6. BROKEN BONES
“I - I’m - sorry, that was an accident,” I gasp. The cup full of water that I had been holding spilled over my white dress when I threw the punch. Something that I had never done before.
Ace wipes the blood from his nose on the back of his sleeve. A small smile grows on his face when he examines me.
I have to do a double-take, is Ace smiling? But perhaps a ‘smile’ isn’t the right word to describe it. There is a faint curve at his lips and the shadow of a small dimple. On anyone else, it would be at best, a grimace. However, it’s the first time I see him look less than pissed.
It is only now when I come out of shock that I realise that my hand is throbbing.
Asher comes towards me and I hold out my other hand to stop him, “You! Don’t you dare touch me,” I seethe, clearly pissed off.
“Come on, Cals! You can’t blame me for that,” he looks amused with his pathetic crooked smile that I used to be dumbfounded by.
I ignore him and examine my hand. It looks swollen and I could almost go as far as to say that something is broken. I bite the inside of my cheek to get the pain off my hand. I could feel the prickling of tears building in my eyes but I push them back.
“That looks bad,” Ace states looking at my hand.
He opens the freezer and rummages behind all the forgotten alcohol bottles that people had put here at the start of the night. He pulls out an ice pack and wraps a tea towel around it before taking a few strides towards me.
“I’m sorry,” he says, taking my hand in his and slowly placing the tea towel on it. I wince under his touch. It’s warm and sends a strange feeling through me. I quickly take the tea towel with the ice pack into my other hand and break our contact.
I look up at him and manage a small laugh. “You’re apologising when I’m the one who punched you?”
He stares at me and it feels like he’s looking through my soul. His eyes are intense as the first time I saw them and I quickly have to drop my gaze.
“I guess I am,” he says almost to himself.
“Are you feeling okay?” I ask confused by the change of his demeanour. He was nothing but rude and arrogant every other time. Now, I punch him and suddenly he’s... nice? “Did I hit you too hard?”
He laughs. Actually, laughs — the hearty sound sends goosebumps up my arms and I’m left completely flabbergasted.
I definitely had given him a concussion. There is no other explanation for his behaviour.
“You need to get that checked out,” he says. I’m too busy wondering what happened to the Ace whom I met at the start of the week when he speaks again, “Let me take you.”
“Hmm?” My eyes shoot up to him.
“Let me take you to the hospital,” he says.
“Uhh I don’t think that’s necessary,” I reply and try to flex my fingers to show that I am fine but I flinch in pain.
Ace watches me, tilting his head when I meet his eyes. “I guess I should but you don’t have to take me,” I say even though I know that I wouldn’t be able to get myself to a hospital unless I catch a taxi. I didn’t have money for a taxi.
“Come on,” he motions me to follow him and I do, still wary about the sudden change of attitude.
I trail behind him, amazed how people seem to make way for him.
Ace walks towards Zach and Theo, they are talking to a dark-haired girl that I instantly recognise as Ace’s girlfriend. Well, I don’t know if she’s his girlfriend, but one would assume so after witnessing some serious face sucking.
She glares at me when she sees me with Ace.
“Where are your keys? I need to borrow your car,” Ace states looking at Zach.
Zach pulls out the keys from his pocket and hands them to Ace without a pause. “Is everything okay?” He glances from me to Ace — from my pulsating hand to Ace’s nose which still has a little blood on it. “You must have really pissed her off this time.”
“I think she broke her hand, I’m going to take her to a hospital to get it looked at,” Ace replies and I see Zach raise his eyebrows.
“This time, it wasn’t my fault,” Ace adds and puts the keys in his hoodie pocket, along with his hands.
Theo looks cautiously at my hand, “Do you want me to come with you?”
I am about to tell him no. I don’t want to ruin his night and I can tell he’s had a lot to drink but Ace answers for me, “No.”
“How long will you be?” I hear the dark-haired girl ask.
“I don’t know, Lexi,” Ace replies and walks towards the front door. So that was her name, Lexi. She looks from Ace and then eyes me from head to toe — I try to send her an apologetic smile. I don’t want to be a homewrecker but she rolls her eyes, clearly not impressed.
I watch Ace as he reaches the front door and looks back. I suppose he expects me to follow him.
“Should you be driving? Haven’t you been drinking?” I ask when I catch up to him.
“No, I haven’t been drinking,” he says, his single stride is twice the length of mine and I have to speed walk to compensate.
“I still don’t think you should be driving, I may have given you a concussion. We both should get checked out,” I tell him.
He scoffs, “I’ve been hit harder than that.”
I don’t doubt that, with this attitude, I’m sure there had been countless of times that someone would have the urge to swing him a right hook.
My dad being in the law up-keeping profession insisted that I had to know how to throw a punch. “For self-defence,” he assured me when I tried to tell him that throwing fists wasn’t something on my to-do-list.
So one day, we had spent hours on perfecting my technique in the garage. “Keep your knees bent...move your hips and torso.” But most importantly, “Keep your thumb outside of your fist.”
However, he failed to mention that actually punching someone with a great amount of force, was likely to cause more damage to yourself than your opponent. This was evident, at least in my current case. Ace’s face felt like it was built from iron.
Ace opens the passenger door to Zach’s white Subaru and waits for me to climb in. I am not going to lie, I am surprised to see the chivalrous behaviour from Ace. It is almost uncanny and I begin to think that we have got off on the wrong foot.
But I can’t let him drive. I can’t be a passenger in the car at night. For some reason, it triggered the —accident.
“I’ll drive,” I state and hold my hand out for the keys.
He stares at me like I have grown a second hand, “I don’t think so.”
“Ace...” I begin, not knowing how to explain my dilemma.
“Uh I - I can’t be a passenger in a car, at night.”
I know how crazy that sounds and I try to avoid situations exactly like this. I expect him to laugh or look at me like I am insane. I brace myself for him to ask why and my head races for the most convincing lie.
But all he says is, “Okay, but I can’t let you drive with one hand.”
We stand inches away from each other. His hand is on the car door, “Where’s your bike?” I ask and he nods across the street.
“But you’re actually crazy if you think I’m letting you anywhere near the handlebars of my bike in your state. With one working hand,” he emphasizes.
I roll my eyes, “You drive.”
He raises his eyebrows, “Motorbike’s are ok?”
“Anything is ok, just not a car at night,” I specify.
He nods and again, doesn’t ask why. We walk towards his bike.
“I must say, that was quite the punch. Your technique could do with a touch-up,” I am taken back by how quickly he changes topics. I hold back a smile, so he doesn’t see the gratifying satisfaction seeping through me.
“I’m sorry again. It wasn’t meant for you,” I apologise, feeling guilty. I admit I may have fantasised about punching him since I first met him, but I didn’t think I would actually do it.
“Asher wasn’t it?”
“The punch — it was meant for Asher?”
“You know him?” I turn to look at him.
This was the last thing I imagined happening tonight. Having a normal conversation with Ace, maybe he isn’t so bad after all.
“No, I just overheard you say his name.”
“Oh, right,” I say feeling dumb.
Ace places a helmet on my head and the breeze sends the smell of his aftershave towards me — I sharply inhale.
Swinging my leg over and keeping balance with my working hand, I manage to sit on the bike. Ace watches me with amusement and perhaps a little bit of uncertainty but I can’t tell with him.
He starts the bike and I place one of my hands around his waist for support. Instead of feeling weird and uncomfortable, it actually felt somewhat okay.
Luckily it’s not too bad. Just a fracture on my knuckle. Ace isn’t allowed in the room with me because he isn’t family so he’s in the waiting room.
“You must have hit something hard,” the doctor states and I can’t help but smile. The doctor tapes my hand and tells me it will heal within three weeks but to limit using it.
“Can you take me back to the house, I don’t feel like going back to the party,” I state when we are walking towards his bike.
Ace walks with me inside and I wonder whether he is going back to the party. I go to the fridge to get a bottle of water and when I turn around, I bump into his chest.
I feel the need to thank him even though I still don’t know why he bothered with me. But I am hoping that at least we will be civil from now on.
“Thanks for uh, taking me to the hospital — even though you shouldn’t have. I mean I am the one who punched you,” I press my lips together and look up at him.
“Calla,” my name rolls off his tongue and he takes a step closer to me. My eyes instantly travel down to his lips because my name never sounded that good before. His close proximity sends a strange reaction through my body and I desperately try to drag my eyes away from his mouth.
Stop staring at his lips. Stop staring at him.
I blame my irrationality on the alcohol that I consumed, even though at this moment, I feel more than sober.
His lips, which of course I am still staring at — curve into a slight smile. I feel myself wanting him to —
His phone buzzes in his pant pocket — he pulls it out and I get a glimpse of the screen. Lexi. Her name suddenly pulls me back to reality.
Ace answers it straight away, “What?”
I can hear her voice on the other side but I can’t make out what she’s saying.
“I’m coming back now,” he promises and hangs up the call. He doesn’t say anything, just turns around and heads out the door, leaving me standing wondering what the hell just happened.