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Chapter 29: The End

“Here come the bride and groom!!!”

As Mike and Rainie made their grand entrance to the wedding reception, the guests give them a standing ovation and a round of applause to congratulate the newlywed couple. Rainie looked beyond stunning in her flowing gown but what made her shine was the brilliant smile plastered on her face. For Mike, quite handsome in his tailored made tux, he was just happy to have Rainie holding onto his arm for as long as he could possibly have. They walked together to their seats and the maid of honor, as well as the best man, made their speeches to the other guests.

“Joe,” Ariel whispered to him as the speeches carried on.

“Yeah?” he whispered back.

“Why didn’t Mike make you his best man? I thought you guys were really close,” she asked out of curiosity.

“That’s his brother, Jack,” he responded by pointing at Mike’s brother who was making his speech. “We maybe close but nothing beats blood, right?”

True, she thought. Even though Joe was considered a brother to Mike, nothing changed the fact that he wasn’t blood. Same for her, she thought. Perhaps she could never truly be “family” to these people. She didn’t have a blood relative, or at least she never met any that was still alive. So, was she all alone in this again?

“Let’s hear it for the bride and groom!” Jack said, ending his speech. “Now, it’s time for their first dance as husband and wife.”

Mike slowly got up from his seat and took Rainie by the hand with a smile. They head towards the dance floor and elegantly swayed back and forth to the music.

“You wanna dance?” Joe asked Ariel

“Um…” she shyly said.

“Joe!” said a strange, plump woman in her 50’s. “You wouldn’t turn down your own aunt for a dance would you?”

“Aunt Helen! Uh, actually I was going to…” he said trying to reject her kindly.

“Good!” she yelled back, hauling him to the dance floor.

Ariel couldn’t help but laugh at his terrified expression as his aunt grabbed his arm and lugged him to the floor. Even though he was twice her height, she could probably lift him off with her pinky.

“Ariel!” yelled an excited Kris. “Can I dance with you?”

“Sure,” she laughed.

Walking to the dance floor while holding hands with Kris, Ariel made her first trip to the floor. Ariel lifted Kris up to her pelvis and danced with her.

“Hey Ariel?” Kris asked randomly. “Do you like my family?”

“I think we already established that I do,” Ariel said lightly.

“Then can I ask you a question?” she asked shyly.

“Sure,” Ariel said with a smile.

“You want my dad to adopt you?” he asked firmly.

“What??” Ariel asked kind of shocked by Kris’ question.

“If you ask nicely I’m sure my dad will want to,” Kris explained.

“Uh, I think I’m a bit too old to be adopted,” Ariel laughed.

“But, if my dad adopts you then you can be my sister!” Kris argued. “We’d be one big happy family!!!”

“So that’s your game plan?” Ariel joked.

“Hey, it was worth asking! Besides, don’t you want to be my family?” she pouted.

“Of course I do! But there is a little glitch in your plan,” Ariel whispered.

“What?” Kris asked.

“I happen to actually like your brother and I think brother and sisterly love can only go so far,” Ariel joked.

“Ewwwww,” Kris winced. “Love is gross.”

“Hey! Someday you’re going to fall in love,” Ariel pointed out.

“Not likely,” she shook her head. “I’m too cool for that mushy stuff.”

“You never know. Many people spend their lives devoted to falling in love and seeing how cute you are, I think many

boys will flock to your side,” Ariel said dreamily.

“Why do you say mean things to me?” Kris frowned. “You’ve been around Joe too long!”

“I have not!” Ariel bickered playfully.

“Ohhhh!” Kris groaned. “I really wanted you to be my sister! Joe ruins everything!”

“Well he was the one who introduced me to you, so he can’t ruin everything,” Ariel said defending him.

“Why introduce when I can’t even get what I want?” she pouted.

“I’ll tell you what,” Ariel promised. “As long as I’m still breathing and living, I’ll always be there for you!”

“You already promised me that,” Kris pouted even more. “I need proof…”

“Well, I don’t know what to tell ya,” Ariel said giving up trying to please this little girl on her hip.

“I GOT IT!” Kris shouted as she snapped her fingers. “You can marry JOE!”

“WHAT!!” Ariel said in disbelief.

“Then you can be my sister-in-law!” Kris thought. “OH! Then you don’t have to be adopted, because you actually like him! YES! I am a genius!”

“One problem, kid,” Ariel interrupted. “I don’t want to marry Joe.”

“WHAT!!” Kris pouted and frowned. “I thought you liked him.”

“Yeah, I like him, but I never thought about marriage,” Ariel explained.

“Ariel, you are too strange. You say you don’t want to be adopted because you like my brother, but you don’t want to marry him,” Kris sighed deeply, then suddenly clasped her hands over Ariel’s cheeks. “What are you doing to me!!!”

“If I marry him, would you stop yelling?” Ariel asked good-naturedly.

“Yes,” Kris said firmly.

“Then fine, I’ll marry him, or whoever else you tell me to so I can make you happy,” Ariel said giving her a kiss. “I’d even marry you if I had to!”

“Hehe, I knew you wanted to be my sister,” Kris said happily.

Finishing their dance, Ariel heads back to the dinner table carrying Kris. Out of the blue, Joe’s parents came to talk to Ariel.

“Oh thanks, Ariel,” his mother told her, as she took Kris. “I’ll take care of her now.”

“Hey honey, can I talk to Ariel alone for a second?” Joe’s father asked.

“Sure, Kris and I will be over there talking with Rainie. See you in a little bit, Ariel,” she said smiling politely.

Finally alone with just Joe’s father, Ariel sat by him silently.

“Ariel, you are truly a Godsend,” he said genuinely.

“Excuse me?” Ariel said lightly.

“I think you were sent here for a reason and that reason is to bring Joe back into our family,” he said with a smile.

“You see, I’m not really Joe’s father. I’m his stepfather.”

“You…you’re his stepfather?” she said in complete shock.

“Yes, his real father was a cop as well, but a few years ago…he was killed on the job. I don’t think Joe fully recovered from that,” he explained. “I married his mother about 7 years ago. I thought that we could have a very understanding relationship, but Joe didn’t seem like he needed another father figure, well at least not from me. So he began to rebel and nothing could stop him from being just like his father.”

So that’s his reason for being a police officer, Ariel thought. She couldn’t believe that she was so stupid to say that he became a cop just for her.

“When he joined the police academy, it just nearly killed his mother,” he continued to explain. “We rarely saw him. But a few years after, we had Kris. He didn’t really take the news well.”

“Didn’t he like her?” Ariel asked.

“Not at the beginning,” he said with a small sigh. “But even as a newborn, Kris fought hard to have her brother like her. Even today, she’s always really excited when she visits him. It’s quite sad that he doesn’t really have time for her anymore though”.

“Mr. Cheng,” Ariel said comforting him. “Joe’s a little complicated, I can see that, but he loves his family. He loves Kris and his family a lot, I can tell.”

“Yes, he loves his family…whoever he considers as family…or blood,” he said gravely.

“Yeah I know how that feels…but don’t blame yourself for his actions,” Ariel consoled.

“I know, I know,” he nodded. “It gets hard not to though when your own son doesn’t want to talk to you anymore. That’s why when you came, everything changed. He started coming to his mother’s house more often trying to entertain Kris. You have put this family back together.”

“It doesn’t seem like I did anything,” she laughed.

“Which is why you are our angel,” he said patting her hand. “All you had to do was be in our presence and then magically, our house turned into a home. So I know this is a little much…but if you can, stay in his life for as long as possible.”

Ariel smiled at his plea. She never knew this side to Joe so she felt a little closer to him now. Apparently his life isn’t as great as it seems.

“So you want me to marry him as well?” she asked with a laugh.

“Hahah, I didn’t mean to take it that far,” he laughed. “But I wouldn’t argue with you if you did! Oh excuse me, I have to go talk with the bride and groom.”

As he excused himself, Ariel was left alone to think about what both Mr. Cheng and Kris had said.

“Hey Ariel!” Joe yelled from the side.

“Hey!” she responded back.

“Where have you been? I’ve looked everywhere trying to find you,” he said happily.

“I was talking with your dad and Kris for a while,” she said with a smile.

“What about?” he asked.

“Just stuff about you,” she laughed.

“Nothing incriminating I hope,” he joked.

“You’d be surprised,” she said ambiguously. “Hey I have a question to ask you.”

“Shoot,” he smiled back.

“What’s your relationship with Kris and your father like?” she asked.

“Why the sudden interest?” he asked jokingly.

“I just wanted to know. I never had a sibling or a father…I wanted to know how you felt about them,” she said curiously.

“They’re cool,” he nodded.

“That’s it?” she laughed. “No other words, descriptions…no more adjectives?”

“Well,” he began to explain with a chuckle. “I guess I’m not exactly great with words, but nonetheless, I can say that they are family. Nothing changes that. They are what they are and I love them for it. No matter how many times I try to push them away when I’m frustrated, they’re there to protect me and take care of me.”

“…Even if they aren’t blood relatives,” she interjected.

“My father told you?” he asked.

“Yea,” she said nodding her head.

“Doesn’t matter,” he sighed deeply. “Even though they aren’t blood, they’re family. I accepted that.”

“Sounds more like a business transaction,” she joked.

“In the end, I really do love them…my dad tried to so hard to fit in with the family so why not give him the chance right? And Kris…God! What can I say, she’s absolutely nuts!”

“She really does love you so much, Joe,” Ariel persuaded. “You don’t know how much.”

“Why does it sound like you know more about my family than I do?” he joked curiously.

“Because I do,” Ariel teased.

“Then how about we finally dan…” he tried to say before getting interrupted.

Suddenly from behind Rainie grabs Ariel’s hand.

“HEY! Come dance with me!” she yelled in excitement.

“Rainie!” Joe yelled back.

“Sorry Joe, maybe next time,” Ariel smiled.

As they head to the dance floor the second time, Rainie grabs Ariel’s hands and twirled her around.

“Having fun?!” Rainie asked.

“Yea, it’s really great,” Ariel said excitedly.

“Hey I have to talk to you about something,” she Rainie said still dancing.

“About what?” Ariel asked.

“It’s about Joe,” she said calmly.

“What about him?” Ariel continued to ask.

“I need you to do me a favor…”

Just then Ariel stopped dead in her tracks. Oh no, she thought. Rainie is going to ask her to marry Joe.

“Rainie…” Ariel sighed.

“Just listen,” Rainie said still grooving to the beat. “I know this might sound crazy but…”

“Please Rainie…” Ariel suddenly grabbed Rainie by the arms. “I am not…”

“Ariel. I don’t normally go out of my way to say things like this, but it just had to be said. Please…PLEASE!!! Marry Joe!!”

“RAINIE!” Ariel said exasperated.

“If you don’t then he’ll continue taking Mike away from me and do randomly stupid things like fish in a lake for 5 years!” she screamed.

“He would never do anything like that!” Ariel said in frustration.

“You just met him a few months ago. I’VE KNOWN HIM THROUGHOUT MY WHOLE RELATIONSHIP!” she said seriously. “Please, please, take him off my back!!”

“But I don’t need to marry him to do that,” Ariel reasoned.

“No, you do! Ever since he met you, he has been like a totally different person. Ariel, I like him this way. Do not take this away from me. This could be your wedding, engagement, birthday even Christmas present for me for the next 5 years!” she tried to persuade.

“Rainie,” Ariel laughed. “Calm yourself. This is a day of remembrance and happiness. I don’t know what I’ll do but if for some reason Joe and I…got married…it would be for love not because we were pressured to do so.”

“Of course,” Rainie scoffed. “Please, you don’t think I’m the sort of person that would want you to marry just for MY happiness, do you? Trust me, if I didn’t think you two were compatible then I wouldn’t have said anything…yet…”

“I hope so,” Ariel said giggling in suspicion.

As the dance ended, Rainie took Ariel by the arm to continue talking.

“But seriously, if you do decide to marry him, then we can hang out forever! We’ll be like those crazy old people who take cruises for their wedding anniversaries,” Rainie laughed.

“Haha, I’m sure,” Ariel said sarcastically.

“Well, I got to go,” Rainie said. “Have to go do my rounds…too many things I have to do today.”

When the dance was done, it was time Rainie to throw her bouquet. Ariel however was far away from the festivities, quietly looking over the balcony by herself.

“Hey,” Joe said walking up to her. “What are you doing here?”

“I just wanted to be alone for a while,” she said with a tiny smile.

“Oh, sorry,” he said apologetic. “Do you mind if I stayed?”

“Go ahead,” she said nicely.

“How come you’re not going to catch the bouquet like the other women?” he asked indifferently.

“Why, afraid I won’t marry you?” she smirked.

“No!” he said caught off guard. “I just thought every woman wanted to catch the bouquet, so it was weird seeing you here by yourself.”

“I needed the air,” she said lightly. “It got too stuffy.”

“Yeah…tough night huh?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I know my family has been hounding you to marry me the whole night,” he laughed. “Even Rainie had the audacity to do so I bet!”

“I told Kris I would though,” Ariel said light heartedly.

“Oh no,” he laughed harder. “Why would you do a thing like that?”

“She’s very persuasive for a 5 year old,” Ariel defended herself. “How could I reject such a cute girl?”

“The whole idea is ridiculous,” he chuckled.

“It’s unbelievable…” Ariel continued.

“It’s ludicrous…” Joe laughed.

“It’s preposterous…”Ariel giggled.

“It’s illogical…” Joe continued to laugh.

“It’s completely absurd…” she laughed.

“It’s…It’s” he started to say but instead stopped laughing and looked at his feet. “Have you ever thought about it though? Would you even want to get married someday?” he asked straightforwardly.

“I don’t know…” she said shyly.

“I thought so,” he added. “I think too many things have persuaded the both of us to not just settle in one place for too long, even for marriage. I mean my job is a risk my future wife has to take on as well.”

“Mm,” she hummed in agreement. “And I haven’t trusted many people in a while. We would make horrible spouses!”
He laughed at that. “I agree! But then again, you trust me right?” he asked.

“True…” she thought. “And even I shot you once before, I should be used to it,” she joked.

“But no…” he laughed. “We would still make a horrible pair.”

“Yeah…” she sighed.

“So, let’s forget it,” Joe said with a smile. “Let’s just worry about Mike and Rainie getting married. It’s more suitable for them.

“They really do make a good couple,” she smiled back.

“Yeah…so let’s go congratulate them,” he thought. “Then we can get some real food!”

“Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!!” she said gratefully.

“What do you want?” he asked.

“I don’t know, what’s good?” she asked back.
He bent down to tie his shoe as he responded “there’s a good Italian place nearby, you like Italian right?”

“Yes! Of course!” she screamed back.

“Good,” he smiled as he got up from his knees.

Suddenly they hear a tiny voice pierce through their silence.

“SHE SAID YES!!!” screamed the tiny voice.

“Oooh no…” Joe said slapping his forehead.

“Does this mean we’re getting married after all,” Ariel joked.

He sighed in disappointment. “I’ll go explain our situation to them.”

As Joe left to explain to his family about her infamous “yes”, Ariel walked back to the room. Waiting by herself at the edge of the dance floor, Ariel sighs deeply thinking about the night’s festivities.

“Hey stranger,” Mike said from behind. “Would you like to dance?”

“Thought you’d never ask,” Ariel said with a smile.

“Did you talk to Rainie?” he asked as he started dancing.

“Yeah she had some interesting words for me,” Ariel laughed.

“Oh, I thought she would. She went crazy and told you to go off and marry Joe right?” he winced.

“Don’t call Rainie crazy or she’ll never let you forget it,” Ariel continued to joke.

“Oh please forgive me then,” Mike said jokingly. “You know, I never knew how beautiful you were. I think if the light hit you just right, you may even surpass my beauty.”

“Arrogant as always Mr. Mike He! I hope that ego doesn’t inflate too much,” she laughed.

“And why shouldn’t it!” he said proudly. “I have just married the perfect woman who just happens to be crazy, and now I’m dancing with my best friend, whom I haven’t been with in years. Nothing can beat this!”

“Just like old times, right?” Ariel asked.

“Yeah…like old times. Man, I wish we could have one more day in Taichung again. Too bad everything had to happen the way they did huh?” he asked nostalgically.

“It just made our reunion that much sweeter,” Ariel smiled.

“You know what? I think your dad really did leave that treasure for his family,” he said bluntly.

“I think we all now that Mike,” she laughed. “We all know the twin swords were the treasure.”

“No, I don’t mean that,” Mike said dreamily. “I mean that he left you here as a gift for your mother. He gave the greatest gift of love that he could possibly make for her and it was you. You’re his treasure.”

“That’s silly,” she responded shyly.

“Maybe so, but we thank him for giving his treasure to the rest of the world,” he said lightly.

“I’m glad you’re my best friend, Mike,” she said hugging him.

“You’ll always be my princess,” he said softly.

“MIKE!!” yelled a shrill voice from the other side of the crowd. “It’s time for you to go!”

Mike and Rainie were leaving for their honeymoon at the end of the reception. However, Mike and Ariel had just begun really to enjoy their reunion.

“Sorry, princess,” he apologized. “I got to go.”

“I’ll see you when you get back then. Have a fun honeymoon,” she smiled.

“I’ll bring back some souvenirs,” he laughed.

As they left, the guest threw rice above their heads and watched them enter the car. Ariel went back to the balcony to watch them depart. It was a lot easier to see them, and a lot quieter. Seeing them leave gave a nostalgic feeling for her. Mike was now leaving her, but she knew he’d back soon. Even if he was married, nothing changed their friendship.

It had been a long time since she had been this happy just by herself, quietly peering over. She didn’t have a real family, but it didn’t matter. Her life was filled with people whom she loved. Joe’s family treated her like a daughter. Rainie protected her like a real sister. Mike still cared for her the way he did when they were younger. And Joe gave it all to her. He gave her life back…

“Hey, you’re back,” he said standing next to her on the balcony. “You’re not cold here?”

“Nope,” she answered with a smile. “I never thanked you did I?”

“Thank me? For what?” he asked.

“For everything,” she laughed.

“Oh, for that,” he joked. “No problem.”

“Too bad we both don’t want to marry each other,” she joked.

Joe didn’t say anything, but solemnly twiddled his fingers as he thinks quietly to himself.

“What’s wrong?” she asked

“Would it be completely insane if I did want to marry you?” he asked seriously.

Taken aback from his question, she just manages to say, “What did you say?”

“I said…” he began shyly, still not able to look at her in the face. “…forget it. It’s stupid.”

“No,” she said holding onto him, when he tried to leave. “What did you say?”

“Nothing,” he said smiling nervously. “You’re right. Me and you…please. It’s impossible.”

“Why’s it impossible?” she asked bluntly.

“You said it yourself that it was absurd,” he argued.

“Well I didn’t mean it!” she whined.

“What?!” he said completely losing his heartbeat.

“I just said it because you made it sound so impossible for us to be together!” she made clear.

“So you’re telling me that I just basically shot myself in the foot?” he winced.

“Basically,” she said still in a high pitched voice.

“OK this is awkward,” he said nervously. “So you do want to marry me?”

“I don’t know,” she grimaced.

“This is horrible,” he laughed. “We’re so screwed up! Forget it, if it’s taking us this long to know if we want to be married or not, we shouldn’t. It should be a straightforward feeling. Right in the pit of your gut. If it’s not screaming out ‘marry me’ then forget it.”

Quietly to themselves they peer down the balcony. He was right, she thought. If there was no gut feeling about their future, then they shouldn’t think so much of it. She sighed deeply at the thought. Even though she was relieved that the stress was off her back, she was disappointed. Then why did she come back? Wasn’t it because she loved him? Or was it because she was in the moment? No, she couldn’t have been that shallow…

Her stomach began to churn from thinking about it so much. Was she guilty for coming back just for a spontaneous feeling? What was so alluring about coming back? She thought about her reasons and even though she had gained back the life she had with her friends, something outweighed them all to finally persuade her to come back. Could it have been Joe? No…never.

The day had given her mixed feelings. She had forgotten that they had been lovers before because he didn’t really treat her like one. Their friendship sort of blended the fine line betweens friends and lovers making her feel ambiguous. Oh, here comes that sick feeling again, she thought. It had been a while since he had kissed her. Maybe perhaps this time she could be the one to kiss him first…maybe not. She was still too shy and afraid of being rejected. She had been disappointed many times before. Whenever she had become suddenly happy, especially when she was happy with Joe, something bad always came after. So she couldn’t take the risk.

“Ugh,” Joe sighed. “It’s just like Rainie. Taking Mike away for two weeks, and not letting me anywhere near him,” he joked.

“It’s their honeymoon,” she laughed.

“Still…” he pouted. “Promise me one thing Ariel, if you do get married someday, and it doesn’t have to be to me, you’ll come back within 5 days just to talk to me.”

He stuck out a pinky and smiled.

“Pinky swear it,” he said lightly.

“I swear,” she said with a smile as she linked her pinky with his.

She smiled at his stupidity. That’s right, Ariel thought. He wasn’t the same man whom she first thought he was. He wasn’t that tough, handsome lieutenant who she met in the alley. He wasn’t so brave and perfect the way he made himself out to be. He was lame but he meant well. He was easily frustrated but he tried his best to make others happy. He had problems with his family just like she did. She couldn’t take any more of this endearing man in front of her and laughed.

“Nothing to be afraid of…” she smiled.

“What?” he asked not able to hear what she said.

She shook her head and wrapped her arms around his neck to kiss him.

“You’re such a dork!!” she said with a huge smile, with her arms still around his neck

“Hey!” he pouted wrapping his arms tighter around her waist. “Why are you so mean to me all of a sudden?”

“Because I just got that straight forward feeling,” she giggled. “I do want to marry you.”

“Seriously?” he questioned. “So why my dear princess, would you want to marry me?”

“Because every princess needs a frog…” she laughed.

“Hey…” he said turning his smile into a frown. “Tell me the truth.”

She laughed a little. “Because nothing in this world can stop me,” she said proudly.
He smiled at that. “Not even me?” he teased.

“Not even you…” she said slowly leaning in for another kiss.

As they kissed, she could feel the happiness she felt every time he touched her. It was this imaginable surge that only happens when something felt so right, when everything in the world stops just for this kiss; everything except a small giggle from a little girl.

“hehehehe….”laughed Kris from the side.

Breaking their kiss, Joe and Ariel look at the side only to see Kris trying to cover her small giggles with her hands.

“GAHHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAH!” she yelled trying to cover her fits of laughter.

“KRIS!!!” they both yelled in laughter.

“It’s too mushy!!!!” she laughed.

The end.

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