☠ Chapter Fifty-One ☠
➳ ARIELLE'S POV
Yesterday plays over in my mind again as I zone out at whatever's playing on the television. Sighing, I fiddle with the remote in my hand, desperately wanting a distraction from the drama.
After running out of the warehouse and towards the safety of the police yesterday, Janet and some other unnamed officers removed the wire from me. But the moment they saw the look on my face, along with the briefcase still in my hand, they knew something was wrong.
I hesitated to tell them the truth, knowing just how horrible the truth really is, but I felt like I had to. I mean, these were police officers, which meant that they'd most likely find out one way or another.
The rest of the evening was spent in the company of Janet, telling her my entire past with Sullivan, or as we now know, Ezra. Though it was horrifically painful to recount it all again, I knew that it was the right thing to do. Janet seemed pleased with the fact that they had some new background on him, and I can only hope that my help will lead them to catching him.
Janet even brought up something else that made vile rise in my throat . . . she asked whether or not I'd like to place charges against him. She said the statute of limitations wasn't up for that crime, and when I told her that he danced around a confession on the wire, she said that could seal his fate.
But I've battled with the thought before. I don't want to campaign against him in court, I don't want to relive it all, and I especially don't want to recount everything that happened to me during my childhood in front of an entire crowd of strangers. I don't want the looks of pity, the empathy—I just want to put it all behind me. I want to forget it ever happened. It's taken me years to even regain some sort of normalcy since those events, I don't want to backtrack.
And so I told Janet I didn't want to press charges. She seemed awfully displeased with that response, and after pressing me for another hour and realizing I wasn't going to budge, decided to drop it. She told me she hoped whatever I got on tape would seal the deal—effectively ending his life as he knows it. I hoped so too, wanting him to end up in jail, and out of my life for good.
Now here I sit, maybe twelve hours later, pretending to watch some TV show in a desperate attempt to distract myself from thinking about yesterday, and Ezra. I baked a cake, I did laundry, watched a movie—all of it in an attempt to forget, even just for a moment, but none of it has worked.
But just as I'm feeling completely hopeless, I hear the front door open along with Louis' voice. "Oh, fuck she was a fit one."
I hear a familiar chuckle. "I dated her mouth for a month or two," Zayn comments.
I cringe and roll my eyes, turning to face the front of the house so that they'll see me sitting on the couch once they step around the corner.
"Seriously?" Louis questions, sounding a little surprised.
"Yeah, back when she was a dancer . . . or liked dancing or some shit."
"Meh, the only dancing I like involves a big shiny pole and a woman with daddy issues. " Louis responds.
"Kinky little bugger." Zayn stops mid-walk when he spots me sitting and listening eagerly from the sofa.
I purse my lips, raising my eyebrows and giving the two of them a wave. Louis seems a little embarrassed, but Zayn just smirks before his gaze wanders down to my mouth. He bites down on his lip as he walks past me. "Hello Arielle," he rasps as he passes.
"Shit, I'm sorry you had to hear that Ari," Louis apologizes. He gives a breathy laugh while scratching at the back of his neck, avoiding eye contact with me.
I lazily wave a hand at him, non-verbally telling him to not worry about it. "So, what are you guys up to?" I question, hoping they have something planned so that I can tag along.
Louis shrugs his shoulders, walking over to Zayn who's helped himself to a beer inside our fridge. Zayn keeps eye contact with me as he sips on his alcohol and I feel the blush creeping up my neck as I remember what happened the last time the two of us were alone together. I suddenly get shy, looking away from him.
"Are we still going, mate?" Louis asks. I look back at the two of them in the kitchen just as Louis playfully punches Zayn in the arm. Zayn winces, and guilt washes over Louis. "Shit! Fuck, I'm sorry! I thought since the sling was gone you were alright. I wasn't thinking."
"It is," Zayn answers. "I just . . . agitated it the other day, I'll be fine." Zayn looks at me as he refers to the incident between the two of us when we were making out intensely and he lifted me up against the wall, only to end up injuring himself.
The thought reminds me of the fact that he admitted to having a wank at the thought of me, and if I wasn't flushing before, I am now. I bite my lip and grab my drink on the coffee table, using it as a distraction. But I feel Zayn's eyes on me the entire time.
"So, should we get going then?" Louis asks.
I perk up at the mention of them having plans. When I look up at the two of them, they're both hovered over their phones. Zayn isn't on his for long, looking up at me with that infamous smirk of his. My phone vibrates against the couch cushion and I immediately look up at the raven-haired boy as he quirks an eyebrow.
Zayn: little bit flushed there, babygirl?
I look up from my phone to give him a warning filled glare.
"What's going on then?" Louis asks, slipping his cell phone into his back pocket. "Are we going?"
"Arielle, would you like to come with us?" Zayn asks me.
"Go-karting," Louis responds with a huge grin. "You could call up Zoe if you'd like, see if she'd want to come."
I stand from the sofa, quickly shutting the TV off and sauntering over to the two of them. "You sure?" I question.
"About you coming? Yeah." Zayn answers sarcastically. I give him a glare and he breaks out in a big smile, along with a small fit of laughter.
"It's fine. We're fine. Just call her. I don't want you feeling left out because you're the only girl there." Louis says with a wave of his hand.
As if . . . I'd probably feel more comfortable with just the two of them. "Alright," I answer.
Lifting my phone out of my back pocket, I quickly dial Zoe's number. On the third ring, she answers with a, "hello?"
"Would you be interested in go-karting with the guys and me?" I ask with hesitation.
But she responds with zero hesitation, "yeah! That'll be so much fun!"
"I'm assuming we'll be picking her up?" I look at the boys and they both nod their heads, but Zayn doesn't without rolling his eyes. He gives me this little look–eyes going wide, brows raising, lips curling upwards. I'm not entirely sure what it means, but my stomach does an involuntary flip.
"We'll pick you up in ten minutes," I tell Zoe.
"Okay!" She squeals out, and I close my eyes and hold the phone away from my ear because of the overwhelmingly high pitch. I'm quick to hang up.
Louis can't help himself anymore, he's clutching his stomach in a fit of laughter. Zayn's managed to break out into a smile, shaking his head as he desperately tries not to laugh as hard as his friend.
"Jesus Christ," I mutter, and that's what sets Zayn off. He curses and the raucous laughter begins to fall from his lips as well.
"You guys are assholes." I'm trying my best not to laugh–because I know that they're both laughing about Zoe, and it's mean–but I can't help it. A smile is etched onto my face as I struggle to hold it back. But when Zayn looks at me with that adorable smile he has where his tongue is tucked behind his teeth and his eyes are almost closed I can't help it. I laugh with the both of them until my cheeks hurt and we're running late to pick up Zoe.
"Okay, we've got to get going," Louis says, but Zayn and I are still too distracted with catching our breath, so much so that we ignore him. "C'mon!"
That pulls me out of the fit of laughter, and I walk towards the door to slip a pair of shoes onto my feet and grab my sunglasses off the desk near the front door.
"Whose car are we taking?"
"Mine," Zayn immediately answers, grabbing his keys from his back pocket.
I immediately charge at the front door like a child, and somehow Louis catches on because he chases after me. "Shotgun!" I yell out.
"The fuck's wrong with you two?" I hear Zayn shout from behind us, but I ignore it, scurrying towards his Camaro on the driveway and hopping into the passenger's seat triumphantly.
Louis falters, just steps behind me, but he plays off his loss. "Ladies first," he says with an extension of his arm and a raised eyebrow.
"Oh, face it. You lost."
"Did not," he pouts. "I was being a gentleman."
"As if," I scoff.
"Just push your seat forward, Ari."
Zayn steps out of the front door then, locking the door behind himself using his own spare key, being the responsible one of the three of us all of the sudden. When he's done locking up and begins the walk to the car, he notices me sitting in the passenger's seat and his lips curl upwards. "She kicked your ass, didn't she?" He gives Louis a sly smirk as if to rub it in his face.
Louis looks at me with mouth agape. "I told you, I was being gentlemanly," he whispers. "Don't ruin my rep with–" he notions his head towards Zayn and I chuckle.
"Just get in the car, Louis." I push the back of my seat forward to allow him entrance into the vehicle and he does just that, positioning himself in the seat behind myself.
Zayn walks around the car and gets inside. It's hard not to stare as he adjusts his leather jacket, puts on a pair of sunglasses, and starts the car up. I always thought he looked perfect in his Skyline, but now that I see him behind the wheel of this muscle car I can't deny that I think he looks even better. The way he looks like the absolute epitome of a bad boy, with tattoos littering his skin, and still healing cuts on his knuckles, and a skull shaped ring wrapped around his one finger, and cigarettes hanging out of his pocket.
I notice that he's still wearing the ring I gave him for Christmas. The sight makes me smile, and I look away as I grab hold of his necklace around my neck. I hide my grin in the crook of my neck, but I jump in fright when I feel my hair being lightly pulled. I twist in my seat to give Louis a glare.
"What are you doing?"
"Nothing," he shrugs. He purses his lips to hide a smile, looking away as if he's innocent.
I decide it's best to pay no attention to him, and so I turn back around in my seat just as Zayn turns the radio on. I roll my window down as we hit the highway. The second I stick my head out the window, Zayn's foot presses harshly on the gas and I inadvertently let out a loud squeal. I don't retract though, I enjoy the way the warm Miami breeze feels against my skin, and the passing cars, and the hum in my ears, along with the sound of pure, gnarly, raw engine.
But my fun is over too quickly as we roll up to the campus. I choke when I spot a man with a shaved head, with a stance similar to Chef Wilson's. "You alright?" One of the boys asks as my vision blurs for a moment. I close my eyes and inhale deeply once or twice. Opening my eyes, I inspect the man closer, only to realize it's a student.
I swallow hard, responding a weak, "yeah."
I scan the entire campus, and I'm thankful that the only familiar person I spot is Zoe, running towards us. She's grinning wildly, and she yells out my name. I cower down in my seat, absolutely terrified that Chef will hear her calling out to me. He'll find me. My heart goes rampant inside my chest, and I feel my breathing start to get out of control. But no one in the car seems to notice.
Zoe doesn't seem to notice either as she charges at the vehicle, opens my door, pushes my seat forward without asking. "Move over," she tells Louis.
I clutch at my chest, focusing on the pattern covering my shorts. Zayn's hand suddenly softly grips onto the bare portion of my thigh, and I look up at the sea of caramel. He raises his eyebrows and nods his head, nonverbally asking if I'm alright. I weakly nod my head, letting out an exaggerated puff of air. He removes his hand from my body, as Louis and Zoe adjust themselves in the backseat, completely oblivious to what just happened.
"Well, let's go," Zoe says.
I watch Zayn's jaw tense, and I'm positive it's because of Zoe. He's lost all of the memories he'd previously accumulated of her, and yet now that he's creating new memories of her, his opinion of her has stayed the same. He didn't like her before, and he clearly doesn't like her now. It's just strange to think that despite the fact that he's suffered from amnesia, he still seems to follow the same path when it comes to certain things.
The drive to the track is relatively quiet, with Zayn focused on driving, Zoe surprisingly being quiet while completely lost in her phone, Louis occasionally fiddling with my hair through the headrest, and I'm focused on calming down from my panicked state earlier. When we arrive though, Zoe suddenly seems irritated as she scowls at Louis, "stop." She believes she's whispered it quiet enough for neither Zayn nor myself to hear, but since I hear it, I know that Zayn has as well . . . unless he's managed to tune her out.
Zayn parks the car and shuts it off. I get out of the car, pushing my seat forward to allow both Louis and Zoe to exit the vehicle. Louis does it quietly, but Zoe over-dramatically pushes the seat and huffs out in annoyance. She doesn't even wait for the rest of us as she speed-walks towards the entrance.
"What crawled up her ass?" Zayn asks, walking around the car with a cigarette balancing between his pink lips.
Louis looks at Zayn with his eyebrows raised. He shrugs his shoulders, lips pursing to stop the smirk that eventually covers his face. He knows exactly what happened. It's fairly obvious that he did something in the car that pissed Zoe off but he's not going to admit what he did.
It makes me wonder why exactly he told me to invite Zoe. I thought him and Zoe were alright, but yet here they are, fighting despite the fact that they have nothing to fight over. Louis didn't want to be with Zoe, and Zoe didn't want to be with Louis so what do they have to fight over if the breakup was mutual?
I roll my eyes, knowing that since Louis just had to piss off Zoe that now she'll probably be pissed off for the rest of the day. She was like that, always holding grudges even when she knew she was just being totally overdramatic.
"No, seriously, what'd you do to the poor girl?" I ask, crossing my arms over my chest.
"Poor girl?" Louis questions with a chuckle. "She cheated on me, I was only repaying some of the gunfire." Louis pulls his phone out of his pocket and begins scrolling through his text messages, eventually clicking on a photo.
"Gunfire? What are you talking about?"
"Shit," Zayn curses as he looks at the picture, and I already know what's coming.
Louis locks his cell phone, avoiding me from sneaking a glance, but I stop him. "I want to see."
He hesitantly unlocks it, bringing up the photo for me to take a glance at. It's of himself under some bedsheets, presumably naked alongside another naked, sleeping body—a woman. She looks pretty, with long blonde waves and full lips. I scoff at the notion that Louis would rebound so quick, pushing his phone away from myself to show just how repulsed I am.
"You're a pig," I comment.
"What kind of bullshit is that?" He quirks an eyebrow, shoving his mobile back into his pocket. "She's allowed to cheat on me, make me feel like shit, but I can't have a shag–being single, may I remind you–and rub it in her face a little?"
"That's not the point, Louis. Couldn't you have just been the bigger person?"
Zayn laughs at that, and Louis glares at him as if he'll miraculously light on fire.
"I could have," Louis shrugs. "Guess I didn't want to be."
"I don't get you two."
"Nobody asked you to, Ari." He replies. "I don't know what to tell you." He shakes his head, "we obviously should've just never started seeing each other."
"Obviously," I snap back.
"I'll talk to her, alright? I don't want her ruining everyone else's day."
I feel like snapping back that it's his fault she's even in a bitchy mood to begin with, but I decide it's best to just keep quiet. Louis claims that Zoe cheated on him, and by the sound of her earlier admission to me she did. Maybe she didn't cheat in the physical sense, but she had admitted to having feelings for another man, which would be an emotional type of infidelity.
I think back to the night when Louis and I went out for drinks. The next morning was when I found Louis exiting from a hotel room at the same time I was. I was fresh off a one night stand with Harry, and my suspicions that Louis had just had his own sexual encounter were strong.
I'm tempted to throw that in his face again. I'd like to accuse him of his own infidelity, but I know that all I have are accusations, but no concrete evidence. I'm sure if the two of them stayed together, I would've ended up confessing my suspicions to Zoe, but now that they aren't together anymore, I'm not sure that Zoe needs to know. Yes, she has the right to know it, but I know that telling her would only hurt her. It'd make her feel insecure, and angry, and I don't want her to go through that.
"Let's go in," Zayn says, dragging once more on his cigarette before killing it underneath his boot. "Are you ready to have your ass kicked?" He teases Louis.
I walk in front of the boys, keeping an eye out for Zoe. I spot her, already inside and waiting for the three of us to come and pay.
"Nope, you have it backwards."
"You both have it wrong," I mock. When I turn around to look at the both of them, Zayn's eyes are slow to wander upwards, where they were obviously focused on my ass.
"Is that so?" He asks, smirk playing on his lips.
I nod my head, "absolutely."
"Would you like to make that interesting?" Zayn quips.
I pause for a moment, furrowing my eyebrows. "And how would you propose we do that?"
"Bet on it. If I win, you've got to get a tattoo . . . anything I choose."
"A tattoo?" I choke. "Seems kind of serious for a bet like this." My mind instantly races at the thought of losing to him. If I did lose the bet, what would he make me tattoo on my body? Would it be something ridiculous and ugly? Or would he be sensitive enough to make it something a little more normal?
"What's wrong? You scared?" He teases with that damn smirk on his face again.
I let out a heavy breath, keeping eye contact with him. "Alright. Then if I win, you've got to do two things that I choose." We've stopped walking by now, with Louis staring between the two of us as I place my hands on my hips, smirking right back at Zayn.
"What would those two things be?" He asks me.
I shrug. "Whatever I want them to be. You'll find out after we find out who won."
"Well that's not fair," he comments.
"What's wrong, Zayn? You scared?" I mock.
"Of course not." As Zayn speaks, Louis inaudibly excuses himself and I assume it's to talk to Zoe. After Zayn's agreement to the terms of our bet, I turn to walk away from him. I have to close my eyes, as a shudder rips up my back when I feel Zayn's hot breath against the back of my neck.
"You're on, babygirl."
When the two of us arrive at the track, we pay our way in. Louis offers to pay for all of us–citing the fact that he pissed of Zoe as the reason why, although he didn't let Zoe know that was the reason. When we're in the gear and about to put on our helmets, I spot Louis and Zoe, who're fighting a few feet away from us.
"Should we wait?" I ask Zayn, who seems just as impatient as I am to get inside a kart. I'm too excited to get inside the machine and race Zayn, who honestly believes he's going to beat me.
"No," he replies quietly. He grabs my wrist in his hand, pulling me towards the track. "C'mon, we have a bet to settle."
The worker allows us entrance, and we're able to choose the kart we want. Zayn chooses a lime green one, while I choose one that's jet black. It just so happens that our karts were side by side, and we watch each other as we put our helmets on our own heads. He's quick to secure his chin strap, but I struggle a little and so he takes it upon himself to step forward and tighten mine for me.
I flush wildly, but I don't think he notices because he's trying to focus on securing my helmet. "Is that good?" He asks, and pulls his hands away. I instantly miss the feeling of his skin against mine as he takes a step back, still somehow looking hot as hell in a helmet–which usually makes everyone look ridiculous, everyone but him.
"Mhm," I nod. "You ready to have your ass kicked?"
He smirks as he looks down at the ground. After a second or two he gets into his go-kart without saying a word. Once he's secured in his machine, I hear him say, "it's your perfectly perky little ass that'll be getting kicked."
I get into my own kart, strapping myself inside. Looking around, I realize that no one else will be racing with us, and so it'll just be Zayn versus myself. This'll be perfect for settling this bet. My mind races with what I could make him do if he loses, but I think I already know what I'd like him to do.
Together, we pull our go-karts to these little markers just outside the area where the other karts are parked. We use it as a start and finish line. "So how many laps?" Zayn asks.
"Three?" I suggest.
Zayn's quick to nod his head. "Alright."
He nods his head. "Count of three?" He waits for me to respond, and when I nod my head he starts. "Three."
"Go!" We both yell out at the same time, immediately pushing down on our gas pedals.
The track is in a sort of misshapen circle, and so I know that the laps will be short. I try to figure out a strategy, and after the first corner–which I take easily, just behind Zayn–I've got my winning strategy. I slowly begin to pull back after the second large corner, and Zayn looks back at me with a smirk plastered on his face.
He thinks he's got this.
He becomes cocky, taking the next corner wide, all the while slowing down a little. He's now just in front of me, but by his own means–because he decelerated enough that I've easily caught up to him. While we're on the next straightaway, he moves his kart over a bit, almost so that we're side by side. "Slow car there, Arielle?" He yells over the sound of our engines.
I pout my lip over-dramatically. "Not fair! You knew this car was slow, didn't you?"
"Well, I knew this car was the fastest!" He yells, speeding up a little as we round the next corner.
There's only one lap left, so my chance to speed up and pass him is soon. As we handle the straight section, I begin to push down harder on the accelerator. Zayn looks back in confusion as I catch up to him, but I push down all the way, succeeding in whipping right past him.
"The fuck!" He yells out, pushing down on his own gas pedal.
I'm fortunate in being able to hold onto the lead up until the final corner, when I realize that Zayn's right behind me. I curse, attempting to accelerate even more, but it's useless. The kart can't go any faster, and it seems like Zayn is only getting faster as he pulls up beside me on the final straightaway.
When I look at him, he's focused. He's got that intense look that always overwhelms his face whenever he's in his car–the one where his jaw is tense, his knuckles are white, eyebrows furrowed in concentration, and eyes staring wildly at the road in front of him. I try to focus on the finish line, but Zayn's car continually keeps creeping up alongside me. I positive that at this rate I'm going to be getting a new tattoo inked into my skin.
But that can't happen. I attempt to push harder against the pedal–so hard that it brings pain to my foot, and it miraculously pushes me a smidgen faster. With the finish line approaching, I look back over to Zayn who looks back at me this time. His face flashes an egotistical grin, as if he's so sure that he's got this. However, at this rate he'll win.
And that's exactly what happens.
"Dammit!" I yell out, smashing my fists against the dashboard of my go-kart. How stupid could I have been to make this bet?
Zayn knows it too as he looks over at me with a smirk plastered on his stupidly handsome face. "I guess you're getting a tattoo then, babygirl."
"Shit," I mutter. Desperately, I try to think of a way out of it. I'm positive that I've got it once I spot Louis and Zoe–seemingly getting along–standing at the fence just outside the track, observing us. "How about we up the stakes?" I offer to Zayn.
He looks at me, intrigued. "How so?"
"The two of us race Louis. If we beat him, we forget the bet, but if we both lose, then we both have to fulfill each other's bet requirements."
"I'd get the tattoo you wanted, and you'd do the two things I have yet to ask for."
Zayn ponders it over in silence for a moment, before turning towards me. "You've got a deal." He offers me his hand to shake on it. Once we do, Zayn yells over all of the noise at Louis, who seems clueless. "Louis, come race us!"
"The bet! We've upped the stakes!" Zayn shouts back.
Louis shrugs his shoulders, stepping inside the track, putting a helmet on and joining us in his own go-kart at our created start-finish line. "So, what's the goal here?" Louis yells over the engines once beside us.
"To beat you," Zayn and I reply at the same time.
We agree to another three laps, and then the countdown quickly happens. During the first lap, Louis falls to last place, while I take over the lead. Second lap Louis takes over second, while Zayn overtakes first. Throughout the final lap, Louis somehow manages to glide into first place and Zayn and I try in absolute desperation to kick him back into third.
But it doesn't work.
Zayn and I groan out in frustration at the finish line, knowing that we've both lost. In a way, it makes me feel better knowing that I get to have Zayn fulfill two deeds for me, but knowing that I've got to get a tattoo–of his choice–has my stomach doing twists. What if he chooses something stupid like, I don't know, a car, or a curse word–like getting "ass" tattooed on my ass. I sink my head into my hands as Louis begins chuckling at the two of us.
"Time to hit up the tattoo parlour?"