When I was seven years old, my older brother Cameron told me that a frog wouldn't jump out of a pot of boiling water if you let the heat grow gradually. I had the frog halfway to the pot before my mom caught me. I didn't want to hurt the frog, of course. But I wanted to test it. I needed proof.
That memory stood out sharply from my childhood. Bottled front and center on my imaginary shelf of memories and cautionary tales. Not just because I'd almost brutally murdered a frog in the name of science, or even to explain the way I'd always jumped into action whenever I was curious about something. But it acted kind of like a metaphor. A reminder that humans are like frogs. If pain is gradual, we don't really notice until it's already too late. So I used it to remind myself to watch out for heat and for unnoticed pains, keep them away, make sure to jump out of the pot before being boiled to death.
The thing is—it can't really be done. Sure, maybe if it was just water and a stove, I could figure it out. But it wasn't. It was a boy. With blue-green eyes and curly black hair who smiled with his whole face and made me feel like I was the most wonderful and important thing in the universe to him.
So while one moment I was minding my own business, being a dumb kid, and trying to navigate the trials of high school, the next thing I knew, my heart was in pieces. I was making rash decisions that I could never change.
I think I've calculated the exact moment the gods turned up the heat.
When my head exploded with a slicing pain that removed all of my former sleepiness all at once. Not all pain is gradual. Sometimes it happens so fast, it's already forceful enough to consume you. It only takes a second to leave a person standing there, bleary-eyed and confused.
"Hey, are you okay?" the boy asked as the basketball bounced off the shining gym floor. I put my hand to the side of my head. It struck me so hard my eyes were watering.
I knew the boy. I'd known him all three and a half years of high school. He wasn't in the same group of friends as me. Actually, I always thought he was kind of an asshole—the type of guy who only dated pretty girls and ignored just about everyone else. Puberty had done a number on him. So that at seventeen years old, he was already six feet tall and all lean muscle. He played guitar, of course, because what kind of pretentious asshole would he be if he didn't have wealthy parents and some sort of career-making talent?
But I could lie and say that I hated him because he was rude or an asshole to me. I could even claim that I hated him because he once got into a nasty fight with my brother and left him bleeding. Or that I hated him because he'd once dated my best friend Becky and broke her heart. I did hate him for those things. But most of all, I hated him because he once kissed me at a party in sophomore year and left my head dazed and spinning and then had the nerve to smile and go out with my friend a week later.
Okay, it was during a game of spin-the-bottle, and I may have kissed him first. But the point was that he didn't need to smile like that after having my tongue in his mouth. And he didn't need to date my best friend a week later as if it never happened.
I hated him for a lot of reasons. A whole list I could probably write out if I actually took the time to do that. But my eyes worked just fine, and I hated that I sometimes appreciated the symmetry of his perfect face and long, lean body. He had naturally black hair that was always messy, which meant he probably spent a lot of time making it look that way. His eyes were always balanced somewhere between green and blue, depending on the weather or the lighting. A color that reminded me of the clean, clear ocean his ancestors hailed from. Startlingly vibrant in contrast to his dark eyelashes and hair.
It was my favorite color, but that's totally not important.
The icing on the cake that was Jett Kanellis, though, wasn't the pretty eyes or the shining black hair. It was the curls. I'd always been weak for them. And his head was full of them—thick, wild, loose, shiny black curls.
So he was cute. I wasn't blind. But he was also the kind of guy who knew he was cute. He used this to his advantage when he wanted a hookup or good grades or whatever else popular hot guys wanted. People hardly ever turned him away. Old people thought he was smart and charming; young people either thought he was beautiful or cool or both. And the lesser folk (like myself) thought he was a pompous dickhead.
"What the hell is your problem, Kanellis?" I snapped as my vision righted itself. I rubbed the ache from my head.
We were in the gym during lunch because it was raining. I was only passing through on my way to meet my friends in the cafeteria. But the a-hole had hit me on the side of the head with a basketball. I reached down to lift the ball off the floor and threw it at him. He didn't even flinch. He just stepped slightly to the side when the ball bounced off the floor and flew off behind his shoulder. He smiled. Like I was amusing him by being so angry.
"I didn't throw the ball, genius. I just didn't catch it," is what he said. Standing there, all tall and pretty with raindrops still caught in his black curls. Like the Greeks he descended from carved the perfect Greek boy from marble and breathed life into him, and now he was standing in a gym in San Diego, tormenting me. I wanted to smack the perfect smirk off his perfect face. "I asked if you were okay."
"Do I look okay?" I replied. He gave me a once-over. I'd just come in from outside, so the rain had soaked through the navy blue blazer of my school uniform and turned my blue hair a greener shade. I must have looked like a drowned mermaid—all seaweed and storms.
"Right. Sorry for asking, Smurfette."
"Oh, real clever. Did you come up with that one all by yourself?" He laughed and shook his head like he couldn't believe what he was hearing. He didn't add anything else. He just turned and walked off, returning to his friends to resume his basketball game. "Asshole," I muttered. I reached down to pick up the folder and books I'd dropped when the ball hit me and then continued on my journey to the doors.
I sometimes wonder if things would have turned out differently based on my reactions. If I'd been nicer to him in the early days, would he have noticed me? Would he have asked me out instead of Becky after that kiss? If I just told him I was okay and moved on, would he have even cared? If he hadn't hit me with a basketball, would I still have fallen so completely, totally, and unexpectedly in love?
The funny thing about pain, though, is that even when it's sharp and unexpected, sometimes it has a way of making you see what you didn't notice before. And before the moment the basketball hit me in the face, Jett Kanellis was nothing more than a minor annoyance at school. Like a fly that just wouldn't get out of your windowpane. But someday—someday, he'd be so much more. And I couldn't help but wonder if I could have spared myself all the pain that followed if I'd just—been nice.
This story is part of my Lunacy Fringe series. The main story does NOT need to be read first, which is why I went ahead and started putting this up. Even though the main story isn't finished yet. It does contain TONS of spoilers though. So if you are reading that story and don't want to be spoiled, I'd wait for this one.
Also, if you aren't reading this story then you probably don't know what you're in for. The main story is about Jett's parents Ruby and Felix. I had no real plot in mind for that story. It literally just follows Ruby's life from the age of 17 to 32. The only real major plot point is that she's cursed by something called the Lunacy Fringe and her budding relationship with Felix (Jett's dad).
So that being said, these stories are LONG. They have no real plot beyond the relationship and how the curse messes with them. Otherwise, it literally just follows these characters through their lives. There are tons of other stories in the series (all centering around different characters) but I don't have them all up yet. I will get them back up and running eventually.
Either way, Jett and Aasha's story is one of my favorites and I hope you love them as much as I do.