38. CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE
Falling in love isn’t a process, it just strikes. You can’t plan for it or anticipate when it’s going to happen. Your heart just catches alight in single moments. Anywhere. Anytime. And at this moment, my hands are wrapped around Ace’s waist and my head is buried in the crook of his neck, hiding from the frosty air that’s nipping at the tip of my nose.
It’s hard to believe that I have only known Ace for a few months. It feels like we have been best friends our whole life. I feel so comfortable around him and something kept drawing me to him, right from the very start.
We don’t drive for very long, maybe fifteen minutes when I feel the bike slow down and I finally lift my head up, opening my eyes, looking around. The lampposts light up the unfamiliar town and even though it’s late, there are people walking, enjoying the fresh air.
We pull up in front of a small ice-cream shop, the exterior of the building is light blue and the bright pink neon sign that says OPEN hangs on the glass door.
Ace cuts the engine and climbs off the bike. He holds out his hand for me to take as if it’s something we have been doing all our life, however, the feeling that comes when I take it is anything but normal. No matter how comfortable I am around Ace and no matter how much time I spend with him, my insides always dance with fire when he touches me.
“Best ice-cream you will ever taste,” he tells me, a smile appearing on his face.
“You’ve been here before?” I ask when he leads me inside.
“Yeah, I use to come here all the time with my dad when I was younger,” he says, his tone changing at the memory. I want to know more about his childhood, about the things that made him happy. I want to be the person that he can talk to about anything.
My eyes scan the ice-cream shop, it has a vintage-retro vibe. The chequered floor tiles bring out the baby pink tables and light blue seats. The young female behind the counter greets us and my gaze is instantly drawn to the variety of colours and flavours. There isn’t just all the flavours but all the possible combinations too.
It takes me ten minutes to decide what flavour I want, Ace doesn’t complain, he just waits occasionally rubbing my lower back.
Ace opts for a chocolate milkshake with cookie dough ice cream mixed through it. I think we’re going to sit in one of the booths but he takes my hand leading me outside. We cross the road and I realise we’re walking towards the park.
There are lights on the ground, illuminating the path and he doesn’t let go of my hand, instead, he grips it tighter.
I bring the ice-cream cone to my mouth and before I have time to taste it, Ace pushes my elbow making the ice-cream go around my mouth and on my nose.
“Ace!” I shoot him a look of annoyance and he flashes me a boyish grin, his eyes sparkling under the streetlight. He turns facing me and walks backwards, just far enough so I can’t reach him.
“Payback,” he winks, and I realise he’s talking about the whipped cream incident. However, that doesn’t stop me from frowning and his expression instantly changes, from amused to concerned. He stops in his tracks, letting me catch up to him with a few steps and he reaches for me, in a soothing manner.
My mouth twists upwards and I bring the ice-cream up, smearing it all over his pretty face. The look he gives me is priceless, “Now you’ve done it,” he tells me and grabs me by the waist, pulling me closer towards him.
He leans down and kisses me slowly, the combination of strawberry and chocolate is mouth-watering. But the way Ace kisses me is even better, making my body ache for more.
He pulls away for a moment, looking down at me intensely, he runs his fingers down my cheek, “Hmm strawberry. My favourite,” he tells me and brings his lips back to mine.
“You and Lexi,” I begin when we’re walking again. I want to ask him about their relationship, maybe if I understand it, I won’t feel the way I do when they spend time together. “Have you ever dated?”
“No,” he answers firmly. “It’s not like that.”
“What’s it like?” I ask him.
“We have been friends since we were children and I guess we decided to try stuff together because it just made sense. I never liked her like that though. Our feelings are platonic.”
“Doesn’t seem like it,” I think but I realise I say it out loud.
“They are, at least on my end,” he reassures me. “She just doesn’t have many people that she can rely on and she’s been through a lot,” he tells me.
I leave it at that, I don’t want to be talking about Lexi. I’m here with Ace and that’s all that should matter. I would never ask him to not be friends with her just because it makes me feel uncomfortable, it’s something that I will have to get over myself.
We walk around the park in silence but it’s enough just to be in his presence. He seems a bit tense like there’s something on his mind but I don’t want to pry if it’s something he’s not ready to share with me.
We get back to his bike and he smiles. He picks me up and places me in front of him like I am going to ride the bike. I have never done this before. “What are you doing?” I ask him but he doesn’t answer. Instead, he brushes his lips against my hair and turns the key, making the bike roar to life.
“Ace, I have never —” I try and say over the engine. He places the helmet on my head, and I realise my heart begins to race with excitement instead of fear.
“Do you trust me?” he asks me and takes my hands placing them on the handlebars with his hands on top of mine, waiting for me to answer.
“Yes,” I reply, I completely trust Ace. And maybe that should terrify me but all I can feel is anticipation.
“I got you,” he reassures me and with that, he rolls the throttle towards us, the bike slowly taking off and the cold breeze smacking me in the face.
I keep my eyes open, unlike the other times and watch the road hover beneath us. Everything feels too good, too comfortable, like something bad is coming but I shake the thought out of my head not wanting to think about it.
It’s not until we have been driving for five minutes that I realise we’re not going back to the campsite. We are on a long, straight road and Ace tightens his grip around my right hand, which is on the throttle, pulling it towards us.
The speedometer begins to climb, and my heart begins to pound faster with the rise of the arrow. We pass sixty miles per hour and I take a deep breath.
I should feel scared but all I can feel is the closeness of Ace’s chest against my back and the adrenaline racing through my veins.
Eighty. The bright-full moon lights up our path, making everything clear as if we were driving in clear daylight.
My hands tighten around the handlebars and I can almost feel Ace’s warm breath against my neck.
We’re travelling at incredible rapidity and Ace loosens his right hand, giving me all the control of the speed, however, still maintaining control of everything else.
I’m not sure what comes over me but I want to go faster. Maybe it’s the adrenaline or maybe it’s the way that Ace makes me feel like I’m invincible. Like nothing bad could happen when I’m with him. Like we’re the centre of the universe and it’s just me and him.
And I twist the throttle, gradually bringing the speed up to one-twenty. It feels like we’re flying.
I go to accelerate even more, “Ahh easy, baby” Ace tells me, his voice is low in my ear and he brings his hand back over mine, his voice sending goosebumps down my arms, bringing me back down to earth.
I watch the speedometer drop and Ace rounds a corner, taking the bike onto a gravel path. It’s not long before we pull up to a large wooden cabin and Ace turns off the bike. It’s then that I realise he was never planning on camping and I don’t mind it at all.
He jumps off and waits for me before walking up the steps towards the entrance. He pulls out his phone, turning on the flashlight feature.
Ace picks up the mat that’s near the front door searching for something, a key? He runs a hand through his dishevelled hair in frustration and checks under a pot plant.
“Fucking prick,” he mumbles underneath his breath before forming a fist and colliding it with the smaller glass window near the door.
The glass shatters causing the security alarm to go off, “Fuck,” Ace swears.