☠ Chapter Thirty-Four ☠
➳ ARIELLE'S POV
"So what do you want to do? It's New Years Eve," I ask.
Zayn shifts on the couch, eyes focused on the television, arm wrapped around my body. He shrugs his shoulders, "dunno love. You decide."
"Well if it were my decision we'd do nothing. We'd do exactly what we're doing now, but I thought you'd want to do something." I feel Sky's little paws kick my leg and when I look down at her she's running desperately in her sleep. "Isn't Liam having a party?"
"Yeah, do you want to go?" He sips on his beer and turns to look at me. His phone vibrates against the couch cushions.
"Not really," I respond. Truthfully, I don't want to go to a party where I don't know anyone. The last time we went to Liam's we were sucked into playing strip poker with a bunch of strangers, and to say it was uncomfortable is an understatement. I'd much rather stay with Zayn, here in our home. I like lying here, cuddling while watching a movie with the guy I'm in love with, not getting drunk with a bunch of people I don't even know.
"Well, make a decision," he responds with a little irritation in his voice. He pulls away from me and stands from the couch, grabbing his cell phone from his back pocket as he does so.
I'm in absolutely no mood to deal with any of his moodiness, "excuse me?"
"Make a fucking decision, Arielle. Sitting around on our asses all night isn't making a decision, it's called being indecisive."
"Well then we're staying here." I stand from the couch, turning to him and crossing my arms. He's focused on his phone. I roll my eyes. But he catches sight.
"Don't be fucking moody."
I laugh, "oh really? You were perfectly fine up until two minutes ago and now you're being a prick! What the hell's wrong with you lately? If you want to go out and do something, then let's go! Don't be all bitchy if you're not happy with the decision you forced me to make!"
He chuckles dryly, never taking his eyes off his phone. But then something catches his eye and his face twists with anger. All focus is on his phone - to the point where I'm not even sure he hears what I'm saying anymore.
"Stop laughing! Fuck! If you're not going to tell me what's going on stop directing your anger and frustration at me! I'm tired of this shit already." He starts walking away from me, down the hallway. "Where are you going?"
I chase after him as anger courses in me. He's been so secretive lately, and he's always coming home angry and frustrated and it frustrates the hell out of me. He won't tell me anything! Instead he goes into the garage and punches that damn bag until his knuckles bleed. It was the same thing yesterday. Right after Zoe and Louis left Zayn went for a smoke and then I heard him punching that bag until early in the morning.
Something's gotten him so wound up lately. I can feel his body tossing and turning at night. I can see the dark bags under his eyes, the way he picks away pathetically at his food. I can smell the stronger stench of cigarettes engrained into his clothing. There's a lot of little things that have changed with him, and the constant moodiness is the worst part.
It's so completely frustrating because he won't share with me, he won't tell me what's wrong and not knowing what's going on has me feeling helpless. I just sit on the sidelines and watch his deterioration. It breaks my heart. How can we go from being so good to rocky so quickly?
I charge down the hallway, fed up with his moodiness. "Where the fuck are you going?" I swear at him the second I find him in his room, changing his shirt. The thought occurs to me that I never used to use the curse word very often, but Zayn says it all the time and now I've somehow picked it up too.
"Watch the attitude, Arielle," he warns. He finishes changing and then brushes past me.
"Don't tell me what to do! Where are you going?"
He stops dead in his tracks, turning and yelling, "wherever the fuck I want to go! Jesus Christ, Arielle!"
I cower away from him, and he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He's never yelled at me like this before and I worry it's because he's so wound up with whatever's going on. Who knows when and how hard he'll snap? Will he snap at me?
"I have work to do," is all he says and then he charges down the hallway, grabbing his car keys and leaving the house in a rush. I rush to the front window and watch as he races out the driveway.
The tears start stinging at my eyes and I furiously wipe them away. Stop crying! All of the feelings I've been bottling up suddenly come spilling out and I yell out in frustration. He's a capricious prick!
I feel something lick the skin of my shin, and I know it's Sky who's desperate for attention. I fall to my knees and she instantly hops up into my lap, placing kisses to my face. She starts quickly lapping up the tears that are falling from my eyes.
The action causes me to laugh, despite the few tears that roll down my cheeks. It's enough of a distraction that the crying slowly ceases and I'm left staring at her. She looks up at me innocently, her ears up, and her head cocked to the side. It's when my eyes notice the pink spiked collar wrapped around her neck that I'm reminded of Zayn and the emotions come back, but this time it's anger.
I pick Sky up, placing her on the floor directly beside me. She barks at me when I stand up, but I ignore it and walk quickly down the hallway. The instant I step into the bedroom I grab one of the suitcases from the far side of the room. One of my suitcases that I just finished unpacking yesterday.
I open it and toss it carelessly onto the bed. I grab shirts, pants, underwear, makeup, everything I'll need for a few days and place it all in the suitcase. I don't know what I'm doing or where I'm going to go, all I know is that I need to get away from this place and him for a while. I'm just so exhausted. I feel like I have whiplash from dealing with each one of Zayn's many, many moods and it's just made me feel so incredibly tired.
I'm tired and it's caused me to be moody too. This morning I woke up elated, in Zayn's arms. When dinner came around I felt sluggish, and irritable. After the way Zayn talked to me, I felt sad, and now I'm angry . . . Pretty sure I have emotional whiplash by now.
Maybe I can stay with Zoe for a few days. I know she's in the dorm for another month or so, so maybe she'd let me crash there for just a night or two. I grab my toothbrush and my hairbrush from the washroom, putting them into my bag as well.
After ten or fifteen minutes I've managed to pack everything that I think I need. The suitcase is barely full, making me realize just how little of my things I find of importance. Then again, I'll only be gone a few days so I know I'm coming back. I zip the bag up and grab my purse from atop the dresser and begin down the hallway. I place my suitcase and purse near the front door and quickly make my way to the living room.
As I near the coffee table I pick my phone up, noticing an email notification.
Nice to hear from you. That's disappointing! I hoped the internship that Chef Wilson set up for you would work out. I'm unable to meet with you for another two or three weeks, but I don't believe an actual physical meeting is needed.
As for asking for permission to find a new internship, I can grant that. If you are able to find a new internship, I will change the paperwork around for you so that you still get your needed credits.
Once you find a new internship I'll need a bunch of information. You'll have to send me proof of the internship, as well as the contact for both a co-worker, as well as the person who'll act as your boss. I'll also need a detailed list of duties that you perform while on the job. It's tedious, I know, but we have to do a little extra work (since Chef Wilson had everything all set up before, we now have to do all that ourselves).
Best of luck, Arielle and Happy New Year!
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Miami
Once I'm finished reading the email I click the reply button and type a quick message in return. I simply thank Miss Welles for taking time to read my email during her holidays, and tell her that I'll get back to her once I find a new internship.
I feel relief washing over me knowing that I don't have to worry so much about school. Yes, it might be hard finding an internship, but at least I know I can find a new internship. If she wouldn't have granted me permission, I would've had to apply last minute to classes, which would've been difficult seeing as how most would've already been full. Knowing that I won't have to return to the place where Chef Wilson used to work, and quite possibly could return to, has me feeling safe . . . for now.
I take a minute to just collect my thoughts before picking up Zayn's empty beer bottle and my glass. I take the items to the kitchen to clean up the house before I leave. I've decided to go back to the dorm room with Zoe, despite knowing that Chef could very easily show up there. It's the only place I know to go. I could stay with Niall in his dorm, but I fully believe that would further infuriate Zayn, and quite possibly lead to our breakup, which I do not want.
Once I'm done cleaning up, I pick up my phone and dial Zoe's number but as the first ring sounds through my ear, I hear the front door opening.
➳ ZAYN'S POV
"Arielle?" I call out to her as I open the front door. I notice her standing in the kitchen immediately, phone up to her ear. She quickly hangs the phone up and turns towards me, crossing her arms in anger.
I close the door behind me and saunter up to her slowly. Once I'm standing directly in front of her I take in the sight of puffy eyes with red lines . . . she's been crying.
I extend my arms out towards her, "I'm sorry." She doesn't say anything, she just stares down at the box I'm holding in front of her. "I brought you some flours."
She stares at them, struggling not to break out into a smile. Four bags of flour are resting in the box. Alright, so maybe I stole the idea from Stranger Than Fiction, but Arielle's a chef so bringing flowers just didn't make as much sense. I was desperate for her sympathy. I was a fucking dick before I left here, and the drying tears on her cheeks are proof of that. I was trying to be cute, unsure of whether or not I was succeeding.
She just stares down at the box, stone faced. "Arielle, I'm so sorry."
She brushes past me, but stops in the hallway, facing the front door. I put the flours down onto the counter and turn to face her, but as I make my way over to her a suitcase catches my eye. "Are you leaving?" My voice comes out in a desperate tone that I don't recognize. What the fuck is happening to me?
She's silent. "Arielle? Are you leaving me?"
She sighs before whispering, "I don't know. I'm pissed and I'm tired, okay? I'm sick and tired of dealing with your moods!" She stomps her foot as she turns to look at me, tears brimming in her eyes.
I step towards her and reach for her arms, but she jerks away from me, making my heart sink. "Arielle, please . . . just let me explain."
"Why should I? Do you honestly think you even deserve that?"
"Probably not, I was a dick."
She crosses her arms again, avoiding all possible eye contact with me. "Well, you're right. You don't deserve it." She says it quietly, but I don't believe her. I don't believe that she'll deny me the chance to explain my moodiness. She's too kind for her own good sometimes.
I stare down at my shoes. It falls silent between the two of us, and I recognize the only sound that can be heard as Sky's soft snores. I heavily sigh before running my hands over my face.
"But I'll hear you out," Arielle whispers. "Because I love you, I can't just leave." She seems a little disappointed . . . maybe it's with herself because she didn't expect to stay, or maybe she's just disappointed with me, I'm not sure. It's probably a little bit of both.
"Really?" I light up. I reach for her hands, and this time I'm successful in grabbing hold of them.
She finally looks up at me then, "I'll give you five minutes." Everything about her eyes have me mesmerized. I swear that her eyes could put the Miami city lights to shame.
"Alright, can we take a seat?" I ask, pointing to the couches. She nods her head and walks over to the sofa, I follow and sit adjacent to her, on the couch directly beside hers. I have to close my eyes for a moment to gain some confidence. I can already feel my heart in my throat and I haven't even said a word. I don't know how I'm going to tell her, it hasn't even registered with me.
How in the hell do I tell her something when I still don't believe it myself? I know it's been a while, but it still makes my heart sink in my chest, my palms sweaty, tears brim in my eyes just thinking about it. She's never seen me cry, and there's a reason for that. I don't cry. Simple as that. I've cried two or three times in my life, and I'm not about to cry now.
"I-" I try to explain it to her, but my mouth can't create words. I have to furrow my brows in concentration, as the emotion overwhelms me. I run my hands over my face and sigh again, and that's when Arielle realizes that something's not right. She grabs my hands and holds them.
Arielle ducks her head down so that she can look up into my eyes, "is everything alright? You're worrying me," she rubs her thumb softly over the back of my hand, igniting electric flares within my nerves. When has a girl's touch ever done this to me? I don't even know what's real anymore. Everything I'm feeling is so confusing; my mind's just a cloudy haze. All of the confusion is a part of why I've been so moody, but I can't explain it to Arielle. Hell, I don't even understand it.
"I'm sorry, it's-" I try to tell her but choke up again. I have to pull a hand away from hers and pinch the bridge of my nose to stop tears. They're right there and they're threatening to spill over at any moment, but I can't cry, I refuse to cry.
"Zayn . . . please. I hate seeing you like this," she reaches forward to caress my cheek. I struggle to look up, but when I do, she's staring at me with concern laced in her beautifully green eyes.
I have to look away from her immediately because the feeling rises up within me again. I take a deep breath to regain some composure before looking at her again, "it's - fuck." I mentally curse at myself for not having the strength to tell her. What's the big deal? Just fucking tell her already.
"It's the anniversary of my father's death," I choke out. I can't look at her. I can't watch her reaction, it'll be too much for me and I know I'll break down.
It's silent besides the small gasp that leaves her lips. "Zayn," she says, sounding speechless.
"It's been two years since he died and what does he have to be proud of? I haven't done fuck all in the last two years." My subconscious reminds me that I met Arielle months ago, and everything's different now, but I ignore the thought and shove it into the dustiest shelf in my brain. "He's probably turning in his grave because his son's such a damn disappointment."
"Why are you putting yourself down, Zayn? How dare you say and think that your father would be anything other than proud of you! You're kind, caring, giving, thoughtful, so intelligent, and best of all, you're Zayn. Of course he's proud of you. Don't ever think otherwise," she says to me.
But I know she's wrong. He's not proud of me. He's the man who taught me everything I know about cars, and yet he died behind the wheel. How can I trust the skills I've accumulated when they were taught to me by someone who died at the hands of his own skills? Can I even trust myself behind the wheel? It's something I've asked myself every day since his death and I still don't know the answer. It just pushes me further and further to do harder stunts, sharper turns, faster speeds . . . anything that's dangerous, anything that tests my skill.
"Do you hear me?" Arielle asks me. "He's proud of you."
I nod my head in agreement, although I don't believe a word of it. How could I? I don't know what to believe anymore because my head's such a fucking mess. It falls silent between us again as I try to sort out my feelings. I don't know what I'm feeling. I feel a little angry still, I feel sad, but at the same time it all feels okay. I know that I'll be okay, I know that I'll survive but it's just really hard right now, even after two years. And I know it'll be hard for the rest of my life, but I can only learn to deal with it and channel the feelings into bigger and better things.
But that's the opposite of what I'm doing now. I'm mixed up with the wrong fucking people, doing the wrong fucking thing and now it's all fucked up. Everything's fucked up; it's all gone to shit and I'm not sure that I can fix it. How can I fix it?
And what if in the process I end up hurting or losing Arielle? I don't know that I could handle a blow like that right now, it'd be too hard. But it's a possibility. If she finds out just how fucked up everything is, who's to say she won't pack up and leave? She's already thought of leaving me and so now that reaction is going to be automatically instilled in her brain. I fuck up, she threatens to leave. It's as simple as that.
"Do you mind if I ask how he died?" Arielle asks without ever looking at me. She focuses on my hands where her thumb is still rubbing softly against my skin.
Flashbacks come back to me of my father teaching me how to drive standard, how to change my own oil, helping me to gather and organize tools, teaching me every single thing I know about handling and maintaining a car.
"My father -" I scratch at the back of my neck out of nervous habit, "he was a stunt driver . . . He taught me everything I knew. But one day he went to work, and he never came home . . . Died on set."
"I-I'm sorry," she apologizes. I don't really know why people apologize when they hear about a death. I know it's just a courteous gesture, but it doesn't make me feel any better. At this point it's just an empty word. For her it isn't, it means that she has empathy for my situation, but it makes me feel empty. Sometimes I feel like it's the most useless word in the English language. Arielle could say it to me a hundred times and it still wouldn't reverse the damage that's been done. It never would. It's just a word that people say to make themselves feel better. It's just a word that people say to make it appear as if they give a shit, when in reality most of them don't.
"After it happened my mum just lost it. Within a week of his death she was already back at work, and she totally lost herself in it. She's never been the same since," I share. When my father died, my family fell apart. Everything I once knew as my life fell apart and suddenly everything was totally fucking different. All of the sudden my father's gone, and then my mother's never home, and when she is she's moody - she's depressed, angry, irritated with my entire existence getting in the way of her work.
Racing was the thing that saved me from insanity.
Every time I was behind the wheel it was like my father was with me. Instantaneously, my family was fixed. My father was cursing at me for wearing out the clutch facings and bearings by resting my foot against the pedal. My mother was waiting at home with a warm meal cooked for us. It was like the adrenaline from being behind the wheel somehow got me closer to him. But eventually the adrenaline became something my body recognized - it wasn't a high anymore, and so the feeling faded. It no longer made me feel like my father was with me, and so I began chasing the high, hoping it would return.
It never has.
But maybe there's a reason for it. Maybe I need to move on from it. My father's dead and there's absolutely nothing I can do to bring him back. It's just so fucking difficult to move on. I loved him too much for my own good. All love brings is pain.
"You want to know what I thought when I first met you?" She asks. I nod my head. "It was the first race you ever took me to . . . I remember thinking that you just fit so well behind the wheel. I can't imagine you doing anything else, it's like you were born to race. I thought that it seemed like you'd been driving since the day you were old enough to touch the pedals."
She's not wrong there. My father had me behind the wheel at a very young age. It's been instilled into me.
"And I know it's dangerous, and that since I'm your girlfriend and I love you that I really shouldn't encourage it, but don't ever stop. I mean, you can stop the dangerous stuff," she chuckles, "but never stop driving. There's something about it that just - I can't even explain it . . . You're not Zayn without a fancy ass imported car."
I finally crack a smile, and when I look at her she's giving me this goofy fucking look, which causes me to chuckle a little. It's enough to rid of the morbidity within the air.
"You're fearless behind the wheel," Arielle says quietly.
I don't believe in fearlessness. I don't believe that it exists. I personally believe that if you feel fearless, what you're actually feeling is invincibility. How can you not feel fear? Every single person on this planet is afraid of something, so it's impossible to feel fearless. But it's easy to feel invincibility. It's easy to feel like no one can overcome you, like no one can beat you. But even with the feeling of invincibility comes the fear of it ending. We're human; all of us feel fear. It's like that fucking awful nervous or anxious feeling I get in the pit of my stomach . . . It's fear. A fear of the unknown, of the unfamiliar. Some of us just like to pretend we aren't fearful, I guess, and that's why the term 'fearless' was created.
Hearing Arielle call me fearless is nothing new. I've had many people over the years call me fearless, but I'm not. I have fears just like every other person. It's that feeling of invincibility when I'm behind the wheel that pushes me to be reckless and impulsive.
Arielle's hand suddenly touches mine, drawing me out of whatever trance I was in. "That was a compliment, in a weird way," she says.
"Well, thanks . . . I guess."
She looks at me, holding back laughter, but eventually it bursts from her lips. "Why are you so awkward sometimes?" She giggles while asking the rhetorical question as she buries her face into my shirt. I didn't even realize she was that close to my body until I feel her wrap her arms around my neck, and suddenly her beautiful eyes are directly in front of mine . . . Her pink lips just inches from mine.
How'd we get to here? Twenty minutes ago she was pissed, she was leaving. An hour ago, I stormed out of here and left her alone and angry . . . and crying. Now we're joking around and flirting, a total 180 from earlier. She knows about my father, and in a way it's relieving. I wasn't sure how she'd take it, but she seems to deal with it well. It's probably the first secret I've shared with her, considering I haven't shared much, but she seems content with the situation, and with me.
I wonder what's happened to her father in the mess that was her childhood. Maybe he left, maybe he's dead, or maybe he's around. One thing I know for sure is that he wasn't there to protect her from Ezra and Vivien, so he's not a good father in my eyes. I want to ask her about her father, but now just doesn't seem like the right time. If he's dead, how is there ever a right time to bring it up? In a way, I feel like she has to bring up the subject to avoid any hurt feelings. But who's to say she'll ever bring it up? Hell, she had to get drunk to tell me about her step-father, and her mother . . . She'll probably never tell, because like me, she's secretive. Arielle keeps things bottled up until the bottle's been shaken so badly that the top is forced off and all of the contents come spilling out at once, it seems.
I realize that a lot of aspects of our personalities are similar. Maybe that's why we work so well together. Maybe that's why she's the first woman who's ever lived here. Or the first woman I've ever brought here. The first woman I've ever grown attached to, other then my own mum. I don't know, there's something different about Arielle and I'm glad my instincts were right when I first saw her.
My subconscious reminds me that she's too beautiful, both inside and out. That she's much too good for me, but then again she's flawed, she's fucked up like me. Maybe not in the same way, but we're both so badly fucked up that maybe it's alright. In a way, I hope that's what the universe had intended the night I first saw her.
Whatever was planned for me in this life, I hope Arielle was a part of that plan.