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“Are we there yet?” Kris nagged in the car as they went to Rainie’s apartment.
“Just a few more blocks and we’ll be there,” Joe sighed.
“That’s what you said 30 minutes ago,” Kris pouted. “I’m taking off my jacket!”
“Do it and you’ll catch more than a cold missy!” he yelled back.
“But its 3 million degrees outside!” she whined
“It’s too cold for you to just where a t-shirt,” he reasoned. “I told you to wear a long sleeve! Now you have to suffer with a parka.”
They were like father and daughter the whole trip to Rainie’s house. Ariel thought that perhaps this was how having a male caretaker felt like.
“OK, we’re here. C’mon Kris get outta the car, auntie Rainie’s waiting for ya,” Joe said enthusiastically.
Joe parked across the building which meant that they had to cross a stop light. Kris was scared to cross streets without holding onto someone’s hand so she always waited until Joe or her mother would take her hand.
“Joe,” Kris pouted at the edge of the sidewalk, looking at both sides of the street.
“hmm?” he asked half-way through the street.
Slowly she showed him her right hand and gave a much exaggerated pout. She looked like a sad little Eskimo under her jacket.
“Oh, yeah. Ariel, if you ever go anywhere with Kris, you have to hold her hand while crossing the street. Mom scared her into thinking that if she doesn’t hold onto someone the devil will suck in her soul from the street. Only grown ups are powerful enough to withstand it so that’s why we have to walk her,” he explained.
As he took the little girl’s hand, he began walking but she still wouldn’t budge.
“Hey, look I have your hand. See? There’s nothing to worry about,” he reasoned.
“But…I don’t want the other side of my soul to be sucked in!” she whined. “Ariel has to hold my other hand.”
Kris looked at Ariel with a smile and showed her her left hand. Nervously Ariel took the little girl’s hand.
“Happy?” Joe asked her.
“Yes,” she smiled.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said again.
As they cross the street Kris tightened her grip on Ariel’s hand not willing to let go. Ariel thought that Kris was really scared so she gripped her hand tighter too.
“Are you scared of the street devil too Ariel?” Kris asked.
“Something like that…” Ariel said.
As they reached to Rainie’s apartment, Joe lifted Kris off the ground do she could ring the bell. Rainie opened the door with opened eyes.
“KRIS! JOE! ARIEL!!!!!” she screamed. “C’mon in!”
“Give auntie Rainie a hug Kris,” Joe told her.
“AUNTIE!!!” Kris screamed back with open arms. “Candy?” she asked with cupped hands as Rainie picks her up.
Rainie laughed and said, “Can I at least get a hug first before you raid my kitchen?”
“If I get the candy first, I’ll be really sticky so then the hug will last longer!” Kris said.
“Ah, so that’s your little scheme eh!! Well then I’ll just have to hug you twice!” Rainie said giving Kris a big bear hug.
The mushiness was quite odd to Ariel. She had never seen anything like it.
“Ariel! You came!” Rainie said to her in her once again high-pitched voice.
“Hi, Rainie…” she managed to say just before Rainie gave her a hug as well.
“So, how’s the case going?” Rainie asked sweetly.
Even though Rainie was oddly aggressive, she was always thoughtful and caring of Ariel; like a sister. Everything they ever spoke of was genuine and they never had to engage in “small talk”.
“So you found your birth-certificate? How exciting!” Rainie said to Ariel.
“Mm,” she hummed back in agreement. “Now we just have to find the treasure or whatever it is he left for me.”
“I see, I see,” Rainie concluded. “Oh, but there’s always that jerk Alex. Ooh, if I ever laid my hands on him, I’d…”
“You’d settle it with words not with your fist right Rainie?” Joe interrupted by pointing at Kris, signaling to Rainie a child was present.
“Yeah, that’s what I’d do,” Rainie said to Ariel with sarcastic indifference. “OH! Good news, the doctors say that Mike is recovering well and he’s going to wake up any day now!”
“That’s great Rainie!” Joe excitedly said.
“Wow, how long has it been?” Ariel asked Rainie.
“Almost a couple months now,” she said in a sad tone.
“It’ll be alright auntie,” Kris said comforting Rainie. “Uncle Mike was always stronger than all of us combined! He’ll be just fine,” she ended while hugging Rainie.
“Oh thanks Kris, I needed to hear that.”
It must have been really hard on Rainie, Ariel thought. Even though her fiancé was badly wounded, Rainie still kept on a bright smile. That’s what Ariel liked about her; she was always in a sunshiny mood, even though her world had fallen apart.
“OH NO!” Rainie suddenly yelled. “I forgot to get chicken broth for Mike’s soup!”
“Don’t worry Rainie, I’ll go get some now,” Joe offered.
“NO, I wanna help auntie!” Kris whined.
“Fine, we’ll go together…” Joe said.
“I’ll take Ariel, let us girls handle this. Men are useless,” Kris said.
“Who told you that?” Joe asked annoyed.
“Mommy!” Kris said frankly. “C’mon Ariel!” she said pulling onto Ariel’s arm.
“O-OK…” Ariel said.
As they left the apartment, Rainie gives Joe a strange look.
“What?” Joe asked uncomfortably.
“You still haven’t done it have you?” she said bluntly.
“Done what?” Joe asked still confused.
“Asked Ariel out, that’s what!” she screamed.
“Is there an echo in this apartment because I swore I have heard this over and over again…” he said sarcastically.
“Admit it! You like her!”
“I admit nothing!”
“So you’re thinking it?” she probed.
“You’re not willing to admit it, so you’re just gonna let it sit inside your sick little stomach until it churns and churns…” she said grossing him out.
“Rainie, please stop saying churn…” he said getting light headed.
“Have you even kissed her yet?” Rainie asked.
“I haven’t even held her hand!!!”
“So you admit it, you want to hold her hand.” Rainie smugly said.
“That’s so cute! You want to hold her hand!” Rainie said.
“NO I DON’T!”
“Can I plan your wedding?!” she asked him with a smile so bright, her cheeks started hurting.
“So you admit it, you want to marry her!” she deduced with a laugh. “Oh, my gosh, that is soo cute! You want to MARRY HER!!!!”
“OH! OH! I have the perfect dress for her too!!!”
“YOU’RE DOING THIS ON PURPOSE!!!” he screamed as he shut his ears.
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