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Cuddling close to each other in front of the TV, Ariel and Joe were lounging after their dancing, and where they were far and away from Rainie. One down, Mike to go. Luckily Mike was supposedly “visiting his mother” this weekend so he wasn’t coming home; well that was what he told Joe anyways. So Joe and Ariel had the whole apartment to themselves ready for anything to happen.
“So I was thinking of take out and a movie,” Joe responded nonchalantly. “How does that sound?”
“Actually, I have been meaning to talk to you about something. This actually may seem kind of random but…I’ve been thinking about this recently. Do you think we’re doing the right thing by being together?” she asked suddenly.
Ariel’s words caught him by surprise. All of a sudden she became a bit nervous and her body rose in a way that she became stiff and serious. Joe frowned a bit and was at a lost for words. Ariel didn’t know what to say to that; all she felt was a numbness hitting her body that shook her to the bone.
“W-why do you ask?” Joe stuttered, afraid of what’s to come.
“You’ve seen what Mike and Rainie have been through,” Ariel explained. “Don’t get me wrong, I love being with you but…if it’s just going to end up how they did, then I am not so sure what’s going to happen to us.”
Ariel didn’t exactly know what she was doing but she knew what she felt and she felt waves of shivers down her spine and not one of them failed to stop her cold. She could already feel the light pricks of salty tears forming in her glazed eyes because she knew how much Joe liked her and that she couldn’t stand to break his heart. She took him by the hand and lightly patted them together so he’d feel a bit of compassion from her.
“…I just- I just wanted to know if you think this is right?” she asked again. “I just think that since we’re not into deep with the relationship, we should probably quit while we’re ahead. End it while our friendship is still good and that maybe later we’ll always be there for each other as friends.”
“I agree,” Joe answered bluntly.
Well this wasn’t what she expected to hear. What did he mean he agreed? Wasn’t he supposed to fight for their relationship and persevere with chivalry and masculinity like the movies? He was the one who liked her! Ariel looked at his weary eyes and can feel that he wasn’t angry or mad but instead almost relieved. Maybe she just shot herself in the foot.
“Y-you agree?” she asked softly.
“Yeah,” Joe nodded nervously with a slight smile. “You’re right, completely right. We’re just heading the same road Mike and Rainie took. We should nip this in the bud now.”
“Precisely,” Ariel smiled back, as her heart broke into two. “I mean we don’t need all that drama! PSHH! Besides, I’m already betrothed.”
“That’s right!” Joe agreed. “You’re…you’re betrothed.”
Right from the beginning, his voice began to trial away from his normally frank tone. He knew that everything he was saying were blatant lies and that he deliberately hurt his own heart in order for her to not see him so vulnerable and frail…so pathetic. This was just like his break up with Karen, but this time he would be losing more than just ‘Karen’; he was losing Ariel.
“Can’t help it,” he laughed nervously. “We can’t help that you’re already set to marry someone else. And like you said before, we don’t want to become like Mike and Rainie.”
“Yeah and we don’t want to end up like Mike and Rainie,” she kept repeating. “Oh, and we’ve always been better as friends anyways. We don’t need to complicate our lives by starting a new relationship.”
“Exactly!” Joe lied. “So forget ‘relationships!’ It’s time to face our reality right?”
“Right!” Ariel nodded heavily as she began to pry. “I mean it’s not like you fell in love with me, right?”
“Love?” Joe scoffed. “Never! We barely got together! I hardly even know you that well. You might even say that we’re perfect strangers.”
“…Uh-huh,” Ariel managed to say as she inhaled harshly trying to keep the tears from bursting out of her eyes.
“So it’s settled then,” Joe sighed shortly, trying to keep his head clear. “We’re breaking up.”
“What is there to break up from, am I right?” Ariel gave a phony laugh. “We weren’t really together anyways.”
“…yeah!” Joe gave a brief smile. “Who are you again!?”
“HAHA!” Ariel gave an uncontrollable laugh so she’d stop herself from crying. “Nice joke there!”
“Yeah…” he exasperatedly said as he grew weak. “So, friends huh?”
Ariel grew silent and just looked at his gentle eyes one last time before she twitched her way into more lies.
“F-friends,” she smiled. “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. Am I right? Did I say it right?”
“Mm,” he hummed, as he felt his own words come back to haunt him.
“Ok,” she smiled one last time. “I’ll just go home. I’ll get cab.”
As Ariel began to walk out, Joe followed her closely and couldn’t believe what was happening. The voice inside his head was pressuring him to take her back and beating at him for being so stupid. Ariel felt a twinge of coldness shrouding her body and in a moment she would let her eyes run till they were dry but not in front of him…never in front of him.
“I’ll see you,” she waved to him as she headed out the door.
“Ditto,” he replied. “Are you sure you’re ok?”
“Oh please, it’s just a cab. I’m not that frail girl you met so long ago; I can take care of myself. You’re not going to close the door and I’ll be crying my eyes out,” she laughed insincerely. “I’ll be fine.”
“Ok, then,” he nodded back. “Take care.”
Closing the door slowly, Joe lost all train of thought and felt like a ton of ice just smashed into his body; piercing his flesh from every direction with a cold stab at every angle. His mind pounded from one side to the other, the feeling of regret and stupidity hitting him at every turn. As he was about to hear the door click shut, a distinct noise snapped his mind and body back into gear.
“I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE BREAKING UP WITH ME!!!” he yelled as he whipped the door open.
“I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE LETTING ME BREAK UP WITH YOU!” Ariel yelled back.
“W-Wha…So what was all that you said in there?!” Joe realized.
“I lied!” she continued to whine. “I don’t want to break up with you!”
“Well then why didn’t you just say that!” he asked after being incredibly irritated.
“I don’t know! Stop yelling at me!” she bawled dramatically.
“I am not yelling at you, I am asking you!” he heatedly replied.
“Why do you keep asking stupid questions?!?” she pouted.
“Because I like you!” he bickered back.
“Well you better!” she bellyached at him. “Wait, what?!”
“That’s right I said it!” he proudly proclaimed.
“Well why didn’t you say so in the first place!?” she whined.
“I was going to, but…but you kept mentioning that we would eventually fall apart. What’s the point in furthering our relationship if you had doubts?” he argued.
“Well that’s not the point; the point is, do you want to be with me or not?” she frowned.
“Do you want to be with me?” Joe asked back.
“You say it first!” Ariel pressured.
“I already said I liked you! It should be obvious!” he fired back. “It’s your turn!”
“I…” she began and stopped.
“SEE!” he moaned. “You’re having doubts! I knew it! I…I…”
“What?” she asked disappointedly.
“…tell me it isn’t true,” he softly spoke
“It’s not true! I don’t have doubts!” she argued.
“No, that’s not what I meant,” he seriously replied, calming his hysterics. “You still love him, don’t you?”
“Who?” she asked.
“Oh man,” he realized. “You’re still in love with him aren’t you? You still love Peter.”
And with that, they both froze in place.
“I-I…what are you saying!?” she stuttered.
“Now I get it,” he nodded. “Now I understand why you wanted to break up.”
“Wait, no, Joe, that’s not…” she mustered. “…I’m not in love with him!”
“Maybe not,” Joe quietly sighed. “But you’re not in love with me.”
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