I Hate You, Jason Lawrence

Jason was Abby's tormentor when they children, her bully. So when he moves away in the fifth grade, she is eager to forget him. Now, as she's going into her senior year, she has only two things on her mind: making this the best year yet, and winning over the popular and good-looking Ryan Blake. But there's only one problem: Jason has returned, and though he is eager to prove he's changed, Abby is not eager to let him close. As the year goes on, though, Abby is unable to push Jason away anymore. Or her feelings...

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6. Prove It

Chapter Five


        I grumbled the entire time I set the table, and when Jason and his parents finally arrived for dinner, I grumbled even more. Charlotte stuck by my side, shooting death glares at Jason as soon as he entered the house. He rolled his eyes at her, then only glanced at me for a brief moment before taking a seat at the dinner table next to his parents. The dining room was noisy as my parents and his parents talked and laughed, reminiscing over the past. But Charlotte, Jason and I remained silent. Charlotte was too busy shoveling food into her mouth, like she hadn't eaten all day. Jason was casting glances in my direction, then proceeding to look away as soon as I looked up at him. And I was just sitting at my seat at the dinner table, pushing around the food on my plate so that it looked like I'd been eating.


        "So, Abby."


        I looked up when I heard Dr. Lawrence, Jason's father, call my name, and the older man offered me a kind smile.


        "Jason says he has a few classes with you. I bet he's glad to have an old friend to talk to during the day."


        I snorted. Old friend?! Sure, if you use the term 'friend' loosely.


        I came so very close to voicing my thoughts, realizing there was absolutely no way Jason told his parents of how he'd treated me during our childhood. But my mother nudged my elbow, so quick no one else noticed, and shot me a look that said I better behave.


        "Yes, it's been nice," I said instead. A complete lie, of course, but I was hoping it was a simple and nice enough answer that Dr. Lawrence was going to drop the subject and leave me to pushing around the food on my plate.


        Instead, his wife added, "West Hills has changed so much since we were last here, Jason was so nervous about that first day. All he could talk about was hoping to see you there."


        "Mom!" Jason hissed, and she laughed, patting him on the arm.


        "It's nothing to be embarrassed of, dear," she said to him, and I heard Charlotte trying to hold back a chuckle next to me. Jason's cheeks turned beet red, and he avoided looking at me, literally choosing to look at anything and everything else around the room. Mrs. Lawrence turned back to me. "I think he just felt more comfortable knowing that you still lived here. So many of his childhood friends moved."


        "Mom!" This was more of a plea this time, rather than a reprimand, and I glanced at Jason again, but again he was avoiding my gaze.


        I wasn't sure how to respond. I wasn't expecting Mrs. Lawrence to tell me that Jason had been looking forward to seeing me. And what for? To apologize? Was he hoping I was just going to brush it off, tell him to forget it, not to worry about it, and that we'd be best friends forever, holding hands and skipping off into the sunset? Maybe that would have been the respectable, more adult thing to do, but I wasn't ready to accept his apology yet. I wasn't ready to forgive him for all but ruining my childhood. And truth be told, I enjoyed knowing I had the upper hand now. I was in control for as long as he sought my forgiveness. And I liked that.


        My mom cleared her throat, and I pulled myself from my thoughts to meet her gaze. She was frowning slightly, but she said, "Abby, if everyone's done, will you and Charlotte please clear the table?" I nodded, and she turned back to the Dr. and Mrs. Lawrence. "I'll bring coffee to the living room. You guys go ahead and make yourselves comfortable."


        I heard Jason give a loud sigh of relief as everyone stood up from the table, and headed out of the dining room towards the living room, and I had to wonder if my mother's sudden suggestion for coffee was her attempt at rescuing Jason from the awkward situation. If it was, it worked, and no one seemed to be the wiser.



        "So that was pretty great, right?"


        Charlotte giggled next to me as we cleaned up the dishes from dinner. I glanced over at her. Normally, I would've agreed. But the whole thing was just so... unexpected. Uncomfortable. I was finding it hard to take pleasure in Jason's embarrassment when I had been the focus of everyone's attention. But I knew that's why Charlotte was finding it so funny.


        "It was... awkward," I replied, and she grinned up at me.


        "I mean, he's got them fooled. He must be one good actor." She shook her head, rinsing off a plate, then handing it to me so I could put it in the dishwasher.


        I raised my eyebrow at her. "You think he lied to them about wanting to see me?"


        She scoffed. "Of course he lied to them," she answered, looking at me like I was crazy. "There isn't a person he's come in contact with that he hasn't lied to. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if he convinced them to bring it up at the dinner table in a shitty attempt to get you to forgive him."


        It was my turn to look at Charlotte like she was the crazy one, now. "That's an awful lot of trouble to go through just to get forgiveness," I said. "What would be the point of it all?"


        Charlotte let out a heavily exaggerated sigh, placing her hands on her hips as she faced me. "To worm his way back in!" She said. "The moment you tell him you forgive him, he's won, and then he'll start being an asshole again."


        I stared down at her, silent, for a long moment. Her gaze was unwavering, confident, like she'd just solved the world's oldest, coldest crime. I shook my head.


        "Charlotte, that literally makes no sense," I finally said. "I think you might be paranoid."


        "It does make se-"


        "Ehem."


        Charlotte and I both stopped talking, turning towards the opening that connected the kitchen to the dining room, where the noise had come from. Jason was leaning against the wall, his hands shoved in his pockets, and his gaze shifted from me to Charlotte before finally resting on me again.


        "Five minutes," he said, and I quirked a brow at him. "Just give me five minutes, and if you don't like what I have to say, I'll go back to the living room, and when we leave tonight, you'll never hear from me again."


        "I'm pretty sure we've already heard everything you have to say," Charlotte said stiffly, but Jason didn't even spare her a glance. He hadn't been talking to her. That was meant for me, and me alone.


        "It's fine," I said, looking down at my best friend, and she gave me a small shake of her head. "Really," I insisted.


        She stared at me, studying my face, more than likely trying to figure out what was going through my head. And in all honesty, I couldn't really say. There was just something in the way he was looking at me that made me want to at least hear him out. I still had no intention of forgiving him, of course. At least, not yet.


        "Fine," she sighed. "But if you need me, I'll be sitting in the dining room." She marched out of the kitchen before I had time to reply, and I turned my attention back to Jason.


        "What are you doing here?" I asked him abruptly, and I could see the question surprised him.


        "Asking you to hear me out..." He said slowly, and I rolled my eyes.


        "Not 'here' in the kitchen, here as in West Hills" I snapped. "Why did you come back? And why do you care if I forgive you or not? Why?"


        He shifted uncomfortably, moving his weight from his left leg to his right leg as he stood up straighter. His hands were out of his pockets now as he folded his arms over his chest, but it wasn't an aggressive stance. Instead, he looked thoughtful, and a little ashamed.


        "To answer your first question," he began, "My father was offered the Chief of Surgery position at West Hills Hospital." He paused, gauging my reaction to see if I was going to require more detail. I did not. "As for asking for your forgiveness, that's a little harder to explain."


        I leaned against the sink, folding my arms over my chest. "Well," I said. "You gave yourself five minutes. So, go."


        Jason took a deep breath. "I had anger and aggression issues when we were kids."


        "Obviously."


        He frowned. "Anyway. When we moved from here, my mom realized just how bad it had gotten-"


        "So your mom knows how you treated me?" I shook my head. "She seemed oblivious. In fact, your parents seem to think that you and I were – are – friends."


        Jason blushed again, and he looked away, scratching at the back of his neck nervously. "Yeah, that's just a misunderstanding. I really didn't talk about you half as much as she made it out that I did." I nodded, though I didn't believe that for a minute. It had been awhile since I'd last seen Mrs. Lawrence, but I had never known her to exaggerate things. "Anyway," he said again, "You gave me five minutes, remember?"


        I waved my hand at him. "Go on, then."


        "When we moved, I started seeing a therapist. I worked through a lot of the anger, and aggression. And honestly, most of it I just grew out of. But when I started seeing the therapist, I started realizing just how shitty I was to you when we were kids. And I was ashamed of it. Still am."


        I scoffed. "It took you seeing a therapist to realize you were an asshole to me?"


        He looked embarrassed as he looked away from me again. "I wasn't in a good place. I realize that's no excuse to a kid who had no idea why I was treating her the way I was, but you're not a kid anymore, and I’m just asking for a little understanding." He looked pleadingly at me. "I'm really not who I was when we were kids."


        "Jason, you reverted right back to your old ways just this morning when Charlotte told you to get lost," I pointed out, and he let out a sigh.


        "It was a small argument," he said. "I would hardly call that 'reverting back to my old ways'."


        "True," I admitted. "You would've just punched me if you'd really reverted."


        His mouth formed into a thin line as he stared at me, and I saw a new expression flash across his face this time, like I had wounded him. But I heard Charlotte snort in the dining room, and Jason quickly fixed his expression to one that looked apologetic.


        "Abby. I'm sorry. Really, I am."


        I shook my head, turning back towards the dishes I was cleaning. I began rinsing them off, placing them in the dishwasher as my thoughts began flowing quickly through my mind. He couldn't really expect me to just forget everything he'd done to me when we were children, could he? He tortured me. I absolutely hated going to the park when he was there, and school, and birthday parties. For weeks after he left, I stayed anxious, waiting for him to appear on the playground and push me face first into the dirt, or show up with his parents for dinner and trip me as I was going upstairs. I hated Jason Lawrence. That wasn't just going to go away. Old habits die hard, as they say.


        Still, when I'd looked at him over these last couple of days that he'd been back, I couldn't deny that there was something different about him. He seemed more patient, his smiles more genuine, and the look in his eyes when he glanced at me showed me his shame for how he'd treated me.


        I was wrestling with the thoughts that were running wild in my head, when I heard Jason let out another sigh. I glanced behind me in time to see him turning to head out of the kitchen looking defeated, and I let out a sigh of my own.


        "Jason," I called, and he spun around quickly, the hope in his eyes almost painful to see. "How do I know you're telling the truth? About all of this?"


        He searched my eyes for a long moment, likely searching for the right answer, but I stared at him blankly.


        "I... don't know," he reluctantly admitted.


        "Well, I'm going to need more than just your word that you're sorry, that you're different." He stared at me, and I realized he was waiting for me to tell him how. "If you really want to be my friend, or whatever it is that you want, you're going to have to prove it. Show me you're different."


        "How?" He asked, scratching the back of his neck again.


        I shrugged, turning back to the dishes. "I don't know," I answered. "That's up to you to figure out."


        There was a long stretch of silence, and for a moment, I thought that he had left. But before I could turn around to see, he said, "Alright, Abby. I will." And then he was gone, and I was left with the dishes, and the thoughts that were back and crowding my mind.

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