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Joe didn’t leave Ariel alone that night. His answer, to whether or not he was willing to stay with her, was an unspoken yes as he followed her back to bedroom and they quietly fell asleep with their limbs entangled within each other. Safe; just as they intended it to be. He couldn’t sleep though, waking up every couple of minutes to see if she was still tight around his embrace. It had been a long night for the both of them talking about how she coped with her amnesia and how she wished things could be different.
He watched quietly as she softly snored on his arm, dreaming in tangents, roaming in nonsensical whimsy. Hmm. He could smell the light perfume she wore still looming around her neck. What a wonderful scent it was. Every once in a while she would move lightly and it would stroke his senses in light euphoria. Tracing her arms gently with a few fingers, Joe would feel the gentle hairs that stood up from her goose bumps, revealing that she had grown chilly. But then again his hand was always there to protect her.
Seemingly, Joe had been in a deep awakened trance that had yet to suffice. It seemed as if he was barely conscious but he thought of the most profound things. The existence of fate, the lingering memories of his past that left a bitter-sweet taste…random things but to him it was more use of his brain for someone who was supposed to be asleep. Something else was lingering in his mind; it didn’t leave him since Ariel had told him about it. What was this dissociative amnesia?
It kept him up all night and it hadn’t left him in the morning, when Joe decided to head on over to Old Man Abe’s hardware store. He had to hear it for himself, what happened to Ariel that night? Was everything just so casually accidental to be a coincidence? Stepping into the store, Joe hears the soft bell ringing as he entered the homey atmosphere that smelled of wood and metal.
Something was amiss though. Joe couldn’t quite catch what it was, but something was looming around the store that had an off feeling. It was like the festive season had gone awry but to a really exaggerated extent. Balloons filled a corner of the room while red and gold wrapping and decorations were piled from the floor to the ceiling.
“Welcome,” Abe chimed in unison with the bell. “Joe! What are you doing here so early in the morning?”
“Not much, I was just in the neighborhood,” he nodded back to him politely. “How’s business these days?”
“Same as always; slow but good. Did you need anything?” Abe inspected Joe, pushing his glasses back up the crook of his nose.
“No, I…was just passing by and wanted to say hi,” Joe nervously tapped a nearby shelf. “I was going to ask you something but…what’s with the decorations?”
“I’m getting ready for the Formal Ball of Cianhjen Harbor that’s all. It’s coming up in a couple of weeks so I told Aunt Sally that I’d help out to make the town look more festive.”
“Hello, hello!” Sally chimed in appropriately. She was already covered with garlands and lights that wrapped from her head to her toes. It was like looking at a walking Christmas tree. “I heard someone call for me?”
“You know Sally right, Joe?” Abe pointed her out to Joe. “Well you should, it’s pretty hard not to.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Sally sternly asked. “Of course I know Joe, but still…”
“Anyways,” Abe rolled his eyes and pretended to ignore her as he nodded over to Joe. “Well, didn’t you say you had a question to ask? Ask away,” Abe threw him hands up in the air, as if he offered his entire store to Joe. “But, do you mind giving me a hand with some of this stuff. I’m a little old to be climbing any ladders.”
Joe shook his head, indicating his more than willingness. “Oh sure, no problem.”
Joe didn’t hesitate to reach over and bring the ladder outside of the store while Abe grabbed the red lights that would hang outside the store. They settled right in front of the door and Joe climbed up to receive those pesky, tangled lights that bundled together. Sally was standing on the side as she gave directions to Joe.
“So why does this town go all out to celebrate the harbor?” Joe asked, trying to unwrap the lights and place them carefully straight on the store.
“Didn’t anyone tell ya?” Sally was shocked to hear that, but was more than willing to tell him. “Cianjhen Harbor is one of the largest fish markets in Taiwan; when its day time, that is. At night the Harbor becomes a magnificent flea market for many local businesses. We pride our city on this Harbor and every year we celebrate it by having a Grand Ball.”
The words came back from his memory. He has heard this before. Ariel had told him when she was giving him that tour before. Another line of decorations came up and he carefully placed them across the store.
“Oh I remember now, Ariel told me about it,” he smiled to Abe. “It’s great to hear that every year this town has something to look forward to.”
“Isn’t it though?” Abe rubbed his nose harshly as he let out a prideful beam. “And this year must be especially special for Ariel since Kris is performing at the Ball as well.”
“I suppose so,” Joe nodded, planting more red and gold lanterns.
“You had a question for me didn’t you, Joe?” Abe asked out of the blue.
“Ah, I did,” Joe turned over to him. “It’s about Ariel.”
Getting off the ladder, Joe dusted his hands of the dirt from the walls and gave a deep sigh. Abe and Sally could already tell where this was headed, and they were more than eager to tell him.
“Ah, I know” Sally chuckled lightly. “If its Ariel you want to know about, all you have to do is ask straightforwardly. You don’t have to be shy. I’ve seen the way you look at her. It’s quite obvious what you two have going for each other. So, I take it you’ve come to me for some advice-
“Uh,” Joe interrupted with a nervous laugh of his own. “It’s not advice I’m looking for. She told me what happened when she first arrived in Caoya.”
Sally’s faint smile suddenly fell into a deep frown, giving off a confused look. Abe scratched his head for a second to try to see where this conversation was headed.
“What happened?” he asked, with absolute serious confusion, leaving Joe dumbfounded. It can’t be that Abe and Sally have amnesia too, can it?
“Ya know,” Joe motioned an inward hand gesture. “Ariel lost her memory.”
“Oh! That. Well, not much to say on that now is there?” Abe sighed deeply and patted his stomach. “She came, never left and there you have it.”
“W-wait a second,” Joe scoffed a brief laugh. “You were there to take her to the hospital that night, you’re the reason she came here in the first place; how could that be all?
“Well truthfully, I don’t know a thing about her past, if that’s what you’re asking,” Abe shrugged. “She’s a bit of a mystery, that one. I can’t quite put my finger on it.”
Sally nodded and continued for Abe. “Doctors say it’s…its amnesia. I say she’s trying to run away from something. Trying to hide. Maybe from her past; maybe it’s from something she doesn’t want to look back at.”
“She’s trying to hide?” Joe muttered under his breath. “Why would she want to hide?”
“Well, I’m not sure if its hiding,” Abe scratched his head again. “But purposely trying to forget something. I heard that dissociative amnesia happens when someone is under tremendous trauma. The brain just gives up and loses all memory of the devastating event. Lord knows what happened to her the night I picked her up.”
“Or anytime before,” Sally shivered at the thought. “The poor dear; there must have been some sort of trigger or something in her brain to force her to forget.”
Joe was lost. What was this trauma they were talking about? What forced her to forget?
“Well whatever it is, it doesn’t seem like Ariel wants it back anytime soon,” Sally nodded sternly. “It’s been years and she hasn’t remembered a thing. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. It’s probably for the best. She’s been happy so far since I’ve known her.”
“Is there any way I can make her remember?” Joe asked to no one in particular.
Abe shrugged once more. “Fate weaves us all in different paths. We don’t all take the same turns in life. All I can tell you is to trust her and things will slowly appear and reveal themselves.”
“I agree,” Sally nodded. She gave a quick pat on Joe’s shoulder as if giving him a heads up. “She’s a good girl, that one.”
Things will slowly appear…and reveal themselves. After Joe left Abe’s store, those last few words still resonated clearly in his mind. But his arm was still killing him. Damn that barbed wire from the school. I guess Ariel was right last night. He really should head over to the hospital soon.
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