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“So Ariel,” asked Joe’s mother. “Are you having fun?”
Ariel nodded her head politely and smiled. She had been continuously probed by Joe’s family nonstop and Mike and Rainie were no help either.
“Good. Because I want you to meet some more members of the family soon and then we’ll discuss some more about your family,” she said with utter delight.
“Umm…”Ariel began stuttering, too embarrassed to talk about her own family. “I don’t really have a family.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“My mother died when I was 12 and I don’t even know my father. He passed away a few years after my birth,” Ariel said solemnly.
“Yeah,” Mike said. “Ariel just recently found out that her father committed suicide, isn’t that right?
“mm,” she hummed in agreement. “And I try not to talk about my ‘other’ family anymore,” she said quietly referring to her step mothers and master.
“Oh Ariel,” Rainie said taking her hand. “We’re your family now!”
“Yeah!” said Joe’s father wiping his tears from his face “You’re our daughter now!”
“Oh and you do wanna be our daughter don’tcha?” asked the mom. “I mean look at that smile! I know in my heart you wanna be a part of this family…”
Suddenly the bathroom door slams shut. Joe appears with Kris standing behind him his tall frame, hiding from her guilt. Ariel was anxious; why does Joe look so angry and why was Kris so nervous? Quickly Joe stomps his way towards Ariel and yanks at her arm, dragging her out of the apartment.
“Joe!” screamed the guests
“Come back!” yelled his mother.
“What’s up with him?” Mike asked Rainie.
Rainie furrowed her brows and said “I don’t know…but it doesn’t look too good.”
Dragging her to the car, Joe pulls the side door open.
“Get in the car…” he said sternly but not angrily.
Ariel gets in the car and they drive off to his apartment in complete silence. Trembling from confusion, she remains unmoving and the awkwardness between them made her even more scared. It was already late at night, so there was no way she could have escaped.
As they enter the parking lot, Joe gets out of the car first and starts marching furiously to the apartment, and Ariel follows suit. He opens the door frantically and whips the door with a strong push making the door slam shut behind him.
“What the hell were you thinking!” he finally screamed at her.
“What…” she said quietly, trying to figure out the situation.
“How could you do this?! Are you brain dead?!” he continued to scream.
“What are you talking about?” she asked completely confused.
“Kris! What the hell was going through your head when you decided to endanger her!”
“Endanger…I never put her through any danger,” she tried to reason.
“Don’t give me that crap, Ariel. I don’t know what you were taught when you were younger, but when I was a kid, I was taught to run away from danger, NOT THROW A 5 YEAR OLD GIRL IN FRONT OF IT!”
“What?” she asked shocked.
“Kris came up to me today and showed me the most disturbing bruise I have ever seen her have. You know why, Ariel? It was because of your carelessness the other day…when you decided to take on a criminal with MY 5 YEAR OLD SISTER!!!” he screamed.
“How…how’d you know about that?” she asked quietly.
“Don’t even start that! You can’t possibly be selfish enough to try to cover it up.”
“Joe you know I would never intentionally harm Kris…” she tried to explain but was interrupted.
“Then why, huh? WHY WOULD YOU FIGHT A CRIMINAL WHEN KRIS WAS AROUND! What could have possibly motivated you to do something this stupid? Do you have any idea what could have happened to her!” he continued to scream. “She could have gotten hurt, or worse killed! Do you even know what kind of trauma she’s in?”
“I know…” she try to say.
“NO you don’t know because if you knew, you wouldn’t have done it!”
Ariel tried to control herself from her anger but he wouldn’t give her a chance to do so. She was infuriated at him. How could he be so unreasonable?
“So you think what I did wasn’t right thing to do?” she asked firmly.
“Of course it wasn’t right!” he reasoned.
“Then what was I supposed to do huh? Let him kill me in front of Kris?” she said with tears starting to well up.
“Ariel…” he said trying to stop her nonsense.
“You think I would let her watch me die in front of her?”
“Don’t you even start…” he tried again to shut her up.
“What would be worse Joe? Having her trip and feel physical pain or having her seeing me be killed only God knows how and suffer emotionally?” she gritted. “You think I would actually let her see someone torture me like I was some kind of ANIMAL and then murder me!!!! What kind of person would do that, Joe!
She slowly wept to herself as Joe was left standing opposite of her, ready to feel everything she felt when she was younger; from her mother’s death to her torment in master’s hands.
“You wanna talk about trauma? Then let’s talk about how I saw my mother kill herself in front of my own eyes because she wasn’t able to stand my stepfather. He tortured her till the day she died and if she didn’t decide to BLOW HERSELF UP, Lord knows how long she could have been raped, burned, assaulted and hurt by my stepfather! It was hard enough for me as it was, so if you think I would let Kris see me go through something like that, you’re dead wrong!!!
As waves and waves of goose bumps crashed onto Joe’s body, the more he felt the pain Ariel was trying to convey. Everything came clear to him now; why she was so shy and kept to herself, why she couldn’t control her emotions well and why she cried almost everyday. It was killing him that someone like Ariel could be tormented the way she was. Why her, he thought. Why did fate pick such a plague to beset her?
“I wish I could take away everything that made that little girl cry,” Ariel continued to weep. “But I can’t. I can’t guarantee that her life would not have any bad sides to them. But as long as I’m still alive…I can stop her from being the useless trash that I am…” she cried.
“Ariel…” Joe said trying to console.
“No! It’s true…” she wept even more. “I’m exactly like my mother. I’ve been treated the same way with Master. I was raped, burned, assaulted and emotionally debilitated. Now I am what he says I am; useless trash that doesn’t deserve to be loved…that’s how it is,” she cried. “This is the way my family is…we’re not like your family…”
Unable to bear anymore of her pain Joe grabs her forcefully and hugs her tight so she could feel his compassion.
“You really are stupid,” he said frankly. “If you think nobody loves you, then you don’t understand anybody at all. Everybody believes that you are the perfect girl and yet you think you’re trash.”
“I am…” she wept on his shirt. She clenched her fists which were trying to loosen her body from his. “I don’t deserve their love!”
Finally she broke their embrace and shook her head vigorously. She really didn’t know how special she was to the world, he thought.
As she continued to weep, she manages to utter, “You wouldn’t understand…”
Just as she was about to finish her sentence, Joe had already stopped her from going any further. He held her again but this time he set his hands on her face. He looked at her with a pained expression as he wiped the tears running down her cheeks. Without saying anything he continues to touch her face gently as she closes her eyes and cries even more. With her head facing downward, Joe lightly lifts up her head and lightly presses his lips against her forehead. He repeats the kiss to each of her red rosy cheeks. Finally he lifts up her chin with his hand and brushes his lips against hers.
Slightly taken aback, Ariel mutters his name quietly.
But he continued to brush his lips against hers until he lightly pressed them together letting the warmth of his lips send waves of excitement all over her body that let her heartbeat race faster and faster. For the first time in her life she felt an unimaginable happiness surge all over her. She unclenched her fists and slowly melted within his body, comfortably deepening the kiss. He held her arm and the small of her back to bring them closer to each other until she finally stopped crying and then he finally lets her go.
While she looked at his tender and caring eyes, she couldn’t help her emotions from exploding in her body; at one point she was angry that he would dare love her, but happy that he would want to. Her breathing was inconsistent due to the huge boulder lodged into her chest from the pain she held on for so long. Joe brushed a stray hair aside from her face and again softly pressed his lips against hers.
As he held her that night, everything else seemed to have drifted away from her battered soul. He allowed her for that night to be as greedy for love as she could possibly be. It was her turn to finally hold someone the way she always wanted to, forever in his embrace. She was free from any social, and emotion restraint; kissing him generously, touching him without regret and loving him the way her heart wanted to. In return, he held her in a way that allowed for them to fall apart together; breaking down in tears, feeling each other’s pain, forever thriving in each other’s mistakes. He would whisper how much he had loved her throughout the night and she would respond with gentle kisses. Joe lifted her burdens that night, loving her the way no one has ever loved her under the pale moonlight. Forever in him now, will lay a piece of Ariel’s heart that can never be broken, taken away or replaced.
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