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Chapter 12

“ARIEL!!” screamed an irate Joe from the kitchen.
“What now!?” she yelled back even more irritated.

They had only been living and working together for less than a week and were at each other’s throats. At work, Joe was constantly nagging Ariel to scrub the floors, bust the tables and clean both the men and women restrooms. At home, he would…well do the same thing but she wasn’t getting paid for the effort. It was frustrating for her to go straight from a privileged living to hardcore, backbreaking labor. Even though he knew that she was also recovering from the traumatic loss of her house and her boyfriend, he was relentless.

“Let’s go,” Joe hinted at the door.

“Let’s go where?” Ariel asked.

“We’re going to go to the restaurant,” he said putting on his jacket and handing hers to her.

“What for?” she continued to ask.

“I’m going to teach you how to cook,” he said bluntly.

“Why?!” Ariel asked loudly in disbelief.

Joe looked at her like she had gone insane, not that he never thought about that before.

“Geez, you’d think you could tone it down a bit and start using your inside voice?” he quipped, as he put on his jacket. “I am going to teach you so when I need you during restaurant and catering shifts, I won’t be the only one who’s doing all the work.”

“Another JOB!!” she whined. “No more, no more. I want out!!”

“Hey, be grateful that I only let you do the easy things,” he argued.

“EASY?!?!” she screamed. “I don’t see you doing all the dirty work!”

“Trust me, you don’t want to know what I do for the sake of living with you,” he quipped.

“Well why do we have to go to the restaurant? We have a kitchen here,” she continued to ask.

“Well I don’t have enough pots and pans for you to damage here, so we’re going to MIKE’S and use the restaurant’s cookware,” he said quickly. “Now stop stalling and put on a jacket.”

They headed down the corner market where Mike’s restaurant was located at the very end. It was early in the daytime, just at the crack of dawn. The night before had still showed on the bright neon lights of each market which still gleamed brilliantly like a million tiny fireflies crashing together in bursts of light. The street was covered with orange lanterns they glowed beautifully and different arrays of music came from each store creating a very homey atmosphere.

“C’mon,” Joe called out to Ariel.

He apathetically pulled out his arm towards her and took her hand in his. Oh right, she thought. They were passing Mrs. Lee’s store, which was streaming with customers and loud noises. Looking at Mrs. Lee, they both wave ‘Hi’ to her and kept going. Walking hand in hand was meant to be an endearing gesture of love or attraction, but not when you’re holding hands with a guy who’d rather be doing this with a cactus.

Undeniably annoyed, Ariel sighed deeply at her situation and continued to walk the whole way holding hands with Joe. Suddenly, she see’s a familiar face from the one of the corner markets. It sent shivers down her spine and abruptly stopped her dead in her tracks unable to breathe. She clenched onto Joe’s grip tighter than before, which caused him to slightly fall back when he kept walking and she stopped.

“What? What happened? Why are you just standing there?” Joe called back to her, as he tried to balance himself.

She said nothing and instead just kept her focus on the familiar man, who was now holding onto an unfamiliar woman’s waist. They were laughing generously and were seemingly in love; feelings Ariel had known before that had seemed like centuries.

“Hello there…” Joe asked her, waving his hands in front of her face.

“Hmm?” she asked jittery.

“What’s with the face?” he asked while pointing his index finger squarely at her nose.

“What? What face?” she asked quietly.

“That face. You look like you just saw 500 bunnies commit suicide,” he joked seriously.

“Um…” she nervously shuffled her feet.

The couple soon came closer and closer to them and Ariel nervously couldn’t stop squirming in place.

“What’s the matter with you?” Joe asked Ariel as she looks back and forth at the ground.

“Hide me!” she whispered. She got in back of Joe clinging tightly at his thin jacket.

“Whoa!” he yelped as he jumped from Ariel’s sudden touch. “What!?!?!”

“Don’t come near me, don’t come near me…”Ariel chanted from behind Joe, burying her face deep into the jacket.

“Hey! That tickles!!!” he giggled. “Stop! Stop!”

“Joe!” she whispered loudly. “Stop fidgeting!”

“Stop tickling me!!!” he laughed.

“Stop moving!!” she whispered again, slapping his arm.

The familiar man and unfamiliar woman walked towards the noise and in front of Joe. The man was a tall and mysteriously handsome man with a great deal of poise and sophistication. The woman was elegant and had a dress that the wind helped glorify at the very seams. They looked closely but swiftly at Joe, from top to bottom. Poor Joe, he couldn’t help but look like an idiot, desperately trying to stop Ariel from grabbing him from the back more and more and shielding her face from the familiar man.

“Stop! Stop! I’m cramping!!” Joe screamed in laughter from the humorous torture Ariel provided.

“Shh!!!” she hushed at him from behind. “JOE!!”

“ HAHAHA!! It tickles!!!” he continued to laugh

“Stop it!!” she whispered loudly again continuing to slam his on the arm.

“You’re poking me!!” he laughed.

As the reached close enough to almost touch the screaming bum, Joe pulled Ariel from behind to stop her from making him laugh. She still covered herself by shoving her face into Joe’s chest, quickly so the familiar man couldn’t see her directly.

“Children, haha,” Joe laughed nervously pointing at Ariel. “Note to self; no more caffeine in the morning.”

The man looks at Joe one more time and deeply sighed before indifferently kept going the opposite way with the woman clinging onto his arm.

“You’re not so hot yourself,” Joe snickered to himself at the familiar man.

“Is he gone?” Ariel muffled in front of his shirt, still clinging on tightly.

“You mean Mr. Universe?” he said sarcastically. “Yeah, he’s gone.”

Peering from the corner of her eye, Ariel stared silently at the familiar man from behind and grew even quieter than before.

“Ariel?” Joe called her again, waving his hand in front of her eyes. This time, she didn’t even flinch. “Hey, puny little nymph…”

“Hmm?” she asked, slowly turning to face him.

“What’s wrong?” he asked sincerely.

“Nothing,” she whispered with a small smile. “Let’s just go.”

“Wait, did you know him?” he asked.

“Something like that,” she answered. “C’mon. We should hurry.”

“Let’s go to the store first for some groceries,” Joe said looking at the sky. “We can’t waste Mike’s supplies so…

Ariel stopped listening to him and instead walked towards the restaurant.

“Hey! Where are you going?” he called out to her.

No response. She kept walking, but she didn’t keep a steady pace. She was slow and her feet lightly pattered the ground. Her head was low and she started playing with her jacket.

“Hey!!!” he yelled again. “ARIEL!” She turned her head around slightly, but not all the way. “Where’re you going? I said we’re not going to the restaurant anymore!” he called to her.

With her back towards him, he couldn’t see what had been plastered all across her face; streams of tears raked at her face, her pained expression deepening with every fleeting moment. Without any warning, she ran.

“ARIEL!!” Joe screamed running after her. “HEY!! Stop!! Why are you running?!?!”

She got to the very edge of the corner market, where Mike’s restaurant stood and she furiously tried to pull open the door. Still locked tight, Ariel stopped pulling and began throwing her fists onto the door, pretending it was the familiar man.

“Whoa! Ariel!” Joe yelled at her.

He grabbed her behind and saw her tears flowing freely. He had never seen this stubborn woman have any expression other than anger so to see her so vulnerable and weak had made the situation even more awkward.

“He was your ex-boyfriend, right?” he asked bluntly to the crying girl before him.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen to me,” she cried to him. “Not to me…”

“What?” he asked in disbelief.

“I wasn’t supposed to end up like this. I don’t deserve this. I should have been living with him, happy and carefree…not scrubbing toilets and washing the grout off the tile floors like a dirty servant girl!!” she continued to cry. “I should be living in luxury…that girl by him, holding onto his arm…that should have been me!”

“…geez.” Joe muttered to himself with a deep sigh.

“Why does this have to happen now?? Everything was so great…” she sputtered breathlessly into the sky. “It’s not fair…”

Unable to stand her own vulnerability, Ariel covers her face with her hands and began to stumble to her knees. Slowly letting her weight carry her down to her own personal hell, she indulges in the cold, wetness of her tear drenched hands until a mesh of warmth shot around her body. Just before her legs could even touch the ground, Joe caught her in his arms.

“Whoa, Ariel…” Joe began to say, comforting her. “Calm down, the world’s not coming to an end.”

“It might as well…” she whispered to herself.

“I guess, today wouldn’t be a good day to teach you how to cook huh?” he joked. She kept crying which surprisingly scared him for once. “Let’s just go home then…”

“Where are you Rainie??” Ariel cried to herself, desperately wanting her dear friend back.



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