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Frozen underneath the blazing summer light, Ariel remained stiff as a corpse while peering into those hauntingly familiar eyes of her mother and father. The feeling was surreal. The emotions were many.
“Mom…dad?” she reiterated.
The older woman slowly walked up to Ariel. Each step seemed more painful for her because her weeping got louder and sadder. Kris stared at her mother’s frozen expression and then looked at the older woman. The moment was too overwhelming for Kris as she didn’t understand anything that was happening.
Ariel, what are you doing here?” Ella, in a shock, asked her friend. “I thought you have work today.”
“I-I was supposed to m-meet Joe,” she stuttered. “He said he wanted to talk before he left for Italy.”
“Joe’s not coming, dear,” Ella frowned. “He’s in the edge of town with Mike and Robbie helping Abe with the decorations for the upcoming harbor ball. He said he was leaving right after.”
“W-what?” With the new revelations, Ariel was left with nothing to say.
“Ariel?” the woman whispered in between her ragged breath. “Is that really you?” “Mom?” her ragged breathe reiterated. “Dad?”
“Yes, yes Ariel, you got it!” her father shook her shoulder. “You remember us!”
“I remember your faces,” she slowly stared into their eyes. “I’ve dreamt about them; they’re really familiar. I recognize them.”
“You remember anything else?” Jiro suddenly butted into the conversation. If Ariel could remember her mother and father, she’d surely remember her own brother by now…right?
Ariel stared directly into his eyes and calmly tilted her head. Her expression said it all; furrowed brows, confusion adamant in her eyes, and cheeks sort of puffed.
“No,” was her blunt response. “I just remember their faces.”
“So you haven’t completely gotten your memory back,” he sighed. “I suppose there’s no better time to tell you than right now, huh? Ariel, I’m sorry I haven’t told you before, and I hope you could forgive me for not doing so…but it was all done with good intentions,” he started off the long process of profession. “I’m your brother.”
Silence grew inside her as Ariel stood stiffly as her mother’s arms unwrapped from her shoulders. Tears didn’t flow and her brows were no longer furrowed. A stoic complexion erased her confusion and left no traces of emotion.
“Ariel, are you ok?” Jiro cautiously shook his sister but to no prevail. Rainie came up to her and took grasp of her hand.
She spoke in a soft voice, “Why don’t I remember you?”
Ella walked over to Jiro for support. “Can’t you recognize him from a dream? An old memory?”
“No…” she again reiterated.
Jiro, absolutely heartbroken, stood in the same stance as his sister as he nodded politely, acknowledging her answer. Kris peered from behind her mother and saw the misery in his eyes. Pangs hit her stomach as she felt the pain in his face penetrate through her.
Unloved; that was the feeling that resonated in the air cloud that hovered over Jiro. Sure they felt happy that Ariel was able to retain some sort of memory but it didn’t mean that it was any less painful to hear that low toned rejection.
“Y-you see, this is exactly what I was worried about,” Ariel stuttered as she looked at the two people she had hurt.
“This- I told Joe that this was what I was afraid of; My worst fear is that one day I’ll be staring at someone I used to love and I wouldn’t know it. I wouldn’t know how much they’ve loved me and how much they’ve missed me…while I struggle to even remember their name. If there is someone out there who did love me, I would have so much pity and sympathy for them….”
Jiro looked back at his sister, as she reminisced. It was weird enough that she was saying this in front of him but to hear that she said it to Joe was kind of ironic. Wouldn’t he be the exact person to pity all this time, instead of ignoring?
“Actually Ariel, you shouldn’t pity us,” Rainie chuckled. “It’s the complete opposite. Honey, we’re just happy to see you.”
“Yeah, as long as we know that you’ve been safe all along, we’re happy,” Jiro smiled lightly at her sister. “In fact, we should be the ones who should be apologizing for not telling you sooner. It’s just that…we all agreed that Joe should have been the one who told you first. We never expected things to just blow over the way it did.”
“Oh trust me, I was mad when Yi Zhen and Rainie both told me they knew all along,” Ariel sighed deeply, letting go of that extra tightness in her chest. “But I just want to be happy again. I’m just glad my family still loves me.”
“Oh I’m just so happy you remember!” her mother, who practically bawled to her knees, said.
“Compose yourself, dear, we just saw her,” Ariel’s father quipped. He took his daughter’s hand and patted them softly.
“Come, sit with us and we’ll have a nice talk.”
With a sigh, Ariel nodded to her mother and commenced to the further torture of emotions. Meanwhile, a curious little imp’s grasp had failed to keep up with her mother’s trails.
“W-wait mommy,” Kris spat out of nowhere as she felt her mother’s dress that she was holding onto loosen from her grip. Tripping over her dress, Kris fell down to her hands and knees.
“W-who is this?” Ariel’s mother pointed down at Kris. “Is this who I think it is?
For once in her life, Kris was scared. There was just something about this elderly couple that gave her a sick feeling in her stomach. She didn’t know why, but something was amiss and she wasn’t about to confront it. Reaching back for her cloak, Kris went back into hiding as she smashed her face into her mother’s back.
“Is that anyway to greet your grandmother, dear?” she asked, with her hands on her hips.
“I wouldn’t know, I’ve never met my grandmother,” Kris answered back in a muffled response.
“You have now,” her grandmother smiled back and knelt down with open arms. “Come to grandma, dear!”
Not a single budge.
“Hey!” she yelped as she felt someone grab her from behind and launch her into the sky.
“Ah!” the elderly man sighed as he carried her on his fragile hip. “This is happiness in its purest form.”
“Mommy, help me!” Kris whined and moaned.
“Oh come now child, I won’t bite,” he smiled and laughed.
“But I don’t like being carried! I’m going to cry!” she groaned out loud like a baby.
“If you let me carry you I’ll buy you something pretty,” her grandfather bribed. “And I’ll treat you to delicious foods! How about that dear?”
“Really?” Kris suspiciously asked.
“Well that’s what grandparents do; they give their grandchild everything she wants.”
Oh he shouldn’t have said that, Ariel thought.
“Anything??” Kris’ eyes beamed brightly.
“Oh honey, from now on I’ll spoil you rotten!” her grandmother replied, giving Kris a tight hug.
“Aw, I love you grandma!” Kris childishly replied, exchanging hugs from one not so daunting grandparent to the next.
“Love you too grandpa!”
“Well that was easy,” Ariel laughed for the first time since she’s seen her parents.
So she sat there, in the middle of the café with her hands twiddling anxiously, listening to the barrage of memories that had slipped through her mind 7 years ago. Ariel’s newly found mother was more than enthusiastic as they talked about their family life. Rainie and Ella were also in the mix as Jiro, their father and Kris were playing around to side, making a huge ruckus.
“Oh we had so much fun back then, Ariel,” her mother would say. “You were such a troublesome little imp, I just couldn’t keep you outta my sight for a second.”
“Sound familiar?” Ella nudge over to Ariel’s left arm with a stiff expression.
“Apparently she really does get it from her mother,” Rainie quipped.
“You keep out of this,” Ariel poked back at Rainie’s jibe. “Ok, so tell me more. I want to know everything.”
“Ah, you always did,” she laughed. “Let’s see…you had excellent grades growing up. Oh, you were the little Einstein back then. I was told by your high school counselors that you could attend any college of your choice with those grades.”
Now that took her by surprise; Ariel had struggled high and low just to find a decent job and now to find out years later that she could have had the best education money can afford, stung a bit.
“Hmm, but you chose to fall in love instead,” her mother said with a bit of disappointment. “I couldn’t pry you off that boy with the jaws of life!”
“That’s right!” Rainie laughed suddenly. “You and Joe were inseparable by senior year.”
“Yes, much to my disapproval,” Ariel’s mother coldly remarked. “If it were up to me, you two wouldn’t even have been dating.”
“Why do I have a strange feeling that I wouldn’t even have been let out of the house, if it were up to you?” Ariel smirked lightly at the thought. “I think that’s just a parent’s intuition.”
“It would have been for your own good too!” her mother seriously pointed out. “I have to admit, I never did like him when you two were dating; I hated the idea! But…after all these years, I realized that I’ve been wrong all along about that boy.”
“What made you change your mind?” Ariel asked curiously.
“You did,” she gave a small chortle in her answer. “Oh, he was practically stupid for you back in those days. He’d go around doing all sorts of things; drove me nuts! Hmm, and I saw how much it hurt him to lose you all those years ago; our pain was mutual. You know being your mother wasn’t easy. Now I know you’ve been very lucky all this time. Tell me; since I know you’ve been seeing him recently, do you think there’s a chance you may fall back in love with him?”
To Ariel, this wasn’t about falling back in love with someone whom she loved in past. It was about living for the future; bending and breaking through barriers for a better and more enjoyable life. Her memory may have disintegrated through the years, but this wasn’t going to stop her from pursuing happiness. For once, she’d finally begin anew, with nothing holding her back.
Looking at Ella with a mind full of ideas, Ariel asked her, “Where did you say Joe was at?”
“You’re gonna go after him!?” Ella excitedly shook Ariel’s arm. “What are you going to say, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know yet, but…” Ariel started to say as she got up from her seat.
“W-what happened?” Jiro came into the conversation, with Kris on his shoulders. “Why are you guys leaving?”
“Ariel’s going to find Joe and make up with him!” Rainie yelped. “Oh this is exciting!”
“W-wait, hold it!” Ariel’s father calmed the feisty women. “You guys don’t even know where he is.”
“Yes we do, he’s at the edge of town with Mike and Robbie helping out Abe for the Ball,” Ella was quick to answer.
“Ok, which edge?” he nonchalantly questioned, only to have crickets answer back. “That’s what I thought,” he sighed, as he rolled his eyes. “Now if you ladies want to do things right, I suggest you call him up and ask.”
“Oh honey, you know nothing about romance!” his wife groaned. “She has to surprise him!”
“Hold on, I think Joe might be on his way to the airport already,” Jiro interrupted the crowd. “His flight leaves in a couple of minutes; he should be getting ready at the terminal right now.”
“Are you kidding?” Ella couldn’t believe their luck. “Well I guess you’ll just wait until he comes back…”
As the other adults conversed about what Ariel should do, she had already hailed a taxi and was about to enter the cab until she realized their squabbling.
“Hey!” she called out to them and they all shifted their attention. “Ya’ll coming?”
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