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Amidst the nerves, the tension and the pain of her fingers digging into her skin, Ariel impatiently waited as the cab slowed to stop at yet another red light.
“Oh, geez, we’ll never make it there on time,” Ariel whined, shaking her legs erratically in the small cab. “We can’t stop the plane now.”
“Mommy stop shaking, you’re making me sick,” Kris cried as she uncomfortably bounced on her mother’s lap.
“Sorry dear,” she apologized. “I’m just nervous that’s all.”
“What about?” Kris shrugged. “Auntie Ella and Auntie Rainie are driving there together. Uncle Jiro, grandma and grandpa are heading there too. At least one of us will make it there on time.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Ariel calmly sighed and gave Kris a small smile.
“Of course,” her daughter smugly nodded. “Nothing to worry about.”
Suddenly a rough stop caused them to jilt forward.
“What was that?” Ariel asked the cab-driver.
“I think we just hit traffic,” he answered back. “Everyone is going to the festival celebrating Cianjhen Harbor today. Seems like we’re going to be stuck here for a while.”
“N-no, this can’t be,” Ariel argued back. “I’m supposed to stop a flight to Italy in a few hours; there cannot be any more delays.”
“Well I’m sorry ma’am but I don’t control the roads,” the driver shrugged. “You’re just going to have to wait a few more minutes.”
“I don’t have time!” she growled back. The frustration was starting to peak. “Can’t you move into the next lane or something?”
“Call him, mommy,” Kris nudged her mother’s leg. “Just tell him whatever you want on the phone.”
“I can’t do that,” she frowned.
“Why?” her daughter looked at her pain-stricken face and asked. “Isn’t it easier? All you want to do is talk to him right, tell him everything is okay now? Just call him.”
“What if he’s on the plane right now? He wouldn’t even have his phone on in the plane, how can I call him then? I have to talk to him in person. Can’t we move any faster?”
“I’m moving as fast as I can,” the driver responded, a bit frustrated.
They were not going to make it. Not in this traffic. Blocked from end to end, not a single slab of concrete can be seen between cars; it was literally bumper to bumper traffic. The town’s festival was about to start and all the townspeople had decided to go to Cianjhen Harbor at the same time. Unlucky for Ariel, Cianjihen Harbor was in the same direction as the terminal. As minutes turned into a full hour, Ariel had only moved a couple of miles. The flight would soon be departing and Ariel was left scratching her head furiously at the anticipation.
“Oh, God this will never end! I’m never going to make it there,” she muttered. Suddenly, her phone rings. It was Calvin.
“Hey Ariel,” he answered at the receiving end. “I was just talking to my sister, Ella, on the phone earlier and she mentioned something interesting to me. She told me to stop any planes going to Italy. I thought she was crazy.”
“Look I’m sorry Calvin,” Ariel winced. “But can you do us this little favor?”
“So it’s true?! Ariel you know I’m in no position to do anything rash like that!” He whined. “I can’t just stop flights just because I’m head of the ATC.”
“Calvin, it’s only just so I can talk to Joe,” she admitted. “I just need a couple of minutes with him. I can’t make it there now because of all this traffic but I just need to talk to him once.”
“Talk to Joe?” he asked, with a bit of confusion.
“Yes,” Ariel asked.
“Well, I’m not positive about it but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t take night flights; not after the last time he flew to Moscow and almost had an accident,” he answered. “Isn’t the festival today? I thought he said he was busy helping out Abe and Sally with the decorations?”
“W-what?” she scoffed. “But wasn’t Joe supposed to head over to Italy tonight?”
“Tonight? Well the last flight tonight was to Karachi, Calcutta,” he casually mentioned. “Anyways, I just wanted to let you know before you came that I haven’t seem him at all today so if I were you, I’d save the trouble of having to come all the way from Caoya to not find what you’re looking for.”
“Thanks, Calvin,” she heaved a great sigh before hanging up her phone. Another ring came right after.
“HELLO!” screamed a nerve wrecked Rainie. “ARIEL, Joe isn’t going to be at the terminal! Jiro and I stopped in front of the Harbor and just received the message from Calvin that Joe’s not going to Italy!”
“…yeah I got that,” Ariel cringed at the sound of her friend’s shrill voice.
“We’re going to try to find him at the festival; Jiro is already spreading around the grounds with your parents and I just found Robbie and Mike. Maybe they’ll know where he is. I’ll call you when I hear anything.”
And that was the end of the call. Now Ariel was more confused. Where had Joe run off too? They were also nearing the festival soon and the night sky had just begun to darken the streets which will soon be illuminated by lanterns. The festival noises could already be heard, but Ariel wasn’t having a good time. Getting out of the cab, Ariel took Kris’ hand and headed over to the festival.
“Hey mommy, where are we going? This isn’t the way to the airport,” Kris tugged at her mother’s hand.
“We’re going to the festival at Ciahjihen Harbor,” she softly answered.
“But we never go,” Kris scratched her head. “Why are we going this year? Don’t we have to find Joe?”
“Honey, for once just listen to your mother and do as you’re told,” she insisted upon her daughter.
“Is Joe at the festival? I thought he was going to Italy? Mommy? Why aren’t you saying anything?” Kris kept badgering.
“Because!” Ariel stopped in her tracks and yelled. “Because…I have no idea where he is. Everyone thinks he’s mostly likely at the festival. But Joe said he was going to Italy. I- don’t know where on Earth he’s gone to. Rainie still hasn’t called me back…”
“Call him,” Kris reiterated. “Just call him yourself. Ask him where he is. If he isn’t on the plane, you can talk to him right?”
Ariel turned and looked down at Kris. Her face had no traces of worry or fear; her plain expression had said it all to Ariel that Kris knew not to panic and to face her obstacles logically.
“Mommy, all you want to do is to say you’re sorry right? It’s not that hard. I’m sure he’ll forgive you,” Kris smiled lightly, making sure her mother feels okay about the idea.
“Kris, there are just some things that need to dealt with in person- things that can’t be solved with just ‘I’m sorry’ and all that,” Ariel knelt down to talk to her daughter. “Besides, don’t you want to see Joe? Mr. Joe? Superman?”
“Daddy,” Kris corrected her mother. “It’s always been daddy.”
Ariel chuckled at her daughter. Reaching into her pocket, Ariel grabs her phone and looks at it attentively. Kris put her hand on top of her mother’s hand and grabs the phone away.
“Kris, what are you doing?” Ariel seriously asked her daughter.
“Calling daddy, what does it look like I’m doing?” Kris shrugged.
“Young lady, give me the phone right now!” Ariel warned. “I mean it Kris!”
“It’s dialing…” she smiled deeply.
“KRIS!” her mother angrily yelped. Ariel tried to grab the phone away from Kris but failed to do so, just as Kris paused.
“Daddy?” she answered. Ariel’s heart had almost skipped a beat. “Where are you? We’ve been looking all over for you.”
“Let me talk to him, Kris,” Ariel demanded but Kris wasn’t letting that happen.
“You’re where?” Kris asked again, trying to block her mother from interfering. “Where’s that? I don’t know where that is!”
“Kris, give me the phone!” Ariel whined, almost like a seven year old would. But Kris ignored her.
“Why are you so quiet Joe, I can’t hear anything you’re saying! Are you sick? Are you in trouble?” Kris frowned at the ground. “You sound really soft! I can’t hear anything.”
“Let me see,” Ariel knelt down towards her daughter once again and pressed her ear to next to the receiver. “Joe? Can you hear me? Say something.”
“Stay really quiet,” she heard him whisper. “I can’t let anyone know I’m here.”
Getting worried, Ariel kept her voice low and her nerves on high.
“Where are you?” she asked. “Are you okay?”
“Just stay really quiet, and everything will be fine, got it?” he answered back.
“Joe, please you’re scaring me,” she felt another lump creeping in her throat.
“AHHHHHH!” Ariel and Kris suddenly yelped as an unfamiliar hand grabbed at their shoulder.
Turning around to see who their offender was, Ariel and Kris both stared at a hysterical Joe, laughing dementedly as he flipped off his phone.
“Aw, priceless- my best girls screaming so hard is like music to my ears,” he sighed euphorically.
Kris was hysterical as well, but not from laughter; from death stricken tears. “WAH!! You scared me!!! You scared me!!!” she pointed back at her father and patted her head profusely at the audacity. “I think I’m having a stroke!!”
“How could you!” Ariel patted her heart with the same rhythm as Kris. “I was so worried.”
“Hmm,” he hummed. Taking a few steps forward to dip his head closer to hers, he asked, “How worried were you?” without a hint of cheekiness.
He got a tight slap to the chest for that. “You dare ask me that question?” Ariel gave a solid frown. “Where’ve you been? I haven’t seen you all day!”
“I was helping out Abe and Sally with the festival. I just got a call from Calvin saying you were looking for me. I take it that you’ve met your parents?”
“Yeah, earlier today.”
“Good,” he smiled. Picking Kris up onto his hip, he cradles her lovingly; poking her nose with his and giggling along.
“I’m sorry I lied about going to Italy. I didn’t want to ruin the surprise.”
“Yes, you certainly do love giving me surprises don’t you?” Ariel sarcastically quipped.
Joe made a remorseful face. After all, he has given her a few shocking moments remember for a lifetime.
“Sorry about that,” he said softly. She could hear the sincerity in his words, as few as they were. “About everything.”
“Me too,” she nodded about, with the same softness. “About everything.”
“W-what do you have to be sorry about? You didn’t do anything,” he chuckled.
“Just the way I behaved; I should have listened to your side of the story instead of reveling in mine,” she slowly explained. “And…and for forgetting everything.”
“You can’t help it,” he shook his head.
“But I remember my parents,” she shrugged. “When I saw them, I immediately remembered who they were. Why do I remember them and not you?”
He remained quiet for a while and only gave Kris a small smile to make her feel a little more comfortable.
“I don’t know,” was his answer. “There are just some things in life you just can’t reason. Do you remember anything else?”
“No,” she whimpered, letting out a few stray tears. “I can’t remember anyone else. Not even my brother, Jiro. It took me this long to figure it out by him telling me.”
“Well, actually it makes a little sense,” he nodded. “Of course you remember your parents because you’re a parent yourself. You’re not a wife, not a girlfriend, not someone’s sister. You’re first and foremost a parent. I guess it’s only natural to remember who they are since that maternal part of you never left. Am I right, Kris?”
“Yep!” she nodded back with a brilliant smile.
“I just wish that you could remember how we were back then,” he chuckled a little, with a scoff. “I wish you could remember how much…how much…”
He looked over at Kris and instantly felt her wide eyes and curious ears a little too close. Feeling a bit embarrassed admitting his feelings for Ariel in front of Kris Joe placed her on her feet and whispered something in Ariel’s ear.
“How much I love you,” he said. “I’ve never stopped.”
Kris instantly gasped. “Secrets are not cool!”
Ariel let out a small laugh and whispered back to him “Neither did I.”
“Seriously,” Kris frantically waved her hands for attention. “I want to know! I want to know!”
They ignored her, for now. Feeling such a necessary rush of joy, Joe grabbed Ariel by the waist and pulled her closer to him. Smiling like a fool, Joe brushed away those lazy curls of hair from Ariel’s face and brushed his nose against hers, sending immediate palpitations to her entire body. The only thing Ariel could do was bring him closer by wrapping her arms around his neck.
“Ew!” Kris cringed at the sight of her parent’s affectionate behavior.
It may have just been the way she felt underneath his warm body that made her weak in her knees, but Ariel couldn’t resist and neither could Joe. That same lump in her throat turned into a huge knot in her stomach as she waited for his lips to touch hers.
“Don’t do it.” Kris made a disgusted face, as she shook her head back and forth. “For the love of your only child, don’t do it!”
“AHH!! The horror!”
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