chapter thirteen

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The next morning, Ben and I acted as if nothing had happened the night before.

Well, technically, nothing did happen, as we had simply talked. However, I considered it a turning point between us, since we brought up matters that had been buried deep into the pile of memories from our constant love-hate relationship.

It also made me realize that we were both at fault for having had reached the point we did—the point where my sister and his brother were madly in love and we were the stark opposite.

I didn't know if Ben was on the verge of falling asleep sitting up or it was because this had always been something inside him, but right before he drifted off last night and I headed back to my room, he mumbled something about wishing he could go back in time and change some things.

I couldn't say that wish hadn't slipped through my bedtime prayers before, even as utterly impossible as it was.

"Mommy, why can't we go to Magic Kingdom first?" Ella whined this same question for the tenth time in the past five minutes alone. When Leila wouldn't answer her, Ella would direct the question to her father. And when Eric ignored her as well—exhausted from her persistence—she'd pick up her water bottle and hurl it at the seat in front of her.

"I swear if I had done that when I was a kid, my mom's flip-flop would have flew through the air itself and smacked me so hard I wouldn't want to ask another question again," I remarked to Ben as Ella continued her tantrum, trying to conceal an unattractive snort at the memories. Ben drew back slightly, raising a brow.

"Wait, why a shoe?" he asked in confusion. "Wouldn't it hurt getting hit with one?"

"Oh, right, I forgot you're white," I mumbled, nearly inaudibly, and cleared my throat. Turning to the side, I began to explain, "See, Arab mothers have this unexplained love for disciplining their kids with shoes. If you disrespect authority, you have to prepare yourself. She'll chase you around your whole house with her flip-flop if she has to." I lost it after that, unable to contain my laughter at the concept.

Ben wasn't so convinced. "But isn't that a little harsh?"

I shrugged. "There's a difference between that and child abuse," I replied, hoping he could understand my point. "Plus, I don't respect my parents any less now. On the contrary, the older you get, the funnier those memories become."

"Maybe more parents these days should discover 'the shoe' then," he remarked, breaking into a chuckle. Ella whined for the eleventh time, and Leila and Eric ignored her once more. The moment she went to throw the water bottle, Eric snatched it from her hands, and Leila glared at her. Leila had a terrifying glare, evidenced by the fact Ella didn't utter another word the rest of the ride.

We had decided to tour Epcot as a family first, since the only person interested in Magic Kingdom was Ella, and her parents planned to take her there themselves. I'd never visited Epcot before, but the pure convenience of being able to see pretty much the whole world in one park bought me over.

"Alright," my dad began after he bought our tickets, turning to us. "Do you want to all stick together or split up and explore different parts of the park?"

Ben and I glanced between each other as did Eric and Leila. I spoke up. "Ben and I want to explore on our own."

"We do?" he asked unsurely, as this wasn't a plan we had made from before. I nodded, linking arms with him. He shifted slightly but went with it.

"That's fine," my mom said with a shrug. Jokingly, she added, "just don't get lost, you two. Or kill each other. Either one."

When we had split up, Ben turned to me. "Do you even know where we're going? This place is massive. I feel like I did on my first day of college."

"I have a map," I replied, pulling the one my dad gave me from my backpack. "If we keep walking straight we'll make it to the World Showcase."

It was quiet between us for a few moments, as we took in our surroundings and enjoyed the cooler air today. The temperature hovered somewhere around seventy, sparing my hair from the effects of the heat and humidity.

"Do you remember when we were kids—I think it was first or second grade—how we built that rickety car in my garage to go 'explore the world'?" He chuckled at the memory, shaking his head. "It hardly got us to the end of my driveway, let alone out of the country."

"Speaking of out of the country, if we take a left, we'll be in Norway," I stated, looking at my map and finding it to be the first location listed. When I surveyed the foreign architecture I forgot for a moment that we were still in Florida. "I didn't even know they had this country at Epcot."

"Of course they have it," Ben remarked. "Isn't this the country where that movie Ella is obsessed with is set in?"

"You mean Frozen."

"Yeah, exactly," he replied, glancing at the sign for the ride based on the movie. "I actually didn't think I'd enjoy it as much as I did when I watched it with her. The end was so touching, with how a princess doesn't always need a prince and all."

"Well by that theory, I don't need you, do I?" I quipped, my lips pulling into a smirk.

"Haha, not so fast, Samar," he replied, snaking an arm around me. "But I'm flattered you consider me to be royalty."

"Not really. Hans was kind of an asshole."

"Well, so am I. I'm a likable asshole, princess."

"Likewise." I sarcastically grinned and shrugged his arm off me, heading towards the ride. As much as I wanted to linger in each country and learn about its culture, the inner child in me just wanted to experience every ride offered here.

That was until I realized that the line was colossal and loud, full of hyperactive Disney-obsessed children and their exhausted parents. Ben and I seemed to be the only party without a child present, or at least a screaming child.

"I know Disney World is supposed to make you feel like a kid again, but I feel so old," Ben remarked as we moved an inch forward in the line. Stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jeans, he nudged his head to the one year old in her father's arms. "But then again, what is she going to remember about this ride?"

"Nothing," I replied, glad my first time here was at twenty. "It's either a waste of money or honestly, a vacation for the parents."

We passed the time in line with small talk and conspiracy theories about Disney movies that would have probably made all of these kids cry if they had heard us. At last, we stepped onto the boat docked at the beginning of the dim, Frozen-infested experience. Ben looked hesitant to get in at first, and I chuckled at the fact a twenty-one year old guy was afraid of a kid's ride.

"I'm not scared," he said indignantly, noticing my laughter. "I'm just cautious."

After a few minutes, the ride began with a scene in Arendelle and Olaf's delightful singing. We could hear a collective, "Mommy, look!" when we passed by Olaf, who was also Ella's favorite character. The boat continued to move through the dark and icy expanse, the narration giving us a retelling of Anna and Kristoff's first encounter. Ben couldn't keep his eyes peeled off our surroundings as other characters began to pop up and we soon saw Elsa herself in her palace.

"Holy shit!" Ben yelled when the ride led us down an unexpected drop. He gripped onto my arm, and I sputtered in laughter while wincing at the fact he had just dropped the s-word in front of all of these kids.

"Tough guy, aren't you," I joked, as I noticed his hand still had a vice-like grip on my arm even after boat began to slow to the finish.

"Shut up, Samar," he retorted, his cheeks slightly tinted pink in embarrassment. We exited the dark area of the ride and walked back into the warm sunshine of the outside, ready for our next adventure. Apparently Ben had Germany on his mind, for the beer that I was still too young to drink.

When we ended up taking the wrong turn trying to get to Germany, I realized this was going to be a long day.

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