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This was the last day Ariel would be working and living with Joe and everything would be over and done with. They have tolerated each other and learned to adjust to their dysfunctions and live somewhat peacefully with each other. So, what’s next? Will they see each other from now on, or was this just a once in a lifetime moment for pure memory?
Ariel thought about this hard and she didn’t think she’d actually miss Joe, but seeing as how she was moving out of the apartment and quitting the job she could already feel like they were drifting away. It was a couple more minutes till closing and no more customers were left in the restaurant.
“Ariel?” Joe asked.
“Yeah?” she responded quickly.
“Finish sweeping the floors and then we can walk back to the apartment,” he said stretching his neck.
“I’m going back to Rainie’s place today, remember?” she said smiling slightly.
“Oh yeah,” he nervously chuckled. “I forgot. Did she tell you where to meet her?”
“She said I should just stay here so she can pick me up herself and she’ll have one of her people come and take my stuff from the apartment,” Ariel explained.
“Oh,” he said solemnly.
He leaned on a nearby table and closed his tired eyes. He couldn’t pin point what was going on with his head today; so many things were swimming in his mind that it was hard to concentration on the night’s service and it wore him out. Leaning on the same table next to him, Ariel looked at his pained expression.
“You OK?” she asked him worriedly. “You can go back to the apartment and I can lock up when Rainie picks me up.”
“It’s OK I’m fine,” he said shaking his head.
“You sure?” she asked again. “You’ve been a bit odd today.”
“Lack of sleep,” he explained.
“Mike’s coming home too,” she said trying to cheer Joe up.
“Yeah,” he whispered.
“Aren’t you happy?” she asked.
“Ecstatic,” he said indifferently, rubbing his forehead.
“That’s it!” she huffed. “Let me take a look at you.”
“Stop yelling,” he said slowly.
She grabbed his face and looked at his winced eyes.
“You look sick,” she presumed. “Have you been over-stressed lately?”
“I’ve been over-stressed ever since you came into my life,” he answered indifferently. She slapped his arm for that. “Keep quiet if you’re going to joke.”
She placed a palm on his forehead and one on her own forehead.
“Oh dear,” she said. “I think you’re catching a cold.”
“You can tell by just touching my head?” he asked suspiciously.
“Hush up,” she scolded him. “You keep wearing thin T-shirts at this time of the year, no wonder you’re so weak.”
“I’m not weak!” he whined.
“Oh gosh I can’t tell if your sick or not!” Ariel said angry at herself. “Come here.”
She placed a hand at the back of his head and kissed his forehead a couple of times.
“Hmmm….” she said.
“Why are you kissing me?” Joe asked apprehensively.
“Don’t think too much of it,” she said as she pulled herself away from him. “My mom said the lips are the most sensitive part in your whole entire body so when I was little she could tell if I had a cold or fever just by putting her lips on my head.”
“And did it work?” he asked warily.
“She hasn’t failed yet,” she said proudly.
“So mini mama,” he joked. “Do I have a fever or not?”
“A little one,” she deduced. “Just keep yourself warm and stop depending on the heat from the kitchen to keep you warm.”
“Will do,” he said keeping his apathetic disposition. “AH!”
“What happened?” Ariel yelled in fear as she sees Joe struggling on the floor.
“Ah! It’s my arm, it hurts,” he winced.
“Did you pull a muscle or something?” she asked worriedly. “What happened!?”
“I don’t know,” he said shaking his head. “Why don’t you kiss it and give it a diagnosis!”
“JOSEPH CHENG!!” she screamed as she socked his arm hard. “How dare you scare me like that?”
“I was only kidding!” he laughed. “Come on you can’t possibly be angry at me for taking advantage of that sweet opportunity!”
“You have some nerve!” she pouted. “After I tried to help you, you do something rotten like that!”
“Ok ok,” he said ending his laughter. “I’m sorry, please forgive me.”
“I’m sorry, please forgive me,” she said mocking his indifference. “You should at least be sincere about it!”
“I was being sincere!” he laughed.
“Then why are you laughing!” he yelled.
“Because it’s funny!” he laughed harder.
“What’s so funny about scaring me to death!” she asked furiously.
“Its funny…” he chuckled. “…because you care.”
“I’m missing something,” she frowned. “I don’t understand.”
“You want me to kiss you so you’d understand?” he joked.
“JOE!!” she yelled.
“Fine!” he yelled between his laughter. “It’s funny that you like me more than I like you.”
“I don’t find that funny,” she said shaking her head.
“Well, not exactly funny but rather awkward and weird,” he nodded.
“You’ve completely lost me,” she said rolling her eyes. “That still tells me nothing about why you would scare me. It’s like dealing with a 9 year old boy who still thinks girls have cooties so he angers them to keep them away.”
“So you do understand?” he joked.
“You mean to tell me that you did that as a cruel joke because you think I like you more than you like me!?” she yelled back.
“Did I do something wrong?” he said mocking her.
“JOE CHENG! You apologize to me right now for such childish behavior!” she screamed as she pointed her index finger at his face.
“I’m kidding,” he laughed as he took her hand out of his face. “Look, I’m going to take that offer you gave me before and let you close the restaurant. Were not opened tomorrow so you can tell whoever’s coming to pick up your stuff to give the keys back to me.”
“But…” she pouted.
“I’ll see you around,” he said patting her shoulder.
“But what if we never see each other again?” she asked worriedly.
“Aw, you’re missing me already?” he smiled to her as he left the restaurant.
“NO…” she frowned. “I just haven’t finished scolding you.”
“You never will finish scolding me,” he chuckled. “I can still hear your howls at night!”
“JOE!” she screamed.
“See, I told you,” he said shaking his head. “It’s high pitched like a coyote. ‘JOOOOEE!’ Well I can’t do it, but you can.”
“You’re still making fun of me after I was so worried about you,” she folded her arms. “How can I ever like someone like you?”
“You don’t have to like me,” Joe said closing the door. “Just remember: A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. If you need me, you know where to go.”
Little does she know, that she’s going to need him more than she wants to admit.
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