act around him. He isn’t my boyfriend so I shouldn’t act like he is either. I don’t bring Lexi up because I don’t want to be one of those girls who acts clingy after sex. But it wasn’t just sex, it was too intimate for that.

What do I say? What do I do? Why is this so awkward? He drops his gaze from me and to the book in his hand without saying anything.

I walk towards the stairs, unsure if I should say something. I don’t know why I’m nervous around him after everything that happened.

“Sleep with me, tonight,” Ace says, shutting his book and looking at me. “Just sleep, nothing else,” he adds when I don’t say anything.

I don’t know what to do, should I stay with him? Lexi is a part of his life, I can’t stop him from spending time with her, even though it bothers me a little. Maybe a lot. However, I don’t want to overthink things because he hasn’t given me a reason not to trust him. And I’m actually able to sleep without dreaming when I’m with him.

“Okay, I’ll just have a shower.”

“You can have a shower in my room,” he tells me but quickly adds, “if you want. It’s bigger and you can use it… instead of sharing the upstairs one with Liv and Zach.”

I nod, “Okay, I’ll just get some clothes.”

“Okay,” a smile escapes his mouth, and everything is instantly back to the way it is when it’s just me and him.

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