19 Protecting Mariela

Archer's POV

"Kent, please tell our friends to stop giving me groceries, and why did you tell them the address of my new place?" I asked as we stood in front of the elevator.

"You can't blame them, Archer, it has been one week you didn't show up at my place, and the girls are going crazy without seeing you." He replied.

"And why did you tell them I have nothing to eat? Don't you know my place looked like a charity center because of so many donations I got from them? How am I going to learn if they will continue to do that?" I asked him, and his forehead furrowed.

"They are your friends, Archer, and they are not only there for you in good times, but also in bad times, and don't you know this is the right time you will know who your true friends are? You are not a charity case, bro, like me; they just wanted to help." He responded, and I fell silent.

"It is Saturday, and we were all waiting for you, but you never came." He added.

"I am sorry, Kent, but I can't do that anymore," I replied with a loud sigh.

"And why? Is it because of Mariela? I have seen how you looked at her, Archer." He mumbled.

"Yes, and not only that, I need to work to pay the rent and groceries, Kent," I replied.

"You can always borrow money from me, Archer, and you don't need to pay them right away; you can pay me the moment you will get your trust fund from your grandpa." He said, and my face lit up as I realized I only needed three months, and I will be rich again, and my parents could no longer dictate my life.

"I already told you, I don't want easy money from anyone; I needed to figure it on my own." I responded.

"Like being a waiter in catering services? You can't do that to your family, Archer; you are the heir of your family's conglomerate, and you can't embarrass your dad." He declared.

"How could you say that, Kent? Having a part-time job as a waiter is a decent job, and I am proud of it; how did you even know about it?" I asked.

"You know people will recognize you wherever you go, and you better stop what you are doing before your father will be forced to bring you home." He said, and I laughed.

"I am no longer afraid of my father, Kent, my parents taught me something significant after they froze my account, and I am glad they did it because I was able to learn there is more to wealth and popularity," I said, and his face fell.

"And I am loving my freedom right now," I added.

"It seemed like there is nothing I can say that will change your mind, but please, if you want to protect Ella, you better stop what you are doing." He declared.

"And please find time to come to my place, I miss you, bro, and you can bring Ella if you want, I promise just the three of us." He added, and I nodded my head at him.

"By the way, Claudia is in Nagazville, and I think you've got all the right to know." He said as he got inside the elevator, and I waved my hand at my cousin before the elevator door closed while his words lingered in my mind as I walked back to my place. I suddenly felt worried about why my ex was in the city, and I am sure my mother had something to do about this, and I realized things were getting worse.

I know what Kent means about protecting Ella, but I know what I am doing, and I will never cross that line. I want to be with her, but it doesn't mean I will have her as my girlfriend. I love her company, her laughter, especially her smile.

I seldom see Mariela smile, and I wanted to put a beautiful smile on her face every day. And I will be twenty-one soon, and I could get my trust fund, and I could help Ella with difficulties because I know she is struggling with financial problems, and that is the only thing I can do for her. And this was the first time I wanted to protect someone badly.

The moment I got inside, Ella was already on her study table, and after I took a bath, I did the same. We didn't talk, and I kept stealing glances at her from time to time, and I could feel the racing of my heart, and I knew my cousin was right; I needed to take care of Ella.

After one hour, I smiled as I saw her head slowly getting down on the table, and then she will try to raise her head again, and I could tell she felt so sleepy because she got tired from her work from early morning until late, and I felt the same. And then she could no longer fight her drowsiness as she went off to sleep.

And I did something I knew could jeopardize my friendship with Ella, but I couldn't stop myself; I carried her sleeping figure on her bed. I kissed her slightly opened mouth, and I knew I should never taste her lips because it wasn't right to steal a kiss from Ella, but she looked so beautiful, and the temptation was too strong.

I wanted to deepen the kiss, but I needed to pull myself together, and I felt so glad she didn't wake up, I switched off the light, and I lay on my bed touching my lips as I relived the kiss I had with her. And now I could say I finally met someone who turned my life upside down, and I never got so confused my entire life.

I know kissing Ella without her knowledge was not a good idea, not only because I didn't have any right to kiss her, but it made me wide awake the rest of the night even if I felt so tired the entire day. I knew I only had almost three hours of sleep, and I felt guilty I didn't help her prepare our breakfast because when I woke up, Mariela had already set the table, and my mouth was watering as I looked at the food she had prepared on our table good for two.

I could hear the dripping of the shower, and I smiled as I realized Ella was taking a bath, I slumped my body on my bed and closed my eyes again, and I fell asleep, and Mariela's voice woke me up.

"Archer, you need to wake up if you want to come to work with me today." She said, and I quickly got up from my bed and took a quick shower.

"The venue of the catering is a little bit far, and the more you can't bring your car, Archer," Ella said the moment we reached the parking lot, it took a lot of convincing on my part to make her agree with me to bring my car.

"Do you have numbers with our fellow staff of the catering?" I asked, and she slowly nodded her head.

"Then our problem is solved, ask them if they want to ride with us, and they only need to pay the same fare as the bus," I said, and her face lit up.

"Wow! That is a good idea, Archer, and you are brilliant!" She exclaimed and started calling them one by one, and to be honest, I brought my car to be alone with Ella. Even if we stayed in the same room, it would be different if we traveled alone together, watching the scenery before us. Still, I don't want her to worry more about fuel, and I don't want her to end up riding on a bus.

I didn't realize we were catering food after a funeral. It was a sad venue because the one who died was a sixteen-year-old girl who died because of leukemia, and I could see that Ella was so affected, and I found her looking so sad at the back of the van after we served the guests after the burial.

"Hey, are you okay, Ella?" I asked, and I knew she was faking her smile.

"Of course, I am." She responded right away, and she walked back to the main reception and helped our fellow server put away the catering equipment, utensils, and supplies. I also helped fold the tables and carried them into the catering truck while I couldn't stop stealing glances at Ella. And she was silent the entire ride until we arrived at the resto-bar.

A lady I hadn't seen here at the resto-bar yesterday but who looked so familiar greeted Ella enthusiastically while she was smiling at me from ear to ear. I could tell she was one of those young women who wanted to know me. I saw her nudge Ella many times before my friend raised her head and looked at me.

I could still see the sadness on Ella's face as she stared at me, and I wondered what was wrong with Mariela why she was still affected by the girl who died because of a terminal illness, and I wanted to brighten her mood.

"Archer, I want you to meet Valerie, she is my best friend, and one of your fans, Val, met my roommate, Archer." Ella introduced us while her best friend was blushing, and she was staring at my face while I offered my hand to her, and I realized if I wanted to know more about Mariela, Valerie is the one who could help me.

"It is nice to meet you, Val," I said the moment she took my hand.

"Wow, I couldn't believe I would be able to shake your hand, we are classmates, but you don't notice me at all." She blurted out, and I could see the hurt on her face.

"That is good to know, Valerie, and I am sorry," I replied.

"It is okay, hot girls always surround you before our class starts, and they will always circle you around after class, and I don't think you have the time to know the rest of your classmates." She declared, and Val was right, I didn't get the chance to know my classmates beyond my circle of friends, and they will seldom find me walking alone on the campus.

We stopped talking when many customers arrived, and I got so busy serving food and drinks that I couldn't stop looking for Mariela.

"Val, do you know what is bothering, Ella?" I finally got the chance to ask Valerie when we dished out table number 2, and she was looking around the dining area, and she only answered me when she made sure Ella was not around, and I could tell she was in the kitchen.

"I am sorry, Archer, but it wasn't my story to tell; I don't want Mariela to think I told you about it because I am dying to have a conversation with you." She said, and I could see the seriousness on her face, and I could say Valerie would never tell me about Ella's secret.

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