© [dramalovers26/Cheng26] 2008. All rights reserved. Distribution of any kind is prohibited without the written consent of dramalovers26/Cheng26].
Disclaimer! The following is a work of Fiction. The events and characters
are fictional and the celebrity names/images are merely borrowed and do not
represent who the celebrity is in real life.
EVEN THOUGH THIS IS NOT THE GREATEST STORY IN THE WORLD, PLEASE BE RESPECTFUL AND ASK FOR PERMISSION IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO POST IT ON ANOTHER SITE AND OR TRANSLATE. THANK YOU.
Chapter 1: Test Kit
The young girl squatted over the school girl’s toilet and with shaking hands opened the plastic wrapper and pulled out a pregnancy test kit. Taking a deep breath, she prayed silently “Please God, please…one line only….one line only…please.” One line equal not pregnant and two lines equal pregnant. The girl knew her whole world would change based on the outcome of the pregnancy stick.
She held the tube shape pregnancy stick between her spread legs and urinated slowly. Once she was done, the young girl pulled the toilet seat down and gently lay the pregnancy stick flat on top of the toilet seat. She squeezed her eyes tight and counted to one thousand.
“Nine hundred and ninety-nine…and one thousand…” the girl whispered. Reluctantly she opened her eyes and picked the pregnancy stick up.
The young girl felt blood drained from her body, she was suddenly limp as if all the bones in her body melted. She couldn’t stand, her heart was pounding like thunder and the only thought that passed through her brain was… PREGNANT…SEVENTEEN years old and pregnant!
Somebody knocked on the door and shouted,
“Ariel Lin! What are you doing in there? I need to pee!”
Ariel managed to open the door and the two girls stared at each other.
“You look like you’re sick…what happen?” Ella asked suddenly concern. Ariel shook her head wordlessly; she was still too numb from shock. Ella cocked her head at her friend suspiciously and noticed the stick her friend was holding.
“What’s this?” she asked and grabbed it from Ariel’s hand. Two lines? What does this mean? Ella glanced at the pregnancy kit still on the floor and then at Ariel’s pale face. Her eyes widen and she gasped out loud and whispered,
Again Ariel nodded wordlessly.
“How?” Ella asked, and then she smacked her forehead.
“You don’t even have a boyfriend!” Ella said pointing her finger at her friend accusingly.
Ella frowned…who…? Oh my god! It couldn’t be!!!
“Ariel, please tell me you did not lose your virginity on that blind date! Please!” Ella grabbed her friend and tried to shake her out of her stupor.
The hard shake must have woken Ariel; she suddenly wrapped her arms around Ella and started crying...as if it was the end of the world for her.
“You don’t even know him! Why did you drink so much that night? I know your parents argued and your mom got beat up again but…you didn’t…you shouldn’t have…oh Ariel…why?” Ella held her friend in her arms, patting her gently on the back.
“You have to tell him you’re pregnant with his baby. Tell him he’s the baby’s daddy. Tell him TOMORROW!!” Ella lifted Ariel’s face and forced her friend to look at her.
Ariel nodded but wondered how to tell him when she didn’t even know where to find him. It was a blind date…an average girl from a public school on a blind date with a rich boy from one of the most prestigious school in Taipei.
It was just one night of fun…a night where she escaped from reality…and sought comfort in someone else’s arms…a stranger’s arms. But this wasn’t suppose to happen, she wasn’t supposed to get pregnant...it was her first time...
Chapter 2: I like you, do you like me?
The wind was howling angrily outside, and rain splashed against the pink painted window. Ariel leaned her head against her beloved life size brown bear and allowed the hot tears to flow ceaselessly down her face. She squeezed her teddy bear and pulled it closer for comfort. Pregnant…she was only seventeen years old…in her last year of high school…and pregnant. What was she suppose to do now? How could god be so cruel to her? Ariel wanted to shout and cursed but knew if she did, she would feel even guiltier later. Instead she sobbed quietly against her soft teddy bear all the while praying her mother would not hear her cries. She did not want to burden her mother, she did not want to worry her mother and most of all…she did not want to bring shame to her mother. Ariel sighed, her mother already has so much to worry about, how could she add more stress for her?
She heard hushed voices inside her parents’ room and Ariel wondered if her father came home early from work. She felt her heart pounding and anxiously she lifted her body up and pressed her ear against the bed board. She heard her mother humming a song but did not hear her father’s voice. Ariel let out a relieved sigh; out of habit she was holding her breath already expecting the worse.
The house has been quiet for a few days now. Ariel knew her parents were going through the “honeymoon” stage, where she and her mother cautiously walked on “egg shells” around the house not knowing when her father was going to explode.
Ariel knew all about domestic violence and the repetitive cycle. Her father would beat the crap out of her mother, and if she interfered she would get the crap beaten out of her. Then her father would usually calm now, and swears sweet empty promises to her mother. The “honeymoon” stage is where they’re at right now. Ariel felt her eyes brimmed with tears again remembering the bruises on her mother’s face.
How much longer mother? How much longer before enough is enough? Ariel was also afraid of what would happen to her if her father finds out she was pregnant. She knew getting an abortion was out of the question, but she was afraid to search for the baby’s daddy. She met him only once…how could she possibly tell him she’s pregnant with his baby…would he even believe her?
Joe Cheng walks leisurely inside the club house and briefly scanned the surrounding. He ignored all the barely dressed heiress and focused his attention on one girl only. She was dressed in a simple cream color blouse and skirt but she outshined all the other girls in the room.
He took off his jacket and headed toward his childhood best friend and now girlfriend Tiffany Xu with a grin on his face. He thought he was going crazy the last few months they were apart, but they were finally back together again. After their last break up,he thought he was going crazy. This time they were going to make it work. Joe couldn’t remember if he called her first or if she called him first. But it didn’t matter, breaking up and making up was part of their relationship.
She was waiting for him with a glass of champagne in each hand smiling smugly. Joe chuckled at the sight of her smug, he knew that look too well. It was Tiffany’s infamous haughty smug…even if she was dressed in rags she still has the look of a wealthy heiress. It was in the way she carried herself, it was in the way she tilted her head, it was something special only Tiffany has. Joe threw his tan leather jacket against a nearby chair and kissed Tiffany softly on her neck.
She handed him a glass of champagne and without a word exchanged they locked eyes and drank. In one gulp they drank every drop of champagne and smiled at each other. Just looking at her, Joe knew he made the right choice. Tiffany was the girl for him…they fit each other perfectly in every way. They were, in fact, the perfect couple, not only because they complimented each other so well in the “physical appearance” department but because they also share the same dreams and goals in life.
“Hi love, I miss you,” Tiffany whispered seductively as she pulled Joe in for a deep kiss. He wrapped his arms around her and replied,
“I miss you more.”
The squeaky chalk sound woke Ariel up from her nap. Thank god! The teacher’s back was still turn away from the class. She felt something wet on her hand and realized it was her drool. She quickly wiped it against her school uniform and glanced side to side hoping no one saw her.
Jiro grinned at her and mouthed,
“I won’t tell anybody!” Ariel nodded and mouthed,
“You better not!”
She frown as Jiro made some hand signals, he pointed to the classroom door then at Ariel.
“What?” She mouthed. Just as Jiro was about to answer the bell rang. He jumped over his desk and landed in front of Ariel.
“I have something special for you!”
“What?” there was apprehension in Ariel’s voice. Her friend has a habit of giving her surprises that scared the skin out of her.
For example, he gave her a frog for her birthday when she was five years old. He gave her a garden snake to keep her “company” when she was ten years old because he had to leave Taiwan on a family trip over the summer. Jiro gave her a Dummy boyfriend when she was fourteen years old. He told her he felt sorry for her because out of the group of girls he was friends with…she was the only one without a boyfriend.
“What’s with the tone? You’ll like it, I promise!” Jiro said excitedly, his face flush as he grabbed her hands speed racing to his locker.
They stopped in front of his locker. Ariel tapped her feet waiting impatiently as Jiro fumbled with his locker combination. She frowned at the slight blush seeping all over his face.
“Are you embarrassed about something?” She teased. Jiro nodded then quickly shook his head.
The locker door finally open with a bang as it slammed against the other locker.
“N…no. I’m not embarrassed about anything…Here!” He opened her hands and covered it over a small box.
“Give me the answer tomorrow…or call me tonight!” He said loudly causing other students in the hallway to look their way. Ariel nodded and chuckled at her friend as he ran down the hallway.
She lifted the small box to her face and shook it gently. The outside of the box was dark blue and made out of silk. It was a really beautiful box, it must have been costly. Why would Jiro give her something so costly? Maybe it belonged to one of his sisters and they probably didn’t want it. She thought to herself and nodded. Yeah, that must be it. She grinned, how sweet of her friend to think of her. He probably knew she couldn’t afford anything nice.
Unable to contain her curiosity, Ariel lifted the cover and opened the box. Inside were two rings, the rings were made out of silver with initials engraved on the inside. It was her initials and Jiro’s. There was also a note sticking on the side; with trembling hands Ariel opened the note:
“Ariel, we’ve been friends for so long…I think it’s time to dump your Dummy boyfriend (I know you still have him hidden in your closet!) and take me. I like you, do you like me?”
Ariel dropped the note and ran blindly down the hall her eyes filled with tears. She did not see Jiro hiding a few lockers away watching her silently. His expression went from shy expectation, to that of confusion and then his shoulders slumped in defeat. Ariel Lin, the only girl he had ever like…didn’t like him.
Chapter 3: Who is it?
“What’s wrong with Ariel? She’s been crying a lot lately…” “Yeah I know, I heard her mom got beat up again…poor girl.”
“I feel so bad for her, everybody knows about her drunken deadbeat dad and her weak mom; she couldn’t leave because of her mom…if I were her I would’ve left that shitty house a long time ago”
“I know…I still can’t believe she turned down a scholarship to Harvard! That was her ticket to a better life, maybe she like living with her deadbeat dad!”
Ella kicked the bathroom door open and pointed her fingers at the girls standing in front of the bathroom mirror.
“Stop wasting time gossiping and go study!” The girls immediately ran out the moment Ella stepped inside the room.
“Ariel…I know you’re in here. Are you going to hide forever?” Ella walked to each stall and looked underneath. She stopped at the last stall and leaned against the door. She knew her friend was inside.
“Ariel! The whole school is talking about you! Open the door right now and tell me what the problem is!” Ella demanded her eye brows furrowed with worry lines. The girl did not answer; the only sound coming from the inside was low agonizing sobs. Ella realized screaming at her best friend was the wrong approach. She pressed her hands on the bathroom door and whispered gently,
“I’m sorry Ariel, I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now…just the thought of it…I’m sorry okay? Please open the door and let me see you…” Ella pleaded. Still now answer. Ella glanced at her watch, school was almost over.
“Ariel…please talk to me.” Ella knocked on the door and waited. Slowly the crying ceased and Ella back away from the door waiting for her friend to come out.
“Jiro…gave me a ring…today…he wanted me to be his girl” Ariel whispered her voice so dry from crying Ella had to press her ear to the door to hear.
“After waiting for this moment for so long, dreaming and hoping that he would feel the same about me…it’s too late now.” Ella sighed, what bad timing.
“Open the door please.”
The door finally opened and Ella peered down at her friend shaking her head at the pitiful sight before her. Ariel sat on top of the toilet seat her arms wrapped around her knees, eyes red and puffy from crying.
Ella pulled her friend up and hugged her. She felt her eyes sting and knew she was in danger of crying. Ariel had waited for Jiro for so long… since the day he gave her a dummy boyfriend. All the girls laughed when Jiro gave Ariel a dummy doll and told her it was her boyfriend. But Ariel loved the doll…she secretly called him Jiro.
“So that blockhead finally realizes how much you mean to him? What took him so long?” Ella wanted to hit Jiro on the head for being so slow.
“You’re sad because of the baby right?…let’s go talk to the nurse…we should look at all the options available before making a decision. What do you think?” Ella asked.
“I’m keeping this baby Ella.” Ariel said her voice filled with determination. Looking at her friend’s face, Ella knew Ariel did not just decided to keep the baby overnight…it was a decision made after many sleepless nights. She nodded and squeezed her friend’s hand in support and comfort.
“Give this back to Jiro for me Ella, and tell him I’m sorry.” Ariel handed Ella the box with the couple rings.
“Please Ella; tell him I’m really really sorry.”
Ariel stared blindly out the window, her expression so forlorn the nurse stopped talking and waited for the girl to take notice of her presence. After a long silence, the nurse finally cleared her throat.
“I’m sorry Ms. Han…” Ariel muttered embarrassed. She quickly straightened up in the chair.
“I haven’t seen you in ages…are you feeling sick?” Ms. Han asked concern. Ariel shook her head and lowered her eyes.
“I…What…if…a girl is pregnant at a very young age…what are some of the available options?” Ariel asked avoiding eye contact with the nurse.
“Well, there are different options available…is she absolutely positive she is pregnant?” Ms. Han asked watching Ariel’s expression carefully. Ariel nodded, her eyes brimmed with unshed tears.
“She can get married to the baby’s father, she can get an abortion, she can attend an all girls school for pregnant teens, and or she can continue her education in the home…it’s what we call home study.” Ms. Han explained. Ariel listened closely as if she was taking note of the different options. Ms. Han quickly glanced at the girl’s stomach.
“All the options I shared with you need your parent’s support…have you…?” Ms. Han started to ask but Ariel jumped up from the chair and shouted,
“It’s not me!” but she knew the nurse did not believe her.
“Who’s the mother fucker that knocked you up?!” The man grabbed Ariel by the throat and yanked her off the chair. Ariel saw her mother in the corner crying, her face already bruised black and blue.
“I don’t know.” She replied for the hundredth time. Her father wrapped his hands around her neck and squeezed hard. For a brief second Ariel thought she was going to die, she couldn’t breath and everything suddenly became blurry. The hands around her throat finally loosen but without time to breath she was thrown against the wall. Her father lifted her mother up from the floor and pulled her up by the hair so that they were face to face. He turned to Ariel and snarled,
“Who’s the damn fuck that knocked you up!?”
“I don’t know.” She whispered and winced when her father punched her mother hard on the stomach.
“Who is he?” He asked again. Ariel couldn’t answer. Her heart was breaking staring at the blood dripping from her mother’s face.
The man kicked her mother across the room and walked furiously toward Ariel. He suddenly stopped midway and turned toward the kitchen. Ariel’s mom lifted her head and begged her daughter,
“Run away! Please go!” Ariel couldn’t move, her body felt numb. She wanted to scream but her body felt like it was frozen in ice. She saw her father walked back in the room with a butcher’s knife.
“You deserve to die for raising such a whore of a daughter, how many damn punks did she fuck that she can’t even remember who got her pregnant?!” Ariel saw everything in slow motion, her father walking with the butcher knife in position and her mother helpless on the floor. Mom’s going to die! Mom’s going to die and it’s because of me!
The man raised the knife in the air and plunged down without hesitation. Ariel opened her mouth and screamed,
“JOE CHENG! The baby’s daddy is…Joe Cheng!”
Chapter 4: That Night
The man stopped in front of a tall glass building and hastily tucked in his beer smelling shirt and attempted to zip his too tight pant over the pouch he called stomach. He sauntered slowly inside the building whistling nonchalantly as if he had every right to be in there.He halted in front of the information desk and waited for the receptionist to acknowledge him. The receptionist glanced briefly at him with a frown. She pointed to a sign in sheet on the counter and asked,
“Did you sign in sir?”
The man thrust his chest out and said loudly,
“I don’t need to sign in. You tell Director Cheng I am the father of Ariel Lin and if he knows what’s good for him he will make time for me!”
The receptionist pointed to the sign in sheet and said,
“You still need to sign in sir. It’s company policy.” The man stomped his feet and screeched angrily,
“Let me see Director Cheng right now or you’ll regret this mistake for the rest of your life!”
The receptionist surprised at the intensity of the man’s anger took a couple steps back and nodded quickly. She lowered her hand underneath the desk and pressed a red button. A few minutes later two security officers headed toward the information desk. The man saw the two security officers and scowled at the receptionist.
“You bitch! You’ll regret this!”
The security officers grabbed the man on each arms and tried to drag him out the building but the man quickly turned his body limp on the floor and refused to move.
“Stop embarrassing yourself sir and get up!” One of the security officers hissed as more and more people gathered around the three men their faces filled with curiosity. The man on the floor grinned smugly and replied,
“Let me see Director Cheng.”
“Director Cheng is a busy man.” The other officer answered.
“Not too busy to hear what I have to say. How much do you care about this company’s reputation and Director Cheng’s honor?” The man asked. The two officers looked at each other, silently communicating. Finally one of the officers grabbed his cell phone and called Director Cheng.
Director Cheng was a short plump man with a big slightly red nose. The plumb man carried an air of friendliness about him that put other people at ease, he had a way of calming the enironment. However the atmosphere in the room today was anyting but calm. Director Cheng sat behind his desk and eyed the man in front of him with a perplex frown on his face. What the man told him was preposterous, it couldn’t possibly be true.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying…please repeat again.”
“Your son Director Cheng knocked my daughter up. She’s pregnant with his child.” The other man said gleefully. There was a greedy gleam in his eyes as his eyes traveled around the office taking note of all the expensive artifacts and antique in the room.
“I need to confirm this with my son first. Bring your daughter to my house tonight; we’re going to talk this through.” Director Cheng said as he quickly jotted down the main family house address. The other man pocketed the paper with the address and lazily walked out the office with a gleeful expression on his face.
After the man left his office, Director Cheng dialed his son’s cell phone number. After a few rings, Joe finally answered.
“Son, I need to see you tonight. It’s very important.”
“What is it about?” Joe asked wondering if his father was feeling ill.
“Promise to swing by the main house tonight for dinner.”
“Okay, I’ll stop by.” Joe promised.
“Please don’t make me go inside!” Ariel begged as her father dragged her across the Cheng’s yard. She glance furtively side to side hoping to grab hold of something but there were not a single tree in sight or sturdy objects to hold on to. Ariel could hear her mother’s hesitant footsteps following from behind.
“Shut up bitch and let me do the talking you understand?” her father snarled. The man dragged her up the steps and finally they stopped in front of the house and her father rang the door bell. Ariel felt her whole body shaking as she waited for someone to open the door. This couldn’t be happening; this is just a dream…a nightmare. The door swung open and Ariel saw HIM…the man she prayed never to see again standing in front of her. He smiled and pushed the door back wider.
“You must be the dinner guests, right?” He asked and grinned at Ariel glad that there were someone close to his age at the dinner table. His face so carefree and relaxed, she felt a twinge of guilt. Ariel’s father grunted and askws,
“Joe Cheng?” The young man nodded his eye browse rose in question.
“Do you know who this is?” The older man grabbed the young girl and yanked her in front of him. She lowered her eyes her face blushing in embarrassment and anger. Joe stared at the young girl, she seemed very familiar…he’d seen her before…but where? Slowly the girl lifted her face and her eyes glared into his…a hot molten glare that dared him to remember. Those eyes, he’d seen those eyes before. As if the world suddenly stopped, Joe Cheng realized he’d met her before…that night…that night on the beach.
If Ariel could turn back the hand of time, she would…unfortunately that was out of the question and unless a miracle happens she was stuck in the room with her parents, Joe Cheng and his parents. The room was filled with tense awkward silence. Ariel saw Mrs. Cheng glancing around the room, her eyes shifting between Joe and her. Ariel expected to see hatred and disgust in her eyes but surprisingly, Mrs. Cheng’s eyes were filled with curiosity and a hint of interest. Joe sat between his parents, his body still as a statue and his eyes frowning at Ariel. She felt his unwavering gaze and felt her face flush. Ariel clasped her hands together and lowered her eyes to avoid looking at Joe Cheng and his parents.
“Mr…un Lin, thank you coming…” Director Cheng said tiredly. He turned toward Joe and asked,
“Do you know who she is?” Joe distracted momentarily by his father, nodded a frown still on his face, almost as if he was trying very hard to connect the dots. He knew something was wrong.
“How did the two of you meet?” Mrs. Cheng asked her voice filled with curiosity. Joe glanced over at her, and Ariel lifted her head at the exact moment Joe glanced at her. Their eyes met and held.
“Ella! You know I don’t like going to parties, especially NOT to bonfire at the beach. Besides, Jiro is coming by my house tonight.” Ariel lied hoping that would persuade her friend but it was no use, Ella was determined to take Ariel out.
“Ariel you’re lying. Jiro has basketball practice and I know you wouldn’t want him to go to your house anyway. Don’t you want to meet Wu Zun? Remember I told you about him a few weeks ago?” Ella asked with a pout. Ariel sighed and nodded briefly. She was curious about the mysterious Wu Zun. According to Ella, he was attending Taipei private school on a scholarship and was the smartest student in the school. Knowing her friend, Ella was probably exaggerating but she tends to exaggerate only when she really like somebody.
“You like him a lot?” Ariel asked. Ella grinned from ear to ear and nodded eagerly.
“Yes, but don’t you dare tell him I like him! Come on, you’re my best friend and I really really want you to meet him, please?” Ella pleaded her eyes begging Ariel to say yes. Ariel threw her hands up in the air in defeat. Ella jumped up and down and hugged Ariel tightly.
“I love you!” Ella shouted excitedly.
Wu saw his friend leaning against the school old willow tree with a broken heart expression on his face. Wu rolled his eyes and muttered to himself, ‘Here we go again…” He walked up to Joe and asked
“Broke up with Tiffany again?” Joe nodded and shrugged.
“This time it’s for real or what?” Wu asked dumbfounded at his friend’s behavior when it comes to Tiffany.
“I don’t know and I don’t care…she said she needed some space.” Joe sneered and kicked the tree.
“What did the old willow tree ever do to you? Why are you kicking it?” Wu asked. The question was so elementary, so like a five year old that the two of them started chuckling.
“Ah…I remembered. You asked me the same question when we were younger too. How did I answer? Nothing, the old willow tree didn’t do anything to me…” Joe grinned; Wu always knew exactly what to say to distract him.
“There’s a beach bonfire party tonight, why don’t you join me? You know get Tiffany out of your system” Wu said.
“Yeah sure, I’ll meet you there.” Joe grinned slyly at Wu.
“Got a new girl already?” Joe asked and shook his head at his friend. Wu shrugged smiled mischievously,
“Nah, this one is playing a little bit hard to get but she’ll be mine sooner or later.”
“What are you going to do with her once she’s yours?” Joe asked even though he already knew the answer.
“Depends on how soon I’ll get tired of her.” Wu responded already bored with the conversation.
There were already a lot of teenagers sitting around the bonfire, eating, drinking and a few dancing next to a radio. Ariel slide out of Ella’s small Honda and headed toward the drink stand. She needed a drink, something to help her forget. Once again she went home to another fight between her parents. Her father was upset about her mother hiding money from him; he called her mother all kinds of names and accused her of hiding money for her secret lover.
Ariel was sick and tired of their constant fighting, she was sick of her father’s abusive behaviors. She was angry that her mother chooses to stay in such a violence relationship. Despite all the flaws in the relationship, Mrs. Lin vowed to be with Mr. Lin till death do them part…Ariel fear one day her mother will die in the hands of her father.
Without hesitation, Ariel drank a whole bottle of strawberry flavor champagne, wiped the residue from her mouth and opened another bottle. She was going to drink until her stomach burst; she was going to drink until she can’t think anymore. Ella in her excitement did not realize her friend already drank one bottle of champagne. She grabbed a few more bottles and handed Ariel one more.
“Thank you Ella!” Ariel said giddily and grinned happily at the bottle. Ella frowned and asked,
“Are you okay?”
“Yup! I am A OKAY!” Ariel answered, and hiccupped. Ella laughed,
“Don’t drink anymore Ariel, I don’t think you tolerate alcohol very well.”
“No…mine yummy strawberry drink. I love it!” Ariel pouted and took another gulp of champagne. Ella was about to take the champagne from Ariel but was interrupted.
“Ella! Hi!” She turned around and her smile became wider and felt an electric thrill shot up her body.
“Wu!” Ella saw that he was not alone.
“This is Joe, friend from school.” Wu said. Ella pulled Ariel next to her and said,
“This is my best friend Ariel, Ariel this is Wu…and this is Wu’s friend from school Joe.” Ariel smiled politely and whispered,
“Hi” and then she giggled at her shyness. No wonder Ella was so goo-goo gaga over Wu Zun, he was hawt! She glanced at Wu’s friend and thought he was good looking too. He had wavy shoulder length hair, and wore a black collar shirt and a black leather jacket. He looked like he had just stepped out from a photo shoot; everything on him was so perfectly matched and suited him so well.
Ella saw Ariel gaping at Joe Cheng and quickly closed her friend’s mouth.
“You’re staring with your mouth open.” Ella whispered in her ear. Ariel blushed and avoided looking at Joe; she did not want him to catch her with her mouth wide open in awe again. After the introduction, Ella and Wu headed toward the bonfire.
Ariel had two bottles one in each hand, she tucked one bottle between her armpit and grabbed another bottle. With three champagne bottles secured on her body, Ariel headed toward a more secluded area, away from the bonfire. She did not realize Joe was following her until she heard footsteps behind her.
“Don’t follow me.” She said but he followed her anyway.
“This is a beautiful night for drinking isn’t it?” She asked and giggled.
“Do you drink often?” he asked curious.
“No, this is the first time I drank so much…I don’t know why, I think it’s because I’m sad.” Ariel said. She handed Joe a bottle and motioned for him to drink.
“I’m sad too.” He said softly and opened the champagne bottle.
“Why are you sad?”
“Love” he answered. Ariel nodded,
“Me too, I’m sad because of love too.”
“Everything…today I just want to forget everything… but I’ll tell you a secret. There’s this boy, I think I love him, but he doesn’t love me.” There was such sadness in her voice; Joe felt as if they were both feeling the same pain.
“I love her but she doesn’t love me.” He said. The two looked at each other, bonded on that night by circumstances beyond their control. He lifted the champagne to his mouth and drank for a very long time.
“This is so good.” He said surprised something so cheap could taste so good.
“I know, taste so good.” Ariel whispered fascinated with the way his mouth look. He finished the first bottle and Ariel handed him another bottle.
“I’ve never been kiss before.” She suddenly said still staring at his lips. Joe grinned,
“I’ve kissed too many times.”
“Could you…teach me how to kiss…the boy that I really really like, I think I even love him. If one day he feels the same about me, I want to…know how to kiss him properly.”
Joe chuckled; the second bottle was really hyping him up. The girl next to him suddenly looked so beautiful, why didn’t he notice how beautiful she was before? Her raven waist length black hair, beautiful dark brown eyes that seemed to have so many secrets and her lips…kissable red strawberry lips…just like the champagne.
“I’ll kiss you…” He slurred and leaned toward her. Ariel tilted her head and closed her eyes. The kiss tasted so good…a hint of cologne mixed with strawberry flavor…the kiss went on and on and on until his lips traveled from her lips to her neck, her collarbone…down…down…everywhere.
Chapter 6: The meeting
The sobbing grew louder and louder, Ariel wanted to tell whoever that was crying to put a cork in it, but she realized the crying was coming from her. Tears, endless tears streaming down her face, and painful wails coming from her throat…she couldn’t stop. Her brain was demanding her heart to stop crying, but her heart was in so much pain that it wouldn’t listen. Ariel balled her body and wrapped her arms around her knees. She didn’t like feeling so weak, so hopeless…but she was so emotionally drained she couldn’t control her emotions anymore. “You want to know how they met?” Mr. Lin snarled at Mrs. Cheng. He pointed at Joe and said,
“Ask your son how they met!”
Mrs. Cheng raised an eyebrow at her son. Joe shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The moment his eyes met Ariel’s he remembered everything…including the fact that she was a virgin the night they met. Maybe they were at his house demanding payment because he broke her virginity? If so, how much did they want? Joe groaned, hating himself for thinking that way.
He was at fault, she was obviously drunk that night but he…he didn’t stop. He couldn’t stop, he didn’t know if it was because he was overly intoxicated or because he needed, wanted her. Maybe it was a combination of both, he was broken hearted, lonely and she…she was a warm willing body. She was so beautiful that night, her feverish untutored kisses, her eagerness, her sweet scent…he didn’t even pondered the possibility that she was a virgin. By the time he realized she was…he had already…changed her.
He closed his eyes and massaged his forehead, he felt a headache sneaking its way up his head.
“We were introduced by mutual friends.” He said crisply without elaborating.
Mr. Lin balled his fist and shook fiercely at Joe.
“You did more than that! Do you know why we’re here tonight?”
“No” Joe replied his forehead furrowed deep in thought, as if he was still trying to connect the puzzles.
“You fucking knocked her up that’s why you snob!” Mr. Lin shouted and kicked the chair from underneath him. He rushed toward Joe and lifted him up by the collar.
“That’s right pretty boy, you’ve made a big mistake…now what’re you gonna do about it?” Mr. Lin taunted his eyes glowering.
Joe’s face paled and he turned to his parents. Director Cheng and Mrs. Cheng stood up from their chairs. Director Cheng grabbed hold of Mr. Lin’s arm and said softly,
“Let go of my son.”
Mr. Lin towered over the short, stubby director and dared the man to make him. Director Cheng cleared his throat and called,
“Guards” Within minutes, two tall well muscled guards walked in the room. They stood next to Mr. Lin and waited for the man to loosen his hold on the young master. Mr. Lin let go of Joe but remained standing. He turned toward Director Cheng and said,
“Let’s cut all this bullshit and get down to business. You know why I’m here, tell me how much you’re willing to pay.”
“What are you doing?” Ariel asked her father, her face flush again in embarrassment. He glared at her and hissed,
“Shut the fuck up whore, I’m doing this for you!”
“Do not use that kind of language in this house Mr. Lin, we are all adults here. Let’s sit down and have civilized conversations.” Mrs. Cheng said. She signaled the guardsman and they pushed Mr. Lin onto a nearby chair.
“What do you mean how much?” Director Cheng asked. Mr. Lin laughed and said,
“How much are you willing to pay for an abortion and keeping our mouths shut? What? Are you going to offer marriage?” Mr. Lin laughed hysterically at his joke.
“Yes, I think marriage is the best option for the kids.” Mrs. Cheng said, her eyes never once leaving Mr. Lin’s. She wanted him to know she was serious. The gleeful, greedy look on Mr. Lin’s face suddenly disappears, in its place was anger. He shook his head and shouted,
“No! If you don’t pay me I’ll tell every newspaper in Taiwan what your son did! Fucking playboy probably knocked up all the girls in Taipei and getting away too! Fucking rich people think the world belongs to them! Well not this time! Not this time!”
He stood up again and started thrashing everything in the room that was within his reach.
“Stop…please stop embarrassing yourself…” Mrs. Lin pleaded softly, she shrunk her body as Mr. Lin grabbed her and smacked her across the face. The guards tackled Ariel’s father, after a few minutes of struggling they finally arm locked him and dragged him out the door. Director Cheng motioned for one of the guards and whispered in the guard’s ear.
“Take him to the police station for trespassing, destruction of property and assault.”
Ariel wanted the ground to open up and swallowed her whole. She wanted to disappear from thin air and never have to see the pitiful looks on Mrs. Cheng’s and Director Cheng’s face. With her mother sobbing in her arms, she raised her chin up and refused to apologize for her father’s behavior. She was sick and tired of always apologizing and cleaning up his mess… not anymore, she was too tired. She lifted her mother up gently and proceeded to walk out the door.
“Don’t go, a doctor is on his way.” Director Cheng said in a tired tone.
“We don’t want charity.” Ariel said and continued walking towards the front door.
“It’s not charity Ariel, please stay for your mother. Look at her.” Mrs. Cheng pleaded. Ariel sighed and wiped the tears from her mother’s eyes. She hesitated, it's been such a long time since her mother last seen a doctor…perhaps…
“It wouldn’t be charity if you pay for the doctor’s fee. You can pay in installments, your mom need a doctor tonight.” Joe said matter-of-factly.
“I’m sorry mom…” She whispered. Mrs. Lin shook her head and said softly,
“Ariel…I should be the one apologizing, I…I’m a failure…”
“Leave your mother with my mom…I need to talk to you, let’s go out.” Joe said firmly. He sat Mrs. Lin down and faced Ariel.
“Let’s go.” Ariel glanced at her mother, then Mrs. Cheng and Director Cheng. She sighed again, it was time to clear the air with Joe Cheng whether she wanted to or not. With a hand over her stomach, she followed Joe to his car. He opened the door for her and waited until she was seated. Within seconds, he put the car in the drive gear and they were off.
Chapter 7: ultimatum
He tilted his head and avoided looking her in the eyes. They were seated across from each other at a Japanese restaurant. The light in the room was dimmed low, as if to match the awkward moods of the two strangers. The silence etched on, the two plates of food left untouched on the table. Every once in a while Ariel would sneak a glance at Joe, her baby’s father but the longer she looked at him the more uncomfortable she became. What was he thinking? What is she suppose to say? She wanted to clear the air with him, she was filled with confidence in the car on the way to the restaurant, but now that they’re facing each other across the table…she felt tongue tied and unsure.
Joe drummed his fingers lightly on the table, his forehead furrowed in a frown as if he was deep in thought. He glanced sideway at Ariel and saw the worried lines on her face. He tapped the table a little bit louder and Ariel glanced at him. He pointed to the plate of food in front of her and said,
“I’m not hungry.”
“Eat for the baby.” Joe mumbled staring at the table.
Ariel lifted her fork and after a few seconds of debating, her stomach made howling hungry sounds. Her face flushed in embarrassment Ariel started eating. She didn’t bothered looking at what she was eating, but whatever it was tasted so good Ariel finished the plate of food within minutes. She did not realize how ravenous she was.
“When was the last time you ate?” Joe asked pushing his plate of food towards Ariel.
“No thanks.” She said and pushed his plate aside.
“I just ate so I’m not hungry. It’s okay, eat some more.” He said. Ariel mumbled thanks and started eating again. Joe watched in amazement as the small petite girl in front of him clean the plate of food like there was no tomorrow. He wondered if she was going to lick the plate too. She’s pregnant…she’s eating for two. Joe reminded himself.
“Are you still hungry?” He asked. Ariel shook her head suddenly embarrassed. She gulped down a cup of water and sighed in satisfaction. She couldn’t remember the last time she ate so much.
“How many months?” Joe finally asked, glancing at her stomach.
“Are you really keeping the baby?” He asked softly. Ariel stared down at her folded hands and nodded.
“I don’t know what I’m suppose to do…do you want to marry?” he asked in a bleak voice. Ariel shook her head quickly. She heard Joe let out a relieved sigh. Ariel closed her eyes for a brief second and took a deep breath. She wanted to be as honest with Joe as possible.
“I don’t want anything from you Joe. I think it’s enough that you know I’m pregnant. I want to raise this baby by myself. You have to promise me that you’re not going to take my baby away from me…that’s all I want from you.” Ariel said. She saw the conflicting emotions on Joe’s face, confusion, relief and guilt.
“That’s not fair to you Ariel. Are you really okay with not having me around?” He asked.
“This is what I want…I don’t know you. The night we spent together was a mistake. I don’t think it’s fair to the baby if you’re around, she or he will start asking questions when it’s older. It’s best if I raise the baby by myself without a father…”
Joe lowered his head and covered his face in his hands as if he was pondering whether to agree with Ariel’s decision. After a long silence he finally nodded his head in agreement.
“If this is what you want than I will support you.” Joe said, hating himself for not being more persistent. Joe knew he was being a jerk, but he actually felt relieved that Ariel didn’t want anything from him, he was too young…a baby would be a roadblock to his already mapped out future with Tiffany. He cringe thinking about his girlfriend, not quite sure if he should tell her about the baby or not.
“It’s probably best that I don’t know anything about the baby anyway…especially if I’m not going to be a part of her life.” Joe said softly. The decisions made, Joe and Ariel left the restaurant still as heavy hearted as when they first walked in.
Mrs. Cheng glared at her son; she could not believe her ears. She glanced at her husband and saw disbelief on his face.
“What?” She asked. Ariel shifted uncomfortably under the scrutinizing stares from Director Cheng and Mrs. Cheng.
“She wants to raise the baby by herself. We agreed to part ways.” Joe said his face lowered in shame.
“Joe, I am so disappointed in you. How could you only think about yourself?” Mrs. Cheng covered her face sobbing. Director Cheng handed his wife a tissue and turned to his son.
“She’s seventeen years old, and you’re eighteen years old. You are both young and life is already filled with uncertainties. Even without being pregnant life is already hard. Is it fair that you go on about your life as if nothing happen while her whole life is changed because of you?” Director Cheng shook his head and didn’t wait for Joe to respond.
“I can not consciously allow or agreed to the decision the two of you have made. I am the grandfather…as the grandfather I can not let you, Ariel take my grandchild away from this family…”
Ariel felt her heart thundered in fear. She shook her head in protest wanting to curse and scream.
“We want to be a part of your family; we want to be involved in our grandchild’s life.” Mrs. Cheng said softly. Her voice soothing, she caressed Ariel’s head in understanding. Gently she lifted Ariel’s face,
“Please…forgive Joe and let’s come up with a different plan.” Ariel's heart ached looking at Mrs. Cheng’s tear streak face.
“Ariel, I think it’s only fair if Joe experience your pregnancy with you. I promise after the two of you go through the pregnancy together and in the end the two of you still agreed to part ways than we will not stop you.” Director Cheng said.
“What do you mean?” Ariel frowned.
“I know it’s unorthodox but I want the two of you to live in the same home, go to all the doctor appointments together, experience the baby’s first movement together and decide on the baby’s name together. I don’t want to hear any arguments…do it or I will be force to legally adopt my own grandchild.” Director Cheng was dead serious.
Ariel glanced at Joe and Mrs. Cheng. Mrs. Cheng’s eyes brightened and she grinned at her husband. Joe’s face was as pale as a ghost, he kept his eyes glued to the carpet, head still lowered.
“I don’t like being threatened Director Cheng. How do I know you’re not going to break your words?”
Director Cheng rubbed his tired eyes and said,
“Please trust me Ariel, I don’t break my words. I’m doing this not only for my stupid son but for you too Ariel.”
Ariel didn’t know what to do. She glared at Director Cheng, he gave them the ultimatum because he knew she was in no position to fight him.
“Agreed.” Joe said softly. Ariel felt her heart flop, her hope of Joe resisting his father’s decision disappear. Without a choice, Ariel reluctantly nodded her head in agreement. Her hope for the future now covered in dark clouds without a hint of sunlight.
Chapter 8: New Home
The color of the room was pale pink exactly the color she wanted…there was a sliding glass door in the place of a window. The room was simple yet beautifully designed…it was shaped in a perfect square and small, but just the right size for her. She didn’t want anything fancy or extravagant. Mrs. Cheng had exquisite hidden interior design talent, every room she decorated looks elegant and glamorous. Ariel leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. It's been a long day. She moved a few of the boxes into her room and decided to rest for a few minutes. She could hear Mrs. Cheng chatting excitedly with Mrs. Xu…Joe’s girlfriend’s mother. Ariel groaned softly,her face heating up again in embarrassment. Will there be no end to her humiliation? She wondered. Mrs. Xu and her husband were the Cheng's best friends and business associates. Ariel knew one of their plan was for Joe and Tiffany to marry in the future for business partnership and security. If she had known he already had a girlfriend earlier she wouldn’t have agreed so easily to Director Cheng’s term. Not that it would make a difference how hard of a fight she put, but still…she couldn’t help feeling guilty every time she saw Joe and Tiffany together. She and Joe was never meant to be, their world were so different…if not for that one night of carelessness she and Joe would remained strangers forever. Ariel looked outside the sliding door and saw the moving people hauling boxes up the steps to the apartment. Ariel opened the sliding door and stepped onto the balcony. She felt the beat of her heart quickened and she started to panic…it was really happening. Those people were carrying boxes of her clothes, her books, everything that belonged to her…up into the small apartment. A apartment that she was going to share with Joe Cheng.
Watching the men carrying boxes after boxes, Ariel wanted to cry, she wanted to just let the tears stream down her cheeks like ever flowing river, she wanted to scream, she wanted to curse at god and the world but she held everything inside...her tears, her pain, her fears. She knew no matter how loud she screams or how long…nothing would change. Ariel already knew nothing would change…because she grew up in that world. A world without miracles, a world without dreams…a world filled with hopelessness.
Hopelessness… is Ariel’s best friend, it was sad and depressing to be so well acquainted with the feeling of hopelessness at such a young age…but she already accepted it as a fact of life. After living for seventeen years…Ariel decided she was hopelessness’s best friend…that was why even when she wanted to cry until the river runs dry, she knew it was pointless to shed tears. It was pointless…so why bother?
Joe stopped and glared at the long steps leading upward toward the apartment. Why did his father choose this apartment of all the apartments that they own? Of course logically it makes sense…it was nearby to his parent’s home, his school and Ariel’s school. But the apartment was so damn small! Joe felt sweat dripping down his face, he was in the process of wiping his face with his shirt but someone else pressed a cloth on his forehead. He glanced up and saw Tiffany. She grinned in a half smile and continue wiping his face then slowly lowered it down to his neck and work her way to his sweaty torso.
"You're wet all over." Tiffany said playfully.
“Stop teasing me, Tiff.” Joe said half heartedly trying to push her hand away.
Tiffany shrugged and dropped the cloth she was holding. She kissed him gently on the lips and asked,
“Is this better?”
Joe sighed and stepped back from her.
“I told you not to come help! Why didn't you listen? How are you taking all of this? Tell me the truth, Tiff.”
Tiffany shrugged and picked the cloth from the floor. She leaned toward Joe and gently wiped the sweats from his forehead.
“I don’t blame you…this happened because of me, so I have no one to blame but me. You said you were tired of playing games with me…but I didn’t listen, I wanted it to be my way…I wanted you to chase after me, to begged me. I should have known you were serious when you said you wanted to stop playing the merry go round games with me…but you and me, Joe we’re the same we’re both too stubborn and wants things our ways only. How am I taking it? I’m pissed as hell, but I’m more angry at myself for letting you go, for causing you such pain that you sought comfort in someone else’s arms.”
Joe stared into her eyes and hated himself for causing the hurt visible in her eyes.
“Ah Tiff, I’m so sorry baby.” He pulled her close to him and kissed her long and hard, his arms encircled her possessively.
“Don’t fall in love with her Joe, promise me.” Tiffany whispered, she lowered her eyes in shame. She didn’t want to say that to him, she didn’t want to appear weak and afraid…but she was. Another woman was carrying his baby, another woman was going to live with him for the next few months…it was only natural that they develop a bond, a closeness…and it was that bond and closeness that she fear the most.
“Shhh…why would I fall in love with her when I have you? I promise Tiff, there’s no one for me but you. You’re my world, you’re my everything…” Joe promised earnestly, deepening their kiss.
Ariel took a deep breath, slowly in and out, in and out until her stomach settles and she felt a little bit better. She grabbed the balcony rail and lifted her body up. She was only two and a half months pregnant but her stomach was already swelling and morning sickness comes and goes all day. In a few more months she was going to look like a whale and walk like a penguin. Ariel chuckled imagining herself walking like a penguin. The wind suddenly caresses her face, blowing her hair back. Ariel leaned over the railing hoping the wind would blow her way again. She glanced briefly over the balcony and saw Joe and Tiffany kissing. She sighed, her heart filled with guilt again. They were meant to be….they were perfect for each other. She and Joe…they were a mistake.
Chapter 9: Emotions
The room was freezing cold, but she didn’t care. She left the sliding door wide open not even bothering to close it. The wind was blowing the curtain back and forth making loud rustling sound from the papers that she threw scatter all over the carpet just a few minutes ago. Ariel sat on her bed and stared blankly at the ceiling, her face void of any emotions. She didn’t know how she was suppose to react…was she suppose to be angry? Sad? Ariel wanted to feel angry and betray…but all she felt was emptiness…nothingness. She refused to show any emotions, she was sick and tired of being used and hurt because of her ‘feelings’, ‘emotions’,…all she wanted was to be left alone.
She blinked a couple of times, forcing back the tears.
“Never, I will never cry again.” She promised silently to herself. Hold it in, Ariel…don’t show your emotions. No one can hurt you if you just keep it all inside. She touched her stomach briefly, her heart filled with pain for her unborn child.
The wind blew one of the papers from the floor and it clung to Ariel’s ankle. She got up from the bed and picked the paper up. It was one of the letters from her principal. She was told to look for ‘a different school’ and they ‘regret not being able to accommodate her.’
Ariel balled the paper up and threw it in the trash can. She picked up another paper and threw it in the trash can. The letters reminded her of what happened in school earlier. Ariel cringed and sat on the floor, shoulder slump as if she aged ten years. The memory of what happened earlier was too fresh in her mind, she tried to forget but couldn’t. The students’ voices were flashing through her head again and Ariel crawled up in bed and covered her body in blankets hoping to forget.
Flashback Earlier in School~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Did you guys hear about Ariel?”
“I heard she’s pregnant!”
“No! You got to be kidding! Where did you hear it from?”
“The nurse and the teachers!”
“Who’s the guy?”
The buzzing continued as Ariel walked from one class period to the next. The students were whispering as she walked pass, their eyes glued to her as if they had never seen her before. Ella glared at the whispering students but it did not deter them from giving her friend dirty looks.
Ariel lowered her head and avoided looking at the gossiping students. A few of the students purposely bumped hard into her not even bothering to apologize. Ella with her sense of justice became so infuriated for her friend that she actually got into a few fist fights with some of the students.
Ella held her head high and walked to each of the class with Ariel, her face black and blue from fighting. Every once in a while she glanced at Ariel and her heart tightened in pain, she was hurting for her friend. Ariel held her head low, her hair covering her face…as if she was ashamed.
“Ariel look up! Don’t hide your face; you got nothing to be ashamed of! Hold your head up!” Ella ordered, but Ariel continued walking blinding down the hall. Ella shook her head at her hopeless friend and ran after her.
Ariel cringed as she felt something cold hit her on the head. It rolled down her face and dripped on the ground. Eggs, somebody threw eggs at her. Her eyes suddenly became moist; she blinked hard as the tears threaten to roll down her face.
‘Don’t cry Ariel. Don’t cry!” She muttered to herself, she refuse to cry!
Ella slit her eyes and turned toward the group of students that threw eggs at her friend. She jumped on them as if she had gone berserk, screaming and throwing punches after punches. A few minutes later, Ariel saw Jiro running down the hallway and he too jumped in the fight.
The principal and the teachers grabbed hold of Jiro and Ella and motioned for Ariel to follow them.
Today was hell…somehow news of her pregnancy leaked and now the whole school was in chaos...the parents with their righteous indignation demanding the school to expel her, and the students spreading outrageous malicious rumors throughout the school about her.
In the principal’s office she was given a box of letters from the students and parents…who all encouraged her to ‘stay home’, ‘don’t ruin the school’s reputation’ and an official letter from the school with the principal’s signature. The letter basically gave her exactly one week to clear her locker, and enroll in a different school.
Someone was crying? Joe frowned. He gently closed the front door and walked toward his room. He thought he heard muffled crying but wasn’t sure. He checked his watch, and wondered if Ariel was already home. There it was again! Someone was crying! Joe walked to Ariel’s room and knocked on the door. No one answer.
He turned on the knob and the door was unlocked. Hesitantly he sticks his head inside the room and saw papers scattered all over the carpet. Joe took a few steps inside the small room and picked up some of the papers. He quickly scanned a few of the papers and muttered a curse. Who the hell write crap like this!? Joe cursed again in anger.
‘Your father was telling the truth when he announced that you were a whore! Don’t dirty our school with your presence!’
‘I don’t want to be mean but you’re not a good influence for my daughters. Please don’t walk around the campus with your unsightly stomach.’
‘If you wanted some, why didn’t you ask me?’
Joe grabbed all the letters from the floor and threw it inside the trash can. He then sat on Ariel’s bed watching her cry; he was at a loss of what to do next.
“Leave me alone” Ariel demanded but Joe did not listen.
He pulled the blanket down and stared at Ariel. Her eyes were red, her face covered with tear-streaks.
“You’ve been crying.” He stated.
“No. I never cry!” She denied. She took the blanket out of Joe’s hands and tried to cover herself again but he wouldn’t let go.
“I’m sorry.” He said remorsefully.
Ariel stopped and let go of the blanket. She stared blankly at her hands her face turned away from Joe.
“I’m sorry…Ariel” He whispered and gently pulled her in his arms. She tried pushing him off but he was like a rock.
“I’m so sorry.”
Ariel closed her eyes. She felt hot tears cascading down her face soaking Joe’s shirt, his arms wrapped protectively around her. She refuse to cry! She refuse to cry…but the tears just wouldn’t stop flowing from her eyes. Slowly, slowly the heat from Joe’s body warmed Ariel and she drifted into a dreamless sleep.
Chapter 10: Couple Rings
The young man threw one ball after another against the gym wall. His face filled with frustration. He was angry that he couldn’t protect Ariel; he couldn’t even protect the girl he likes.
Flashes of what happened a few weeks ago at school made him threw the ball even harder. The taunting, the whisperings as Ariel walked down the hall, the students’ sneer and malicious rumors…and the school’s lack of support really put him in a foul mood.
Ella stood at the sideline shaking her head at Jiro as he continues to torture himself.
“I’m leaving Jiro. You’re really pathetic you know that?” Ella chided and turned to leave but stopped when Jiro shouted,
He walked up to her and shoved his hands in his back pocket, his feet shifting awkwardly. He hesitated as if he did not really want to know the truth but had to ask for the sake of his sanity. He glanced at the ground, his eyes avoiding hers.
“Ella…is she really pregnant?” Jiro asked holding his breath.
Ella felt her heart constricted; she wanted to cry for her friend...for both Jiro and Ariel. Jiro, the boy Ariel had loved all through middle school and high school finally took notice of her…and it was too late.
“Yes, she really is pregnant.” Ella said sadly. Jiro took the news calmly but Ella noticed his hands balling up into fists, it was clenched so hard Ella fear he might injured himself. For a moment Ella thought Jiro was going to cry. His eyes brimmed with unshed tears, but he conveniently sneezed hard, then he wiped his eyes and nose with his sweaty t-shirt.
“I didn’t know she have a boyfriend.” He said to himself. Nonchalantly as if the news didn’t hurt him at all, he chuckled,
“If I had known she already had a boyfriend I wouldn’t have made a fool of myself by giving her the couple rings.”
Ella scowled at him and hissed,
“You really are a fool! You think if Ariel really had a boyfriend she wouldn’t already introduce you to him? You were her protector! Even now she still really likes you…” Ella covered her mouth and turned away from Jiro. She said too much, she cursed at herself for having such a loose mouth.
Jiro felt his face heat up as his hand involuntarily touched the rings still in his pocket. When Ella gave him the couple rings and told him Ariel said she couldn’t be with him, he felt cheated and confused. All the signs that she liked him was there…he wanted to make sure, absolutely sure that she was the girl for him. But in the end she turned him down.
“If she felt the same way about me then why?” He wondered out loud.
Ella heaved a sad sigh and reluctantly answered,
“She found out she was pregnant. Blame me if you want. I was the one that forced her to go to the bonfire party. She didn’t want to…but I didn’t listen. I should have paid more attention when she started drinking but I didn’t…”
Jiro picked up another ball and threw it against the wall.
“Stupid girl. She should’ve told me the truth, why did she suffer all by herself?!”
Jiro shouted, his legs kicking and arms throwing the balls one after another as if he was possessed. The gym echoed with sounds of Jiro's angry screams and balls slamming against the wall. Finally exhaustion took over his body, with his arms and legs numb from over exertion he fell on the ground laying flat on his back.
“I…I think I love her Ella. I love Ariel.” Jiro laughed at himself and shouted,
“I am a pathetic fool!”
He took the rings out and handed to Ella.
“Give this to Ariel. Tell her it belongs to her.”
Ella didn’t take the rings. She fought the tears that threaten to roll down her eyes. She felt somehow responsible for the relationship between Ariel and Jiro…her two best friends. Theirs was a relationship that should have been…could have been…but now never will be. Jiro Wang, the school’s most popular guy, the school’s best basketball player with girls clamoring all over him…is in love with a girl he could never have.
Ella knelt next to him and put a hand on his shoulder. With remorse in her voice Ella tried to make him understand.
“Jiro, she is pregnant. You want me to give her the rings? What does that mean? You said you love her? You are only seventeen years old, how are you going to take care of her? What about your parents? Don’t give her false hope. Ask yourself, you say you love her but do you really? What if this is only puppy love? What about her baby, are you going to take responsibility for the baby too? What she needs is someone that can give her security, stability, something that lasts a lifetime not just…high school love, but a lasting love. You have your whole life ahead of you…that’s why Ariel didn’t take your rings; she didn’t want to burden you.”
Jiro was quiet for a long time. He stared blankly at the ceiling, Ella’s words replaying in his head over and over again.
‘What she needs is someone that can give her security, stability, something that lasts a lifetime…a lasting love.’
“A lasting love…” Jiro whispered to himself and clasped the rings tighter in his hand.
Chapter 11: Game
The hospital waiting room was filled with pregnant women in all stages of pregnancy. Joe sat uncomfortably next to Ariel and avoided looking around him. He saw a few of the pregnant mothers smiled and grinned at him. He lowered his gaze and pretended not to notice the whispering and chuckling among the hormone queens. One of the pregnant women came up to Ariel and asked innocently,
“Is this your first child?”
Ariel nodded without looking up, her attention was focused on the magazine she had in her hands. The pregnant woman glanced at Joe, she winked at him and with twinkles in her eyes she said loudly,
“It’s so good to see a responsible father! My friends and I were just talking about how we wish our husbands would come with us! And here you are…so young, but already a good husband. The two of you must be newly wed! You look so young!”
Joe twitched in his chair, his face flushing in embarrassment. Ariel smiled politely oblivious to the approving looks from the other women as they surveyed Joe,
“Actually he’s not…”
Joe hastily grabbed her hand and announced with a nervous smile,
“It’s our first baby…so we’re a little nervous…especially when a group of pregnant women are staring at us…”
The group of pregnant mothers laughed and teased Joe, asking if they could borrow him to be their husband for the day. Joe smiled awkwardly wondering if it was normal for pregnant women to act so strangely. He definitely did not want to say or do anything to offend them. Ariel remained quiet throughout the exchange; she had a sad wistful look in her eyes as she observed the interaction between Joe and the pregnant women in the waiting room.
Doctor Wong frowned as he checked the beating of Ariel’s heart. He motioned for the nurse to do a second reading. The nurse took one of Ariel’s hands and pressed her finger over the pulsing vein on Ariel’s wrist. The nurse quickly jotted down her reading and handed it to Dr. Wong.
“Ariel, how are you feeling?” He asked as he scanned over Ariel’s previous prenatal visits. The young girl shrugged,
“Fine I guess.” She answered in a tired voice.
“Wait for a few minutes; I want the nurse to run some blood test on you and the baby.” Dr. Wong said as he glanced over at the nurse. Ariel wondered if something was wrong, but she didn’t ask, she was afraid to ask. Ariel felt she was going to break down…she couldn’t take anymore bad news. She was already worried for her mom…her alcoholic father was going to be release from jail in a few more weeks…she has no doubt that he plans to contact the Cheng’s again. He was not going to be happy when he finds out she is keeping her baby…and he’s not going to get a penny for it.
The doctor called Joe into his office. Ariel was still in the room being examined by the nurse.
“What’s wrong doctor?” Joe asked concern for Ariel and the baby.
The doctor sat behind his desk, reading over Ariel’s file again.
“I am concern about Ariel’s health. She is losing a lot of weight and if this continues she will have a miscarriage.”
Miscarriage? Joe noticed the rapid weight loss a few weeks ago but he wasn’t sure if it was normal or not.
“Are you making sure she’s taking care of herself? Are you taking care of her?” The doctor asked sternly. Joe lowered his head in shame and avoided looking in the doctor’s eyes.
“Is she at a high risk for miscarriage?” He wondered out loud.
“At the rate that she’s going, yes.” The doctor answered bluntly. Joe sighed and closed his eyes briefly.
“What can I do to help reduce the chance of a miscarriage?” He asked. Dr. Wong cleared his throat and shook his head at young people these days.
“You can make sure she eats regularly, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Go to the book store and buy books to educate yourself…something that is beneficial for you, the mother and the baby. Maybe books on fetus development, classical music to soothe the mother and the baby so she gets plenty of rest; I suggest giving her massage, there are books on relaxing massage for pregnant women.”
The young man held in his arms at least six or seven different books all relating to fetus developments and the symptoms of pregnancy. His girlfriend waited impatiently for him as he continued to browse the human development aisle in the book store.
“Joe! I don’t have all day!” Tiffany reminded him, she was clearly annoyed with him. Joe waved his hand signaling for her to wait for a few more minutes. He had a frown on his face as he debated between two books. Tiffany stomped up to him and took a few books from him.
“Joe, why are you buying so many books…about pregnancy?”
The young man’s attention was elsewhere as he flipped through one of the books.
“JOE!” She shouted so loud her voice vibrated throughout the bookstore.
“Hmmm?” He asked as he glanced at her.
“Why are you buying so many books about pregnancy?” Tiffany repeated her question.
“I’m worried about Ariel.” Joe responded simply and went back to book browsing. Tiffany’s eyes flashed in anger at the mention of the pregnant girl’s name but she quickly masked it over with a smile.
“I’ll help.” She offered as she lean in closer to him protectively.
Ella still could not believe Chun invited her to an all exclusive night club. She was underage, and he was underage! There was no way the bouncer would let them in. Surprisingly when she arrived with Chun, the huge muscular bouncer grinned at Chun and winked at her as he opened the door for them! Chun held her hand as he led her to a group of people around their age.
“Hey over here!” A young man shouted as he stood up and waved to Chun. Ella felt shy and tongue tied as she felt all eyes on her. There was a group of girls sitting in the group they were heading toward. Ella could feel the girls’ immediate dislike as they eyed her from head to shoes. The boys were eyeing her too, but theirs was with curiosity…while the girls’ was with animosity.
Sitting at the table was even worse. Ella was squeezed in between Chun and a girl with black shoulder length hair. She glared at Ella openly not even bothering to disguise her dislike. Ella glanced over at Chun wondering if he noticed how miserable she was; he was laughing and joking with his friends, totally oblivious to her presence. Ella sighed and excused herself heading toward the restroom.
This was the first time she met Chun’s friends aside from Joe, the guy that got her best friend pregnant. Ella walked inside the restroom stall and shut the door. Jerks! Snobs! Ella wanted to pull the hair of the girl that was glaring at her all night. Chun’s friends were a bunch of assholes! Ella quietly screamed as she covered her mouth. She needed to let some steams out before going back.
She was in love with Chun, she truly loves spending time with him…as long as she could be by his side…she was happy. That was why even if his friends are jerks…she would try to get along with them. Ella was just about to walk out the stall when she heard someone say her name.
“Did you see how that Ella girl was all over Chun? How embarrassing!”
“I feel kinda bad for her, don’t you? I mean it’s obvious she’s from the ghetto, did you see what she was wearing?” Another girl said in her high and mighty silver spoon voice.
“Well, it won’t be long till he dumps her. I heard he already took her to the beach for a midnight romantic stroll, the candlelight dinner…let’s see he gave her the chocolate and flowers and even sang her a song. So if he’s introducing her to us…it means give or take a few more weeks and he’ll dump her.”
“What did he see in her anyway? He broke up with me right at our third month’s anniversary!”
“Me too! It was exactly three months for me too!” Another girl chirp in.
“Strange, I heard he’s been with this Ella person going on five months! You think he’s losing his touch?”
The words pierced Ella’s heart like daggers. She felt her heart constricted, and for a moment she couldn’t breathe. Her whole body froze as images of the times she spent with Chun flashes through her head. She couldn’t move and she couldn’t stop herself from thinking about him. Chun did take her on a romantic beach stroll; she received the chocolate and flowers the morning after the romantic stroll. He sang her a beautiful love song after they had their candlelight dinner…and shared their first kiss beneath the twinkling stars. He made her fall in love with him…but to him every moment, every second together was calculated…to win her heart.
Ella breathed in and out slowly and tried to calm her pounding heart. She was not going to be play! She refused to be played by a…by a playboy! A womanizer! As much as she wanted to cry a river, she was not. She wanted to berate herself for being such a loser; she wanted to hate herself for allowing her heart to love a player…but she was not. She was not going to break down yet. No, she was not going to break down in front of Chun. Ella dried her eyes and decided…two could play the same game.
Plan A, she was going to make Chun fall hopelessly in love with her, she was going to make him fall desperately in love with her…then she plans to crush his heart into a million pieces. If that fails,
Plan B, if he breaks up with her tonight or tomorrow…she was going to keep a smile on her face as if he means nothing to her…nothing at all! She will not ask him why and she will not beg him to give her a second chance…she was going to walk away from him with her head held high. He will never know…that she already loved him.
Chapter 12: I love you
The smell of eggs and bacon reminded her of home…and sharing breakfast in the morning with her mother. With her eyes closed the girl’s lips curved in a bittersweet smile. She wished she could see her mom; it has been such a long time since she last visited her mother. The young girl sniffed the air wondering if she was dreaming or if someone was really frying eggs and bacon. She slowly stretched her legs and lowered the blanket from her face. The alarm started beeping and the girl reached over and knocked it off the nightstand. She yawned and decided to sleep in…just five more minutes! She promised herself, snuggling her warm blanket.
The young man knocked on the door softly but did not hear any response. He frowned and checked his watch, it was almost seven o’clock. He knocked louder but still no response. The young man turned the door knob and was surprised to find it unlock. He hesitantly poked his head inside the room and saw the girl sprawled across her bed, the blanket wrapped around her like a mummy.
He tiptoed inside the room and gently shook her shoulder.
“Ariel…” he whispered, not wanting to alarm her. The girl stirred but did not open her eyes.
“Ariel…” He called again, a little louder. The girl grabbed his hand and held it in hers, eyes still closed.
“Ariel…breakfast’s ready.” He said trying to pull his hand out of her grasp gently not wanting to scare her. The girl stirred and slowly opened her eyes.
“Joe!....What are you doing in my room?” Ariel asked. She saw her hand covering his and immediately let go.
“Breakfast’s ready.” He said with a grin, her hair after a long night looked more like Frankenstein’s wife’s hair, it was all sticking up in the air, Joe coughed and glanced away hiding his smile.
“We’re eating breakfast…you and me?” She asked surprise.
This would be their first breakfast together…actually it would be their first meal in the apartment together. They moved in two months ago but have never sat down to eat at the same table.
“Come on let’s eat, I visited your mom a few days ago and she said you love bacon and eggs in the morning.” Joe said opening the door for Ariel. She felt a lump rose in her throat and tears welled up in her eyes, silently she nodded her head and followed Joe to the dining table.
“Bacon and eggs is what we eat every morning…actually I…don’t really like bacon and eggs.” Ariel said as she sat down opposite from Joe. Joe paused midway as he held the plate of food in front of her.
“You don’t like bacon and eggs?” He asked glancing at the plate and the girl. Ariel took the plate and placed it in front of her and started eating.
“My mom thinks I like bacon and eggs because this was what we had every morning…just the two of us…” Ariel lowered her head,
“…I told her I love it because…we couldn’t really afford the more expensive food you know? Eggs and bacon…are…cheaper and it last a long time…of course we eat it with rice…” Ariel felt her face heat up; she couldn’t look Joe in the eyes. He nodded and without a word took her plate and scooped a spoonful of rice and placed it on top of her eggs.
“Just like home.” He said and scooped a spoonful of rice and placed it over his eggs.
“Thank you.” Ariel said sincerely touched by his action.
They ate silently, every once in a while Joe would cut a piece of his food and placed it on Ariel’s plate.
“You’re eating for two.” He said if she tried to refuse. After breakfast Joe cleared the table.
“Joe? Why did you cook breakfast?” Ariel asked curious. Joe sat back down in his chair and grinned sheepishly.
“I just realize what a jerk I’ve been that’s all. We already agree to each go our own ways after the baby’s born…I thought this is my time to at least be a dad…I wanted to be a good father…I read that the baby can hear everything the parents say…or even the people around them say…so I just wanted our baby to know that she is wanted.” Joe felt his face flushed and knew he was blushing.
“By cooking breakfast?” Ariel felt her lips curved into a half smile, surprise that Joe’s words made her want to giggle. This was the first time in a long while she felt like a seventeen year old again.
“Ariel…I think we should have breakfast every morning, and dinner. I want you to remember to eat lunch too…it’s good for you and the baby. I’ve been reading a lot of books about fetus development and you’re in the second trimester? So…it’s really important that you keep your body healthy.”
Joe said face heating up again. He looked so uncomfortable, Ariel suddenly realized he was just as scared as she was and maybe just as nervous about the baby. He looked just like an eighteen year old and not the cool, worldly man she met that night on the beach. His awkwardness warmed Ariel and she grinned openly to him.
“Thanks to your parents, Mrs. Chiu makes sure I eat lunch every day before letting me leave her house. She’s a strict teacher, but I like her a lot.” Ariel grimaced briefly remembering the way she was treated by her old school. She remembered Joe wanting to cause a ruckus on her behalf but thankfully Director Cheng stopped him. In the end, the school invited Ariel back but she refused.
“I saw a few of the books you bought…is it okay if I borrow one to read?” She asked shyly. Joe nodded,
“If you’re too tired…I don’t mind reading it to you during bed time…” Joe suggested. Ariel pretended to think for a moment and then she nodded her head.
“Okay, I think the baby will like that.” She agreed.
“It’s a girl, we should give her a name.” Joe said and lowered his chin on the dining table as if he was pondering what name to give the baby.
“Joe, it’s not a girl, we don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl yet.” Ariel laughed wondering why Joe was behaving so…different this morning.
“I have this feeling in my bone that it’s a girl.” Joe said seriously.
“What if it’s a boy?” Ariel retorted jokingly.
“It’s a girl Ariel. I know it’s a girl., let’s call her Hope.” Joe reached his hand over and placed it over Ariel’s pregnant stomach for a brief moment. Then he lifted his hand and shoved it in his back pocket.
“See, our baby just told me she’s a girl and she wants to be call Hope.” Joe said mischievously.
Ariel touched her stomach and whispered, “Hope…”
She smiled suddenly happy, the name was perfect. Hope…her baby is her hope…for change, for dreams and for living.
“Hope…” She muttered and felt her baby moved as if answering to her name.
The bus was late again. Ariel leaned back against the bench and groaned out loud. She was so tired. Mrs. Chiu was one strict teacher. Math problems she worked on earlier in school flashes through her mind, and her frown deepened as she tried to find a solution in her head. Ariel was so preoccupied with the math problems she did not noticed the young man standing next to her until she heard him call her name.
“Ariel…” he said softly. She turned to her right and was startled to see Jiro.
“Jiro…what are you doing here?” She asked suddenly conscious of her swelling stomach. He shrugged, his face looked haggard as if he hasn’t slept in a few days. He looked so lonely…so sad.
“Ella didn’t give me your phone number, or your address…she said you told her you didn’t want me to know where you live or have anything to do with me…so I guess meeting you here is fate.” He pushed his hair out of his eyes and walked closer to Ariel.
“I was hurt at first because I thought we were friends, but then I realized maybe you thought you were protecting me…I don’t know.” Jiro shrugged and gazed intently at Ariel afraid she was just a figment of his imagination. He was afraid if he blinks she’ll disappear from his sight.
“I’m sorry Jiro, I didn’t mean to hurt you…but look at me, I didn’t want you to see me like this.” Ariel turned away from Jiro, she was so happy to see him but sad at the same time.
“Do I look like I care? We used to share everything with each other, you used to come to me whenever you needed a shoulder to cry on, you used to…” Jiro stopped when he saw tears shimmering in Ariel’s eyes.
“That was before I …” she stopped. She almost said ‘that was before I fell in love with you.’
The bus finally arrived, and Ariel breathes a sigh of relief . Without looking at Jiro, Ariel quickly waved and started walking toward the bus. Without warning, she felt arms wrapped around her from behind and she was held captive. She tried breaking free but his hold was solid as rock.
“I love you Ariel.” Jiro whispered, his face burrowed in her hair.
Ariel gasped in surprise, and her heart started pounding rapidly. Everything slowed; it was as if time froze, all Ariel felt at that moment was the warmth of Jiro’s arms around her, and the sincerity in his voice. Ariel took a step away from him trying to break free his hold but he tightened his arms and pressed his chin on top of her head.
“I love you Ariel, I love you.” Ariel closed her eyes, and a single tear dripped down her cheek.
Chapter 13:The Art of Seduction
‘HOW TO MAKE A MAN FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU IN MINTUES!’ was the title of the book. Ella didn’t really like any of the chapters, but thought maybe the author with her long history of relationships knows more about the mystery of love. The book was very hellish to read…especially for someone who never really liked to read. Ella turned to the chapter she book marked title ‘Seduction will guarantee you his undying love!’ Step 1: Sprinkle the room with rose petals
Step 2: Lit the room with candles
Step 3: Wear something sexy
“Okay, so my room is sprinkle with enough petals to cause me allergy…let’s see step two, lit the room with candles…” Ella murmured to herself wondering where she put all her birthday candles.
“Mom?! Where are the leftover birthday candles?” Ella opened her door and yelled downstairs.
“It’s in the kitchen with all the other birthday stuff!” her mother yelled back. She rushed into the kitchen and opened the cabinet, the birthday candles were hidden behind all the paper plates and birthday napkins. With a happy jump, Ella grabbed a few of the candles and ran up to her room.
After pushing her term papers and weekend homework to the side, Ella carefully lit the short thin candles and placed a few on top of her computer desk and around the room.
“Okay, rose petals…check, candles…check…now wear something sexy…”
She looked in the mirror and saw what she was wearing. Sweat pants and over size t-shirt…definitely not sexy at all! She rummaged through her closet and still could not find anything she thought was sexy. Opening her door again she hollered,
“Do you have any sexy clothes?” There was a brief silence and then she saw her mother heading her way, there was something in her hands.
“Sexy clothes for what?” Her mother asked one eye browse rose.
“Don’t worry mom, I’m not having sex.” Ella responded and took the bag from her mom.
“Aren’t you going to be late for work?” She asked hinting that she wanted to be home alone. Ms. Chen ruffled her daughter’s hair and whispered,
“I trust you.”
“Aww mom, I trust you too.” Ella whispered back with a grin.
Chun arrived at Ella’s house with a dozen roses in his hands. Smoothing his collar shirt and running a hand through his trendy hair style, Chun grinned. He knew he look good. He rang the door bell once expecting Ella to open the door like she normally does but she didn’t. He rang the door bell twice and still she did not open the door. Lifting his wrist up he check his watch again, he was on time. Chun took out his cell phone to call Ella just as the phone rang; she opened the door and smiled invitingly at him.
“Chun, come in” She said excitedly grabbing his arm and pulling him after her.
“Um…this is for you.” He said thrusting the roses in her face. Ella took the bouquet and on her tip toe kissed him briefly on the cheek. Chun’s eyes widened surprise by her affectionate kiss.
“Let’s make beautiful memories!” Ella shouted and started giggling, her eyes staring ahead as if she was avoiding eye contact with him. With a frown, Chun followed her.
Ella groaned inwardly, she could not believe she shouted ‘let’s make beautiful memories!’ what the heck did that mean anyway? As she and Chun near her room, Ella tried to remember all the steps in the ‘how to seduce your man’ chapter. She opened the door gently and yanked Chun inside the room and with a bang she closed the bed room door. Chun jumped at the loud sound, swung his head toward the door and reach out a hand to open the door but Ella stopped him.
“Chun! I have something to tell you!” Ella screeched and grimaced at how harsh the words came out. It was suppose to be gentle and sweet…why didn’t it come out sounding gentle and sweet?
She moved closer to Chun and locked her arms around him; with her eyes closed and mouth puckered she got on tip toed for a kiss.
“Um…Ella, what are you doing?” Chun asked nervously staring at her puckered lips and closed eyes. Ella did not answer, she waited patiently for his kiss…but the silence dragged on and still no kiss.
Hmm…I wonder if I’m missing any steps…what was next after bringing him to my room? Ella thought to herself.
“Oh wait! I forgot something…stay right here Chun!” Ella ordered and leaped over toward her computer and quickly pressed the ‘play’ button, immediately a romantic song echoed throughout the bed room.
‘Ella, I think you’re supposed to dance for him…’ she frowned, was that in the book? She couldn’t remember what steps it was on. It was…dance then show him your sexy clothes! Ella nodded proud that she remembered the steps.
“Sit on the bed and watch me.”
Chun sat on the bed and watch Ella standing in front of him with a blank look. She walked closer to him and grinned nervously. She closed her eyes and counted to three…and tried to remember the video she watched last night. It was called “Dance to seduce your man…” it came with the book.
With her eyes still closed she started swaying to the music. Right foot out, then left foot out, then raised one hand up in the air then swing the head and pouted the lips to look sexy…then gently licked the bottom lip and shyly peeked at him…he should be seduced by the dance right about now. Ella opened one of her eyes and saw Chun laughing with his arms over his stomach, there were tears rolling down his face as he tried to muffle his laughs.
She frowned, that was not supposed to happen! Wait…I forgot the most important thing! Sexy clothes! Ella grinned excited. Chun will definitely be seduced once I show him what I’m wearing! She thought with a smirk. Still dancing Ella managed to loosen her bathrobe and dropped it on the floor.
Then laughter exploded from Chun’s mouth and he rolled off the bed onto the carpet laughing so hard he held himself in a fetal position.
“Hey! You’re not supposed to laugh!” Ella whined wondering if she missed any steps. She glanced down at her sexy clothes…she had on a shirt with the face of a beautiful model wearing a sexy bikini and the pant had the sexy long legs of the beautiful model printed on it.
“You’re lucky I’m wearing this…look at how beautiful her body is!” Ella chided.
“What are you doing?” Chun asked still struggling to stop laughing.
“Seducing you!” Ella answered truthfully. She knelt on the carpet next to Chun and asked,
“Did it work?”
“Oh…are you hungry?” She asked feeling defeated and hoping to distract him from her disastrous seduction plan.
“Okay, help me blow out all the candles in the room and I’ll make us something good to eat.” Ella said already blowing the candles closest to her. Feeling a little sad because of her ‘Seduction failure’, Ella did not see the wistful look in Chun’s eyes as he stared briefly at her, the corners of his mouth lifting up in a half smile.
Chapter 14: Dreams
“Will you love me five years from now, ten years from now? Will you love me when your parents want us to separate, will you still love me if you have to choose between me and your family?” Ariel asked, her heart aching with pain. Every word she uttered was meant to cut Jiro like a knife through the heart. She pulled out of his embrace and turned to look at him. The bus had already left, leaving just the two of them in front of the bus stop. Jiro hung his head low, his shoulder slumped.
“I don’t know how to answer you Jiro, I don’t know what to say…”
“How would you answer if everything was the way it was before?” He asked. Ariel shrugged and chuckled softly.
“That’s just it Jiro…everything is not the way it was before, it will never be the way it was before. I’m sorry, but I…I don’t want to see you anymore.” She choked on the last word, her heart was breaking.
Ariel felt like she was dying inside…why was he making it so hard for her to resist? Why was it so hard to say no? Ariel steeled her heart and avoided looking him in the eyes.
“Please let me go…and don’t look for me.”
Ariel closed her eyes and felt tears cascade down her cheeks. She didn’t want Jiro to see the tears, she didn’t want him to know that every word she forced out of her mouth hurts her as much as him. Turning away from him, Ariel started walking down the street. She needed to distance herself from him…the pain in his eyes was torture for her.
“Marry me! Ariel! Marry me!” Jiro shouted, his voice echoing down the street. People on the street stopped and stared at the two of them. He ran up to her oblivious to the crowd gathering around them.
“You ask about my love for you…will I love you in five years? Ten years? Twenty years…one hundred years? Yes Ariel, I will still love you.” Jiro cupped her face in his hands and begged,
“Stop seeing me as a kid, I know what I’m getting into when I decided to be with you. I want to protect you, love you and your baby. I want to raise your child with you, grow old with you. I couldn’t sleep because of you, I was debating…debating with my heart and my head until I realized…I choose you…. Please Ariel, please stop pushing me away!”
“Jiro, you are only seventeen years old…” Ariel started but abruptly stopped when Jiro kissed her forcibly on the lips.
“Damn it! I know I’m seventeen, so are you!”
Ariel blinked a couple of times and stared at Jiro as if seeing him for the very first time. Jiro dropped his hands from Ariel’s shoulders, surprised by his own outburst and the kiss.
“Sorry…” he apologized.
“I can’t marry you Jiro. I can’t.” Silence. The atmosphere was so tense and awkward, the small crowd of people walked away, some turn their head back curiously. The silence etched on until Jiro finally sighed and asked,
“Will you marry me in ten years?” He refused to give up.
“What do you mean?” Ariel frowned.
“I want to marry you, if not now then in ten years.”
Ariel felt her lips reluctantly curved in a half smile, it was just like her best friend to say something like that.
“If you promise to open your heart to other girls and date them seriously. If we are fated, then in ten years if I am still single and you are still single then we can give our relationship a try.”
Jiro grinned and sighed in relief…there was still hope for him.
The room was becoming too stuffy for him. It didn’t matter how many times he went outside for fresh air, he still felt restless and bored. Tiffany sat beside him chattering with their friends, the same group of people they hung out with since grade school.
Joe tapped his index finger against the wine glass, his eyes glancing at his wrist watch every few minutes. He wondered if Ariel was eating, if she was scared at home by herself…and if she worried about him like he was worried about her.
Joe sat up abruptly, why was he worried about her anyway? She’s fine, it’s not like this was the first time she was home by herself. But this was the first time, Joe thought about her and he was perplexed at himself. Doctor Wang really scared him when he said Ariel might have a miscarriage if he didn’t take good care of her…eating every day with her, learning about her…and her little quirks of likes and dislikes brought them a lot closer than he would have like.
He sometimes wondered if he would be able to part ways with Ariel and their baby, Hope. When the time comes will he be able to let go of his baby? Joe frowned, of course he can…he already promised Ariel. Ariel and the baby…were never part of his future plans, he already has his life mapped out…graduate from high school and attend Taipei University majoring in business. After his business degree, he will work for Director Xu for a few years before taking charge of his father’s business. Naturally he will marry Tiffany and the two companies will merge into one…expanding their business was a goal he shared with Tiffany.
Joe picked up a wine glass and placed it down without drinking. Staring at the wine glass he remembered the conversation he had with Ariel a few days ago.
~~~~~Flashback conversation with Ariel
“Joe?” Ariel asked with a mouthful of eggs and rice.
“What are your dreams for the future?” She asked, her eye brows arched waiting patiently for his answer. Joe hesitated. He opened his mouth then stopped, he didn’t know what to say. Dreams? Joe shook his head and shrugged his shoulder,
“I have future plans if that counts as dreams. My goal is to graduate from Taipei University, worked a few years, then take over my father’s business. I have goals of expanding his company by joining forces with Director’s Xu’s company.”
Ariel’s eyes brighten in awe and she gave him a wide grin.
‘Wow, you are soo lucky to already have your future all figure out!”
Joe felt uncomfortable with the compliment…it wasn’t his dream, it was a future that was already mapped out for him since the day he was born.
“What about you?” He asked curious. Ariel grinned and replied shyly,
“I don’t really know if this is a dream or not, but I want a simple life…a happy life.”
Joe frowned…a simple life? What does that mean? He wanted to know more about what she meant.
‘What is that?” He asked.
“A simple life? My simple life is waking up every morning to the person I love next to me. Cooking breakfast in the morning and rushing my children to get out of bed so they won’t be late to school, ah and guess what? Hope will be the oldest so she’ll probably help me with the little ones…” Ariel paused to catch her breath and noticed the intrigued look on Joe’s face.
Such simple a dream yet the young girl was so animated, her eyes flashing with life. Joe couldn’t help but compared how he viewed his future and how she viewed her future. For a brief second, he wanted to be part of her dream…part of her future. Joe could not deny that he was intrigued by the way she view her future…it was so full of excitement and hope, he wanted to be a part of it.
“You have a beautiful dream, I’m sure it will come true.” He said sincerely. Ariel grinned and nodded in agreement.
“You too Joe, I know your dream will come true. Meeting me was probably not part of your plan huh?” She teased and continued eating. Joe paused and stared at the young girl for a few seconds then not knowing how to respond, he filled his mouth with food.
~~~~~~~~End of the flashback
You’re right Ariel, meeting you were not part of my plan. Joe thought wryly and quickly drank the glass of wine.
Chapter 15: Parting
The sound of heart beats echoed throughout the four wall room strong and healthy. To the young girl, each heart beat was like the sound of a beautiful melody. The young girl tilted her head to the side and watch in awe at the screen in front of her. The ultrasound scan showed a fully developed baby sucking her thumb and moving her arms and legs every once in a while. Doctor Wong was in the room and grinned when he saw the pregnant girl’s glowing face.
The father of the baby was also in the room glancing at the girl and the ultrasound screen in front of them. He too was at a loss when he saw the baby appeared on the screen. The doctor handed the young man a tube of gel and motioned for him to apply it on the pregnant girl’s belly. The young man nervously poured the gel and waited for the doctor.
“Joe, place the transducer over the gel and move it back and forth.” Dr. Wong instructed.
Joe nodded and hesitantly moved the transducer back and forth not sure what he was doing; as he circled the transducer over Ariel’s belly, a clear picture of a baby face appeared on the screen.
“Dr. Wong! Dr. Wong! Look!” Joe shouted in excitement, he grabbed the doctor and placed the doctor’s hand over the machine. The moment the doctor grabbed hold of the transducer, Joe pulled a chair next to Ariel and fixed his eyes on the screen.
“Dr. Wong, what you’re showing us is really our baby?” Joe asked his voice filled with emotion.
Dr. Wong nodded. Ariel smiled at Joe, surprise at how excited he was but also very glad that he shared her happiness. As the doctor located the baby’s hands and feet, Ariel tried to count her baby’s fingers and toes while Joe stared at her and then the ultrasound screen of their baby.
His heart was aching painfully, he placed his hand over his chest…was it possible to ache for something…to need something and you’re not even sure what it is that you want or need? He looked at Ariel wistfully and felt his heart contracted and wondered why his heart aches even more when he looks at her.
Joe opened his mouth but didn’t know what to say… he felt a lump in his throat. He cleared his voice before speaking, but his voice still cracked as he whispered,
“Are you happy Ariel?”
Ariel nodded, she was so happy she didn’t know what words to use to describe her happiness. She wanted to tell Joe the thought of being a mother no longer scares her. She wanted to tell Joe thanks to him, she now looks forward to the future with her baby. She wanted to thank Joe for Hope, for the baby inside her…for the baby that is now her strengths and dreams. She wanted to share her thoughts with him, but when she glanced at Joe and saw the forlorn expression on his face she couldn’t.
This must be really hard for you Joe…while I’m planning a future with Hope, you…you’re planning to say good bye.
Doctor Wong wiped the gel from the girl’s belly and left the room. Joe gently pulled down Ariel’s shirt to cover her pregnant stomach and helped her down from the bed.
“I’m glad you’re happy Ariel….I’m really glad.” Joe said with a forced smile on his face. Ariel heard the sadness in his voice and wondered…if Joe was becoming too attached to the baby. Will he be able to let Hope go when the time comes?
Joe could hear Ariel’s frustrated groans as she tossed and turned in her bed. He glanced at his wrist watch, it was past midnight. He slide out of bed, grabbed a book and headed toward Ariel’s room.
“Ariel, can I come in?” He asked before opening the door.
“What is it?”
Ariel sighed and whined,
“Hope is acting up again! She’s kicking so much I can’t sleep! Yikes, and I have an exam tomorrow!”
Joe grinned at the Ariel’s disheveled hair and clothes.
“Our baby is acting up again?” He asked. Joe pulled the blanket and tucked it below Ariel’s chin.
“I know now Joe, how hard it must have been for my mom…she led such a hard life from the day I was born till now. I think about my mom a lot, not being able to see her…she is so afraid of my dad showing up around the house she wouldn’t even let me visit her…a parent’s sacrifice…Hope is reminding me of my mom.” Ariel pulled the blanket lower and heaved another long sigh.
“I really miss my mom.”
Joe took her hand and held it in his trying to comfort her.
“Let’s see her tomorrow. I’ll check the police station first thing in the morning. If your dad is still lock up, I’ll take you to your house but if he’s not, then I’ll bring your mom here.”
Ariel pulled her hand out of Joe’s hold and tucked it underneath the blanket.
“Thank you Joe.”
“Now…I want you to close your eyes and listen to this…baby Hope this is your dad talking to you so you better listen! I’m going to read you and mommy a story so be a good girl now and sleep.” Joe said firmly and sat down on the bed. Ariel felt her mouth curved up in a half smile at Joe’s silliness but played along with him.
“Okay papa Joe, little Hope is ready for your story.” Ariel said and closed her eyes tight. Amazingly, as Joe started reading, the baby’s frantic kicks, and constant movements lessened, it was as if the baby was listening intently to her father’s voice. His voice was so soothing that it rocked both the mother and the baby to sleep.
“At the end of the second trimesters, the baby is fully developed with its own personality that is just waiting to be cultivate…” Joe stopped reading as Ariel’s snores became louder. He grinned when he saw drools dripping from the side of Ariel’s mouth. He placed the book on the night stand, and sat back down on the bed.
Joe sat inside the room for a long time staring at the pregnant mother and her pregnant stomach. After a while of playing tug and war with his conscience, Joe finally placed his right ear on Ariel’s pregnant belly. He could hear the baby’s heart beats, and could feel the baby’s gentle movements.
“Little Hope, you be good to your mother…understand? She loves you so much…Just as your mother loves you, you must love her too. So tomorrow promise not to kick around too hard, okay? I know you like to move around a lot, so gentle kicks only. Be good for daddy.” Joe whispered and gently patted the round belly. As if answering her father, the baby kicked gently in response. Joe got up from the bed and stood there staring at Ariel for a long time. He couldn’t bring himself to walk out the room…but knew he couldn’t stay.
The drunken man grunt as he staggered down the alley. That damn woman and her whore of a daughter! Think they could fool him huh? Think he wouldn’t find out where that bitch is hiding? The man crossed the street and kicked the front door open. That damn woman was in the kitchen cleaning, always cleaning.
“Tell me where she is!” Mr. Lin screamed as he grabbed Mrs. Lin’s hair.
“Tell me where she is or I will kill you…I swear I will kill you and that no good daughter of yours!”
Mrs. Lin did not answer and she did not protect herself. Mr. Lin yanked her hair hard and sneered in satisfaction when Mrs. Lin groaned in pain.
“Where is your daughter? Where is she? Did she get rid of the bastard’s baby?”
Mrs. Lin still did not answer. Mr. Lin became even more infuriated by the silence and threw Mrs. Lin across the room. She was slammed against the wall and fell on the ground.
“Is she with them now? Where the hell is she?” Mr. Lin wrapped his hands around Mrs. Lin’s neck and started strangling her.
Mrs. Lin kept her eyes open, staring at the man she married, the man she had promised to love, to cherish till them do them part. She stared silently at him while he strangled her. She felt tears slipped down the side of her eyes but kept her eyes wide open, she wanted to remember the face of her murderer…if she was to die tonight she wanted to remember the face of her murderer.
Chapter 16: In Love
Joe couldn’t sleep that night. The feel of his baby gentle kicks was still on his mind. Despite his vow to stay emotionally distance from Ariel and the baby…it was already to late. Joe sighed and leaned his head against the bed board. Three more months left…that was all the time he has with them. For the past weeks Joe couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like to be a real father, to raise his daughter…
He knew he was being selfish, that was not the agreement he had with Ariel. He felt heavy hearted thinking about Ariel, the baby and Tiffany. Joe dialed Tiffany’s cell numbers. The phone rang a couple of times but she did not answer. Joe dialed the number again and this time she answered.
“Joe? Why are you calling so late?”
“Tiff, I need to talk to you.”
“Joe, it’s past midnight, let’s talk tomorrow.” Tiffany said with a yawn and proceeded to hang up but stopped when she heard Joe whispered,
“I don’t want to lose them…I…”
“What do you mean?”
“Tiff, I want to raise my daughter. I want to be a part of her life.”
The sound of Tiffany’s breathing could be heard over the phone but she remained silent.
“Did you fall in love with her?”
“Remember that day…when you first moved in with her, you made me a promise…do you remember?”
“Tell me the truth…have you fallen in love with her?”
Joe paused a few seconds before he answered,
Tiffany felt tears welled up in her eyes, Joe’s hesitation indicate he was unsure about his feelings. She tried to hide her jealousy, she tried to keep a smile on her face whenever Joe had to take Ariel to the hospital but everything was becoming too much for her.
“Joe…why did you change your mind about the baby?” Tiffany asked concern about her place in Joe’s heart. If he somehow fell in love with Ariel, and now wants to raise his daughter…where does that leave her? Tiffany has always been first since the day she was born…she knew she was being arrogant and selfish, but she refused to take second place even when it comes to his daughter.
“I saw her ultrasound pictures today. She was so beautiful Tiff, I counted her toes and hands and they’re…”
Joe went on and on about his ultrasound experience his voice filled with excitement. This Joe was someone she did not recognize. Who is this person on the phone? Tiffany wondered. Joe...you've changed, I don't know when or how but you've changed.
Joe continued talking, waiting and hoping that she showed some interest, but Tiffany did not say anything. After a while Joe realized Tiffany was either purposely not answering. or she was upset.
“It’s that girl isn’t it? She’s in love with you that‘s why she got pregnant in the first place! Are you feeling guilty? What did she do to you? Did she brainwash you into falling in love with her ?”
Joe frowned a little taken aback by Tiffany’s sudden outburst.
“This has nothing to do with Ariel and everything to do with me….
………Tiff,I need you to listen to me...how do you feel about being a step mother?”
“You can’t be serious Joe. Call me tomorrow when you’re sane.” Tiffany slammed the phone. It was obvious she was no longer first in Joe's heart. How do I become first again? She wondered...the thought of being second was not pleasant at all.
The click on the other line spoke louder than words. Joe knew Tiffany was not ready to be a mother…and why should she be put in that position? It was really unfair to her. You have to decide Joe…what is it that you want? He lay flat on his bed and groaned out loud. Forcing his eyes shut he tried to sleep but was interrupted by an incoming call on his cell phone. He glanced at his wrist watch, 3pm, who in their right mind is calling this late? Joe wondered as he flipped his phone open.
He heard heavy breathing as if the person was in a lot of pain.
“Help me….” A soft voice gasped.
“Help me…don’t tell Ariel…”
“Mrs. Lin? Mrs. Lin? Hello?” no answer. Joe jumped out of bed his heart pounding.. It sounded like Mrs. Lin was hurt.
The sound of sirens echoed down the hallway as Joe paced back and forth in the hospital lobby. Mrs. Lin’s bruised face and broken bones was enough for the police to put out a warrant for Mr. Lin’s arrest for attempted murder. Before she was rush to the emergency room, Mrs. Lin told Joe Ariel’s father was looking for her. When he heard those words Joe felt a fear he’d never felt before. He ran out of the hospital heading toward his car, all the while praying to god to keep Ariel and the baby safe. He wanted to make sure with his own eyes Ariel was home sleeping safe and sound.
“Have you fallen in love with her?”
He pressed the gas pedal cursing at the slow traffic.
“Have you fallen in love with her?”
The smile on Ariel’s face when he cooked her breakfast in the morning. The pout she tried to hide whenever she was disappointed or upset with him…Ariel laughing, Ariel smiling, Ariel crying…flashes through his head.
“Have you fallen in love with her?” Tiffany’s words repeated over and over in his head.
“I think....I’ve fallen in love with her.” Joe whispered.
Chapter 17: Simple Truths
The apartment was quiet. The man tiptoed inside the living room heading immediately to one of the bedrooms. He could hear soft breathing as he turned the door knob. Inside the room was a girl sleeping peacefully her mouth curved in a gentle smile. She must be having a happy dream. The man thought as he took note of her pregnant stomach rising up and down with each breath she takes. He walked silently towards her bed, as he neared her he lowered his hand as if to touch her face. With his fingers an inch away from her face, the man felt his hand shake nervously and he paused. He didn't want to wake her. He shoved both his hands inside his back pockets and stood staring at the girl for a long time.“Jiro…” He heard her whisper a name. The man frowned, who was Jiro? The only friend she mentioned was her best friend Ella.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry Jiro…I still care about you, I’m sorry I can’t stop my heart from loving you…but I don’t want the burden of messing up your life…sorry…” The young girl’s voice was filled with such sadness and regret the young man knew whoever Jiro was…he was somebody important to her. The smile on her face a few minutes ago was now replaced with a bittersweet sadness. Tears rolled down her cheek, eyes still closed, she was crying in her sleep. As gently as possible, the man took a tissue and wiped her tears.
The girl continued to tossed and turned as if she was having a bad dream. The young man took one of her hands and held it in his. He did not say anything. The girl whimpered, the other hand raised up in the air as if trying to block an attack.
"Please don't! Please don't hurt me...don't hurt mom!" She begged, her body shivering in fear, she was groaning her face now covered with sweats.
"Shhh...Ariel, you're safe, everything is fine."
He took both her hands and held it securely against his chest.
Ariel squeezed his hands so tight her finger nails pierced his skin and tiny drip of blood fell on the blanket.
He held her hands for a long time, gently stroking it until her hands were no longer cold, he held it until she stopped tossing and turning, he held her hands in his until her face was again sleeping peacefully with a smile on her face. With a huge sigh of relief the young man covered her with a blanket and turned off her bedroom light. He walked inside his room and immediately lie on the bed exhausted.
"MOM!" Ariel shouted and bolted up from her bed. She was covered in sweat, her hair felt damp and...there was blood on her blanket. She reached for the Kleenex box on her nightstand and realized her finger nails had smudges of blood on it. What happened? She wondered and looked at her hands. She didn't have any scratches so the blood was from someone else. How did she get blood on her nails? Ariel wondered as she headed to the restroom to wash her hands. Joe forgot to turn off his bedroom light. Ariel wondered if he was still awake as she walked silently passed his room. She went inside the restroom and quickly washed her hands. Could the bloods on her nails be Joe's blood?
Joe was sprawled on his bed without any blanket. Ariel rubbed her stomach and whispered to Hope,
"Darling, look how tired your daddy is. He forgot his blanket."
He was lying on top of his blanket, Ariel knew she did not have the strength to pulled the blanket from under him. She searched his room for something else to cover him. This is the first time I'm in his room. She thought as she searched his room for a blanket. The room was filled with pictures of his girlfriend and him, there was pictures on top of the nightstand, the closet and the huge bedroom mirror.
Every picture seemed to have special meanings, there were the kindergarten pictures, Tiffany with her ponytail and Joe pulling it. The middle school pictures of Joe secretly admiring Tiffany while she grinned widely as if the whole world belonged to her, then there were the high school pictures of Joe and Tiffany hugging, kissing, every action seemed to indicate their love and affection for one another. It was obvious Joe truly love his girlfriend.
Staring at the pictures, Ariel felt her heart skipped a few beats and something else...an aching kind of pain, but she didn't know what it was. It felt as if her heart was breaking? She wondered why she was suddenly feeling so sad and lonely... it must be because of guilt. She felt guilty for hurting two people who are so perfect for one another. Sighing, Ariel went in her room and grabbed one of the blankets she knitted for Hope and covered it over Joe. Soft, pink knitted square shape bunny blanket. For someone so rich, he didn't even have an extra blanket.
Ariel tugged the knitted blanket under Joe's chin and was about to leave when she saw the cuts on his hands. She stopped and stared at his hands.
"Joe..." She whispered, so it was him...it was his blood.
"Why didn't you wake me up?" She asked as she gently cleaned his wounds. She remembered in her dream there was moments when she didn't feel scared. She felt as if someone was protecting her, shielding her from her fear. It was Joe... she was holding his hands, he was the one protecting her.
"So instead of waking me up, you let me hurt you? Stupid." Ariel chided him as she wrapped gauze around his hand.
"You and Hope need to rest, that's why I didn't wake you up." Joe replied. Ariel glanced at him surprised that he was awake.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“You didn’t, I couldn’t sleep.”
Ariel tied the gauze and took Joe’s other hand and placed it on her lap.
“It’s going to sting a little bit.” She warned as she applied antibiotic cream on his hand. Joe didn’t respond. She lowered her head and carefully wrapped his hand with gauze.
“All done. You can go back to sleep.” Ariel said with a smile. The smile froze as her eyes met his. He was staring at her, there was something different about the way he was looking at her.
“Why are you staring at me?” She asked curious.
“I’m not staring.” Joe protested his eyes twinkling with mirth at her, she was quick.
“Okay…but I feel weird when you’re looking at me like that. Are you okay today Joe?”
Ariel asked and placed her hand on his forehead. Joe took her hand and covered it with his.
"I'm sorry." He whispered.
He gazed at his hand covered over hers for a few seconds before he placed her hand back on her lap.
"Joe? Let's go see my mom. I've been dreaming about her lately...let's go see her in the morning."
"Ariel....I...." Joe couldn't say it. He couldn't tell her the truth about her mom. He couldn't tell her about her father. Ariel grinned at him waiting patiently.
"...I...can I hold Hope for a little bit?" He asked instead.
Ariel nodded. Joe lift his body up in a sitting position and lowered his head on her stomach. Hesitantly he wrapped his arms around Ariel expecting her to pull away from him, but she didn't. He could feel Hope and Ariel's heart beating steadily as one. Safe, thank god you’re both safe. Joe kissed the round tummy and pressed his ear closer. Joe smiled sadly and whispered,
"Hi there baby Hope, it's me your dad..."
"Hope, tell daddy of course it's him, I wouldn't let anybody else pressed their face on my tummy except daddy."
Such simple words, such simple truthful response, yet Joe felt his eyes filled with tears and unwillingly it fell one by one, drip by drip down Ariel's shirt.
Chapter 18: Cage
The smell of toast and butter filled the kitchen. Joe placed the newly toasted breads on the table and watched the girl hungrily grabbed a handful of breads. Ariel liberally dipped her toast into a jar of butter. Joe frowned as Ariel then scooped a spoonful of strawberry jam and mixed it with the butter, and without hesitation took a huge bite. Joe felt nauseated watching her but he kept a smile on his face and tried eating the toast in front of him."I want peanut butter."
Ariel pointed to the cabinet her mouth still filled with food. Joe opened the cabinet and took out a jar of peanut butter. Ariel immediately opened the lid and scooped a spoonful of peanut butter quickly mixing it with the strawberry jam and butter. She then rolled the toast up like a burrito and with her eyes closed she took a huge bite.
"Yummy..." She said and took another bite.
"Hope must be really hungry?" Joe said, placing another toast on Ariel's plate. She smiled at him and nodded all the while eating non-stop. Joe watched her eat silently enjoying her little moments of happiness.
"I'm sorry about last night."
Joe shrugged and raised his hands up.
"Don't worry it doesn't hurt."
"Joe, I want to visit my mom today. Did you call the police about my dad?"
"Why don't we visit her another day? Mom just called she wanted to see you about the baby shower."
"I thought we agreed not to have a baby shower. I don't want to make parting difficult...for me and your family."
Joe didn't answer. He stared at the table for a few seconds then stood up.
"Are you done eating?" He asked. Ariel nodded.
"It's been a while since we visited mom and dad, why don't we visit them first then your mom?"
Ariel grinned and nodded her head in agreement. She walked into the hallway to put her shoes on missing the relief in Joe's eyes as he took out his cell phone and dialed his parents's home phone.
Ariel loved the Cheng's garden. It was filled with beautiful flowers from all over the world. She especially like the smell of tiger lilies. She leaned over and smelled the flowers for the hundredth time loving the fade but sweet smelling aroma. She glanced over to the house and wondered what was happening. When she arrived at the home, Director Cheng and Mrs. Cheng was fussing over her. Mrs. Cheng especially had tears in her eyes as she hugged her tightly. Not long after that Tiffany Xu came unexpectedly to visit. She and Joe disappear into his bedroom.
"Hope, you naughty girl, people will think mommy's crazy. Do I have to eat the lilies? Can't we just smell it?"
She said as her mouth watered and she stared hungrily at the tiger lilies. Ariel debated over eating the flowers and did not notice the figure approaching her.
"I need to talk to you."
Ariel looked up and saw Tiffany with her arms crossed, her eyes were red and puffy from crying.
"Are you okay?" She asked worried. Tiffany laughed sarcastically and shrugged.
"Would you be okay if your boyfriend got another girl pregnant?"
Ariel didn't answer.
"In this story...only you, the baby and Joe exist. Funny how I became the third wheel or is it the fourth wheel?" Tiffany laughed again.
Tiffany closed the distance between them and stared at the young girl's pregnant stomach.
"What are you talking about Tiffany?" Ariel asked not sure if she wanted to know the answer.
"Joe called me the other night and asked me if I wanted to be a step mother. He said he didn't want to lose the baby...he said he wanted to raise the baby...did he tell you that?"
Ariel shook her head in denial. That was not the agreement she and Joe made.
"No. I don't believe you." Ariel didn't realize she was shaking until she saw the lilies petals in her hands fell to the ground.
"If you don't believe me, go ask him. I told Joe I'm not ready to be a mom, I don't want to be a mom...but it doesn't mean I'm giving him to you."
"I don't...I don't understand...."
"It means Joe intends to keep your baby, whether or not I agree or you agree he doesn't care. Whatever you two decided doesn't matter anymore. Joe wants your baby and whatever Joe wants he gets." Tiffany's eyes filled with tears again. Ariel watched her ran out of the garden. She placed her hand over her stomach and tried to assure herself.
"It's not true. Joe wouldn't do that to us. It's not true."
Ariel stood dumbfounded as Mrs. Cheng pulled the white dress over her head. It was just this morning when they were discussing decoration for a baby shower and in less than five hours Mrs. Cheng had the house decorated and the people on the guest lists called, emailed or through text message.
"Smile Ariel." Mrs. Cheng ordered her eyes filled with mirth.
"But...how...why...." Ariel stuttered and felt her face flushed in embarrassment. Mrs. Cheng laughed and answered,
"I wanted to surprise you that's why. You don't like it?" She asked her mouth pouting.
"I...I like it. It's just I thought Joe and I already told you we didn't want...."
"Ariel, relax. I want to do it." Mrs. Cheng turned Ariel around to face the mirror.
"You look beautiful."
'I look like an elephant in a white dress."
"You look like a proud mom."
"Mrs. Cheng you win. I concede." Ariel felt her mouth curved in a smile. Mrs. Cheng pulled her in for a hug and hurriedly pushed her out the door.
"Come one, everybody's waiting for your entrance!"
Joe was waiting for her by the door. Ariel couldn't look him in the eyes. She was afraid to. What if Tiffany was telling the truth? What if Joe changed his mind, then what's going to happen to her? Joe grinned when he saw her. Ariel lowered her gaze and almost tripped. Joe leaned forward and steadied her, his hands holding firmly onto her elbows.
"Are you ignoring me?" he teased. Ariel shook her head but pushed him away from her.
"What's wrong?" He demanded. Ariel felt her eyes brimmed with tears. She turned away from him afraid he'll see the tears.
"Ariel?" He asked worried at her change of behavior.
"If you don't want a baby shower I can tell mom. Stay here I'll talk to her."
Joe patted her shoulder. Joe paused when he felt someone grabbed his sleeve.
"Don't." Ariel murmured.
"...Don't lie to me." Ariel let go of Joe's sleeve and took a step back distancing from him.
"Is it true you want to raise Hope? You changed your mind?"
Ariel asked her heart racing waiting for his answer.
"Yes." Joe said without hesitation. Ariel felt her knees weakened. She leaned back against the wall trying to hold her body up. She suddenly felt weak.
"You planned this all along didn't you? Getting close to me, to Hope...and taking her away from me. How long were you going to keep on lying to me?"
Ariel forced the words out, she was aching all over. Joe betrayed her trust. She believed him.
"It's not like that...Ariel I..."
"Don't lie to me! I'm tired of people lying to me! I was doing fine without you! Now...I...now I don't ...you pretended to care...because you plan to keep Hope all this time."
Ariel squeezed her eyes shut as tears cascade freely down her face. Joe reached for her hands but, she inched away from him.
"Ariel listen to me. I'm not taking her away, she'll be with you. I just want to be a part of her life. What is so wrong with having me in her life?" Joe asked his voice raising.
"You know why! She'll have questions about why we're not together! She'll be tease by other children, it's better..."
"To lie and say I'm dead? It's better to tell her she doesn't have a father!?" Joe shouted.
"You agree didn't you? You didn't want her in the beginning why did you change your mind? You can't have her. She's mine!" Ariel screeched the words out as she tried to run out the room. Joe grabbed her waist and pulled her into his arms.
"That was before I realize I love yo....Hope. I love Hope, I want to watch her grow, I want to be there for her, I need her...please Ariel." Joe begged his voice wavering, there was a lump in his throat...an aching painful lump.
"NO." Ariel tried pushing him off her. Joe did not even budged as Ariel struggled in his arms.
"I have no choice then. Marry me or I will take Hope away from you the minute she's born!" Joe said his voice cold. Ariel stopped and stared at him.
"You wouldn't do that to me. You can't..."
"I need Hope in my life. You need Hope in your life...I can't pretend to live my life as if everything is normal, the only logical choice is to marry." Joe reasoned. Ariel shook her head.
"I don't want to marry you!"
"Yes you will, marriage or lose Hope, your choice!"
The moment the words left his mouth, Joe cringed hating himself. He saw the daze confused look back in Ariel's eyes, the same looks she had when she was first dragged into his home. He saw her physically shrunk from him into the shell, the wall she had built around her. He hated himself more than anything on earth. He hated himself....but couldn't let her go. He didn't want to let her go.
"I hate you! I HATE YOU!" Ariel screamed in agony, she fell against Joe. She didn't care if the guests in the other room heard her scream, she didn't care if she embarrasses herself in front of Joe's parents. She didn't struggle in Joe's arms anymore, what was the use? He took everything from her...after giving her a glimpse of hope, he caged her. Ariel vowed to be free of his cage, she will live her life without Joe she will keep her part of the agreement despite Joe's change of mind.
Chapter 19: When there's no love, there's no pain
The sound of thunder echoed in the girl's ears as she ran down the street oblivious to the heavy rain soaking her white dress. Everything was fake, his smiles, his gentleness, the bedtime stories, the early morning breakfasts...the memories they shared...it was all calculated, a deception weaved with lies to trap her. Ariel angrily wiped the tears off her face and continued running. He lied to her and she believed him, she trusted him. A fool, I am such a fool! She berated herself as she waved frantically for a cab.Was he following her? Was he aware that she left the baby shower? She wasn't sure and she didn't care. Ariel grimaced and tried to erase the horrible baby shower experience from her mind. Just thinking about the fake smile she forced on her lips throughout the awkward party was enough to make her want to puke. Joe walked around the room with her, his face void of any emotions as they shook hands with his relatives and friends. Ariel hated the fact that she had to pretend as if nothing happened. She knew everybody in the room had heard the arguments she had with Joe moments before they walked through the entrance. Ariel felt a lump rose in her throat remembering Mrs. Cheng's sad eyes. No regrets Ariel. No regrets!
A cab finally stopped in front of her and she quickly enters.
"Taipei hospital please." She said.
She was leaving Taipei...after visiting her mother she was going to disappear. Ariel closed her eyes and sighed. He didn't even tell her about her mother. He knew how much she worries about her, yet he didn't bother to tell her that her father was out of jail and her mother was half dead in the hospital. Thank god she made sure her cell phone number was on her mother's first contact speed dial. Thank god the nurse contacted her or she would never have known her mother was in the hospital. Was she blind to all of Joe's flaws before? Was she so grateful for his understanding and care that she thought he was perfect? He was rich, handsome, gentle and understanding. Now she knew better...it was all just an act.
Ariel hesitated before opening the door. The nurse told her the injury was quite severe, her mother had internal bleeding and broken bone fracture on several parts of her body. The moment she entered the room, Ariel felt a sense of helplessness. Mrs. Lin was on the breathing machine, she was strapped to the bed, both her arms had sling due to bone fractures. Ariel walked closer, her heart beating painfully. The black and blue hand marks was visible around Mrs. Lin's neck. Blood had stopped circulating causing Mrs. Lin's neck to turn dark red almost black. Her face was deformed with a broken jaw, and small patches of her hair were missing. Ariel sat down next to her mother and gently touched her face.
"I'm sorry mom, I'm so sorry I couldn't protect you."
Mrs. Lin moved her right hand and slowly she covered her fingers over Ariel's.
Mrs. Lin opened her eyes and with one of her finger pointed to her breathing mask. Ariel lifted the mask.
The woman smiled sadly at her daughter. She squeezed Ariel's hand in comfort.
"I'm fine." She whispered hoarsely.
"Mom...I know you're tired, I'll wait until you sleep before I leave"
Mrs. Lin knew her daughter too well. There was an undeniable sadness in her daughter's eyes. Ariel tried to smile but her lips were quivering. Mrs. Lin pointed to the chair and insisted Ariel sit next to her.
"Tell me..." She whispered. Worried, Ariel didn't want to burden her mother. She shook her head.
"I'm fine." The young girl assured her mother. Mrs. Lin pointed to her heart and mouthed,
Ariel sighed, she fears telling her the truth would burden her, yet she could not lie to her mother.
"I'm leaving Taipei. I didn't want to leave without telling you goodbye."
Mrs. Lin shook her head, her eyes clouded in confusion.
"...I...it's a long story mom. Joe betrayed my trust. He...said I have to marry him or lose Hope." Ariel forced the words out of her mouth. She didn't understand why her heart was hurting, thinking about Joe...her heart ached.
"Do you love Joe?" Mrs. Lin asked softly. Ariel leaned in closer to hear her mother. There was a brief pause, and then she shook her head no.
"Marry him." Mrs. Lin pointed to her heart and whispered,
"When there's no love...there's no pain."
Ariel frowned; she did not understand what her mother meant.
"Listen to me Ariel. I will tell you this only once." Mrs. Lin averted her eyes from her daughter and stared at the ceiling. She didn't want to share her shameful past, but realized for her daughter's happiness...she needed to tell her daughter the truth.
"Your father and I used to love each other...maybe we loved too deep. We were high school sweethearts, our whole future was bright and beautiful. Right after High School we went to college together. The more time we were together, the more we love, until one day we decided to marry..." Mrs. Lin felt her eyes brimmed with tears.
"After we graduated, your father started working and was well liked by his peers. Not long after he was promoted and we brought a house. Everything was wonderful...he was a sociable guy and gets along with everybody. I loved him, loved him so much. We...had our first child, he was beautiful Ariel. He was a godsend, your father adored him and took him everywhere..." Mrs. Lin paused. She blinked her eyes trying to keep the tears at bay.
Ariel frowned, she did not know she had a brother.
"Mom if it's too much you don't...."
"I have to Ariel. For you to understand I have to..." Mrs. Lin squeezed her daughter's hand and continued,
"You were born a year after your brother. I remember this as if it happened yesterday. You were sleeping in your room and I was baking a birthday cake for your brother. It was his birthday. Your father left to work that morning promising to come home early to celebrate. Ariel, I...left your brother playing in his playpen and went to wake you up from your nap. When I came back your brother was gone."
Mrs. Lin was now sobbing. Ariel didn't know what to do to comfort her. She patted her mother on the back but knew it was best for her to finish the story.
"I searched all over the house for him, I searched everywhere. In a panic I called your father and the police. I didn't check the backyard, I didn't think to check the backyard!!! When your father came home he saw the gate to the backyard latch open...we found your brother in the pool. He...he drowned..."
"Oh mom...I'm so sorry mom" Ariel felt her heart tighten, she ached for her mother, for her brother...who died too soon.
"We grew distance, your father started drinking to numb his feelings and I was filled with guilt and remorse that I didn't care. The first two years we were living like ghosts. After the third year, I wanted to feel again. I needed your father but, he wasn't there. He didn't care, he didn't want to talk about your brother. Everything in the house that reminded him of your brother was gone. I loved him Ariel...I wanted him to love me again. We were sharing the same bed every night, but the bed was so cold. I needed warmth, I needed his forgiveness if not forgiveness than at least punishment. I did everything I could to get his attention but he didn't care...So I slept with another man in our bed, I wanted your father's attention...any attention. Your father found me in bed with another man. Even then...he was cold, there was no reaction..." Mrs. Lin's voice cracked and she looked away from her daughter.
"That night your father came home drunk...that night he physically attacked me. He called me all kinds of names...but I...I finally got his attention. I was finally punished...it was wrong of me Ariel, it was wrong of me...but all these years I stayed with your father to atone for my sin. My heart, my weak selfish heart begged for your father's love and each time he physically hurt me...a part of me died, a part of me realize our love died a long time ago. I just couldn't let go, I didn't want to let go..."
Ariel sat still. It finally makes sense. All these years...she suffered...now it finally makes sense. She felt pity for her mother. To live years after years longing for a love that no longer exist...how painful it must have been...how painful it must still be.
"Mom, father's not going to change. He's not the same person anymore..." Ariel stopped when her mother squeezed her hand again and said,
"Marry Joe Cheng. Don't make the same mistake I did. Marry him. Remember my words, when there's no love there's no pain...if you marry someone else will he accept Hope? What about his family? You will only suffer if you marry for love. Think about Hope Ariel. Think about what is best for Hope."
Ariel lay her head on the hospital bed and closed her eyes. Jiro...if I marry him I will only be a burden to him. What if I married Jiro and his feelings change after a few years? Then, it would have been better if I never loved him. Joe...already has Tiffany...and I don't love him...if he wants to be with Tiffany it doesn't matter...
Ariel felt her heart flutter. What if mother's right? What if it's true...when there's no love, there's no pain. If I marry Joe, I marry because of Hope. She deserves a mother and a father. If I marry Joe, my heart would be safe. Ariel touched her belly; she felt Hope's gentle kicks and wondered if she was making the right decision. Such pain and suffering all because of love... it only makes sense to marry without love. Ariel didn't want to marry; she didn't want to be caged in a marriage like her mother. She didn't want her heart to break piece by piece until there was nothing left. Am I making the right decision? Hope...what is best for Hope? The young girl felt her eyes overflowed with tears and it slipped down her cheek. Marry Joe...there's no love, so there won't be any pain...
"When there's no love...there's no pain...." She whispered to herself, reassuring.
"I think you're right mom...I should marry him, it'll be a marriage of convenience."
Chapter 20: Wedding Part I
The girl stood in front of an oval mirror staring at herself with a confused gaze in her eyes. She stare blankly at herself, what was she doing here? Wearing a wedding dress? She wanted to run away, she wanted to forget everything and hide but her feet wouldn't move. She couldn't move. The hospital...her mother, Joe...his betrayal...Hope...she was doing this for her. She's wearing a wedding dress...because she had agreed to marry Joe.
She agreed to marry Joe Cheng for her daughter. For Hope, Ariel. You are doing this for your daughter. She tried to smile but her mouth felt frozen, her lips were sealed tight together like glue.
I can't do this....maybe I'm dreaming! Ariel thought, she was suddenly panicking. She could feel the beating of her heart loudly, beating frantically. I can't! I cant' do this, this isn't real! Thump...Thump...Thump...her heart was racing, in fear? Anxiety? Confusion...it was an onslaught of emotions. Calm down, calm down...she pressed her hand to her heart. She glanced at the window and wondered if it was too late to escape.
Ariel was interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Ariel? Are you ready? It's time...are you okay?" Ella asked worriedly.
She waited for Ariel to open the door. No answer. The door was still locked.
"Ariel? Let me in." Ella turned the door knob waiting for her friend to open the door.
What am I doing? What am I doing? She asked herself over and over as if the answer would show itself if she keeps asking. The girl opened the window and paused when she saw guests walking towards the Cheng's garden.
"Ariel?!" Ella called loudly her voice filled with anxiety.
"Ella....give me a few more minutes, I'll be out in a few minutes." She answered, she felt her voice cracked and grimaced.
It's really happening! I'm not dreaming! She pinched her arm hard and jumped in surprise. No, it's not a dream.
Today...is her wedding day.
It was still raining. Ariel sighed and rushed out of the hospital. She walked absentmindedly down the street replaying her conversation with her mother. She ignored the rain and was oblivious to the fact that she was shivering from the cold.
Ariel sat down on the bench and waited for the bus. Still shivering she glanced at her wrist watch and realized she spent the whole night with her mother and it was already early in the morning. Yawning she covered her mouth and briefly scanned the street before closing her eyes. She was tired. So tired…
She was sleeping. The young man frowned at the girl. Her head was tilted against the pole and her hands crossed protectively across her chest snoring softly. He was amazed she could sleep at a time like this. In public, vulnerable to attackers, with the heavy rain, she was still able to sleep. Joe sat next to her and touched her face softly. He laid his head on her belly and grinned excitedly when he felt Hope turned her body.
“Hi Hope it’s me your daddy. I’m sorry you were soaked in the rain. I’m sorry too, I was not very nice to your mom, I promise to be good to you and mommy.”
The baby kicked gently as if answering her father. Joe patted the girl’s belly and whispered,
“Thanks for understanding.”
He took off his jacket and covered Ariel. Very gently he lifted her in his arms and carried her to his car.
Ariel opened her eyes to a sunny room and warm blankets. She was lying on her own bed in dry clothing. Joe was sitting in a chair next to her bed, his eyes closed. He was snoring softly, his hair covering his eyes. Ariel felt something in one of her hand and saw that it was Joe’s hands. He covered both his hands over hers. Did he spend the night in my room? How did I end up here? She wondered. She remembered waiting for the bus but…how did she end up in her room without catching the bus?
Joe… she lifted her other hand and almost touched his hair, she wanted to push the hair out of his eyes. Midway, she paused and placed her hand on her lap.
She gently untangled her hand out of his grasp and pushed the blanket off her.
Ariel tried to get out of bed but couldn’t. She felt sore all over, her body was aching. The back of her head felt like a heavy rock was pressed against it.
“Oww…” She groaned. Her head ached, she felt like she was having a migraine!
Out of nowhere, Ariel felt a hand covered her forehead. Joe sat on her bed and with one hand on her forehead he had the other hand on his forehead.
“You have a fever.” He stated. He quickly left her room and came back with a bottle of Tylenol, a bottle water, a bowl of cold water and a towel.
“What are you doing?” Ariel asked. Joe didn’t answer. He sets everything on the table and handed her a pill. Ariel put it in her mouth obediently, she was in too much pain to argue with him. Joe handed her a water bottle. Once Ariel swallowed the pill Joe gently pushed her against the pillows he had arranged on the bed. He wets the towel and slowly wiped her forehead, face, neck and her hands.
Ariel felt tears welled up in her eyes. She hated being so emotional. You're pregnant Ariel, you have a right to be emotional...but just not in front of Joe.
For a moment his kindness made her forget who he really was.
“Do you really believe when there’s no love, there’s no pain?” He asked her seriously. Ariel paused, why did he ask that question?
“I…” Joe continued wiping her face.
“I believe when there’s no pain, there’s no love.” Joe caressed her face and grinned sadly. Ariel frowned, wasn’t it the same thing?
“Why are you asking me that question?” Ariel wanted to know. Did he follow her to the hospital? She felt anger at the possibility he was eavesdropping her conversation with her mother.
After a long silence, Joe looked her straight in the eyes. He leaned in very close to her face,
“I know you hate me. I can accept that because Ariel…I’m going to make you love me.” Joe kissed her softly on her forehead.
“I accept your marriage of convenience.”
End of Flashback~~~~~~
Within weeks, the wedding plan was implemented and here she was...wearing a wedding dress.
“I accept your marriage of convenience.” Joe had said.
Ariel laughed, of course why wouldn’t he accept it? We will be married in name only, you do what you want and I do what I want. That is the agreement right? That is the meaning of a marriage of convenience. Ariel frowned, it was her definition but she didn’t know what Joe’s definition was.
After Joe announced they were going to be marrying, Joe’s parents had moved her out of the apartment and into their home. Director Cheng walked around the house with a happy smug on his face and Mrs. Cheng’s eyes sparkled proudly whenever she looks at her son and Ariel. It was like they know a secret that she didn’t know.
After she moved out of the apartment she kept her distance from Joe. Sometime she wondered what he meant when he said he was going to make her love him…if that was the case, then what about Tiffany? It doesn’t matter. Joe betrayed her; he pretended to be someone he’s not. I’m doing this for Hope. Ariel whispered to herself at the same time nervously fixing her dress.
She vowed never to love, she saw what love had done to her mother and she vowed to never let the pain her mother went through to happen to her.
Ariel sighed again. I’m making the right decision. I’m doing the right thing! She assured herself over and over again.
“Ariel! Open the damn door or I will have Chun kicked the door down!” Ella shouted.
“Hold on Ella. I’m coming.” Ariel answered.
She reached over and grabbed the window blinder. She leaned her head out the window for a breath of fresh air before closing it. She saw Joe standing at the gate of the beautiful garden and next to him was Tiffany. Mr. Xu and Mrs. Xu were chatting with Director Cheng and Mrs. Cheng. Ariel saw Tiffany reached for Joe and wrapped her arms around his neck. She leaned in and kissed him on the lips. Joe didn’t push her away. The parents continued chatting as if everything was normal. Tiffany said something and Joe tilted his head back and laughed, after a moment Tiffany’s laughter joined his.
For Hope. I’m doing this for my baby. When there’s no love, there’s no pain. I feel no pain. I don’t feel any pain. I’m doing this for Hope. Ariel repeated over and over. The knocking was getting louder. Ariel knew if she didn’t open the door Ella was probably going to have Chun take the door off the hinges.
Quickly closing the window, Ariel took a quick glance at herself, she saw a young girl staring back at her.
“Stop looking so scared! It’s your wedding day!” Ariel scolded the girl in the mirror and hurried to open the door.
Chapter 21:Wedding Part II: Departure?
In a perfect world, the nearly eight months pregnant young girl would actually be a young woman in her twenties, face glowing proudly in front of the priest with her wonderful groom standing next to her. In a perfect world, Ariel would be marrying a man she loves…and he of course loves her too. It would be a lie if Ariel says she did not feel regret now standing next to a stone face Joe…who minutes ago was laughing with Tiffany by the gate. There were many things that she regretted…, as selfish as it may sound, to Ariel the biggest regret was giving up her childish dream of a perfect wedding day. Ariel knew it was only a childish dream which will never come true, especially now that she had become disillusioned about love…but there was still a part of her, the young seventeen year old part of her that rebelled against being marry to someone she did not love, rebelled against being married at such a young age.
A part of her, the innocent naive part of her wanted to live a simple life...simple happiness with a home filled with children's happy laughs, and a strong arms filled with love holding her...yet that way of living seems so unattainable now.
Ariel glanced to her right and saw Jiro leaning against the entrance door way. He was dressed in a suit with the shirt halfway tucked in as if he was in a rush. Ariel realized he was probably debating about whether or not to attend her wedding, and decided in the end to attend despite the pain and betrayal he felt towards her. The word ‘sorry’ was not enough to make up for what she did… she had promised him ten years, but in the end…she couldn’t even give him a few months. The pain in Jiro’s eyes was clearly etched all over his face, he looked straight in her eyes and the pain pierced into her heart.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, please forgive me.”
She begged her best friend with her eyes, they stared at each other, for a moment it felt as if they were the only two people in the room, Ariel was oblivious to the wedding sermon. She wanted to tell Jiro he will understand and thank her in the future. She wanted to tell him she couldn’t risk his love turning into hate after a few years. She wanted to thank him for his willingness to sacrifice so much for her…but because she cares for him she could not allow him to do that. She wanted to say so much, but she didn’t…she couldn’t.
Jiro stood motionless, his eyes never once leaving hers. Ariel panicked and wondered if she was making a mistake, she wanted to run but then she saw her mother. Mrs. Lin walked quietly towards Jiro and was now standing next to him. She extended her hand waiting for him to reach for her. She shifted her glance from Jiro to her daughter as if comprehending something even the two teenagers did not. With a kind face, she slowly embraced Jiro and allowed the young man to weep quietly in her arms. He was heart broken; his heart wrenching cries was muffled by Mrs. Lin’s shoulder. Ariel saw her mother nodded understanding at her and led the young man out of the room.
The room was quiet…as if everybody was holding their breath waiting. Ariel felt liquid pouring down her face, why was her face all wet? She saw a few drips landed on the floor and realized it was tears. It was her tears; she was crying…crying for her friend. The wedding guests started shifting uncomfortably in their seats. The exchange between Ariel and Jiro even though silently and without any words said had not gone unnoticed by many of the wedding guests. Joe was acutely aware of the silent communication and he did not like it. He frowned at Ariel’s tears but kept his thoughts and emotions hidden. The guests were intrigued, who was the young man who obviously was in love with the pregnant bride? Why hasn’t the bride answer,
“I do yet?”
Could it be…she’s in love with the heart broken young man too? Mrs. Cheng and Director Cheng motioned the priest hoping to distract the guests’ speculations and restlessness.
The priest cleared his throat a couple of times and waited expectedly. Ariel’s dazed eyes focused on the priest but she didn’t know what she was supposed to say. She was still in a state of shock, Jiro’s pain…it was wrong of her to hurt her friend so much… maybe she was making a mistake? Hope kicked her at that moment and Ariel was reminded why she was getting married. She glanced at the priest’s face and frowned at the expected look on his face. He was waiting for her… What was she supposed to say? The room was so quiet.
Ella pinched her best friend’s arm and whispered,
“Say I do! Everybody’s waiting!”
“Ow!” Ariel yelped surprised but understanding suddenly dawned on her. She had completely missed the whole wedding sermon. She opened her mouth to say the words but she couldn’t. She felt Hope kicked again, this time harder and closer in frequency. Ariel grimaced and wrapped her arms around her stomach. She saw Joe leaned toward her, his face filled with worry lines. He reach to touch her but she took a step back, avoiding his touch.
‘Ariel hurry! Say it!” Ella ordered. Ariel clenched her teeth in pain,
“I do!... It hurts!” She gasped the words out and suddenly double over, unable to bear the pain. Joe instinctively put his hand on her stomach and felt their baby’s powerful kicks as the body contracted closer in frequency.
Ariel felt something wet dripped down her legs and realized her water broke. She felt her wedding dress dampen as water continues to stream downward; the ground where Ariel stood was covered in puddle. The room suddenly became chaotic as people started to panic, there was shouting, screaming as people realized what was happening. Ariel stood dumbfounded taking in all the commotion around her, her arms wrapped around her stomach as unimaginable pains assaulted her body.
Joe picked Ariel up and carried her to his car, it seem he was the only calm person in the room. Mrs. Cheng and Director Cheng stayed behind to calm the wedding guests and steered them to the food and music. Ella and Chun followed behind Joe and got in the car with them. Ariel heard her friend asked,
“Joe does this mean you guys are not going on a honeymoon?” and Chun’s answered,
“Ella and I would love to go on the honeymoon trip in your place!”
Ariel vaguely remembered Joe mumbling,
“Shut the hell up, this is not the time.”
The bickering went back and forth in the car as Joe continued to speed through traffic. Ariel felt her body slowly becoming heavy and breathing was becoming more painful, she had to gasp for every air. It was strange but she felt sweaty and hot all over, was this suppose to happen? She wondered. Why had the baby stopped kicking? Ariel bitted her lips in fear. Deep in her heart she knew the baby’s kick shouldn’t have stopped, she knew as the contraction and pain escalated, the pain should increase, yet even the contraction which moments ago was assaulting her one after another was also lessening. Hope’s kicks which had been so strong and hard a few minutes suddenly stopped.
She tried to keep her eyes open, she saw the worried looks on Ella and Chun’s face, she saw them talking but she couldn’t hear anything, everything was becoming blurry and dark. Ariel struggle to keep her eyes open, she saw Ella screaming franticly at Joe. Ariel glance to the front and her eyes met Joe’s in the rear mirror. She saw the painful, frighten look in his eyes and she knew…
She knew something was wrong.
“Chun call for help! Joe hurry! Ariel….Ariel….she’s not breathing!” Ella shouted as tears welled up in her eyes.
Joe continued to race the car through traffic, refusing to believe Ella, Ella was wrong…Ariel was going to be fine, Ariel and Hope…
Chapter 22: Hope
Tiny fingers grasp his and the young man's eyes filled with awe and tears of happiness. Babies to him, especially newborns were really ugly. They looked like wrinkled tiny old people in diapers, but this particular baby was the most beautiful baby in the world, she was a miracle. His miracle baby. The nurse walked in the room and sighed loudly when she saw him."Mr. Cheng, visiting hour is over. Please come back tomorrow." Joe gently untangled his daughter's grip and placed her hand inside the incubator. For a brief moment, the sound of the machine beeping and the color wire connecting to his daughter's tiny body disappear, she was just a normal, healthy baby.
"Daddy will be back tomorrow Hope." Joe couldn't move, he wasn't ready to leave yet. He observed the nurse's expression as she briskly check Hope's heart beats and flipped through the chart.
"Is she going to be fine?" he asked.
The nurse looked up not surprise to see him there at all. He was one of those rare fathers, despite his young age that obviously cared deeply for his child. Since the day his wife was rushed into the emergency room, he had not missed a single visit to the hospital.
"She was born prematurely, her immune is very low and she is not as developed, considering all that's against her she's a fighter. She will be fine." The nurse said kindly. She pointed to the door and waited until he exited the door.
"You are a fighter right?" The nurse asked as she listens to Hope's heart beats again.
This baby was definitely a fighter. The nurse still remembers clearly the first time she saw the young man. It was just last month when she saw him running down the lobby shouting for help, his young wife in his arms already deathly pale. The young girl's heart had decreased drastically to a point where breathing was impossible. The baby had stopped moving by then, everybody in the emergency room including Dr. Wong thought the baby was dead. However, she made her presence know with a loud unhappy scream the moment Dr. Wong lifted her up. The nurse grinned as she remembered the doctor's shock expression.
"She...she's alive!" Dr. Wong stuttered.
"It's a miracle!" A nurse said. Yes, Hope was the hospital's miracle baby.
He was holding her hand again. Every day she could feel his presence, even though she couldn't see him. His touch, his smell, his voice, they were all becoming very familiar.
"Hope is doing well; she's waiting for mommy to get all better so we could all go home. She's gaining a few pounds too, the nurse said she's eater. Did you hear that Ariel? She's an eater, just my kind of girl."
Joe pulled his chair closer to the bed and laid his face on the pillow next to Ariel. Quietly Joe watched his wife sleep. She was so beautiful; lying down like this reminded him of the first time they met. She had her hair flowing down her back, her dark warm eyes bewitching him and her smiles enticing him. He was lost the moment he met her, unconsciously he was drawn to her and the liquor only made what he felt for her stronger.
"Being here with you and Hope made me realize something. I realize the day you told me you were pregnant was the day I finally found me. Everything in life was already planned out, I thought I knew what I wanted but listening to your simple dream of a warm family challenged me to think about what I really want. Do you know what Ariel? Every answer I came up with includes you and Hope. That's why...that's why I want you to forgive me, please forgive me for hurting you."
Ariel felt something wet on her face. Joe was crying, everyday he asked for forgiveness and everyday he shed tears. What was she to do? What was this pain in her heart? She didn't want Joe to cry, she didn't want him to hurt but she couldn't say anything. She knew he wanted Hope, how could she blame him? She wanted Hope too, what right did she have to keep Hope away from him? What now? What now that they're married?
"Ariel, please come home. I need you, Hope need you. Ariel...."
She felt his hands tightened on hers.
"Ariel, I love you. I see only you, I want only you, I can't imagine life without you...please don't leave me."
Tears cascade down the side of her eyes. Love...is that a good thing? Ariel wondered. She was afraid of love. She wanted to ask Joe how long will his love last? How long will you see only me? Want only me? We are too young to know what love is. Didn't you kiss Tiffany on the day of our wedding? What kind of love is this? Ariel's logical side wanted an answer. She wanted Joe to answer her, but her heart...her heart didn't want any answer, just his sweet nonsense.
He was quiet again, his finger trailing down the side of her face gently, lovingly as if she was a precious treasure. Ariel felt her face frowning; she didn't like the way Joe was making her feel. He was confusing her, her body was reacting to his touch, needing and wanting more of his caresses, her heart aching for words of love and promises. She felt as if she was losing a battle, she couldn't control how fast and loud her heart beats whenever Joe was near and touching her. Even though logically she wanted to question everything he says, in her heart...in her heart she was falling for him, losing to him.
Joe saw the frown on Ariel's face. He leaned over and kissed her softly on her lips.
"I want you to get better soon so you can return my kisses. I'm not letting you go Ariel."
"What if I don't want to kiss you?"
"I don't care, I'll still kiss you." Joe answered and suddenly realized Ariel spoke. Joe ran out of the room so quickly Ariel wondered if she had imagined him there a few seconds ago. Then, she heard his voice, his very loud voice,
"Dr. Wong! All you nurses! Hurry! my wife's awake!" He shouted in excitement.
Chapter 23: Honeymoon
He grew up in a loving home with wonderful parents that taught him from the day he was born to be a gentleman. A man who keeps his promises and tries to do what is right in life especially when it comes to the women in his life. Joe tried to be a gentleman with Ariel, he begged her, he poured his heart open for her yet nothing seems to move her. He wanted Ariel to understand his love for her was real, it was for eternity…yet despite his confession, she ignored him. It was as if she was afraid to believe him, she had put up imaginary walls around her so secured that there seems to be no opening to her heart … he had no choice, he was left with only one alternative.
Joe knew kidnapping was wrong, he knew forcing other people to do what is against their will is wrong…but he was desperate and didn’t care about being a gentleman anymore. Selfish…he was selfish and he wanted her, and damn it she was his wife! On the day of Ariel’s eighteenth birthday, Joe Cheng kidnapped his wife and took her to an undisclosed location, away from everybody…away from Jiro Wang who shamelessly visits his wife almost everyday since her release from the hospital three months ago.
Jealousy...was an emotion Joe did not realize he was capable of feeling until he saw his wife with Jiro Wang. The smiles she so easily gives the other man, the twinkle in her eyes as she watches her friend play with HIS baby, his Hope. The anger he felt as she generously allows another man to hold her hand, yet she refused to let him near her. Joe felt as if his heart was ripped out by Ariel's hands and cut to shreds every time she showed him he was not needed, he was not wanted. He told her he loved her, he had put everything on the line, praying that she believed how sincere he was, praying that she would at least look at him with open eyes and realize how much she truly means to him. She did none of that. If it was possible, she was even more closed off than before.
Watching his wife sleep peacefully on the bed, Joe felt a momentary twinge of guilt. He held her hand and gently caressed her arm waiting for the sleeping pill to wears out. Joe watch intently as his wife stirred and slowly opens her eyes. She yanked her hand out of his and lifted her body up in a sitting position on the bed. Her eyes scanned the room and she turned to Joe with a frown on her face.
“Where am I?”
“Honeymoon suite.” He answered with a grin. Ariel jumped off the bed and ran to the door and tried to open…it was locked.
“What’s going on?” She asked in frustration. Joe shrugged and laid his whole body on the bed yawning as if he was going to sleep.
“We’re on our honeymoon.”
Ariel wanted to wipe the smirk off Joe’s face. He was so nonchalant while she was hyperventilating! Honeymoon! Honeymoon! He must have gone crazy!
“Why are you doing this?” Ariel walked over to the window and looked down…they were on the top suite isolated from everybody.
“I wanted to be with you.” He answered. Ariel wanted to kick something in frustration, his answers were all short.
“With my mom and your mom. They wish us a very good honeymoon….with a brother or sister for Hope on the way.”
Ariel turned around and glared at Joe.
“You’re kidding me right? Why in the world….”
Joe was beside her so fast it was almost inhuman how quick he was. His mouth covered hers leaving her no room to breath let alone talk.
“We’re sharing the same bed from now on Ariel. I’m tired of playing your game with the separate bedrooms, no touching, no kissing…what the hell you’re my wife!”
Again he was kissing her, he had her against the window and his hands…were touching her with such gentleness she almost cried. This is what I’m afraid of Joe…I’m afraid of loving you. Ariel closed her eyes; she didn’t want to look at him.
“I’m making you mine tonight, without liquor involve. I’m going to love every part of you until you have no choice but to concede that I LOVE YOU…Ariel… believe me, I love you.”
Her heart was aching. Damn it! She was losing to him, dare she trusts him? Ariel tried so hard to act cold and uncaring around him, yet the more cold she became, the warmer he became. He smiled at her secretly across the dinner table, he left her love notes on her bedroom mirror, he changed Hope's diapers and cared for Hope through the night while she...the mother slept like a log from exhaustion. Ariel knew she loved Joe...even before she was released from the hospital. He was there every single day, supporting her, encouraging her, telling her stories about his childhood (some involved Tiffany), Hope's progress, his very presence was like her healing medicine. She knew then that the love she had for her friend, Jiro Wang was different from the love she has for Joe Cheng. The love she has for Joe was so powerful, she was afraid of it...afraid he would not accept her love once he finds out her secret, the truth about her.
He was unbuttoning her blouse; she could feel the wind softly caresses her bare skin as it breezed through the room. His trail of kisses was warm and left her aching for more, needing more. Ariel opened her eyes and gazed at Joe. It was time…it was time to tell him the truth…the ugly truth about her. Would he still love her after she confesses her fear? Her secret?
Chapter 24: Her Truths
This was her moment of truth. She was standing inside his room all by herself. He was downstairs fixing a snack unaware that leaving her alone in his room meant he unconsciously gave her permission to investigate his room. Ella grinned evilly and surveyed Chun's room. What a neat freak! He was the complete opposite of her! She opened his closet and gasped out loud. Lucky bastard! A custom made walk in closet!"Wow!" Each section of the closet has a collection of different color shirts, pants, shoes, jewelries...underwear, socks, sunglasses...condoms? Ella shuddered and pretended she did not see the colorful stack of condoms sticking out of one of the draws.
She closed the closet and walked around his room, there was a king size bed against the window, the room was coordinated perfectly in black and gray. Gray bed covers, black bed board, black computer on top of a gray desk. Black pens...inside a gray holder, a black scissor, black garbage can and inside was a gray garbage bag.
What the hell? It was a wonder his clothes weren't all black and gray...wait...there was a section of clothes and pants that were in black and gray only. Frowning Ella wondered if black and gray were Chun's favorite colors. Such depressing colors for a guy who was always smiling and teasing her...what if he was hiding his real self from her? What if black and gray were Chun's true colors! Ella giggled at her own joke and put her hand on her chin pondering. 'Must investigate more, something smells fishy here' she thought to herself.
She spins slowly around the room looking for anything that seems to be out of the ordinary, she kept spinning and spinning until her eyes landed on something black on the gray desk.
Ella saw a small black address book on top of the gray desk. She tapped her fingers a few times debating whether or not to sneak a peek. After a while she finally opened the black book and flipped through the pages, everything seems to be normal until she saw her name.
Her name and her phone number with a plus sign next to it. She flipped through a few more pages and saw her name on one of the months and the number three next to it with a smiley face, she flipped the pages until she landed on today's date and her name and again the number three was next to it. Chun had written her name down every three months on his calendar with a smiley face next to it. However, there was no smiley face next to her name on today's calendar.
What does that mean? Three months, three months, three months, three months....twelve months...they were together for one year already! Ahhhh! Suddenly Ella remembered the conversation she overheard in the bathroom when she went out with Chun and his friends.
The girls said Chun usually breaks up with a girl after three months of dating; there were speculations as to why he hasn't broken up with her. Breaking up after three months...no smiley face next to her name this time...and everything in his room was black and gray...does it mean he wanted to get rid of her instead of breaking up? It must be...because he wasted so much time on her! Oh my god! He's planning to murder me? Condoms in his room, first time visiting his house, his parents gone for a long vacation...no smiley face next to her name...oh no!
He's going to rape me, cut me up with the black scissor, rolls me up in black and gray blanket and buried me...with no smiley face next to my name!!!! Ella silently screamed in fear, her hands up in the air glancing back and forth between the door and the window debating whether she should leap out the window and let fate decide the outcome of life or death and or stay in the room and wait to be murder by Chun.
The door knob was turning, Ella started sweating, her breathing became faint, she couldn't breathe and couldn't move, she was numb with fear. She hastily threw the black book on the desk. The door opened and in walks Chun holding a tray with sandwiches. He was smiling at her, such innocent sweet smile...a façade to lure faint hearted girls like her. He was a devil in disguise, and she...fell for him. It was so unfair that she never got to put her plan into action...instead of him dumping her; he was going to kill her. Why was life so cruel to her? Chun placed the tray on the table and pulled out a chair for her.
"Come eat, I made this especially for you." Chun winked at her and waited. Ella knew it was her last meal, at least he was kind enough to feed her a last meal...but wouldn't it have been better if he had asked her what she likes to eat? It was after all going to be the last time she'll ever eat again.
Slowly she dragged over to the chair and sat down.
"Eat." He ordered with a grin. Why must he look so hot? He must have had a lot of practice...why else would he only date girls for three months then dumped them? All the girls that went past the three months mark must have been murdered by him already. Ella nodded and picked up a sandwich. Chun was waiting for her to bite into the sandwich. Was it poisoned? Maybe it was better to be murder by poison then rape right? She saw Chun picked up the address book and placed it back in its original spot.
Not only is he a murderer, he's also OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). Which meant he is probably going to at least be clean and neat with the murder?
"Why aren't you eating?" He asked. So calm and collected....the calm before the storm.
Ella shook her head unable to utter a word. Ella, fight for your life! You're too young to die! Aja! Chun took the sandwich out of her hands and picked her up.
He murmured in her ears and landed on the bed with his arms tightly around her. I don't want to cuddle! She wanted to scream out but couldn't. I don't want to die silently, please let me die nosily, loudly, so that some kind soul could hear my last words before I leave this world!
"Ella, you're shivering...are you okay?" He asked and kissed her. Ah...so I was right, he's going to rape me, then he'll cut me up into pieces and rolled me up in his black and gray blanket. Ella shook her head violently, she cannot and will not die this way! With all her might she pushed Chun off her and jumped off the bed.
"HEY! I AM NOT GOING TO DIE WITHOUT AN SMILEY FACE NEXT TO MY NAME!" Ella screamed, confused by the words that came out of her mouth. That was NOT what she wanted to say!
"Huh?" Chun asked confused.
"You freak! I am going to report you to the police! How many girls did you murder huh? How many? Don't even think about lying...I read your little black book!" Ella pointed accusingly at Chun. She glanced at the door before turning back to Chun. Wow, what a good actor! He really looks like he's confused. Ella made tsking sound at him, shaking her head.
"Huh?" Chun said again, scratching his head.
After confirming the door was unlocked, Ella shouted,
Without warning, she kicked Chun between his legs and ran out the door. She practically jumped down the stairs and came to a skid when the front door open and in walks his parents...and her mom.
"HAPPY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSAY!" They shouted with balloons in their hands, flowers and cake.
Ella blinked a few times wondering if it was her imagination. No matter how many times she blinked, they were still standing at the door with big grins and smiles on their faces. Ella covered her face in shame...what have she done?! She could hear Chun groaning upstairs in pain....yeah she wanted to groan in pain too.
Chapter 25: His declaration
Recap: Chapter 23
He was unbuttoning her blouse; she could feel the wind softly caresses her bare skin as it breezed through the room. His trail of kisses was warm and left her aching for more, needing more. Ariel opened her eyes and gazed at Joe. It was time...it was time to tell him the truth...the ugly truth about her. Would he still love her after she confesses her fear? Her secret?
Two simple words filled with fear and uncertainties in her voice. Joe immediately lifted his body off her and glanced at her face. Ariel lowered her head in shame, and avoided eye contact. Did I scare her? Joe berated himself, why am I so stupid when it comes to Ariel?
"I'm sorry Ariel, I didn't mean to scare you...I shouldn't have...."
Ariel grabbed her husband's hands and held it firmly in hers.
"Will...you still love me...will you still love me after I tell you the truth about me?" She asked.
What truth? Joe felt his heart ached as his wife's voice lowered and she tried to hide her face behind her hair. What was going on? Ariel squeezed his hands so tight he could see blood flushing red against his skin. Where was his strong, stubborn wife? Joe gently untangled from his wife's hold and hugged her from behind. He covered her back with his body and held her snugly in his arms.
"Are you afraid that I'll stop loving you because of your truth? What do I need to do to prove my love to you Ariel?" He asked completely at a loss of what to say to comfort her.
"Please listen, I don't want to ever repeat this again..."
After a long silence, Ariel finally heaved a huge sigh and moved out of Joe's arms.
"You know what I fear the most?"
Another long silence before Ariel finally whispered,
"Love.....It's really scary isn't it?... to be filled with such happiness, to be so high on love that...once your heart breaks and the love is gone you're left with ... emptiness, what do you replaced your wounded heart with?
I watched my parents' relationship deteriorated before my eyes. Their love fading until it no longer exists; instead... in its place they filled it with hatred, anger, violence, pain. Their hatred is in me Joe. My father's blood is in me...the blood that turned love into such cruel hate flows in every part of my body. Did you know my father won't even blink an eye if he really did kill my mother? The same woman he once loved? Did you know that I sometime wanted to kill my father? This hatred I have in me just won't disappear. This ugly, hateful part of me don't want you to love me. I don't want to love you...if I don't love you and you don't love me....then it won't hurt so much if one day you stopped loving me...I don't want to hurt you if your feelings change, I don't know what I'll do if my feelings change..."
Joe pulled Ariel against his chest and enveloped his arms around her.
Joe whispered in her ear and laughed. He did not realize how tense his body became while waiting for his wife to confess her secret. Joe tilted Ariel's chin upward and forced her to look into his eyes. He leaned in and tightened his hold on her. Every time Ariel averted her eyes, her husband would lift her chin up and forced her to look at him. She saw concern in his eyes, warmth, love; he was sending her a message.
Ariel nodded mutely indicating she understood his message. Her husband grinned and gently laid his chin on top of her head. With their arms weaved around each other, Ariel sighed loudly trying to let go of all her worries.
Joe called her a stupid fool, normally Ariel would not tolerate such name calling...but this time her husband was right. She was a stupid fool, why did she put herself through so much torture and made everything so complicated when it didn't need to be? She was afraid...afraid of losing Joe's love, afraid of what she'll become...afraid of becoming like her father. After all, his blood flows in her body. Again, Ariel sighed deeply; at least now Joe knows the truth about her. For now she was safely in his embrace and that was all that matter, she wanted to savor their moments together.
He was holding her...even after her confession he was still holding her.
After a long silence of hugging, Joe lifted Ariel and placed her on his lap.
"Ariel, you are not your father. You are not your mother. You are my wife, the mother of our daughter and the woman I love....I can't guarantee what tomorrow brings, but this much I know is true...I love you even more today than yesterday and I will love you even more tomorrow. If one day your love turns into hate, I will make you fall in love with me all over again. Even if we're both old, and wrinkled like dried up grapes and you realized you hate my guts, I will still love you and I will still make you fall in love with me all over again and again and again until you get it into your head that I want no one but you and I need no one but you."
"People say men with a smooth tongue and honey words are natural born players." Ariel said gruffly, trying to hide her smile.
What he said was so cliché and if she was not mistaken her husband probably took some of the lines from the movies, if not the movies then definitely from Chun but at this point she didn't care. She already knew the dept of his love when he forced her to gaze into his eyes. But how long will this love last? Ariel knew she was being cynical, but she couldn't help wondering. As if Joe read her mind, she heard him answered,
"We have a Lifetime and beyond Ariel. Don't push me away; give me a chance to show you for the rest of our lives...and you have my permission to shoot me if for some odd reason I stopped loving you...I'll even write it as a will, a declaration so you won't get in trouble..."
Ariel felt an aching lump rose in her throat, she didn't know whether she to laugh or cry. She knew her husband was joking but didn't he realized she could really kill him if he ever stopped loving her? That was the very thing she feared. Joe chuckled and kissed his wife's stunned open mouth.
"A life time and beyond Ariel, let me prove it to you."
(A/N: I'm blushing like crazy and gagging over what Joe said. Really, like isn't that a little bit over the top? Come on man, now your wifey Ariel will never believe you! hahaha, but of course it's a story and of course she's going to have to believe him eventually right? Sorry for the rambling ^_^)
Chapter 26: Simple Happiness (Epilogue) The End
First date. After seven months of living in the same home, one month living in the hospital, one hellish day and night of labor pain and tears, and one year living in the same home as husband and wife…they were finally going on their first date.
Ariel stared curiously around her with a frown on her face. Joe was being so sneaky this morning. He left her a note on their bed asking her to go on a ‘first date’ with him. He even requested that she wear the same dress she had on when they first met on the beach two years ago. The same beach, the same dress…Ariel wondered if Joe was hinting he wants another child?
Ariel’s frown deepened as she lifted her face upward towards the sun. At least it was a beautiful day outside, a perfect day to be at the beach, playing in the warm sun, splashing water, swimming…just not for making babies. Of course she plans to have more brothers and sisters for Hope, after she graduates from college and Joe established his career in business.
Ariel shook her head; she was over analyzing again, what was wrong with going on a first date? It’s not like her relationship with Joe started off the traditional way…their relationship started backward, sex, pregnancy, marriage then love. Dating makes perfect sense. From the corner of her eyes, she saw Hope lifted her body up, stood for a few seconds and fell on her behind. Ariel grinned when she saw the delighted look on her baby’s face. Hope’s giggled loudly and started crawling away from her mom. The once clean pink spaghetti strap tank top and cute pink short she put on Hope was now covered with sand. At one year and two months, Hope was like an energizer bunny crawling all over the place.
“Hope…not again!” Ariel groaned and gently lifted her daughter up and placed her back on the king size towel. Hope wiggled and tried to pull out of her mother’s grasp.
“Da da! Da da!” She yelled.
“Daddy’s little girl! He’ll make you stay on the towel too darling.” Ariel kissed her daughter on the forehead.
“Ma ma, ma ma!” Hope smacked a wet kiss on her mother’s cheek and proceeded to wiggled her out of Ariel’s hold. Hope finally pulled out of her mother’s embrace and started crawling out of the towel towards the sand.
Ariel lifted her sunglasses and pushed it on top of her head all the while keeping an eye on her little energizer bunny.
“Careful baby.” Ariel called out as Hope lifted her body up attempting to walk again.
Beach...the same beach she first met Joe. Ariel bit her bottom lip trying to figure out why Joe asked her on a date and of all places...he chose the beach. Again, Ariel wondered if Joe wanted another child, this was the beach Hope was conceived. Lost in thought Ariel did not hear her name being call until she heard someone shout in her ear.
Someone with a very loud, familiar voice.
“Jiro! That hurts!” Ariel playfully punched him. Jiro handed Ariel a card and said,
“I’m Hope’s baby sitter for the whole day. Follow the directions on the card.”
“Where’s Joe?” Ariel asked. Jiro nonchalantly shrugged,
“Read the card. Hope!!!!” He ran over to Hope and hugged her.
“I miss you, here give uncle a kiss!”
Hope giggled as Jiro tried to kiss her.
“Can uncle play too? Can I? Can I?” Jiro asked in a baby voice. Ariel rolled her eyes at them before dusting the sand off her dress. She opened the card and briefly scanned the writings. It was Joe’s writing.
To my wife,
Meet at the place where we shared our first drink and our first kiss. I’m waiting for you.
P.S. Thank you for agreeing to go out with me. Thank you for sharing my life.
What was Joe up to? Ariel felt butterflies fluttering in her stomach in anticipation and nervousness. She quickly combed through her hair and fumbled through her purse for a lipstick.
“You look good, hurry!” Jiro reassured in the midst of playing with Hope.
“Thanks Jiro! Hope, be good with uncle Jiro!”
So here she was standing in the exact same spot she had two years ago. Joe was waiting for her, dressed in the same clothes he had on that night. There was a table placed in the center of an open tent with a few bottles of strawberry champagne...the same champagne they had that night, there was also food and dessert. There was also a chef standing a few feet away from the table. Joe was holding two roses in his hand, grinning at his wife as she approached him slowly eyes wide in disbelief.
"Please accept these roses." Joe handed the roses to his wife and pulled out a chair for her.
"Why two roses?" She wondered out loud.
"One for the first year, two for the second year." Joe answered simply and ordered,
Ariel sat down. Joe then opened a bottle of the strawberry champagne and poured a glass for his wife. He then sat down and lifted the glass up.
"To our first date."
Ariel nodded speechless as the tent lights up, and low background music was turned on. She raised her glass and murmured,
"To our first date."
Joe signaled the chef and he immediately set the table and within minutes Ariel had a plate of delicious food in front of her.
"Are you in love with me already? It's only our first date!...hmmm.... Want to elope?" Joe teased, leaned over and closed his wife's open mouth.
"Tell me everything about you, I am fascinated with you." Joe said as he leaned back against his chair holding a glass in his hands all the while staring at Ariel.
Ariel didn't answer, she couldn't even open her mouth...for some reason her throat suddenly tightened and there was an ache, an aching lump that is preventing her from talking. She wanted to cry, tears were brimming inside her eyelids and any seconds the tears were going to overflow like bucket with holes.
How did Joe remember when she didn't? Today was their anniversary...of the night they first met, the night they first kiss, made love, and the night Hope was conceived.
That night...still seems so surreal, yet with every touch and kiss from Joe...Ariel realized it did happen... her whole life changed with just one innocent kiss, a kiss that turned into something more. Ariel felt her heart constricted in pure happiness, is there such thing as happy pain? That was what Ariel was feeling right now; her whole heart was aching in happiness.
Tears were cascading freely from her eyes, she wiped them with her hands but more kept rolling down her cheeks. She was now crying and hiccuping.
"I wanted to celebrate last year but things became so complicated with your mother's divorce from your father, and all the court hearings that led to your father's life sentence in jail...I want you to know Ariel, it was never a mistake, If I was given a second chance, I would do the same over again...the night we met was one of the happiest... " Joe was suddenly thrown off guard as he felt something heavy land on him.
Ariel was kissing him, her arms tightly wrapped around his neck.
"Joe....I love you."
AFTER AN NIGHT ON THE BEACH, THE NEXT MORNING
"One of the happiest day aside from the night we spent on this beach was our wedding day? So why did you kiss Tiffany on the day of our wedding?"
Ariel snarled laser beam shooting from her eyes as she waited for Joe's answer.
"I didn't kiss Tiffany, she kissed me!"
"Are you kidding me husband? I saw you kiss her!"
"No, you saw Tiffany kissed me and I...let her because I knew it's our last kiss. It was a goodbye kiss." Joe pouted.
"You wanna die?! A goodbye kiss?" Ariel pretended to kick Joe.
"WAIT! I didn't get a goodbye kiss from Jiro! Where's Jiro?" Ariel untangled from Joe's arms and pretended to run towards the direction of Jiro and Hope.
Ariel grinned as she ran; her husband was running after her. Not too far away she saw Jiro holding Hope in his arms, Ella and Chun was feeding each other and kissing at the same time. Director Cheng, Mrs. Cheng, her mother, and Tiffany sat on the beach with a picnic lunch spread in front of them. She heard laughter from the group and her heart was filled with peace. This was pure, simple happiness. This was the happiness she has been searching for...Joe and Hope, they made this happiness possible.