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The next day, Joe ended up apologizing profusely. He wasn’t above himself and didn’t want to be on bad terms with Ariel so he crawled back to her on his hands and knees and begged for forgiveness. She accepted, but told him that he didn’t do anything wrong so she had no idea why he was apologizing. She wasn’t too proud towards him anymore so she also apologized for taking the prank too far and they ended up back where they started, as friends.
When Spring was over and Summer had just began its blaze, Ariel had already decided that Joe was never going to ask her out. It had been months since they first reunited and there was no way a guy who was interested in her would wait this long to ask for a simple date…right? She had no idea, but this was absolutely ridiculous. Shy or not, this was not okay. The problem was if she’d be okay asking him out. Would she be brave enough to ask, or was she just as shy?
No, now that she thought about it, shyness had nothing to do with it. She just couldn’t ask him out now because they had developed a dangerous friendship. A one-sided love had stopped Joe from moving to the next step, but a now developed friendship stopped her from moving to a relationship. If he didn’t like her the way she thought he did, and she asked him out, then their friendship would be awkward…wouldn’t it?
Oh no, she thought. Did he somehow find out that she wasn’t the tough and mysterious girl she led him to believe and he finally see her as that childish, obnoxious and incorrigible girl she really was? She let him in too close, and he knew too much about her now to keep on the facade. Damn! She was scared; their relationship had proven to be quite dangerous.
By now Autumn had come and nothing had changed. She decided to put her feelings aside and Joe never took the next step. Her birthday was coming up and it felt silly to celebrate, but Joe insisted for some reason. It was on a week day, and they both had work so they waited till the end of the week to make up the festivities.
“Happy birthday,” Joe’s card read, accompanied with the normal bouquet of flowers that she normally got at work.
He would, Ariel thought as she played with the card that had come on her birthday. She cringed at the thought of entering another year alone and placed the card back in a drawer where she kept all his other cards that came with his flowers. Work had just begun, and Ariel already knew what she would be doing tonight when she and Joe would paint the town red. If she was going to celebrate another lonely year, she was going to drink till she couldn’t get up in the morning.
As the day went by, she slowly began to forget about it all. Working at a police department would normally make her forget about her problems quickly because it was fast paced and unpredictable. Today was neither, but paperwork would work just as well. When work was done, and the day had gone by, Joe picked her up as usual and they went to a nearby fast food restaurant.
“If you wanted to eat, we could have gone to a better place,” Joe said, watching Ariel stuff her face with a burger. “Are you sure you want to eat your birthday dinner here?”
“My birthday was 3 days ago,” she shrugged, taking another bite. “There’s no need to make a big deal out of it.”
“Well, I did have reservations some place else,” he tried to casually mention.
“It’s okay, I like this food better,” she smiled. “Pass the ketchup. So what did you have in mind for tonight?”
He took the red bottle and gave it to her. “Dinner and a movie.”
She winced. “I thought I said I wanted to drink tonight.”
“That sounds depressing, doesn’t it?” he shook his head disapprovingly. “C’mon. Let’s do something special.”
“Nah,” she cringed once again. “I’m not up for anything too big. Honestly, I’d be happy if I got a solid night’s sleep. But since you wanted to celebrate, why not get me wasted?”
“You’re not a big drinker, though,” he said.
Ariel took one last bite and said, “Let’s go. I know a bar close by.”
They walked a few blocks away from her apartment and went into the nearby pub and just like Joe said, she wasn’t a big drinker. All it took was a few wine coolers and two shots of Petron to make her nearly fall off her bar stool. Joe had to drive her home before she had a chance to make a complete fool out of herself. When they reached her apartment, Ariel already had a hard time standing up.
“I told you, you couldn’t handle it,” Joe mumbled under his breathe as he carried her to her door.
“I’m okay,” she groggily answered him. “I’m not that drunk.”
Dropping her on the floor to prove his point, he continued, “You can’t even keep your eyes open let alone stand up!”
Ariel didn’t answer, instead she huddled in the fetal position and mumbled some slurs. He took her keys and opened her door before he picked her up and set her on the sofa. After he locked the door, Joe went to the kitchen and got her a glass of water to rehydrate her.
“Here, drink this,” he said handing her the glass and taking a seat next to her. “No more alcohol for you young lady.”
She took a sip and leaned her head on his shoulder before she mumbled her thanks. He took a deep breathe and shook his head. Joe knew that he shouldn’t have taken her to the pub but she insisted on going; this was all her fault. His plans to give her a nice birthday will soon be forgotten in one hangover.
“Are you mad at me?” she asked softly.
Joe turned slightly to see her facing him and smiled. “No, I’m not mad at you.”
“Do you still like me?” she continued in her delicately drunk tone.
“Yes,” he nodded and saw her give him a strange look. “You’re not going to throw up on me are you, because I’m going to like you a lot less if you do.”
“No,” she giggled. Wrapping her arms around his waist, she smiled and said, “I like you too.”
He scoffed and tapped her on the chin. “You want to want to go to sleep now?”
With a nod, Ariel shut her eyes and scratched her head to wake herself up enough to walk to her bedroom. She wasn’t going to make it there on her own, and she knew it so she held her hands up to let Joe prop her in a standing position. But, just as she stood, her legs gave in and she fell right back into the couch.
“You are so dead in the morning,” Joe growled. “I can’t believe you are letting me deal with this.”
“You still like me?” she asked, slowly going in and out of consciousness.
“Stop asking me!” he barked. Grabbing onto her arms, he began to hoist her body up so she could lean on him.
“You’re so mean! Don’t yell at me,” she pouted, as he lifted her arm around his neck and began to walk her to the small hallway to her room.
When they reached the bedroom door, Joe told her to wrap her arms around him so she wouldn’t fall back onto the floor or hit her head on the door as he opened it. Ariel gave a sigh and grabbed onto the front his shirt, pulling on the buttons and almost ripping the shirt.
“Hey!” he call out, gripping onto his shirt. “Stop pulling!”
He flung her hands away from him and she fell back, hitting her head on the door as it flung open. Her body fell back and she landed on her hands and knees as she tried to catch her fall. Joe rushed towards her before shutting the door behind him.
“Ow,” she winced in pain as she kept a hand firmly placed on her head.
“Are you okay?” he asked, holding onto her head. “Are you hurt?”
“No, but that scared me!” she half whined and half laughed.
He laughed too as he rubbed her head and tried lifting her up. “C’mon, put your arms around me.”
Wrapping her arms around his neck, Ariel pulled her body close to Joe as he began to lift her to her knees. He huffed a bit, tired from lifting her around all this time and from drinking a little as well, as he got her half-way to her feet. Suddenly, his legs gave out, but he felt as if she purposely pushed him on his back to side of the door. He wailed as his back slammed against the door and he brought the both of them down onto the floor. Luckily, he had safely held onto Ariel as she landed on top of him. She pulled her head up and saw him wincing painfully as he sat on the floor underneath her.
“You okay?” he slurred. She hummed assuring him that she was. “Good.”
She gave a deep sigh and looked at him rubbing his head to check if he felt any pain. Cute, she thought. He looked just like that kid she knew back in high school, the little mouse she would find ways to trap. Ah…he was trapped indeed, underneath her. Maybe it was the alcohol level in her system but she couldn’t help but crawl up to him and look him in the eye.
“I forgot something,” she whispered to him as he laid underneath.
“Forgot?” he asked, a bit weary, as he realized she was dangerously close to him. “Forgot what?”
She looked at him with not a smile on her lips, but a sadness in her eyes. Her hands reached for his face and she lowered her eyes to meet his. He was visibly uncomfortable and she could feel her heart palpitating in her chest.
“….how much I liked you,” she muttered, just as she leaned in to gently kiss him.
Her eyes closed and felt his lips touch hers with a spark and a small bit of pain in her heart. If it hadn’t been for the liquor she could have cried, but instead she took a deep breathe and gave into her emotions. Within a few moments, he pulled her away and gave her a half-smile that she hadn’t seen before.
“Wow…” he muttered, in a flustered tone. “I-I…um…ha…”
Her shoulders dropped and with a finger she lifted his chin up so she could see what was the matter. He nervously smiled back and began to laugh. Did she read his intentions wrongly? Quickly, he got her off of him and got them both to stand on their feet.
“Not good?” she asked, in a whisper and sort of a daze.
“No! It was good!” he yelped, nervously reassuring her. “Very good. Very, very good.”
“Then-” she began but he cut her off.
“You wanted to sleep right? Let’s get you to sleep,” he hurriedly said.
Grabbing her by the arm, he motioned her to her bed and set her to sleep but she couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to go further. Had she been mistaken? Was his intentions not to get her to fall for him? How did she get it so wrong?
“But-” she tried to ask, but he had pulled the covers over her. “I thought…”
“No more thinking,” he smiled a bit too widely. “Just sleep. I’ll leave some aspirin on your nightstand and I’ll be back tomorrow.”
“Wait!” she cried out. “Can’t you stay?”
She sat up, holding out a hand to him. He hesitated and sullenly dropped his eyes. “Sorry.”
That was all he said. As he closed her bedroom door behind him, he thought, this wasn’t appropriate. She’s drunk. If I took advantage of her…it wouldn’t be the same. She’d hate me. I’d hate me. It can’t be this way. So he left her apartment, and she celebrated the rest of her birthday silently sobbing in the dark.
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