Annabelle walked up to her apartment carrying take out for the four of them when she heard Ethan yelling through the door. Concerned, she quickly opened the door and threw herself into the apartment. There Ethan sat on the couch yelling at the television in front of him. Annabelle took a deep breath and dropped the bags of food onto the counter. She turned her head to survey the apartment.
“Where are J.D. and Lena?” Annabelle asked Ethan. She was met with silence. She could see Ethan physically stiffen. “Well?”
“Um. Lena is in your room reading a book and J.D. is in the bathroom.” Ethan reported, his voice soft. She could see him slowly inching his way towards the remote that sat next to him on the couch.
“What are you watching?” Annabelle asked moving closer to the couch. She could see his fingers stop their journey. Almost like they were embarrassed. Annabelle leaned against the back of the couch and leaned down towards Ethan’s neck. She could see his green eyes were panicked, his whole body frozen. She placed her mouth close to his ear.
“Ethan. Is that a soap opera?” She whispered dramatically.
She saw his eyes dart around the room before letting out a sigh, his whole body relaxing. “Yes. It is a soap opera. I like to watch soap operas.” Ethan announced a slight quiver in his voice.
Annabelle pushed herself back up and away from the couch to grab some French fries out of the take-out bag. She wandered back towards the front of the couch, plopping down next to Ethan. “I love soap operas. I was raised on the CBS lineup. Every day after school my grandma used to pick me up, and we would watch all the soaps she taped that day. I don’t think I know this one.” Annabelle told him as she gingerly bit into a fry.
Ethan looked over at her in wonder. She noticed, out of the corner of her eye, Ethan bite his bottom before giving her a small smile. “This is a British soap called Emmerdale. I got addicted during my freshman year in college.” Ethan told her reaching over to grab a fry.
Annabelle moved the fries out of his reach giving him a playful look. “My fries. Yours are on the counter.” Ethan kept reaching over, Annabelle moving even farther away on the couch. With a smirk and gleam in his eyes, he ran his hands down towards her sides.
“Don’t you dare.” She warned.
Both were still. Annabelle felt her breathing grow labored as she waited for the tickle assault on her body. Ethan stared her down, biting his bottom lip. “Does Jack know you have your stories?” Annabelle asked with baited breath.
Ethan’s eyes darkened as he slowly smiled at her. She could feel his fingers start to press down on her waist lightly. The first assault made her giggle before he began to tickle. Once he got going, she felt she was going to die from laughter. She squirmed on the couch trying her best not to flash the guy. He laughed along with her as she yelled for a truce at the top of her lungs. He stopped looking down at the floor next to the couch. Annabelle took the interruption as the time to catch her breath. That is when she noticed she was laying down on the couch and he was straddling her hips.
“The fries fell onto the floor,” Ethan announced. Annabelle tore herself away from the scene in front of her to see her fries spilled all over the floor.
“Come on! I guess you are sharing your fries now. See? Tickling is a lose/lose situation.” Annabelle told him crossing her arms over her chest in defiance. Ethan’s eyes shifted over to Annabelle’s. He let his hands travel down to her hips as Annabelle gently wrapped her legs closer to Ethan’s.
“I don’t know. Things don’t seem so bad now.” Ethan whispered. Annabelle’s breath hitched as she uncrossed her arms and let her hands glide up Ethan’s arms cupping his face. She gently rubbed her thumb across his cheek. He melted into her touch, moving down, his lips inches away from hers. She licked her lips and closed her eyes as she felt his warm breath.
“I don’t understand why so many adults love Harry Potter? It’s just an allegory for innocents, war and standing up to bullies!” Lena’s voice ran through the living room. Annabelle opened her eyes and pushed Ethan off her. She watched in horror as he fell off the couch and onto the floor near the fries.
“Oh my god. I’m sorry!” Annabelle heard herself squeal as she sat up on the couch. Ethan, on his back, stared up at her with a dazed expression.
“What’s going on? Is everyone ok?” J.D.’s voice rang out as he left the bathroom. He rushed over to the couch. “Are you ok Annabelle?”
Ethan huffed in response.
“I’m fine. Ethan?” Annabelle asked putting her hand out for Ethan to grab. He looked at it for a minute before taking the offer. She helped him sit up and lean against the edge of the couch.
“I think we interrupted Mom and Dad.” Lena sing-song to J.D. as she gave Annabelle a wink.
Annabelle looked at her concerned. “I need to adjust how I am writing you. At least you aren’t so angry anymore.”
Ethan hummed in response as he cleaned up the French fries on the floor. Annabelle watched him, but her mind was somewhere else. Mostly remembering his breath as he got closer. She placed her fingers gently onto her lips, remembering.
“Is this our food?” Lena asked as she opened the bag, pulling out the other set of fries.
“HEY! Those are Ethan’s fries. Drop them.” Annabelle bellowed making Ethan jerk in response.
“It’s fine. We all can share.” Ethan said giving Annabelle a wink. He stood up with the floor fries and wandered over to the kitchen to throw them out. Annabelle grabbed the remote and paused Ethan’s soap opera.
“Tell me more about this soap you are so embarrassed to be watching,” Annabelle asked as she turned her attention to the paused screen. Two guys were sitting in a pub with pints in front of them.
Ethan looked up at the screen and gave a smile. “Well, that is Emmerdale. It is set in a village, and it’s about the adventures the village people have.”
“Sounds good. Want to watch from the beginning of the episode?” Annabelle asked him.
Lena groaned in response. “I’m going to eat in your room. I’m not into soaps. J.D.? Wanna watch with me?” Lena asked batting her eyelashes. J.D. shrugged and followed Lena into the bedroom.
Annabelle made herself comfortable on the couch as Ethan got his food. He walked back and looked questionably towards Annabelle. “Aren’t you hungry?”
“Nah. I’ll eat later. Let’s watch.” Annabelle said changing the subject. Pressing the remote to play the show from the beginning, Annabelle settled in. As she watched the opening theme, Ethan offered her a French fry. She considered it a minute before taking it and throwing it into her mouth. She could see him smile at her.
They watched in silence, Ethan handing her a French fry every couple of minutes. After a while, Ethan becomes engrossed as they get to the scene she walked in on earlier. Two guys, Annabelle guessed were married, stare at each other from across the street. Both take a deep breath before running to each other for a hug, one throwing his bag to the ground and pulling the other man close to him. Both were breathing as heavily as their hearts beat, the show went into a commercial break.
“Wow. That was intense.” Annabelle said looking over at Ethan. She noticed his eyes were shining as he stared at the screen. “Are you ok?”
He broke from his spell and quickly rubbed his eyes against his arm. “I’m all right.” He murmured.
“Were you crying?”
“Maybe. It’s just, these two have gone through so much, and there have so much more to face.” Ethan said to her his voice uneven. “They have one hell of a love story. I should show you what happened from the beginning some time.”
“What? Like, true love? Yeah, ok. That can only happen in a soap opera.” Annabelle replied reaching over to his plate to take another fry. She slowed after seeing Ethan’s astonished face. “What?”
“You don’t believe in true love?” Ethan asked grabbing the remote and paused the show.
Annabelle felt a shift in the atmosphere. “I feel like true love is manufactured for movies, tv shows, novels and holidays that require greeting cards.”
“You write romance,” Ethan said as if he was still trying to get his mind around her statement.
“Yeah, I can control that romance. I can make it work out the way it should. I can make it messy, and I can make it clean. I’m the master of the romance universe.” Annabelle explained feeling slightly uncomfortable at Ethan’s expression.
“That’s no fun. Romance is that factor that throws your world off kilter. It is the thing you didn’t know you needed there. It is that person that keeps you center. It’s your partner in crime. It’s the other half of our damaged, broken soul.” Ethan told her, his voice rising with excitement.
“Are all souls damaged and broken?” Annabelle asked with a teasing tone.
“All the best ones are. Maybe that’s why you are having so much trouble writing for J.D. and Lena. You deny your romantic center.” Ethan told her grabbing the remote and fiddling with the buttons.
“I don’t think I have that romantic center,” Annabelle admitted. Ethan looked her with soft eyes that made her stomach flip and flutter away. “Does that mean I will be stuck with those idiots forever?” Annabelle quickly joked trying to defuse the intense feeling that went through her. Ethan laughed in response and put his arm around the back of the couch and started the episode back up.
Annabelle watched him as he watched this couple he seemed to love. She sat back and slowly moved in closer to him, letting her body lean against his. His eyes never left the screen as he took his stretched-out arm and moved it around her shoulders pulling her in closer. She smiled and watched the show Ethan seemed to love so much.
Maybe she did have that romantic center. It just needed to be woken up by the right person.