Surprise Me Maybe

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Morning After

I wake up from a familiar ticklish sensation on my nose. Slowly, I open my eyes and see a pair of emerald green irises staring at me with curiosity. I grunt when I feel the heaviness in my head. My body is aching all over as if my bed has become ten times harder than usual.

“Did I kill the alarm again, sweetie? Wait, gimme a second to wake up and I’ll make our breakfast in a jiffy.”

Chloe glances in the direction behind me. “Why are you sleeping on the floor? And Ashton, too.”

I freeze at her question. With anticipation, I turn around to find Ashton lying on his stomach next to me, still in his black shirt and grey pants, his hand lying limp on my waist. His handsome face is facing in our direction but his eyes are closed while soft wheezing is escaping his partly open lips. My not-so-awake brain tries to recall how we ended up sleeping on the floor, in my house, with full clothes. The scene of last night’s dinner with Danielle starts to play in my head, followed by the quiet trip home, the making out in the driveway, the midnight talk, and the craziness afterward.

I shift my gaze to my coffee table and two bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon are glaring back at me. Next to them are a pair of wine glasses with one glass still half empty. “Oh god,” I groan as I put away Ashton’s hand and prop myself up into a sitting position. “What time is it?”

“Seven-thirty.”

“Why did you guys turn up so early? Ouch, my head.” I press my palm against my temple when the headache announces its presence.

Chloe shrugs. “Grandma needs to go before nine for the wedding. So, why did you and Ashton sleep on the floor?”

“We had a ... conversation then we fell asleep,” I mumble incoherently.

“On the floor? Why not sleep on the bed or the couch?” Chloe asks.

“Uh, I’m not sure. I can’t remember,” I reply, wincing from the shooting pain in my head as I move. I extend my hand to poke Ashton’s shoulder. “Ashton, wake up.”

It doesn’t take long until Ashton stirs in his sleep and slowly opens his eyes. First, he looks up at me, then he roams his eyes over his surroundings before his gaze falls back on me and also Chloe. He grunts as he rolls over and sits up, rubbing his eyes and looking at us again, probably making sure that he’s not having hallucinations right now.

“Good morning,” Chloe greets.

“Good morning,” Ashton croaks. “I can’t believe we fell asleep.”

“What did you guys talk about last night that made you so tired?” Chloe stares at us intently. “Did Danielle get angry at both of you?”

“No.”

“Not really,” Ashton and I answer at the same time.

“It has nothing to do with the dinner, sweetie. Don’t worry. The dinner was awesome,” I add, but when I notice Chloe’s scrutinizing eyes on us, I know she won’t let it go until she hears the answer to her question. “Right, last night we were talking about...”

“Work,” Ashton finishes my line.

“Yes. Work,” I say as I struggle to stand up. I’ve never felt this stiff all over for a while.

“Okay,” Chloe mumbles but her face is still frowning. I’m just glad that she doesn’t push further.

“I need to go upstairs. Be right back,” I excuse myself once I’m on my feet. On my way upstairs, I find my mom sitting behind the breakfast table with her crossword book in hand, her glasses sitting just right above the tip of her nose. “Morning, Mom,” I greet without stopping.

“Morning,” she chirps. “Slept like a baby?”

“Miraculously,” I reply as I climb the stairs and disappear behind my bathroom door.

Sitting on the toilet, my mind runs a mile, wondering what Chloe was thinking when she saw her mom and dad on the living room floor, lowkey cuddling. Will she suspect something is going on between me and Ashton? Hell, I don’t even know what is going on between us. Ashton and I haven’t really talked about our advanced encounter because before we came to that point, we both already got knocked out.

Groaning like a mama bear, I get up and check my reflection in the mirror. Holy shizz! I look like a panda with failed-smokey eye makeup. My brown hair goes in all the wrong directions and my eyes are somber from my throbbing headache. Did Ashton see me like this?

After chucking down two painkillers and tidying up my hair, I make my way downstairs with a bottle of aspirin in my hand. Maybe Ashton also needs one.

Everyone is already sitting at the breakfast table while the inviting aroma from the brewing coffee machine fills the kitchen. Ashton must have freshened up in the guest bathroom since his hair is now slightly wet and pulled backward tidily. Next to him, Chloe is busy munching on her waffle, causing my empty stomach to rumble.

“I brought enough for everyone, even for Chloe’s dad. Don’t worry. You just need to heat it up if you want,” My mom replies to the commotion from my tummy.

“How did you know he would be staying?” I ask.

She winks. “Mother knows everything.”

Okay, I hate that answer because it doesn’t answer my question yet she’s somehow always right. At least she needs to show me the trick on how to be always on top of her game so that I can say the same magic line to Chloe one day while winking, “Mama knows everything.”

I curse inwardly when the pounding headache reminds me of its existence again. I wonder how Ashton can get away from this since he refused to take the painkiller. He’s even enthusiastically involved in the conversation with Mom about how Dad started his garage business. The very topic I have heard a thousand times in my life, and it doesn’t help me keep my attention span that is dropping below zero right now. All I can think of is my bed and drowning myself in the pile of soft pillows.

After five times pinching my arm to keep me awake and losing count of my yawns, Ashton pokes me, making me jerk up and turn my head to him. Did I just fall asleep?

“I’m heading home,” he says, standing up. “You can go to your bed and resume sleeping. I will be back to pick up Chloe at lunch.”

“What are you guys going to do today?” I ask as I follow him to the door.

“Not much. Something easy. Maybe movies after grabbing lunch.”

“Ah, so you can doze off during the movie. Smart,” I retort, earning a chuckle from him. “Or you can just watch movies here. I will be in my room and sleep my day away anyway.”

He tilts his head, seeming to consider the idea. “We can do that unless Chloe wants something else.”

---

The thing I hate about hangovers is the feeling of living in limbo and losing the willingness to function, just like what I’m having now when I open my eyes. It takes me a minute to register why I am lying in my bed while the sun is up. Then the burning sensation in my throat answers it. Groaning, I crawl out of bed and make my way to the kitchen.

To my surprise, the living room was dead quiet. I thought Chloe agreed to just chill at home. Did they decide to go out at the end? When I peek at the living room, the two are still there, sprawling on the couch but no more Shrek on the TV screen. They seem to be engrossed with something on Ashton’s phone instead.

Out of curiosity, I make my way to the pair to check. “What are you guys doing? Why so quiet?”

Chloe jerks her head to see me and grins. “We don’t want to wake you up with the sound. Look, Mama! Ashton has a lot of Shrek games on his phone! Can I have one, please?”

I plop down on the armrest, giving Ashton’s phone screen a quick look. “What do you mean? The phone or the game?”

“The game,” she answers, sounding unsure.

“Then it means you need a phone.”

“I can also have a phone then?” My daughter’s eyes twinkle in excitement.

“No,” I reply flatly and Chloe’s face drops. Well, she’s not getting a phone until she’s turning ten. We agreed to this.

“But Marissa got a cellphone on her birthday last month. She doesn’t have to wait until she’s in fifth grade.”

“Every parent is different, sweetie.” I undo her messy ponytail, brush her hair carefully with my fingers and tie it up again. “Maybe they think she needs one.”

“I also need one if you let me have the game.”

Instead of helping me, Ashton breaks into laughter. He must be enjoying watching my tail being chased by my own kid while my brain isn’t fully working. That devil.

“No, Chloe. You can always use the computer. You can install a few Shrek games there if you like, or maybe on my phone if you want the exact game as the one you’re playing now,” I reply sternly, giving her no room to wiggle her options.

The coarseness in my throat reminds me of the reason why I went downstairs in the first place. I get up and resume walking to the kitchen, in desperate need of cold and sweet liquid. The headache might have subsided but the dehydration will stay a tad bit longer. Hangovers suck.

“Are you staying for dinner?” I ask Ashton from the kitchen after I gulp down a glass of pear juice.

“No, I’m going to meet someone for dinner.”

“Oh, okay.” I swallow a bitter lump in my throat. Another rejection. “It’s almost five. Shouldn’t you go home and get ready for that?”

“I know–” His voice is swallowed by the sound of the screeching trash can that I drag out of the space under the sink. On purpose.

I secure the plastic bag, yank it out of the bin, and stomp out of the kitchen, feeling irritated all of a sudden. Opening the garage door, I squint my eyes as the sun hits my face, causing a soft pinch in my head. The headache hasn’t totally gone after all.

I reluctantly saunter back to the house after throwing the trash into the big bin in my front yard, beginning to realize that I just acted like a kid. A sudden feeling of shame floods in. I shouldn’t get pissed because he refused to stay for dinner, but well, I did. If I can be honest, I’m more pissed with the reason why he can’t join us, which is meeting someone. Meeting whom exactly? Is he going to have a date after what we did last night? But again, it’s not my business. Right?

“Is everything okay?” a deep voice pulls me out of my bubble of thought. When I look up, Ashton is standing next to his car, in front of my garage door.

“Yes, of course,” I reply, flashing him the generous smile I can muster. There is no way I’m telling him about what is bothering me without making me look like a fool. “Going now?”

“Almost. But first, we need to talk.”


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