Chapter Thirty-Eight

The next few weeks pass by very, very slowly.

I didn't realise how much school had become my whole life in the last few years, consuming every moment of my day with thoughts of study and achieving good grades. It meant that, now, I have absolutely nothing to do. You would think that I would happily binge watch Netflix and go out to do all the things I had restricted myself from doing. Believe me, I tried but it got boring quickly. Studying had just become routine and almost even enjoyable for me.

I consider what to do in the day ahead, sitting up in bed. Applying for a job is pretty high up on the list but I decide against it. After all, I haven't spent much time with Sky or my friends for a while.

Hey, are you busy today? Maybe we could grab lunch or something :) I send to Sky after a minute of careful deliberation. I read the newspaper online while waiting for his reply, trying not to get depressed about the current state of the world. My phone vibrates so I close the tab, not wanting to read anymore.

Hey, sorry can't do today, have some stuff to do. I sigh after reading the message but a moment later my phone buzzes again, Rain check?

I smile and reply, No worries, of course!

Next I text Jamie and Jay, assuming they're awake now that it's ten thirty. Unfortunately, they are also both busy with prior appointments. Frowning, I lie back down on my bed and stare at the ceiling. It seems like I will be spending the day handing out resumes after all.

"Michie!" I hear Laine call from downstairs not a minute later, "Would you be able to come here?"

"Sure!" I yell back and trudge downstairs, not bothering to change out of my oversized T-shirt and black leggings.

"Why aren't you dressed yet?" she asks me when I appear in the kitchen.

"I don't have anything to do today so I didn't bother," I say and sit on a stool, resting my forearms on the counter.

"About that," she says but is interrupted by the doorbell before the can finish her sentence. My Aunt wipes her hands on a tea towel and asks me to open the door. I unlock it and pull it open to find Steven and a sulky Jace.

"Oh hi," I say surprised, "I didn't know that you were coming over."

"Hello Michelle. Your Aunt didn't tell you?" He says and I let them in.

"She didn't get a chance, I only just came down," I explain. Jace lets his eyes wonder over me for a second as his father enters the kitchen and I blush.

"Nice outfit," he comments.

Glaring, I say the first thing that comes to my mind, "Nice face."

Jace winks and I huff, turning on my heel and join Steven and Laine. He follows me, turning back into a storm cloud.

"Hi Jace," Laine says and he mumbles a half-hearted greeting.

"Laine and I are going out shopping to find a new stove since our one isn't working," Steven explains, "Jason is coming too since he is grounded from going out with his friends."

"I am not coming," Jace says.

"If you sneak out and get drunk at some party when you're underage, I'm afraid you have to face the consequences," his father replies and I can tell an argument is about to break out.

Laine saves that from happening, though, when she says, "Michie isn't doing anything today. Maybe Jace could stay here with her?"

Steven considers this, while I half-hope he refuses, and then says, "I don't want him to just stay here and bother Michelle. Besides, he's not allowed to watch movies while he is grounded."

Jace rolls his eyes, arms crossed, and leans against the wall.

"My car needs washing- maybe Michie and Jace could bond over that?" Laine suggests.

"That sounds like a great idea," Steven says and both Jace and I groan (his much louder than mine).

That's how we end up sitting in my living room, staring at the black screen of the television, after Laine and Steven leave. We do this for about five minutes, neither of us knowing what to say.

"Okay," I finally say, "We have until around 3pm before they come back so we should start cleaning the car at around 1. We need about half an hour to do the interior and the rest we can spend on washing."

"K," is all he says.

"Before then," I continue, ignoring his attitude, "We have a few hours so we can do something fun and then eat lunch."

Jace shrugs and fiddles with his earphones (which aren't actually connected to anything since his phone was taken away).

"You know I have better things to do with my time so you could at least pretend to care," I say and he fixes his eyes on me, "What?"

"How about you wash the car and I go out," he says and then adds, "But don't worry, I'll be back before three."

"Definitely not," I reply automatically, "I'm not letting you go and drink and take drugs or whatever else you do with your friends."

Jace scoffs, "It's eleven am, I'm not that bad."

"If you don't clean the car with me, I'll tell your dad," I warn him and he gives me a disbelieving look so I decide to change my approach, "Okay how about if we clean the car before lunch, I'll let you watch T.V for a bit. I won't tell Steven."

Jace looks like he's debating whether to laugh or snap at me and finally settles on, "You know I'm seventeen, right?"

"I thought you were sixteen," I say.

"I am," he begrudgingly admits, "But only for another few weeks."

"Is there anything that'll make you clean the car with me?" I ask, cutting straight to the point.

"Yeah- If you make out with me," he says and I can't help but laugh.

"I thought we cleared up that's never going to happen. My aunt is dating your uncle. Besides I have a boyfriend and, even if none of those were factors, I still wouldn't make out with you," I say.

He shrugs, smiling slightly now, "It was worth a shot."

"If you say so," I reply, "Now tell me, are you up for a little bet?"

Ten minutes later we're sitting on the carpet, the dusty monopoly game previously shoved at the back on my cabinet set up. I take out all the pieces and divide the money fairly. Jace insists on being the banker but the likelihood of him not cheating is pretty low.

"Okay so if I win, you clean the car," I say, "And if you win, you can watch me do it."

"Hey," he complains, "If I win, I get to go."

"Have you ever considered that maybe if you follow your dad's instructions, that he'll trust you more?"

"It won't work," he replies.

"You won't know unless you try it," I say.

"Trust me, he'll be just as harsh on me," Jace says.

"Seriously, you don't know that."

"Yes- I do," he snaps, "So just quit arguing."

I try one more time and say, "Come on, Jace, I don't know what your problem is but-"

"My problem," he exclaims, "is that you don't know anything about my life and won't shut the fuck up about how understanding my dad is."

Staring at him in shock, I say softly, "I'm sorry, I won't say anything else. Let's just play."

"Fine," he grumbles a moment later, and rolls the dice, promptly moving his racecar token.

After that small argument, we seem to get along better and actually have a lot of fun playing. For the first half of the game Jace wins but my calculated moves and plan pay off later when he starts to lose money.

"Please get a six, please get a six," I chant to myself, wanting to claim the last plot in the section, and roll the dice.

"Unbelievable," Jace mutters, seeing the two and four, and I squeal in delight.

"Yes! I own this whole section," I say excitedly, "Now if you land in any one of those squares, you'll have to pay me like four times the amount or something!"

"Let's just hope I don't," he says, a determined look in his eyes as he rolls. He moves his token and groans. Sure enough, he's landed in my area.

"Yes!" I exclaim, "Pay up."

He begins to count his notes and hand them to me before sighing.

"Okay I don't have enough," he says and reluctantly adds, "You win."

"Aw yeah!" I jump up and dance around, causing him to stare at me like I'm crazy (which maybe I am). Then I check the clock and realise that we've been playing for almost an hour and a half.

"Is it lunch yet?" Jace asks, not wanting to dwell on the topic of his loss.

"Yes! I didn't realise playing with only two people would take this long. We have half an hour to make lunch and eat before you have to start on the car," I say and quickly pack up the game.

"What do you have to eat?" he says, sitting on the kitchen stool.

"Let me see…" I dig through my fridge and then freezer, listing possibilities, "We can make sandwiches, there's leftover pasta, sausages, ooh a frozen pizza…"

We end up heating up the cheese pizza after I add a few toppings of my own and then sit down on the back veranda to eat. It's late spring now so the midday sun beating down on us is a lot harsher than I expected, more like summer. I find myself very relaxed, actually enjoying not having anything to do or anywhere to be. And really, Jace's company isn't half bad when he's not trying to be some arrogant douchebag.

"Okay let's get cleaning," I say to him after we finish. I gather our plates and put them in the dishwasher before pulling out the vacuum cleaner.

"Let's?" Jace says, "You remember I lost, right?"

"Eh," I reply, shrugging, "We can do it together."

He smiles slightly which is progress towards a proper thanks at least. Jace rolls the vacuum cleaner out and goes over the interior of the car once I've removed all the rubbish that's piled up inside (or at least tried to).

"Your aunt is so messy," he complains, another tissue blocking the nozzle of the vacuum.

"That, she is," I agree, "But you can't blame her, she's like a zombie half the time. Living to help people at the hospital and then crashing here every day."

"She seems pretty awake to me," he comments.

"I think that's because of your dad," I reply and he becomes silent after that.

While Jace finishes the inside of the car, I go fill up two buckets with warm soapy water and take them outside. Next I locate the giant sponges I have specifically for cleaning the car somewhere in the garage.

"Okay ready to wash the outside?" I ask him.

He shrugs, "I guess so."

"I usually find it works best this way," I say and demonstrate my methodical technique. Jace gets bored halfway and picks up a sponge, scrubbing back and forth. I notice that and exclaim, "Hey- not like that! Circular motions!"

"It'll look exactly the same afterwards," Jace says and I give him a look. He heaves an exaggerated sigh and begins to wash it in the way I explained.

"See, this isn't so bad," I say when we've done most of the car. I pick up the hose and start washing off some of the soapsuds before rubbing with the sponge again.

"Beats shopping for a stove," Jace admits and I smile internally. That's before I realise he's reverted back to his harsh scrubbing.

"Jace," I complain and before I can even utter another word, water splashes onto my legs. Slowly I look down and then back at Jace. In the calmest voice I can manage I say, "You did not just knock the bucket onto me."

He smirks and shrugs, going back to washing. Not a moment later I spray him in the face with the hose and proceed to water him down.

"What the fuck," he splutters and I give him an innocent smile. He wrings his sponge out over my head and I squeal.

"Oh it's on."

In the minutes that follow more water touches us than the actual car. Soon enough we are drenched from chucking sponges at each other and spraying the hose around. Jace manages to grab both the sponges so I jump onto him to try to wrestle them away, not wanting to get anymore soaked than I am.

"Hey- give them to me," I exclaim, trying my hard to pry open his fingers while he laughs at my futile attempts.

"Are you sure you're eighteen?" he taunts, "You're a little on the weak side."

"I'll show you weak," I reply and tackle him onto the grass. We roll around and I finally grab the sponge off him. Half straddling his legs, I hold it in the air and exclaim, "Victory!"

Rolling away from Jace, I notice that we're no longer alone and standing barely a metre from us is Sky, not looking too happy. It's then that I realise what a compromising position I was in earlier (and still am in, considering he has no idea who Jace is).

"So what's going on here?" Sky asks, his stormy blue eyes focused on Jace. Although it should be the last thing on my mind, I can't help but notice that Sky looks very attractive in his dark jeans and leather jacket. I, on the other hand, must look like a mess with my white shirt now soaked through (which only makes this situation worse) and hair everywhere.

"Uh hi Sky, why are you here?" I say, scrambling up. Jace leisurely stands up, looking very nonchalant.

"I thought I'd surprise you," He replies tightly.

I skip the small talk and try to explain, "We were just washing the car and then we, well, got into a water fight."

"Why do you even care?" Jace says, "You obviously don't Michie very well if you don't even know who I am."

"Not true-" I start to say, since none of my friends have ever met Jace. This obviously angers Sky, if the way his eyes narrow and jaw ticks are any indication. Not wanting a fight to break out, I stand in between the boys.

"I'm Michie's boyfriend," Sky says, the first time those words ever actually come out of his mouth, "So who the fuck are you?"

"You're her boyfriend?" Jace exclaims, shocked, and turns to me, "He's your boyfriend?"

"Uh yes, why?" I ask, confused at his reaction.

"Well you're…" he trails off, trying to think of the words, "kind of geeky and a little weird, no offence, and this guy looks pretty badass."

"Excuse me," I reply, offended, and say indignantly, "I am not geeky and weird. Right, Sky?"

"Maybe a little geeky and weird," he says, his glare morphing into a confused expression, "But that's what I like about you."

I don't know whether to be angry or flattered, "So basically everyone thinks I'm a freak show walking around with some 'badass' attractive guy?"

"Definitely not," Sky tries to remedy his earlier admission, "You're amazing. But seriously, who is this guy?"

Still peeved, I reply, "His name is Jace and he's Steven's annoying son."

"You've met my dad?" Jace asks Sky.

"Yeah, a couple of times at our graduation and formal," Sky says, his anger dying down slightly.

"If I'm so weird and ugly, why do you want to make out with me so badly?" I ask Jace, still not over him calling me that.

"I never said you were ugly," Jace says at the same time Sky narrows his eyes menacingly and asks, "You tried to make out with her?"

"Uh…" Jace turns to me for help, finally a little scared.

"You pretty much implied that I'm ugly," I retort, crossing my arms, and then decide to pick up the soaking sponge and throw it at his face, "Finish washing the car yourself."

"Do it," Sky orders, knowing Jace will most likely run, and follows me into the house. I thump up the stairs and into my room.

"Ugh who does he think he is?" I mutter and peel off my wet shirt, "I gave up my day to babysit him."

Then I notice that Skylar has become very silent, staring intently at the shelf. A moment later I realise that I was so annoyed that I forgot who exactly I was with when I began stripping my clothes off.

"I am so sorry," I say to Skylar, and put my bathrobe on over my bra.

"Is it safe to look?" he asks.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm decent," I reply.

"I mean, I really don't mind if you continue," he adds and then smirks when I push him out.

"Go check on the idiot while I get some dry clothes on," I tell him and then find a clean towel, "And give him this to dry off."

In the bathroom, I take one look at myself and blanch. Hair matter to my head, with what seems to be a few leaves tangled in amongst it, and dirt smeared on my cheek. Even I have to admit that I am far from attractive like this. Instead of just changing, I hop into the shower and thoroughly wash my hair.

Afterwards I untangle it carefully with a comb, blow-dry it and begin to choose something to wear. Instead of putting on another T-shirt and leggings, I select some tight fitting jeans and a white lace-up shirt that Jamie bought me but I didn't feel was my style. I check myself out in the mirror and decide to keep my hair down, which I don't often do. Hesitating slightly, I decide to add a little eyeliner on my waterline and put on some nude lipstick (one of the few colours I own).

Downstairs I find Sky on the couch, on his phone, while Jace is shirtless on the ground looking blankly at ceiling.

"Hey," I say and sit next to Sky. He looks up at me, half-smiling and almost drops his phone.

"Woah, you look hot," Jace comments and Sky glares at him, which causes him to avert his eyes.

"Once again, that's disgusting- we're pretty much related," I reply.

He shudders, "Now that's a disgusting thought."

"Gee thanks," I say and then tell him to put on a shirt.

"Where do you suppose I get one?"

There isn't exactly any men living in my house to steal from but then I remember the one Sky lent me a while back (which I admit I still wear from time to time).

"I have your sweatshirt that you refused to take back," I say to Sky.

He adamantly refuses, "That was for you, Michie."

"Oh come on, would you prefer he stay shirtless?" I ask him and then add, "Besides, I'll get it back."

"No, I'll just give you a new one," he replies.

"Okay, hang on," I say and run up to my room, grab the black sweatshirt, run back down and toss it to Jace.

"Thanks," he says and slips it over his head, "Your boyfriend smells like a girl."

"Excuse me?" Sky says, offended.

"No, he doesn't," I reply and shyly admit, "Sometimes I like wearing it. It's comfortable."

Sky looks over at me, my face slightly pink now, and brushes his fingers against mine, interlacing our hands.

"And I like that you do," he mumbles, inching towards me. His eyes dart down and I begin to feel self-conscience at the fact that my shirt dips lower than usual. Just as he nears my lips, Jace groans.

"I think I am going to throw up," he complains, burying his face into a cushion that he's pulled off the couch.

Sky kicks him in response.

Hey guys! Hope you all enjoyed the chapter- this is actually the most fun I've had writing in a while. Thanks so much for all the reviews :) Welcome to the new readers (and a huge thanks to all those old ones who have stuck around).

Please tell me your thoughts on this shorter, light hearted chapter! Do you prefer these or the heavier stuff or a mixture of both?

I'd love to reach 1060 by the next chapter (which should hopefully be out soon!)