Chapter 8 : The Locker Room
(PSA : The follow chapter features mature themes, so please read at your own risk. This will be my only warning for the rest of the book.)
My eyes shoot open and I groan, turning the other side. I mindlessly reach for my phone, accidentally knocking it over. Completely aggravated, I sit up. My eyes haven’t fully adjusted to the light so I close them, careful not to fall back asleep.
I drag myself out of bed, eyes sealed shut. Fortunately, I had the initiative to iron my uniform last night. If not, I would’ve gone to school with a very wrinkled blazer and skirt.
With my arms holding me up, I examine myself in my bathroom mirror. It definitely wasn’t a good idea staying up all night trying to finish assignments with my skin paying the price. Dark circles formulated under my eyes, while my face felt like sandpaper. Nothing about me today screamed fresh and radiant. I make the impulsive decision to take a cold shower, hoping it would liven my seemingly dead aura.
After applying just enough make up to conceal my panda eyes, I throw my blazer over my shoulder and slide down the stairs. My brothers already went ahead, considering how late I was. Dad lowers his newspaper, sitting by the dining area.
“Late are we?” He asks, cautiously taking a sip of coffee as to not stain his crisp suit. “Eat breakfast first,”
“Can’t, I’m not going to make it to homeroom in time if I don’t leave now.”
“You can’t be late twice. Might as well eat something,” Dad says, wittingly.
“I am eating something,” I point out, grabbing an apple from the fruit bowl.
“Those aren’t for display?”
I roll my eyes and sink my teeth into the apple before speeding off to the garage. Spotting a small, red pouch resting on the passenger seat, I make a mental note to return it to Nikki.
The halls were empty. I sprint up the stairs, panting with my sleeves rolled up. I was already 25 minutes late and homeroom was going to end soon. I quickly catch my breath outside the classroom before pushing myself in. Delicately placing my tardy slip down, I give Mr. Rand an apologetic look.
The class was uncharactisically quiet, their heads tilted down to books I’m sure they weren’t reading. I collapse next to Ace, emptying my bag. He has a serious demeanor, tapping his pencil against the side of his desk.
“What happened?” I whisper.
He snaps out of his thoughts and smiles, “You’re here,”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” I breathe. “Why is everyone so quiet? They’re not even this quiet at the library,”
“Apparently, more than half the class failed Mr. Murray’s Math test and he wasn’t exactly thrilled,”
“Did he mention who?” I ask, nervous that I didn’t pass the paper.
Mr. Murray was the human embodiment of tough love. He was always hard on his students, pushing and pressuring them to be better. The work he assigns is often very challenging and time consuming. Although his approach is quite harsh, it’s proven to be very effective with little to no students failing his class by the end of the year.
“It must’ve been so bad that he couldn’t for the next period,” I joke before yawning.
“Didn’t you say you were too tired to go to school today?” He asks and I ponder for a while.
The exhaustion was starting to take over my body as I sit upright trying my best to keep my eyes open. The pile of books and papers resting on my desk taunted me. I haven’t moved away from this position in 3 hours and my willpower was faltering. I had one last Math paper to do and I was done for the night. If it weren’t for dad’s badgering to spend the day at the Dempsey’s, this would’ve been over by now.
I shake myself awake, blowing a raspberry right after. I quickly slide open my drawer for my calculator before my motivation dissolves. I look through all my other drawers and it was a no show. I close my eyes in realization before letting out a frustrated groan.
I reach for my phone which was laying face down on my desk. It was almost 2 am and I don’t usually stay up this late on a school night.
I hate you. I could’ve been done by now. I type, placing my phone back down.
Who’s this? My phone lights up and my frustration sizzles down. I didn’t really expect Ace to reply at this hour. I start to feel bad thinking I could’ve woken him up.
It’s Jade. Did I wake you? I’m just trying to finish Math.
Oh, hey. How are you doing math without a calculator? He replies, and I roll my eyes. With annoyance starting to build up again, I suddenly regret asking James for his number.
Sorry for borrowing it. If it makes you feel better, I haven’t even started.
Why would that make me feel better? I answer harshly, contrasting the smile that was starting to form on my face.
Idk? Let you know we’re all in this together?
Okay, Troy. I tease.
You should really get some rest. We have school in a few hours.
I frown at the screen. I just wanted to get all my work done so I wouldn’t have anything to worry about in the morning. I check the time again and it would be pretty useless for me to even try getting a reasonable amount of sleep.
I don’t think I’m coming to school. I’m too tired. I finally reply.
Convenient you’re not coming to school on the day you said you’d have lunch with me.
I read the text again in confusion. Surely, I’d remember promising to have lunch with him. I blame my sleep deprivation for my inability to remember past conversations.
Anything to avoid having lunch with you. I joke, despite not being able to recall anything of the sort.
So you sleep on my bed, but refuse to have lunch? I don’t get you. His reply catches me off guard. My mouth hangs open with a gasp.
It’s not my problem you have a crippling hero complex. Plus, I was just sleeping. I point out.
Don’t worry. Next time, that’s the last thing you’ll be doing. My jaw falls to the floor and I stare at the text. I blush so hard it’s painful. I wanted nothing more but to punch him through the screen.
I’m just kidding, Jade. Get some rest.
“I might’ve,” I point.
“All that talk last night about not wanting to go lunch with me, yet here you are.” He whispers.
“Don’t flatter yourself, Wilde. Is it so crazy to believe I’m here to learn?” I counter.
“Did you end up finishing all the work?” He asks.
“Yup, I stole James’s calculator.” I fish out the completed paper from my bag, flaunting it in front of him.
“Can I copy yours?” He reaches for the paper, but I quickly snatch it away.
“No way,” I snort.
“Mr. Murray is going to kill me,”
We walk together to our next class, and I watch Ace mentally prepare. He starts practicing excuses on why he’s not able to submit his homework while my giggles echo in the background.
Regardless of the short amount of time we’ve spent together, every moment with Ace was like being bubbled up in a world of our own. He was almost magnetic, his eyes drawing me in every single time. The way he can get me all jittery just from one look. I begin to have an internal struggle, debating on if what I felt was just a temporary illusion brought about infatuation.
I wrestle with the idea of actually liking Ace. I couldn’t possibly know from the small amount of moments we’ve shared, could I? Though, time shouldn’t be a measuring factor when it comes to relationships. When you know, you know. I shake the lingering thoughts away, shifting my focus back onto the man in question.
Someone interrupts us from behind and I whip my head back. Rhett pushes past the cluster of students, marching in our direction. He exhibits his trademark smile to all girls in the vicinity. Ace towers over me protectively, annoyed we had to wait for Rhett’s delayed pace.
“Yes, Rhett?” I sigh. I saw him yesterday, there couldn’t possibly be anything he needed to talk to me about that couldn’t wait till later.
“You left this at my house,” He smirks, giving me back my dress. I stand in between both of them wide-eyed. This whole interaction was putting me in a bad light. I was right, he couldn’t wait till later because he wanted Ace to see. He was painting a very bad picture of me, to Ace of all people.
“Don’t be late for practice, Wilde.” He taunts, running back to class.
“I can explain,” I breathe, facing Ace who looked at me in disbelief. He purses his lips and strides forward.
“Ace, wait!” I call out, scurrying behind him.
We get to class and he sits away from me. The more he chooses to ignore me, the more assumptions build up in his head. Mr. Murray stomps in with his scowl deeper than usual, dropping his stuff loudly on the desk.
Students pass their assignments down vertically while Mr. Murray walks from one end to another to collect our work. He leans against his desk, carefully scanning through the papers. The papers then get tossed aside while everyone in class was dead silent waiting for him to say something.
“Mr. Wilde,” He directs firmly. Ace looked really out of it, his confident facade was no where to be seen.
“Yes, sir?” Ace replies.
“You’re the only one who didn’t submit the work,” Mr. Murray states. There wasn’t any evident anger on his face, but his tone was bleaker than usual.
“I’m getting rather impatient with your lack of effort in this class,” Everyone shifts their attention to Ace, waiting for him to counter. He stays silent, not looking at Mr. Murray.
“One last chance,”
The lesson goes on, and I can’t stop myself from peering over to him every now and then. Ace didn’t seem fazed at all, focusing on his work for the first time in forever. He occasionally looks out the window, but doesn’t dare look my way.
I felt like my head was going to explode trying to figure everything out. I try distracting myself with the math paper in front of me, but my mind can’t even process the questions. I look at him, telling myself it would be the last time and I start to get frustrated. If only he’d hear me out.
The irritation builds up and I convince myself to let it go. If he didn’t want to talk to me then, so be it. For the first time in this hour, he looks at me and I try to look busy, unbothered. It was a contest on who could care less, pride getting the both of us.
Recess starts and I stare at the mirror inside my locker, watching myself take steady breaths. Was I really going to let pride get in the way of fixing my friendship with Ace? Friendship, acquaintanceship or whatever the hell it was. I sigh, stuffing the dress into my locker before slamming it shut.
I face the door of my locker, unsure of where to go. It was way too early for me to go to class, but too late to try and get some headspace. The football team’s booming laughter from the other end of the hall catches my attention, while I unconsciously try to pinpoint Ace.
“Everything okay?” Nikki startles me, but I’m quick to nod my head.
“Yeah, everything’s good.” I assure her. “Oh wait,” I open my locker again and pull out her pouch.
“Thanks, I’ve been looking for this.” She exhales. I look over her shoulder only to see all of them gone.
“Who are you-” She looks back, trying to figure out who I was looking at.
“It’s nothing,” I say loudly, diverting her attention back to me.
“Okay... Are you sure? You’re acting kinda weird.” She grimaces.
“No no, I’m just tired. That’s all.” I lie. I wasn’t entirely sure how she’d feel if I were to vent to her about to Ace. Plus, there wasn’t much she could contribute. This was between Ace and I.
“If you say so,” She shrugs, doing everything she can to not call out my odd behaviour.
“Dinner at yours tonight?” She asks.
“I’ll text you. I think James is bringing over a girl,” I answer. The only thing true thing I’ve said in this conversation.
“Alright, just let me know. I might have other plans.” She emphasizes on the last word, winking at me. I don’t really want to imagine what she meant by that. She squeezes my arm and walks away just before the bell goes off. I grunt, regretting even coming to school today.
I don’t participate in the rest of my classes, constantly shifting in and out of focus. I know I told myself I wouldn’t care anymore, but that was easier said than done. Knowing Ace was somewhere in school, thinking about a badly painted image of myself was difficult to ignore.
I jump into my senses and decide that I would lower my pride for him. If he wasn’t going to hear me out then at least I did my part. I stare down the clock, watching time move ever so slightly. I slump back into my chair and gaze at the view of the field through the large window. I know what I have to do.
With my dad back, we didn’t have to pick Jeremy and Jace up from the opposite campus. It was his way of making up for lost time.
I arrive at the field and I don’t know what to do next. Frankly, I haven’t really thought through as much as I like to think I did. I stand awkwardly by the opening, composing myself. The whistle goes off and I jump. With nowhere else to go, I dash up to the highest point of the bleachers.
New plan, I was going to talk to him after practice. I wasn’t bold enough to pull him out right now and I don’t think the coach would ever forgive me. James sees me and starts waving. I wave back, silently wishing we didn’t go to the same school. I also spot Nikki on the other side of the field with the rest of her cheerleaders.
I watch and there’s clear tension between Ace and Rhett. Unnecessary tackles back and forth, but Rhett plays it cool, further provoking him.
Practice goes on and I swear I’ve watched them run across the field at least 100 times. Nothing special happens, at least nothing I haven’t seen before already. Coach lets them out for break, and it’s now or never.
Before I can react, a fight breaks out into the field. All the boys run in between them, but they were both too strong. Ace gets to Rhett and throws the first punch. They start shouting at each other, but I can barely make out what they’re saying. Rhett’s fist collides with Ace’s lip and it cuts open. Blood trickles down and Ace swipes his hand over it. He runs to retaliate, but I yell his name out.
“Ace, no please.” I run down the field. I know I’m not strong enough to hold him back, but I try anyway. “Don’t do this,” I wrap my arms around him with my head buried in his chest. I start pushing him backwards, away from Rhett.
“Go, ask her.” Rhett mocks. “Ask her, you coward.” He spits.
Ace clenches his fists, but I warn him against it. “Don’t,” I plead.
“Finish what you started, Wilde! You’re nothing but an insecure cowar-”
“THAT’S ENOUGH,” James bellows, finally stepping in. “Dempsey, go let off some steam. Wilde, get some ice for that.” He motions at his bloody lip.
I put my arm around Ace’s waist, helping him into the locker room. I instruct him to sit on the bench while I bust open the storage room to fetch some ice. I remove the helmet from his lap and push back the hair on his forehead to examine the damage.
He eyes me while I take my blazer off, tossing it over to the side. I keep my eyes on him, swiftly pulling up the sleeves of my polo. I grab the ice pack, and use my finger to lift up his chin.
“What the hell Ace? Why’d you have to punch him?” I lower the ice pack onto the bottom of his eye and onto the upper part of his lip. I could feel his breath on my neck and my heart rate goes up. This boy will be the death of me.
We were centimeters apart and I could hear his heart thumping. He clutches my wrists, and I gulp as he lowers the ice pack away from his face. He narrows the gap between our faces even more and I suck in a breath. He was close enough to touch, close enough to pray he couldn’t hear my thoughts.
“Why’d you have to sleep with him?” He spits, bitterly. His voice was dripping in venom, turning his face away from me. The feeling in my stomach starts to dissolve, eagerly replaced by annoyance.
“That’s what this is about?” I exclaim in bewilderment. “Ace, I didn’t fucking sleep with Rhett.”
His eyes shoot directly back at mine, widened with regret. He was at a loss for words, trying to articulate his thoughts.
“Then why did he g-”
“You didn’t even give me the chance to explain,” I exclaim.
I point a finger at him silencing him.
His lips crashes into mine and my eyes widen. My body instinctively kisses him back and I let every emotion pour out. My hands travel from his chest to his neck. I tug on his hair, pulling him closer towards me. He wraps his hand around my waist, lowering me down to his level. I end up straddling him, the fabric of my short skirt bunched up on either side.
He picks me up while I wrap my legs around his torso. He moves to my neck and I moan into his ear. My back crashes against a locker while he holds me up. He cups my cheek and kisses me like I was the only thing pinning him down. I slowly unbutton my polo as he plants small kisses all over my collarbone.
“Ace,” I breathe.
“God, Jade.” He groans, snaking his hands up to my neck.
My bun unravels, brown locks cascading down to my chest. I peel his shirt off him, leaving nothing but his chiseled body. He pauses, giving me the chance to think this through. My mind loses its function and I tiptoe, reaching to kiss him. My hands roam his back freely with my nails sinking deep. He sucks on the tender spot below my ear and I gasp.
“Say my name,” He exhales, sucking harder on my neck.
“A-Ace,” My breath hitches. “You’re going to leave a mark,”
“Good, they’ll know you’re mine.”
His lips find their way back into mine and my eyes were clouded with pure lust. He grips my thighs from under my skirt and butterflies fill my belly. I was in a daze, holding onto him while he ravaged my neck.
A creak from further inside the locker room snaps me back to reality. With my moral sense crawling back, I jump off of Ace completely breathless. His state wasn’t any different from mine, tousled hair and reddened marks around his body. His eyes lock into mine, and I had to get out of there before they lure me in for more.
I backtrack away from him, sprinting to get my blazer and out of the door.
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