Ayla woke up on Saturday very excited about the day ahead of her. Her father had given her permission to drive to the lake and take their boat out. His only stipulations were that she take her brother with her and no drugs or alcohol. She adored her brother and refused to indulge in the other, so she was fine with the plan. She called Jason to let him know that she would be picking him up soon. She'd called Amy Whitaker, Jared, Elec, and a few other friends to see if they'd wanted to go so that they could make a weekend out of the trip. Jared had asked if Sasha was going and Ayla had answered truthfully that she wasn't invited on this outing. She'd have invited Xander along, but she didn't want to make Jason uncomfortable. After showering, she put on her new baby blue string bikini and then put the matching strapless summer dress on top of it. Andy had gone with her to the store the night before so they were stocked on drinks and snacks. Unfortunately, Andy did most of the loading because of her damaged wrist, but once the car was loaded they piled into the car and headed for Jason's house. He was waiting on the front porch and sprinted towards the car when he saw her. He kissed her briefly before saying hello to Andy and then they were off. Ayla knew that Sasha was going to throw a major fit for not being invited, but she thought they needed a break from each other. Sasha always tried Ayla's nerves, but Sasha had stepped up her bitchiness this year and she wanted to have a fun weekend without the drama. They arrived at the marina at nine in the morning, something that Andy complained about a few times. They wouldn't let her carry anything to the boat except her purse, so Ayla just hung out on the deck while they loaded the boat up. It was a very nice boat, it had a deck below complete with kitchen, bathroom, and mini bedroom. Her parents just didn't skimp on things like that. When they'd gotten to the boat itself, Devon, Jenna, and Amy were already waiting. Andy hopped onto the boat easily and extended the ramp for everyone. Amy walked shyly over to where Ayla was standing on the top deck and gave a hesitant smile.
"I was very surprised by your invitation, Ayla, but thanks." Ayla liked Amy; she was a sweet girl so she favored her with a bright smile of her own.
"Of course I invited you, Amy! You've been a great friend since my hand injury, I'm just glad that you could come out with us." Amy continued to smile as her eyes wandered over the small group that was gathered.
"Um…who else are we waiting on?" Ayla chuckled because she knew what Amy was asking her. She felt bad that Amy felt so out of place with their group. She should have made more of an effort to include her; she was after all a fellow cheerleader and had been since the year before. She'd even been on the dance team with her and Sasha their freshman year. Sasha had just shown such distaste for the other girl that Ayla had just gone along with her for the sake of avoiding an argument.
"Don't worry about her, Amy; Sasha wasn't invited this time around. We're just waiting on Jared, Elec, Britt, and Susie. Oh yeah, there are also a couple of my brother's friends coming along so that he won't be bored to tears. There's a…special place that we take the boat to, it's completely private." Amy's eyes got wide at her words as if worrying what she'd gotten herself into.
"Are we going to be…partying, Ayla?" Ayla touched her arm and shook her head in reassurance.
"Oh not the kind you're talking about, it's all good fun. We don't do drugs or alcohol; we have fun without that stuff." Amy breathed a sigh of relief, which added a few extra points in Ayla's mind. Amy looked around at the group and nodded before answering.
"I guess I should have remembered who I was talking to, sorry for assuming. Don't take this the wrong way, but I always thought it was so weird that you and Sasha were such great friends. She was like the little devil that sits on a person's shoulder urging them to do badly and you're just like the little angel wanting everyone to be good. You've always been so nice to me." Ayla had never heard that particular analogy before when it came to describing her and Sasha's friendship. She winced nonetheless because she was by no means perfect.
"I could have been a lot nicer, Amy, and we both know that. I better go to the wheel or my brother will try and drive this thing." They laughed as they walked over to where her brother was standing, trying to determine how to be sneaky. Jared arrived next and whistled loudly when he saw the boat. Xander showed up with Elec which gave everyone pause. Elec looked uncomfortable, but he didn't comment on it, so Ayla took the high road.
"Elec, thanks for grabbing Xander, I completely spaced. Then again, who can blame me really…pain meds and all. We're just waiting on Britt and Susie, but they're always late." Everyone relaxed after that, the tension effectively dissipated. Andy's friends, Rory and Kat showed up next and Ayla was glad that they'd been able to make it. They had to wait another fifteen minutes before Britt and Susie showed up together. When they were all on board, Jason and Andy untied the lines so they could get going. Britt, a fellow cheerleader, walked over to Ayla with a grin.
"Sasha called me this morning and wanted me to go to the mall with her. I told her I'd already made plans with someone else, but I didn't tell her who with. Boy was she fit to be tied that I wouldn't hang out with her; I don't know why she thinks she's the queen bee, absolutely not. She told me that the two of you had a fight and she wanted to hang out with someone fun for a change. I almost bit her head off right then; you're awesome to hang out with!" Ayla felt a twinge of guilt over the fact that they were moving apart, but they had been for some time now. She was becoming a bigger bully the more time past and Ayla just didn't want that kind of toxic behavior in her life.
"She said that I'm not fun to hang out with? Oh wow that makes me mad, how am I not fun to hang out with? Anyhoo, we didn't have a fight, Britt, I'm just sick of all her drama and I needed a break. She's going to raise hell when she finds out that we left her behind." Britt snorted into her diet soda as she looked at Ayla.
"I know honey, I love hanging out with you, don't sweat her. However, you know that what you just said is the biggest understatement. She's going to be seeing red and she's going to try to retaliate." Ayla knew that, but she felt she'd made the right choice in excluding her.
"Well, there's nothing we can do about it now, so we might as well enjoy ourselves." Ayla let Devon take over steering because her wrist was becoming sore. She walked over to the gathered group sitting on the deck chairs and plopped down onto Jason's lap who immediately wrapped his arms around her. She liked the feel of his arms around her, she always had.
They were about halfway to where they'd set anchor for the day when her cellphone started to ring. She didn't have to see the caller id to know it was Sasha because she recognized the ringtone. Everyone got instantly quiet as she looked at the phone. She really didn't want to deal with the situation right then, she wanted to wait until Monday morning, but Sasha wasn't one to wait. She liked to stir up as much trouble as she could and she wanted to do it right when the mood struck her. Jason gave her a little squeeze and Ayla wanted to kiss him right then because he knew that she was anxious and didn't want to fight Sasha just then. She knew she couldn't ignore the call because that would just make Sasha even more mad, so she looked at the group and shushed them as she pressed the answer button.
"Hi Sasha, how are you this morning?" She heard her friend scoff in annoyance through the phone.
"Cut the crap, Ayla, I can't believe you did this to me! How could you plan a trip to Cades and not invite me along? Don't act dumb either, I just talked to your dad and he told me that you and Andy took the boat out!" Ayla groaned quietly and almost rolled her eyes, but she had an audience so she refrained.
"I'm not going to play dumb; I would have told you without your shrieking. Andy, Jason, and I decided to come out on the lake with a few people, that's all." Sasha was furious with her; Ayla could hear it in her tone.
"A few people, is it? You've gone and left with all of our friends, Ayla! The fact that none of them owned up to where they were going says a whole lot about you. You even talked the newbies into covering up for you." Ayla was offended that she thought she was being underhanded, that just wasn't the way she worked.
"Sasha, I never once told them to lie to you. Most of them assumed that you were going with us until we were leaving. The only thing I did was not call you, and after everything that's happened this week, I'm entitled to one freaking weekend without your drama!" Britt's, Jason's, and Amy's jaws dropped open at her bold statement. Ayla didn't like confrontation, they all knew it, and so her talking to Sasha like that was very out of the norm." Sasha huffed dramatically and Ayla heard a car door slamming.
"Fine Ayla, you've made your point and I'm sorry. Now, I'm at the marina with two twelve packs…you can come get me now." Ayla couldn't believe her nerve or her gall at the suggestion.
"We're already halfway there, Sasha, so I'm not turning the boat around just for you. Besides this is a substance fee weekend, we all decided that and we have no intention of boozing it up. Now, I'm sorry that you drove to the marina, but we'll all see you Monday at school." Sasha was silent for a few moments before she finally answered.
"You guys are staying the night in our spot?" Ayla glanced around at her friends expressions. Some of them were sporting guilty expressions, but some of them were grinning.
"Yes, we've brought our camping gear with us. Maybe your dad will you bring you out here tomorrow and we can spend the day together." Sasha's temper began to rise, Ayla knew the warning signs.
"You think you're going to be top dog at school, don't you? I've put up with you for so long Ayla Howard, but no more! Come Monday morning people will know it's no longer the fabulous duo and it'll be time to choose a side." Ayla was surprised that Sasha's anger had gotten the best of her so quickly; she was normally more even tempered than this.
"Are you saying you don't want to be friends with me anymore?" Sasha practically ripped her head off at the soft spoken question.
"We were never friends, Ayla! You were always so perfect and I was always there to knock you down a peg." Ayla's sympathy and guilt disappeared completely at those words.
"Sasha, I've always known what your agenda was…always. You know what they say about keeping your friends close. So go ahead and do what you're planning because I truly don't care anymore. I've watched you bully, intimidate, and scare people to get what you want from them and I'm tired of it. I don't have to do that kind of stuff to have good solid friends. If people want to be my friend, that's great because I don't expect anything but friendship in return. I don't want people to stay close to me out of fear for their reputation. It's not a competition to me, so do what you feel you must." With her speech done, Ayla ended the call. She would have flung it away from her, but Jason gently took it out of her hand, seeing her action written on her face. He glanced at Andy with a pointed expression.
"No sense in talking about that mess, we need some music." Andy popped up with a stifled grin and went below deck. Within a few minutes, Chris Brown was blaring over the speakers. Britt, taking a cue from Jason jumped up from her seat and grabbed, Susie, Elec, Jared, and Xander. She pulled them to the middle of the landing and began to dance. Ayla laid her hand on Jason's shoulder with a sigh.
"Well that was seriously not fun at all." Jason ran his hand soothingly down her back; he was so good at keeping her calm.
"Don't worry about it right now, Ayla, this is going to be an awesome weekend. You've always known that the day was going to come when you were going to have leave Sasha behind. Now what do you say we join the dancing brigade?" Ayla loved Jason even more with those words. He hated to dance, but to cheer her up he was willing. She jumped up, wanting to take advantage of the offer while it lasted. She took Jason's hand with her good hand and joined her friends. Xander looked like he wanted to disappear, but at seeing Ayla he brightened and looked at Amy.
"Come on Amy, this is a dancing boat apparently!" Amy's eyes grew wide at being addressed by Xander and her cheeks flushed.
"Oh…um…I'm not that great at dancing." Susie rolled her eyes and marched over to where Amy sat. She grabbed her arm and proceeded to drag her towards the group.
"That's totally not the point, Amy; it's about the joining in. Besides you're one of the best on the squad and I know for a fact you were on the dance team." Amy grinned shyly and allowed herself to be swept away by Susie's enthusiasm. Andy was in a corner with his two friends, Rory and Kat. Ayla shimmied between the crowd and came to a stop in front of them.
"You three heard them, let's go! This is a dancing boat, so get dancing!" Andy glared playfully at his sister.
"Ayla, there is no way in hell that I'm dancing. I'm especially not dancing with your friends on this boat." Kat jumped up, her eyes sparkling mischievously. Ayla knew that Andy had a crush on her, but he didn't seem to want to make his move. Kat moved to stand next to Ayla and placed her hands on her hips.
"Well you losers can stay here then because I'm dancing." Ayla threw her hands up and began dancing with Kat which caused Rory's jaw to drop as he watched and Andy's lips to twitch in amusement. He stood up and smacked Rory's shoulder.
"Let's go dude, we must join or she'll never leave us alone this weekend."
It took them about two hours before they reached the main hangout. They usually waited until dark before they headed to their secret spot. Andy and Jason dropped the anchor so that they could hang out and wait for the crowd to leave. It was only about eleven in the morning, so they pulled out the water and turned their music up. Devon, Andy, Jared, and Elec settled into fishing off the side of the boat while the rest of them just lounged. Ayla couldn't believe the difference it made not having Sasha with them. Things were peaceful and Ayla was content to lounge in Jason's arms. After about twenty minutes, Susie huffed and sat forward with a frown.
"Okay, we need to talk about the bitchy elephant on the boat. Sasha keeps texting me; she is so very pissed off." Britt rolled her eyes, clearly not caring and not wanting to talk about it.
"Whatever, I know its mean, but frankly I'm relieved. She's so damn bossy all the time, she's a bully, and a total S-L-U-T." She spelled out the last word causing Jason to bark out surprised laughter. Ayla just sat back and didn't participate while Susie continued.
"Well apparently, she's trying to get the rest of the squad to revolt against Ayla. She wants to vote you out of your captain spot. Megan and Taylor are buzzing furiously about it. They're saying that Paula and Kylie are backing her but that all of the other girls are refusing to take part. Paula is a freshman, so that just means that Sasha is intimidating her." Ayla frowned as she sat forward, unable to hold her tongue any longer.
"Yes, but Kylie is a Powell cheerleader, she doesn't know either of us, so why is she helping Sasha plan a revolt?" Susie shrugged her shoulders; she was very worked up about something.
"She's trying to blackmail me, Ayla. That shit just does not fly with me." Ayla shook her head in anger; this was supposed to be a relaxed weekend. Sasha wasn't with them, but she was still finding a way to ruin it.
"Don't worry about her, Susie. Monday is going to be soon enough to deal with this nonsense. If she's not careful, Coach Lehane will kick her off of the squad for disharmony…we all remember Spencer last year. As much as she pisses me off, the squad needs her." Britt and Susie debated for a few more minutes before Britt stood up.
"Okay I'm done talking about the bitch queen, who's going swimming with me?"