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The foundation series bo.., p.4
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       The Foundation Series Box Set, p.4

           Kira Adams
 

  As soon as I walked out of the bathroom, I noticed Jace across the hall, waiting for me. I tried to turn on my heel and hide back out in the bathroom, but Jace was lightning fast, and before I knew it, he had me by the wrist. “Peyton, please.” He pushed me up against the wall adjacent to the bathroom. We were so close; I could feel his breath on my ear, my neck. “I’m sorry about what happened at the party, honestly, I am. I had no idea he said those things to you until you ran off in the downpour and I went back inside. You have to believe me.”

  He looked so genuine, so innocent, it was difficult not to immediately accept his apology. When I didn’t respond right away, he continued. “Come on, Peyton. I thought we were friends?”

  The way “friends” rolled off his tongue made me shudder. “I thought it’s not like that with us?” I hissed, which made him back up and grab me by the forearms.

  “We are friends. I don’t know what else you want from me, Peyton! I’m sorry if I gave you any other impression.” He dropped his grip and folded his arms across his chest.

  “Right,” I mumbled, looking down. My cheeks were burning up and I didn’t want him to see what kind of effect he had on me.

  “Look, I have to get to class, are we okay?” He lifted his backpack onto his shoulder and took a step backwards.

  I nodded; defeated. It’s all I had in me. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the last conversation I had with Jace for a while.

  * * *

  A week after the incident at the party and things were finally getting back to normal at my high school. Normal meaning I wasn’t constantly being pointed at or made fun of. There were still instances of pig noises when I walked into a room, but people were already moving on to bigger and better gossip.

  It was lunch time and I sat down at my normal table; the same one my friends and I had been sitting at since the beginning of the term, when something, or rather someone, caught my eye. Jax was sitting there alone, sporting the tail end of his black eye. I looked around anxiously wondering where Madison or Brooklyn was, but it was too late, he had already spotted me.

  “Peyton, just the person I was looking for,” he greeted me in a rather loud tone. I glanced around taking note that I was yet again the main attraction, cringing. Then, I spotted Jace. He was in line at the cafeteria, but his eyes were definitely on us. Everyone was watching us now.

  “What do you want, Jax?” I asked, seeing no other way out of the confrontation than head-on.

  “Just what is it about you that has my brother all riled up?” He shot me a cocky grin.

  “What are you talking about?” I quickly glanced in Jace’s direction, noticing he had taken more of an interest into our conversation by closing some distance between us.

  “You know I took a punch for you.” He pointed to his injury.

  “Don’t act like you did anything for me,” I hissed under my breath, loud enough so only he could hear. I could see Jace inching forward out of the corner of my eye. My cheeks were burning up and I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

  “Oh, she’s got some bite to her!” Jax exclaimed, hurling himself back dramatically. “That must be what it is…I mean look at you, you’re not his normal ‘type’.” Jax used air quotes to prove his point.

  Jace finally made his way to us, grabbing his twin by the shoulder roughly. “What the fuck is going on, Jax?”

  “Oh, I was just getting to know your new girlfriend,” Jax replied, sarcastically.

  Jace’s face was redder than a crimson rose at the mention of me being associated to him in that way. “We’re just friends, and you’re just a douche bag.”

  I shook my head more to myself than anyone, laughing under my breath. If this incident didn’t help me move past the Austin twins…I wasn’t sure what would. I noticed Brooklyn, Madison, and Isaiah off to the side of the crowd. Sympathetic looks spread across each of their faces.

  “What’s so funny?” Jax asked in a condescending tone.

  A voice rose up out of me I wasn’t expecting then, powerful and strong, “Oh you know, for me being so ‘beneath’ you.” I used air quotes to mock him. “It’s funny how much my popularity has skyrocketed just from all your attention and focus on me.”

  Jax looked dumbfounded, unable to form a good comeback. Jace’s expression was a mix of shock and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it looked a hell of a lot like sadness. I didn’t waste another breath on the twins, turning on my heel and heading straight for my group of friends…who by the way, were all smiling ear to ear.

  Four: How Can Someone Hate Football—the American Pastime?

  My Life—My Choice

  I didn’t want to listen to anything they had to say

  It’s my life—my choice, I’m going to live it today

  Nothing’s going to stop me, I’ve waited so long

  This world has changed me, hear the message in this song

  I’m so inexperienced, yet I’m so hungry

  I’d drop everything to live my-my dream

  I’m so close, yet I’m so-so-so far

  Excuse me while I boost this car

  I’d climb mountains just to get there

  Wouldn’t take no as an answer

  I’ll stop fighting when I’m dead

  But for now, I’ll forge ahead

  I wasn’t able to stay away from Jace for long. We still had AP English together and I had to see him bright and early every morning at eight a.m. So, I did the only thing I could think of, I avoided him and pretended he didn’t exist, yet made sure I looked as cute as possible; wearing dresses and makeup every single day. I thought I had a foolproof plan…that was until my teacher Ms. Fink paired us up on a writing assignment together.

  “But Ms. Fink, you don’t understand, can I please be assigned to a different partner?” I begged immediately after class that day.

  “Sometimes in life, Peyton, you have to do things you don’t want to do…and do you know what lesson that teaches us?” Ms. Fink eyed me down through her black framed glasses.

  “I don’t know,” I groaned.

  “Growth,” she whispered as I turned away from her.

  “Ouch.” Jace appeared out of nowhere; kind of like he always did.

  “No offense or anything,” I said quickly. “I just don’t want the drama.”

  He looked back at me with a somewhat hurt expression. “You don’t have to keep acting like I’m the enemy you know.”

  “I know, but it’s more exciting that way,” I replied before walking past him and to my locker.

  It was lunch time and I had every intention on meeting my two best friends there so we could attempt to find some trouble to get into, but the sight of Jax waiting there for me had me turning on my heel faster than I could process a thought.

  What the hell is Jax Austin doing at my locker?

  With my luck, he was waiting to obliterate me after the embarrassment I put him through in the lunch room. Even though we had three classes together, I had managed to avoid him quite thoroughly. I never went to class more than five minutes early anymore, and I was up and out as soon as the bell rang. I didn’t want any possibility of getting into yet another confrontation with him. It had been working quite well, but I still could sense his eyes on me every day—watching my every move; anticipating my next snarky comment.

  I didn’t give him the satisfaction of returning his burning stare. He didn’t deserve anything from me.

  Ever since the lunch room debacle, Madison, Brooklyn, Isaiah and I had found a new location to spend our half hour of freedom. Without another thought, I made my way to the outside courtyard and past the row of elm trees our school had only recently planted within the last few years. They had grown so fast and so tall within that short span of time. They were beautiful.

  I heard Brooklyn’s loud, rambunctious laugh before I even got close. As I approached, all three set their eyes on me. “It would have been nice to know I was supposed to meet you out here!”
I plopped down onto the grass beside my group of friends.

  “Girl, I am so sorry—we saw Jax waiting by your locker and knew there was no way in hell you would be caught anywhere near there. We figured this was the safest bet.” Brooklyn looked genuinely concerned.

  “And no one thought to shoot me a quick warning text?” I took the straps of my backpack off and began to open it, reaching inside for my packed lunch.

  “I texted you like three times…is your phone working?” Madison replied, taking a bite of her bologna sandwich.

  “Seriously?” I asked, quickly retrieving it from the pocket of my jeans. Sure enough, there were multiple unread text messages. As I began to sift through them, I came across a phone number I didn’t recognize. I opened it hesitantly, unsure of its contents.

  For a fatty, you sure move with purpose.

  My stomach was in knots. How in the hell did Jax get my number? I couldn’t imagine anyone else going through the trouble of procuring it just to torture me some more.

  “Peyton, are you okay?” Isaiah asked, obviously catching my sickened state.

  I swallowed deeply before responding. “I need to change my number…”

  “What?” Brooklyn asked, her ears perking up.

  “Jax is texting me. How in the hell did he get my number?” This had to be a worst case scenario. Was I being Punk’d? I thought I had my system down pat for avoiding him and his crazy antics.

  “Are you joking?” Madison asked. Her mouth hanging open in shock.

  “Does this look like a joke to you?” I snapped back, shoving my phone into her face so she could see the demeaning text.

  “That’s it, I’m going to kill him!” Brooklyn jumped to her feet after seeing the spiteful words on the screen of my phone.

  I grabbed her quickly by the arm, stopping her. “No. I don’t need you to fight my battles for me.” As much as I loved her, and I did more than many people in the world, she needed to understand that she couldn’t be the one to solve my problems…I needed to do it on my own.

  “You know that I hate when anyone hurts my best friend,” she said softly, before settling back down into position beside me.

  “I know, and I love you for that…but I will deal with this.” I shot her a grateful look.

  “He’s only fascinated with you because you’re friends with Jace,” Brooklyn stated. I wasn’t sure if we could actually classify whatever Jace and I were as a friendship or an acquaintance.

  Another text rang through to my phone from the unfamiliar number. What’s the matter—can’t think of a good comeback? Where’s your backbone porker?

  “Do you guys know how to block a number?” I wasn’t even sure it could be done, but at this rate, my inbox was going to be filled with insults from the creep. The idea that I was going to have to get a new number was irritating to say the least. I had had the same number for the past three years…since my parents got me my first cell phone. But all good things must come to an end.

  * * *

  Jace and I had been meeting at the local library a few times a week in our preparation for our assignment. It was to craft a short story and then bind it like a real book to which we would present in a few weeks. Although Jace was talented with on-the-spot banter, he wasn’t able to string his words together as eloquently when it came to writing, So we made a deal; he would design the book binding and do all the artwork for it---apparently he liked to draw in his spare time, who knew—and I would write the entire short story. Our plan was working out swimmingly; we actually made a decent team.

  It was so strange to think that he came from the same bloodline as the spawn of Satan. They were so different it was unbelievable. Had they ever been close?

  “What?” Jace asked, referring to my scrunched up nose.

  “Oh, nothing…” I trailed off, looking away.

  “No, what is it?” He pressed, his blue eyes burning into mine.

  “It’s just hard to understand how you can be related to such a terrible human being…” I felt bad as soon as the words left my mouth. “I mean,” I stuttered, trying to find the right words. “You two are like polar opposites—the good versus the evil.”

  He laughed awkwardly, running his hand through his short, brown hair. “He wasn’t always like this…”

  “Really? I highly doubt that…I bet it took him years to perfect his role as the biggest douchebag on the history of the planet.” Okay, maybe I went a little overboard with that. “What happened to him?”

  “Well…after my parents divorced, he just kind of stopped caring. I don’t know what it was like living with my dad after that time, but I have a sinking feeling it has a lot to do with Jax’s behavioral change. Toss in my mother’s accident, and I’m not sure I can entirely blame him…” Jace shrugged.

  “Aren’t you living with your dad too now?” I asked, attempting to tread lightly. I wasn’t sure if any of it was my business.

  He nodded. “I try to stay to myself. My father and I haven’t really seen eye to eye in a long time, and after my mother’s accident he turned into someone I didn’t know. Someone I’m not even sure I like. So, do I get to hear the story before we turn it in or what?” Jace swiftly changed the subject.

  “Yeah, I just want to make sure it is perfect, ya know? I don’t like sharing work of mine when it’s not polished.”

  “Wow, you sound like a professional,” Jace joked.

  “Shut up,” I shot back, smiling lightly.

  “You going to the football game tonight?” He asked.

  “I hate football,” I muttered, hoping he didn’t hear me.

  “How can someone hate football? It’s the American pastime.” He was looking at me like I was an alien from another planet.

  “You’re preaching to the choir. My family loves Sunday football. I have always hated it.” I glanced back at him, and then back at my paper.

  “So tell me this, then.” He paused, scooting his chair closer, keeping his voice low because of our surroundings. “Tell me why you hate it and I’ll back off.”

  I sighed dramatically, putting my pencil down on the table. “It’s boring; I don’t understand the appeal of running from one side of the field to the other.”

  “Oh my God!” Jace threw his head into his hands. “You don’t understand the game at all, do you?” He continued even after his promise, scooting closer once again. “Do you like any sports?”

  I nodded. “I like baseball, softball, basketball even.”

  He looked at me with another shocked expression. “So you like baseball and basketball, but not football?”

  “You’re never going to let this go, are you?” I asked.

  He shook his head no, his hand still over his lips. “I’m not going to give this up until I see you out at a football game having fun.”

  “Good luck with that.” I chuckled lightly to myself, turning back to the story. Honestly, I’d rather saw off my legs than go to a football game where I knew Jax would be the leading star. It would be inevitable he would see me or someone would tell him I was there and who knows what stunt he might try to pull.

  Unfortunately for me, Jace wasn’t lying. Even after our assignment had come and gone, he still made the effort to get me out to a football game. He would send me random texts from the games that were supposed to convey how much “fun” he was having. For the first time I felt like we were building a friendship. After his persistence for nearly a month, I gave in and agreed to go to a football game with my friends. Brooklyn loved football and Isaiah was on the team, so naturally she went to cheer on her man.

  I had butterflies in my stomach the night of the game because it was going to be the first time I would see Jace outside of class, but also because I was terrified of the outcome of potentially running into Jax or any of his posse. My intention was to stick like glue with my friends so he never got a chance to humiliate me. I didn’t tell Jace I was going to be there…I wanted to see the shocked look on his face. I kind of liked keeping him on his
toes.

  What I hadn’t banked on was the sight of Jace and another girl. She looked younger than me by a year or two, and I didn’t recognize her from our small town. I saw them in the stands as we were weaving through the crowd searching for a spot on the bleachers. They were in the middle part of the stands that housed only juniors, seniors, and the popular clique.

  I tried to keep my head down as we passed—but I could feel Jace’s eyes burning into my skull. “Peyton?” I heard him call after me as I walked by. I looked back just in time to see him pulling away from his short, blond bombshell and making his way down the bleachers towards me.

  “Hey,” I mumbled.

 
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