Chapter Twenty-Two: Benevolence

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Chapter Twenty-Two: Benevolence

"Pick up five," Aria grinned as she slapped down a Queen of Spades on the deck.

I narrowed my eyes and slowly picked up my additional cards, then pretended to organize them. I placed a Jack of Spades. "Skip your turn," Then put down a three of Spades.

Arias face was fixated with concentration. She put down a series of cards and relaxed into satisfaction. She knocked twice. "Last card," She said, taunting.

I smiled. I had cards that could be placed down to force her to pick up more cards, leaving her with no choice but to lose. I picked up a card from the fresh deck. "I can't place anything. It's your turn." I said.

Aria slapped down her final card, a four of diamonds. "Do you want to play countdown? Give you a chance to catch up to me?" She asked, a twinkle of hope in her voice.

I nodded. "So then you're on level seven." I stated.

"And you're still on eight."

"Indeed," I replied, pretending to be focused on my cards. "Can I ask you something?" I asked while picking up another card that I didn't need.

She raised an eyebrow. "What's up?"

"What happened while you were visiting your parents?" I asked.

Aria stopped rearranging her cards and looked up at me. "Why do you ask?" She asked, big eyed. She settled back into her cards.

"Because I know something is bothering you."

"How did you figure that?" She asked with a surprise, not daring to look up.

I gave her a warm smile while placing down a card. "You're not smiling as much." I said. "I can tell you're trying to play it off that you're fine but I also know that's a charade."

Aria had a crease in between her eyebrows. "How did you figure that out?" She placed down another card.

"Because I just know you." I said, simple. "Did something happen with your parents?" I hated the thought of her being unhappy. She's been acting off since she's returned; Not being as open as before and remaining quiet more than usual which has made me the talker of the two.

"Every time I see them something happens," She chuckles darkly. "But it wasn't them."

"Your brother?" I narrowed my eyes in worry. The last thing I'd want to hear is that her brother betrayed her. He was her main source of support. I'd hope to be that one day.

She shook her head. "It's stupid. I ran into my ex while I was visiting."

At first, fear crept up on me. She saw her ex, and I was scared to know what she was thinking when she saw them. But then I remembered a large detail of the loser she once dated. And I didn't fear my analyzing thoughts.

I clenched my jaw and picked up another card. "Ah. You mean..."

She nodded slowly.

"Did he hurt you?" I asked, harsher than intended. If he touched her...

She shook her head again. "No, not like that or anything. I don't know. When I ran into him, it just brought up a lot of memories. He made spiteful comments towards me, mocking me. I guess it just stuck." She frowned and placed down another card.

I sighed, staggered. "What did he say?" My jaw was aching from biting down so hard.

"That I was the one that put out for a bunch of guys that night and gave him an STD. That I was a bad lay, the ugliest he's had and all this other stuff that he spread about me. It shouldn't matter."

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