East Side Academy

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Chapter 53 - Don’t Kill the Magic

“If you want space (you could have it)/ If you want change (I’ll make it drastic) / Sleep on your bed (I’ll be your mattress) / Bullet to my head (you could blast it) / Ohh! If you want love! (I’ll be tragic) / The way that you love (I can match it) / If you want time (I’ll be elastic) / Tell you no lie (You can have it) / No lieee / Just don’t kill, don’t kill the magic (ohhh) / Just don’t kill, don’t kill the magic (ohhh) / I’m not ready to give up just yet / We could stay until we both forget / So baby, don’t kill, (don’t kill) don’t kill the magic (ohhh)” – Don’t Kill the Magic, MAGIC!


“Would you like some pancakes with your syrup?” James asks me as I pour more syrup on my last pancake.

“Hilarious,” I say, putting the syrup down. I look and see his empty plate. “How did you finish so fast?”

“Because I didn’t order the big breakfast like my hungry girlfriend,” James says with a smile.

“You missed out!” I say, continuing to eat my last pancake. “Glad we were able to finally come out here.”

“Me too,” James says. It’s Saturday, less than a week since we won the championship. James took this Saturday off from work and I found someone to take my shift. We finally made our way out to the sugar shack that I was always wanting him to take me to, and it did not disappoint. Pancakes? Sausages? Eggs? Delicious syrup? Couldn’t ask for much more. And the right company.

My thoughts have been going back to Henri every once in a while. No one has heard from him and he hasn’t been at school this week. I want to know where he is. He can’t just disappear, can he?

“What’s on your mind, Arya?” James asks, always sensing when there is something big on my mind.

“Nothing,” I say, not wanting to mention Henri’s name. He’s already done enough damage.

“It’s Henri, isn’t it?” James says.

“No one has heard from him.” I say, “He just disappeared.”

“Give it time.” James says, “I’m sure we’ll hear from him soon enough, unfortunately. You should focus on winning EOSSA, not some guy who isn’t worth a second of your time.”

“I’ve been to EOSSA twice already.” I say, “I can handle it.”

“Don’t brag.” James says smiling, “I have too.”

My phone goes off and I look to read the text.

‘Can you please pick me up from Alice’s? Mom and Dad are out of town for the day.’ – Mia

That’s odd. Mia always enjoys spending time with her friends. She was sleeping over at Alice’s last night. Maybe she just wants to be at home. She has been fortunate like me to have made some good friends already at East Side.

“I’m sorry, James,” I say, looking at him.

“What is it?” James asks.

“Is there any way we can pick up my sister from her friend’s house?” I say, “She just texted me.”

“Of course,” James says as if it’s no problem at all. “We’ll leave when you finish.”

“Such a gem, James,” I say and then text Mia back that we’ll be there as soon as we can.

“Not really,” James says and I look at him questionably. “My mom texted me about half an hour ago to pick my sister up from her soccer game.”

“When were you going to tell me?” I ask.

“Well,” James says, looking at his watch, “we were going to have to leave in the next five minutes, so,” he thinks on it, “probably the next four minutes. Give or take.”

“I take back what I said. Not a gem, James. Just a pain.”

“You still love me,” James says smiling.

“In your dreams, pretty boy. Okay, I’m stuffed.” I say, pushing the empty plate away from me. “You get the car while I take care of the bill.”

“You know I don’t approve of dining and dashing, Arya,” James says as he gets up and I stick my tongue out to his smiling face. “But I’ll have the car running outside the front door so you can make your quick escape.”

“Just get out of here!” I wave him away.

“Do I have all the kiddies in the car now?” James calls from the front seat as Mia steps into the car.

“Don’t call us that!” his sister Rachel calls from the back. She then turns her attention to Mia. “I’m Rachel. James’ sister. You must be Mia.”

Mia nods. “Nice to meet you, Rachel.”

“Rachel is going to be at East Side next year,” James says to the rearview mirror.

“I can speak for myself, James,” Rachel says and then turns to Mia and they start whispering between each other and laughing, probably making fun of James or the both of us.

“The older she gets the worse it is,” James says to himself.

“Be careful James, you’re sounding too much like a dad,” I joke.

James just looks at me and then looks back at the road, not saying anything. What was I thinking saying that? James took over the father role when he was only fourteen. Of course he sounds like a father. He’s been playing one for two years.

“Tell mom I’ll be home later,” James says to the rearview mirror as he pulls into the driveway of his house.

“’Kay!” Rachel shouts as she hops out of the car, “See you guys!”

The car ride is quiet back to my house. I have things I need to say to both James and Mia, but not in front of each other. Apologize to James and then find out if there is more to Mia wanting to be picked up from her friend’s house.

James pulls up into our driveway. “Thank you, James!” Mia says as she gets out of the car, heading towards the front door.

“No problem!” James calls to her through his opened window.

“James,” I say putting a hand on his. “I shouldn’t have made that comment about you sounding like a dad. Your mom and sisters are so lucky to have you.”

“I’m not upset with you, Arya,” James says and then takes a deep breath, shutting off the car. “I guess I was just thinking about how you are completely right.”

“James,” I say.

“I am like a father.” James says, “I drive my sisters everywhere they need, I took over all the chores around the house my dad use to do, my mom texts me whenever she needs something, I work all the time for my uncle’s construction company.”

“James,” I say and hold onto his hand and kiss it.

“I find it so hard to give you all the attention you deserve when I have three other women in my life,” James says, never looking at me, only looking out the windshield.

“James, you give me more than I could ever need.” I say, “It’s you that I want.”

“I have to tell you something,” James says seriously.

“Don’t sound so serious, James,” I say and he finally looks at me with a serious face and I know there’s no more joking for the next little while.

James - Three Days Ago

“You’re taking this Saturday off?” Uncle Terry says as I’m heading out the door.

“Yes.” I say, “And so are you, I always take the day off when you are off too. This isn’t any different than normal.”

“What are you doing?” Uncle Terry asks, knowing what my answer is.

“Why are you so interested?” I ask.

“You’re going to see her, aren’t you?” Uncle Terry says, “You’re spending the day with her.”

“Not that it’s any of your business,” I say, “but yes. And as lovely as this chat has been, I have to get to the grocery store before it closes.” I turn to leave but Uncle Terry calls me back.

“Wait!” he says, “James, do you honestly think you can keep up with that girl? Do you really think that you are the one to give her everything she wants?”

“What are you talking about?” I say.

“How much time do you have for her, really?” he asks.

“Are you going to go on and tell me again how she’s a distraction?” I say annoyed, “She’s not a distraction. I can manage it. I can manage whatever is thrown at me.”

“That’s not what I am saying, James.” He says, “Do you think that girl likes that you are always too busy for her? That she is a second priority to everything else you do, and you only spend time with her when you can ‘fit her in’.”

“I make time for her,” I say, “I don’t just ‘fit her in’ my schedule.”

“Does she know, James?” Uncle Terry asks, “Does she know that when school is over, things are going to get a lot worse? Does she know that all your time this summer will be dedicated to working and that your spare time from that will be to take care of your family? Oh, and let’s not forget your competitive soccer team on top of that. Does she know this?”

“It’s not that bad,” I say, “I will make time for her over the summer like I did during school.”

“You know this is different, boy,” he says, “She’s going to have all this free time when school is over while you are here working. Do you think she is going to like having an absent boyfriend? You think she won’t stray from you?”

“She would never do that,” I say angrily, “you wouldn’t understand, you’ve never met her.”

“I know her type, James.” He says, “She will drop you once she realizes the type of boyfriend you are. Don’t tell me she hasn’t already complained about how much you work.”

I know Arya, I know how she feels about me and that she would never let me go. But what am I doing to her though? My uncle’s wrong, she won’t get rid of me like how he says, but will she hate me? Will she hide her anger at having a boyfriend that can’t give her all the time and attention that she deserves? She won’t stray, I know that, but will she resent me? That I will selfishly keep her to myself, but I can’t be there for her all the time. What will other guys think? Will they think that James Fox doesn’t care enough about his girlfriend to spend time with her? Will they think that they can move in on her?

I can already see the guys coming up to her, criticizing her absent boyfriend about leaving her alone all the time, and then trying to make a move on her. Arya doesn’t deserve that. She doesn’t deserve to be made to feel like a second option or that she’s not a priority. She deserves to feel like the most beautiful, desirable girl and how can I do that if I can only give her so much of my time?

“James?” my uncle says, snapping me back to reality.

“Sorry,” I say.

“You’ll think about what I said?” he says.

“Of course,” I say, “I should get going.”


“I have to tell you something,” James says seriously.

“Don’t sound so serious, James,” I say and he finally looks at me with a serious face and I know there’s no more joking for the next little while.

“Arya, you are this amazing and beautiful girl that has stepped into my life, and I can’t believe how lucky I am,” James says, and then stops himself.

“You are not breaking up with me, are you?” I ask, scared of his voice, scared of the look on his face.

“Arya, you deserve a guy that can give you all his time,” James says.

“James, please stop,” I say.

“No, Arya,” James says, “just listen to me. Please. I can’t give you all the time you deserve. When the school year is over, I will be consumed with working at my uncle’s company, it will be like a full-time job. And then there’s my family to take care of and soccer of course. You will have more time when school is done, but I will have less.”

“I play soccer too, James.” I say, “I will work more, I’ll take a second job, I don’t care. It’s you that I care about, it’s you that I want to be with. I don’t care if I only get you for a minute every week, as long as I am the girl that gets you.”

“I don’t want you to do that, Arya,” James says, “I don’t want my girlfriend taking extra work when she doesn’t need to. I’m just spelling out the reality for you, Arya. I don’t want you to resent me for keeping you in a relationship with a guy that can’t always be there for you.”

“Your uncle has filled your head with these thoughts.” I say, “I know he has never liked me, but convincing you to break up with me is too much.”

“Arya, please.” James says, “This is not about him and I am not breaking up with you. I do not have the strength to let you go. I could never let you go unless you told me that you did not want to be with me anymore. I am spelling out the reality of a relationship with me and I am giving you permission to let go of me.”


“This relationship will only end if you do it, Arya.” James says, “I do not want to be the one to hold you back, I do not want you to be trapped in a relationship. I do not want you to resent me. I will always care for you, Arya. So I’m asking you to let me go.”

“I would never do that, James.” I say, “I only want you and I will take you any way I can get. I could never let you go. Do you not remember how miserable we were when we were apart?” I stare at James, trying to read his face. “I do have one thing to say to you though.”

“What is that?”

“I hate the way your uncle treats you.” I say, “He’s so controlling over you. He works you to the ground and does not care about you.”

“Do not talk about my uncle as if you know him.” James says annoyed, “He was the one who helped my family when my dad died. He gave me this job to help me and my family. This job is the only way I can afford school.”

“And he knows that!” I yell at James, “He knows that he has this hold on you and he is abusing it! You don’t owe him anything! And you can afford school without him.”

“How, Arya?” James yells at me.

“Another job?”

“No other job gives me as many hours and pays as well!” James yells, heated with anger.

“Maybe because you shouldn’t be working that many hours?!” I yell back.

“I am not having this argument with you again, Arya,” James says sternly, turning to stare out the windshield.

“You’re shutting me out?” I ask and James says nothing. “This is what he wants, James. He wants you as his puppet, he wants you to get rid of me.” James still says nothing and doesn’t look at me. “I’m not letting you go, James. I know it’s not what you want. You know it’s not what I want.” He’s silent.

Feeling frustrated, I get out of the car, slamming the door, and start walking towards the front door.

“Arya, wait!” James calls, getting out of the car and I turn back to him, standing on the stone pathway while he is on the driveway.

“James, I want you more than you can even fathom,” I say, “but it kills me to watch your uncle suck the life out of you.”

“He pushes me because he wants what’s best for me.” James says, “He doesn’t want me to be stuck in this town, he’s pushing me so that I can reach my full potential.”

“And is bailing on your friends your full potential, James?” I say, “Because that is what you have been doing the past two years. Your uncle succeeded in taking you from your friends. I bet he even tried taking soccer from you too. I refuse to let him take you away from me. What would your dad say, James?”

“Don’t you dare say that to me,” James says angrily. “I am doing the best I can with what I have! I can’t be the guy you need so I’m being the responsible one between us.”

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