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Breathe

Ariel made her way back to her apartment feeling the same way she felt before she left for Joe’s; horrible in the most unexplainable way. Not one single expression was made besides her stoic disposition as she carried Kris up those damn flights of stairs to her aparment. The eerie creak of the door caused Kris to move about in her arms, but not enough to wake her. Thankfully.

After settling Kris back on her bed, Ariel headed straight to her room with a deadpanned expression that mirrored in the dark hallway she had to walk through. She didn’t even bother flicking on the light. She closed the door behind her and headed straight to the bathroom, locking herself in, hoping Kris couldn’t hear her weep. For a while she just sat there on the floor, quietly being enveloped in her heartache.

She sat in her dark musky bathroom, resting is her head on the door with hands laying flat against the cold marble floor and her body limp as a cold dead fish. She let her crooked breathes fall from her lips and linger in the air. With those tears that seemed to have fallen without her even noticing, her eyes soon clouded and pained.

Those last words he said kept repeating in her mind. “I just want one more day.”

She placed a finger on her trembling lips and gave a small whimper. Just thinking about the look on his face when he said it sent daggers to her chest. Her head was pounding while the soft drops of water dripping from the sink above lulled her eyes shut. Lights from across the streets kept changing from dimmer to brighter in a random matter

“One more day…” she whispered softly, enhancing the echo in the bathroom.

Twiddling her fingers rhythmically to the beat of her breath, she thought about what he had said to her…

“Ariel, you know how much I love you,” she remembered his calm voice speaking close enough to touch her. “It was already hard enough to lose you the first time. I’m not ready to lose you a second time.”

And she did know how much he loved her. She remembered the first time she heard it too. He was being such a pain back then, with his arm slung up in the air, waiting for it to be bandaged up. That was the same night of Kris’ talent show and Ariel remembered how bright her smile was when she saw him.

“Why is that coming up suddenly?” she said to herself. Lifting a hand up to her throbbing head, Ariel tried to calm herself down. “I need to get some sleep.”

Slowly lifting herself off the ground, Ariel stumbled a bit getting to bed. Her legs wobbled from sitting on tile for the longest time. Landing with a dull slump on her bed, Ariel gave a sigh and released her heavy heart onto the cold bed sheets on which she laid. As her heavy eyelids dropped and encased her into darkness, her mind began to drift back to that same night he said he loved her. It was the same night he whispered something in her ear. He probably didn’t think she heard him, but she did. In the state of unconsciousness that she was in, she remembered it vividly.

“Can you hear me?” she could still hear his voice echo in her head, and she could still feel his breath land on the nape of her neck. “Can I tell you a secret? Promise that you won’t run away.” The way he gracefully tucked in the loose strand of hair behind her ear then still sent shivers down her spine. “I love you. I really love you,” he would continue to murmur softly. “I was stupid to have ever let you go. I never should have left you at that damn parking lot. I never should have let you out of my sight.”

Ariel snapped up from her bed. Was her head playing tricks on her? Did he really say that to her? Why didn’t she pick up on it before? Was it because she didn’t want to believe it was him all along?

Interrupting her thoughts, a knock at the door came. It was soft but immediately caught her attention. The door opened and a head stuck in with a gentle smile plastered on it.

“Mommy,” the head spoke. “Can I sleep with you tonight?”

“Sure,” Ariel gave the ok, right before the little scamp ran to her in a tight embrace. She brushed the stray hairs off her daughter’s face and asked, “You’re still not sleepy?”

“Nope,” Kris shook her head lightly. “Mommy, can I ask you a question?”

“What is it?” she lightly smiled, placing her arms around Kris.

“Remember the time I got really mad at Joe because he told me he couldn’t come to my talent show?” Kris asked, pulling on her mother’s arm. “I remember how mad I was at him too, so I know how it feels to be really, really mad. But I also know that you always tell me to give people a second chance. So I did.”

“And your point is?” Ariel persisted.

“Well…isn’t this the same thing?” Kris naively asked. “I know you’re mad mom, but shouldn’t you forgive him? I’m not mad at him. Why are you still mad?”

“I think it’s easier said than done, Kris,” her mother patted her on the innocent little head. “Besides, you’re too young to understand.”

Kris’ head was about to explode from her mother’s stubborn behavior. Both hands landed on her head as she scratched with vigor.

“Grown ups are so hard to please!” Kris angrily spouted. “How come when you tell me to do something I have to do it but when I tell you to do something, you don’t?”

“Because I’m your mother, and I say so,” Ariel scolded.

“Do all mommies’ have that power?” Kris sarcastically asked.

“Every one of us!” Ariel joked back. “Now go to sleep.”

“Wait,” Kris paused. “Can I say one more thing?”

“What is it?” Ariel exasperatedly sighed.

“Can we see Joe tomorrow?” Kris pouted pitifully. “He wants to see us one more time. C’mon mommy!”

“…We’ll see,” she answered, unsure of what to say.

“That always means no,” Kris sadly frowned.

“No, it means you should go to sleep and we’ll see what happens in the morning,” she ordered, placing her daughter into the sheets and tucking her in well so she doesn’t spring out.

“Sleep on it momma,” Kris nodded over to her mother. “I’ll send you messages in your dreams so you’ll say yes in the morning.”

“That’s a little creepy,” Ariel snickered, holding Kris down in a snuggly position.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Kris whispered into her mother’s ear. “Yes…yes…”

“Stop it.”

When morning came, Kris still laid in her mother’s soft comforter, snoring to the birds that chirped in the window. She could feel the warmth of the sun seeping through so she dug her butt deeper into the plush bedding. Turning side to side, Kris tried to find her groove but instead felt a small slap on her bottom half.

“Yikes!” she yelped out.

“Hurry and get changed,” her mother hurriedly said. “We’re going to be late.”

“It’s Saturday, momma,” Kris whined as she fell back into bed. “No school today!”
Ariel looked over at her daughter and said, “We’re not going to school.”

Kris watched her mother making her way into the restroom with a cheeky grin, and wondered what she meant by that. Then it hit her.

“It worked! The messages worked! We’re going to see Joe today! YES!” Kris shouted, right before leaping off her mother’s mattress and gathering her best clothes for the occasion.

It wasn’t going to be easy for Ariel to see Joe again, but after everything they’ve been through, she’d had enough of running away. As she walked hand in hand with Kris to a nearby café that was across the street from Abe’s hardware store, Ariel couldn’t hold in her nerves. She didn’t know what to say, she didn’t know what he would say; everything was left up in the air.

The day was nice though; birds still singing from this morning, a gentle breeze rolled in from time to time and both Ariel and Kris were dressed in their Sunday bests. Just one more corner to turn and they’d be there.

“Mommy, why’d I have to wear a dress?” Kris moaned.

“Because Joe’s never seen you in one, dear,” Ariel responded, looking at her watch to check if she was going to be late.

“And you look so adorable in a dress.”

“I feel naked!” Kris pouted, restraining the dress from flying up with one hand, while holding onto her mother with the other.

“We’re almost there,” Ariel gripped onto Kris’ hand tighter at the anticipation.

 

“Almost”, turned into an eternity. The moment Ariel and Kris stood in front of the café they recognized almost immediately, Jiro, Ella, and Rainie sitting in the patio portion of the restaurant with two unrecognizable, older man and woman. Well, they were unrecognizable to Kris anyways. The adults stood from their seats as they spotted the duo standing frozen in front of them. The older woman stood anxiously, fixing her hair and shaking nervously while the older man looked quite frail and shaken himself.

“Mommy, who are they?” Kris tugged at Ariel’s dress.

“Mom? Dad?”

 

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