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Prince of Food Ep 24: Lasagna

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Jackson Young


Cloushire


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It was rather interesting how everything went back to normal after Night Pulse. It was almost scary in some senses. Jacob was back to talking to me normal without having a hurt look on his face. Hayden was less mad but still had that mild annoyance which was easy enough to deal with. And even Adriana wasn't stressing me out! I was sure that she had met or at least seen Jasmine but she didn't appear any different or even asked 50 million questions.


So yes, I was suspicious at first.


But nothing changed after a week. And then a week slowly turned into two weeks and before long, a whole month has gone by.


The renovations at the shop even were almost done. Whoever my grams hired didn't mess around, it was also fortunate that there wasn't too much to do. Most of the changes had to do with the internal and external appearance, so none of the electrical or plumbing had to be vastly altered. So it was almost a relief to be when there was a snag given that it was a small one.


"....it's been this long and we still haven't decided on a name.."  I mumbled with a sour look on my face.


Adriana looked at me with a deep frown.


"I did think of a name! You refused!"


She's not wrong, and I would do it again without hesitation.


"We are not naming it "Prince of Food!" Where is the elegance? It sounds like  something out of a crappy romance novel!" I was disgruntled and refused again.


"It makes sense since you are technically the owner! That's what the media calls you anyway, it makes sense." She said with a shrug.


"No way. Why don't you want it to be like a thought-provoking name? Something with a bit more flair?"


"No everyone will be thinking about the name of a restaurant when getting food. It's plain and simple and to the point." She argues back with me, leaning back in her chair.


I let out a sigh as I lean back as well. I happened to see the inside was basically done aside for a few things. It never occurred to me that we would have so much difficulty with this. It's already been two days since we've been talking back and forth about a name after the contractor asked if we were ready for the sign out front. Grams wasn't amused at knowing we didn't decide one of the most fundamental parts of a business.


"Let's think of a different name, Prince of Food sounds too corny." I grumble.


Adriana had a bit of a weird look on her face as she scanned me over, when she got it I wasn't sure. And it was making me feel a bit uncomfortable.


"...What?" I ask as I give her an annoyed look.


"....I met Jessica at Night Pulse." She said it so casually that I almost didn't even think anything of it.


My heart instantly gave a nervous lurch as I eye her now suspiciously, I guess it was only hopeful thinking that she and Jessica didn't meet.


"Well, I guess it was more like I just saw her there. Almost didn't recognize her and she obviously didn't know me so we didn't talk or anything."


"...And what's your point?" I ask cautiously.


I wasn't 100% sure where this conversation was going so I was treading lightly.


"Nothing, she looked miserable. And since I knew for sure she came from your direction, I imagine it had something to do with you."


That pearl of information didn't help my heart at all. It's stupid sure, but I can't help but still feel bad about what happened even though I technically didn't do anything. My eyes drift down to the table unconsciously.


"Look Jackson, all I was going to say is that I realized that no matter how much I hate it and complain. I can't stop you from making your own choices." She said with a sigh.


I looked back at her rather shocked at hearing that. Adriana wasn't someone to shy away from a problem. If she hates/dislikes something, she makes that very clear. Hell, I mean just before Night Pulse she wouldn't even let me keep Jessica's number in my phone, not that of course I wanted it (..I think?). So hearing this was definitely a shock.


"I've been wanting to protect you ever since we were kids. Hell, I practically drove away anyone who seemed shady." Adriana said give me a neutral look.


Which was kind of true. When I was younger obviously it didn't look like it to me. I thought for the longest time she was just bullying me just for fun. But as I grew older and she wasn't there much due to the difference in grades, I started to understand. I was always someone who wanted to be liked. One of the many curses of my personality, maybe it was cause I didn't like confrontations or just being alone. Hayden and Jacob were usually always with me but as we got older and our interests became more different, we had different classes.


"...I know that. Hayden has repeated it more than enough times that I was a bit of attention-seeking growing up."


"A bit? You literally wanted to be everyone's friend! Like Jackson, I understood that you wanted to be kind to people but not everyone deserves or needs to be your friend. Especially not when they are going to use you!" She said with a bit of anger.


"...You're talking about Jessica..."


"..I-. Yes, I just..." She stumbles a bit as she tries to find her words.


"...Look just be careful okay? You've grown up a lot from when we were kids. But that little part of you that still wants to be everyone's friend crops up at the worst time. You also try to see the best in people and it bites you in the ass 9 out of 10 times. Just keep both your eyes open and that's all I'm going to say on the matter." She said with a huff as she then directs her attention elsewhere.





Seeing as she clearly wanted to convert to be over, I didn't push more. But I did think more about her words truly. As much as I hate to admit it... she was right in a lot of ways. Sure I've grown out of the needy wanting to be everyone's friend/attention phase. But that bitter habit of wanting to see the best in everyone was something that tended to be a double edge sword.


And ... I think I finally know why I'm so unsure about Jessica.


Our 'break up' was never done face to face. We just knew that whatever we had was gone and broken. No words, no tearful final meeting, just nothing.


At the time, it was... necessary.. but now that it's been some years, I realized that deep in my heart, I still miss her. Some nagging part of me wanted to believe it was all a misunderstanding.


Some part of me still wants to know why she betray me and also why she just left.


Ugly memories were starting to surface in the back of my mind making me crumble a bit into myself.


"Hey!"


I snapped out of my wondering and looked back at Adriana. She had a knowing look on her face, like she knew what I had been thinking about. Knowing her, she probably did.


"....Jackson you need to deal with this however you feel is necessary. For both of you, I think." She said with a frown.


I was so curious now to what she saw that had such a change in her. She hated Jessica even without ever meeting her. Given I talk about Jessica to basically anything would listen while we were dating it was no surprise. When everything went down and I got... distance, Adriana was the first to know something was wrong.


"....I'll deal with it.." I mumbled a bit as I refused to look at her.


I knew deep down I was lying but I couldn't help it. I've barely spoken to Jessica since her sudden want to be friends. And anytime after that, I was just stumbling around like an idiot. I'm avoiding it even at a subconscious level and even now still hoping that it was something that would just go away on its own.


However as fate seemed determined to show me repeatedly, the more you try to push something away, the quicker it comes back to bite you in the ass later.


Time blurred a bit after that. In almost what felt like a blink it was suddenly Saturday evening, and after having worked with Adriana all week, I could finally get a moment to relax at the club. Today was a party from some old high school buddies of ours, one of them was getting married in a few days and wanted to throw a party and I wasn't one to refuse. So we ended up having a sort of school reunion basically.


"Ayo Jackson~! This shit is so good!! Try some?"


I almost stumble at feeling the sudden additional weight on me and a spoon of food being shoved in my face. I turn to see the smiling face of Tyler Lockheart, the very man of the hour. Tyler was a big guy, taller even than me with dark-colored hair but bright expressive colored eyes. Too many people at first glance, he is a pretty intimidating guy. Even back when we were younger he was pretty big for his age and cut a rather daunting figure. It wasn't until getting to know him that I learn how much of a big puppy the guy was. Fun, a big himbo but a great guy overall.


"Jesus Ty relax man! You better watch yourself though, Kayon has been practically eyeing you like a hawk all evening." I said jokingly taking a bite of whatever he was practically moaning over.


The club didn't have a wide range of foods so we ended up catering from one of Tyler's favorite places. It was a pasta-like dish, cheesy like lasagna, and melting in my mouth.


"Fuck off Jackson.." Kayon said while lovingly flipping me the bird.


My group burst out in laughter as this was something normal between the two of us. I tease her and she either curses me out or teases me right back.


Honestly looking back at how these two came together, I still can't believe it. Growing up these two of them couldn't be more opposite. Where Tyler is a sweet, big excited puppy dog, Kayon is a prickly cat. She reminded me of Hayden when I first met her. She is a great woman make no mistake, but she can be pretty standoffish if she thinks you're not worth her time. And she is hella possessive of Tyler which is venomously refuses or tries to write them off as something else.


But then again given how airheaded Tyler is about practically everything it's to be expected.


"I swear the two of you never change."


I turned to see Tina who still looks as little as ever. Tina has short black-colored hair and dark-colored eyes, she is also one of the shortest girls I've ever met. Back in school, the boys and I always use to love to call her "Tiny Tina" since she was so short. That was obvious before she properly kicked our ass in literally every sport imaginable. The girl was a beast.


"Aw, Tina, don't be like that." I cooed practically hugging her to my chest with a whine.


She quickly elbowed me hard in the stomach which made me practically lose my breath. Everyone else was laughing, all too used to my antics with Tina.


"Keep trying your luck, Jackson. Just cause you're taller than me doesn't mean shit." She said with a playful glare.


Tina was practically like a little sister to me when we were back in high school. She filled a void that was missing after Adriana moved away. Much to her displease I'm sure.


The good mood however was ruined by one of the staff coming over to me with a worried look on her face. I excused myself from the group and we walk a bit away so that I could hear what she was saying.


"I'm sorry to bother you Jackson, but one of the guests is having...issues upstairs." She said with a nervous look on her face.


I quickly glance her over and a dark expression came to my face as a few things jumped out at me immediately. For one her clothes were a bit wrinkled which wasn't like this particular employee's. She was usually quiet and business-like. Secondly, her expression was riddled with fear.


Apparently, someone wanted to get thrown out today.


"Are you alright? Did you get to talk to Hayden? Or even Jacob?" I ask quickly glancing her over for any injuries.


She shook her head, nervous but slowly calming down.


"N-no, you were the first person I could get to."


"Hm, okay. Find Hayden and feel free to leave for the day if you need to. Which room was it?"


"V-Vip room 2 sir." She said with an almost bodily relief written on her face.


I give her a smile and nod her off. I then flag down one of the bartenders and make him note that we may have to call the cops if anything.  There are a few rules that we make apparent in our club to anyone who comes in. Rule #1 is no one, absolutely no one is to touch staff unless the person would want them to. Many people in the past have tried again and again and each has learned the hard way that I or my business partners give two shits about how much money they make. If you violate that rule then you're out, no questions asked.


I should have really vetted the list of who was invited, I did remember there being a few unsavory people in our class. But of course, my wanting to believe in the better of people always bites me in the ass.


I didn't even make it to the room before I saw who more than likely was the problem.


"Well, well look who here. Mr. Jackson Young himself~"


The dark look on my face only worsens at seeing the ugly smirk on the man's face before me. Colton Howell wasn't someone I was overly familiar with but unfortunately, Tyler was. How the two of them became friends will be one of the greatest mysteries to me. Colton was the kind of asshole that you wouldn't even want to leave your dog with. Jackass thought that just cause he had money, he could do or talk to people however he wanted. Apparently, he assumes I thought the same way when we first met. He quickly found out that wasn't the case.


We've never seen eye to eye and I'm sure with 100% of my soul, we never will.


"..Ha.. I knew I should have double-checked the invite list. It would seem a rat somehow slip through." I said with a sneering look.


The flash of rage on his face is victory enough for me.


"The fuck do you want Jackson?"


"What I want to know is why you are harassing my staff after I fucking explicitly said, never. Never touch my people." I hissed out.


"Che! Seriously? You still acting like a knight in shining armor?" He said with a smug look on his face.


God the want to deck him was so strong I could almost taste it. But then I can see flashes of Tyler's hurt puppy dog face and that does draw me back a bit.


"Look, I'm not going to say it again. Get out."


"What? Are you fucking serious man? Over that little bit-"


I didn't let him finish that sentence as I roughly grabbed him.


"Did you not fucking hear me? I said get the fuck out of my club." I said again, glaring him directly in the eyes.


"You fucking piece of shit!" He said before swinging out wildly.


Fortunately, I was more than ready for it as I easily dodged and swung around, placing his arm painfully behind his back. He was cursing out a storm which was thankfully drowned out by the music.


"Jackson? What the hell is going on?"


I turned my head slightly to see Hayden walking up behind me with the female staff from before. She had a worried look on her face that instantly went away as seeing me. I was just about to say something more but then the door to the Vip 2 opened. There were two people inside that I'm sure were familiar but at that very moment, I couldn't focus on that.


A few seconds after that door opens a pungent smell wavier out immediately.


And all at once, the sound seems to leave except for one high-pitched white noise. My vision was being to swim as my stomach instantly recoiled and twist.


I think I'm going to throw up.


"Jackson...?"


"Sir!"


I couldn't breathe, I'm going to throw up.


I didn't feel myself fall back, and I didn't hear Hayden's frantic yells for me. Everything melt into one, loud unyielding white noise.


And then there was nothing.

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