Fist met flesh as Ariel crumpled to the floor. Blood gushed forward from her temple, streaking her silky auburn hair and dripping down the side of her fair cheeks. Ariel looked up at Sam with her chestnut brown eyes sunken in to the depths of her skull. She ignored the blood and purple swelling on her face.
“I’m sorry Sam. I…I didn’t mean to break your computer. I swear I didn’t. It was an acci-”
“Shut up!” he barked. Sam shuddered with rage, whatever lean muscle on his thin body flexing in unison. “I need that computer for work you useless bitch! How am I supposed to work now?!” A dull thud marked the impact of shin to chest.
“Sam please!”, Ariel screamed. Not for herself, but for the sanctity of their love. “I love you Sam. I love you. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I know I’m clumsy and stupid. I know I’m not allowed to drink water next to the computer. Please! Please forgive me.” Her voice took the quality of nails in strain and desperation.
Sam’s unhealthy yellow tint somehow flushed red as blood rushed to his face. The shaking. Face, arms, and thighs shook in unison. He needed a moment to collect himself, so he sat at the desk. Sam’s fingers tugged at his lengthy jet black hair pulling it straight up and out of his face like a mad man. Ariel’s eyes opened wide in horror. “What have I done?”, she wondered to herself.
“There isn’t any justice in the world anymore Ariel. I won’t be taken advantage of like this. I won’t be taken advantage of like this.” The trembling forced Sam to stop to take a breath. Tears streaked Ariel’s face forming a steady stream, but they were met with eyes of fire and ice. “You’ll just have to pay me back”
“Of course. Anything, anything for you”, she started to mumble off in a hazy state of consciousness. Blood had soaked down the side of Ariel’s plain white shirt, the floor around her speckled with flecks of red.
“I’m just going to pull it out of your weekly stipend. By the end of the week I’ll have enough to replace the keyboard and the screen. Looks like we only have enough money to buy food for one this week.”
A soft smile crept up on Ariel’s lips. “I knew we would be able to work this out Sam. I just knew it couldn’t end like this.” Her task accomplished, Ariel collapsed.
8 Months Ago
A vibrating sound made Ariel lift her face from her notes to find her cell phone within the stack of papers spread across the library table.
“I can study tonight at 7” – Sam
“Ok. Thanks for helping me out. I don’t understand anything that’s going on in our physics seminar”, Ariel replied while audibly sighing as she typed. Struggling was a foreign feeling to her as a member of the physics honor society at Deacon University. However, her pride was not going to stop her from asking for help as the lectures made less sense with each passing week. Sam stood out as that weird kid who sat in the far right corner of the seminar room. His clothes reeked of cigarette smoke to the extent that several seats around him were constantly vacant. Sam constantly adorned bad second day hair coupled with wrinkled clothes and dark circles under his eyes. Rumor on campus stated that sleepless nights and an endless pursuit of knowledge contributed to his unhealthy yellow complexion.
“It’s not like I’m going on a playdate with the guy. I just need some help with the homework and he’s the only one who really understands the theory in this class. Who cares if he’s a creep”, Ariel thought to herself.
Later that night Ariel and Sam met up in the physics major’s room. Progress came slowly as Ariel had fallen behind by about a week. Sam became impatient at times; he understood the concepts, but explaining them in such basic terms was another thing.
“You can’t just take a derivative here, you know”, Sam muttered under his breath. “Do you even know why you’re taking that derivative?”
“No I really don’t”, Ariel groaned.
“Well let’s start over then”, Sam wasn’t patient, but he was extremely persistent. He erased the right side of the whiteboard.
Hours later, at midnight, Ariel finally reached the answer she needed. “I really appreciate you taking the time to help me out Sam. It really helped that you let me find the answer on my own instead of just spoon feeding it to me. I think I actually have a shot at presenting my answers to the class.”
Sam flipped hair out of his face with a snort. “I don’t believe in copying answers”, he said coldly. “For all the rumors and talking behind my back, this is what keeps me up at night. Finding the answers the right way. I don’t know what the rest of you plan on doing with your lives, but I plan on doing research. No one writes answer keys for research problems.”
“Ok, ok smart guy”, Ariel giggled. “Hey I learned my lesson here. I may not lose sleep over problems, but I definitely got a taste of the dedication needed to keep working through this class. I guess I’m just not prepared for that yet, but that can change.” She started packing up her notebook and calculator into her purse, ready for a good night’s sleep. “I guess I’ll see you in class tomorrow”, she looked over her shoulder as she made for the door. Sam appeared lost in thought, gazing at a graph on his computer.
“Wait”, Sam hesitantly called out without turning away from the computer. “Explaining stuff to you really helped me get some perspective on my independent study project. Would you be willing to come back here next week?”, his eyes averted her gaze and he tilted his head down. “I’ve hit a roadblock…I never would have thought this would be the case, but it helps to have someone to talk to.”
Ariel curled a finger around a strand of hair, tightly. Hanging out with Sam was not a high priority on her to-do list. “Well..uhm…sure”, she said a little too nervously, biting her lower lip.
Sam simply shrugged, thinking nothing of it. A man with few acquaintances couldn’t be too picky. “Ok, cool. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
3 Months Ago
Sam hunched over his computer, his face flushed out of frustration. “Sometimes I feel like I’m cursed with a thirst for knowledge.” He flipped open a fresh pack of cigarettes and pulled out a lighter from the desk drawer.
Ariel quickly grabbed the cigarette from Sam’s hand before the lighter hit the tip. “Not so fast. I know you’re frustrated, but we agreed on two cigarettes a day. It’ll kill you Sam. And I definitely wouldn’t want that to happen.” She hugged him around his waist as he grumbled something inaudible about cigarette companies disapproving of nosy girlfriends. Ariel leaned over his shoulder, pressing her lips to his cheek. “You’ve come such a long way Sam”, Ariel said as she brushed her fingers through properly combed jet black hair. “Still look yellow as hell though”, she giggled. “Maybe that’s the price you pay for being such a smart man. At least the smart man understands there’s more to life than quantum mechanics.”
Sam squirmed a bit under her grasp. He was still getting used to being cuddled, that being a drastic change from his usual routine void of consistent human interaction. “That’s definitely true. I…I’ve learned the value of actually talking to someone. I mean sitting in isolation, constantly working away, that really messes you up.” Sam let Ariel’s arm slip from his waist, but held her hand in his. “Maybe every isolationist researcher can improve his efficiency with a girlfriend”, he chuckled.
“Not every isolationist researcher will be lucky enough to find a girl who combs his hair, makes sure he smokes less, and listens to his nonstop ramblings about microscopic particles”, Ariel tickled Sam going straight for the belly. She knew he was incredibly ticklish and he dropped to the floor, writhing with laughter. Ariel couldn’t get over the sight of the world’s most serious man helplessly giggling on the floor of their apartment.
“Stop, stop”, he begged for mercy. “I hate when you do that honestly”, he gasped as she finally let him go. “I know you do that on purpose, don’t lie to me now.” Sam flashed her a rare smile.
“Why would I lie to you, of course I do it on purpose silly!”, Ariel ruffled his hair playfully. “Now go and take a shower Sam. It’s seven in the evening and you haven’t even showered yet. You’re still in your pajamas!”
Grudgingly Sam rose from the floor, getting undressed and picking up his shower towel. “No you’re right. One day I’ll actually have to be a professional and shower in the morning”, his face returned to its standard rigid form as he walked into the bathroom.
“Make sure to floss your teeth while you’re in there Samuel. I can’t believe I still have to tell you that.” Ariel poured herself a cup of tea and sat down at the desk to check email. With a thud the bathroom door accidentally hit the side wall as Sam emerged from the bathroom.
“Forgot the floss”, Sam mumbled. “Hey! Don’t drink tea so close to the computer, Ariel. All of my data for my final research project is on there. I can’t afford to have anything happen to this computer.”
Ariel quickly rose from the desk chair and placed her tea next to the kettle in the kitchen. “Oh, sorry about that Sam. I’ll be more careful from now on.”
1 Year Later
Ariel held her breath as the waiter served pad thai to the lovely gentleman across the table from her. “Doesn’t he know I’m frickin’ allergic to peanuts! I told him that when he asked me where I wanted to eat.”. Ariel carefully inched her plate away from the center of the table. Any flying peanuts that landed on her plate would call for ordering another plate of sushi.
“How’s the sushi?” Jason said through a mouthful of noodles.
“Yeah great…”, Ariel checked the time on her phone. It was only 7:00. She had promised her mother she would at least stay till 7:30.
“Mind if I try some of that sushi?”, Jason greedily picked up a piece of sushi in his chopsticks, smothering it in soy sauce from Ariel’s bowl.
“Wait-“, but Ariel was too late. That was it, Ariel smacked her forehead. “Jason…I’m allergic to peanuts! Now I can’t eat any of this sushi! I’m going to have to get another order now.”
“Oh…”, Jason barely managed to reply back as he chewed through an ambitious mouthful of food.
Ariel suddenly felt an itching sensation at the back of her throat. “Jason, I mean this in the best way, but I think I have to go home now. I don’t normally react to the smell of peanuts, but I’m definitely having a reaction.”
Before waiting for his reply she got up and walked out of the restaurant. In the parking lot she popped in some Benadryl, just to be on the safe side. During the drive home Ariel kept checking her breathing. It definitely was getting shallow. Luckily her apartment wasn’t far away and Ariel reached her front door in 10 minutes. Pulling up the side of her skirt, she took the EpiPen out of the kitchen drawer and stabbed it into her thigh. Moments later her breathing returned to normal and Ariel plopped down on the couch. “Remind me not to go on dates with peanut enthusiasts next time”, she complained to herself.
Out of reflex she picked up the letter sitting on the center table. The edges of the opening where she had slit the envelope were starting to fray from use. “No we’re not doing this anymore Ariel, you’ve spent enough time reading this letter and wallowing in your own misery”, Ariel scolded herself. She couldn’t help herself and she pulled the letter from the envelope for the thousandth time.
“and there must be consequences for my actions. What I did was wrong, no it was criminal. You already know, I’ve been sentenced for two years. I definitely deserve much more than that. I was so frustrated in the moment, I had worked so hard on my research that final semester and the thought of losing it…”
Ariel tossed the letter to the floor. She refused to cry. “Guys charged with battery really aren’t my type”, she sneered through sealed lips. “He can take his research and rot in jai-“, Ariel stopped herself and regulated her breathing, just like her counselor had told her to do. Then a positive thought crept into her head. This was the first action she had gotten in over year. “Does this count as action”, Ariel mused to herself. “I couldn’t even kiss the guy because he had peanut sauce all over his mouth. Not like I would dream of kissing Jason in a million years”, she couldn’t help but laugh. Arial sat motionless for a moment, in reflection. “Mr. Right’s out there somewhere Ariel, but it’s definitely not Jason.” She picked up the envelope along with the letter and tossed it in the trash can.